How to Treat Bleached Hair: Step-by-Step Instructions

Design by Michela Buttignol for Getty Images When I had the majority of my hair bleached off my head years ago, I often jokingly say that I was emotionally scarred for life, but I'm not entirely kidding. I was so upset, humiliated, and overall crushed in the days and weeks that followed that

Design by Michela Buttignol for Getty Images

When I had the majority of my hair bleached off my head years ago, I often jokingly say that I was emotionally scarred for life, but I'm not entirely kidding. I was so upset, humiliated, and overall crushed in the days and weeks that followed that I almost couldn't get out of bed in the morning. However, here we are. The "bleach apocalypse of 2013" occurred years ago, so why am I still bringing it up now? I've successfully nursed my hair back to health as I joyfully reported in my first article, and I haven't had a traumatic salon appointment since. But even now, I still experience some aesthetic response symptoms from the ordeal (yes, even now), and I frequently get Facebook and Direct Messages from people who have read my story and are experiencing the same kind of panic that I did years ago.

Having access to some of the top products, treatments, and colorists in the industry, I believed a sequel was necessary. It includes the in-depth advice and product sheet I wish I had had almost ten years ago, as well as an update on my hair's state at the time. I scheduled an appointment with Tabitha Dueas, my celebrity colorist soulmate, who successfully gave me the baby blonde strands of my dreams (damage-free), as well as sought out stylists Danny Jelaca and Sheridan Ward for their expertise in the field.

Meet the Specialist

  • Celebrity colorist Tabitha Dueas works at the Nine Zero One Salon in West Hollywood, where she colors the hair of blonde beauties like Julianne Hough and Emma Roberts. She has worked numerous New York Fashion Week shows and has more than ten years of experience.
  • Hairstylist Danny Jelaca's clientele includes celebrities like Jennifer Lopez and Naomi Campbell.
  • Michelle Williams' stylist is named Sheridan Ward.

Discover below the precise products, regimens, and advice for maintaining bleached hair.

01 of 20

Finding a harmonious and healthy balance between protein and moisture is key to restoring or maintaining the integrity of blonde hair. It's what I used to rely on in 2013, and if you looked at my shower setup right now, you'd see that it's still my M O

No matter how long it has been since your last appointment or how severe any damage is, Dueas told me as I sat in her chair that the key to caring for blonde hair is to alternate between moisture and protein—and not overdo either. "I also personally advise avoiding sulfates in shampoos and conditioners because they can eventually strip and dry out hair. Alternating between a sulfate-free, protein-rich formula and a sulfate-free, moisture-rich formula will be the ultimate shampoo ritual. ”

I've been using Verb's Hydrating Shampoo and Conditioner ($20) for a few months now to meet my hydration needs, and I can honestly say it's the best I've tried when it comes to supplying the nourishment and hydration my bleached strands crave without the heavily coated look. many other shampoos and conditioners have a limp texture.

02 of 20

In addition to being challenging to maintain healthy blonde hair, brassiness is also nearly unavoidable. A purple shampoo isn't necessary if you're on major damage control, but if your blonde hair is on the healthier side and you want to keep the tone as much as you can after a salon visit, think about adding one to the mix—but be careful not to add too much.

If you use purple shampoo too frequently or too soon after getting your hair colored, it may actually cause your blonde hair to turn purple because your hair will be more porous and absorbent. To maintain your tone if you only wash your hair a few times per week, I advise delaying using a purple shampoo for two weeks. Use it then only occasionally, advises Dueas.

03 of 20

I mentioned going to the salon and getting both protein and moisturizing treatments in my previous article. I still believe that this can be a beneficial step after a damaging color procedure, but as Dueas points out, going to the salon may not always be necessary these days because at-home treatments and masks are of such high quality.

She suggests, instead, asking your stylist to use Olaplex while doing the color (No 1 and No 2 are performed in-salon and assist in repairing and reversing breakage as your hair sits), and purchasing a bottle of No. 3 ($28) to take with you when you leave the salon.

04 of 20

According to Dueas, overlapping the bleach is the primary cause of disastrous damage. And apparently, this was the main reason why my previous bleaching incident occurred. (My entire head had been bleached by the stylist the same day, immediately following a full highlight.) However, Dueas also stresses the significance of being aware of your hairline (where we have extremely fine hairs) and how long the color has been sitting on each individual section of hair.

05 of 20

Dueas emphasizes the significance of including a high-quality mask in your hair care routine in addition to the Olaplex treatment. Again, you never want to use these products excessively, but they can significantly contribute to the integrity of your hair. She advises using your mask on damp, freshly shampooed hair, combing it through to ensure even distribution, and then covering it with a shower cap for roughly 20 minutes to get salon-like results at home.

Additionally to utilizing the No 3 Olaplex recommends switching between a protein and moisture mask every week or two before shampooing in place of your usual conditioner. After a few months, you can stop using the protein option (Davines' Hair Building Pack, $39) and limit yourself to using the moisturizing option only occasionally (Dueas prefers L'Oréal Professionnel's Liss Unlimited Smoothing Mask, $40).

06 of 20

Despite the fact that Dueas believes you can probably skip visiting the salon for a treatment, she does not suggest skipping a haircut. In fact, she tells me that, especially following a harsh color treatment, losing some length is really the only thing you can do to help save the hair. Her general advice is to get a haircut or trim as soon as possible (or at least within a week) after coloring your hair to seal the ends. After that, establish a routine of visiting us every eight weeks or so.

"I always compare hair to a rope as an analogy for it. When the ends are ripped or damaged, they begin to fall apart. The same is true for hair; once damaged ends are present, the strand will continue to be affected as a whole, and there isn't really a product or treatment that can truly seal that damage. The only choice is to cut, declares Dueas.

07 of 20

Being aware of your ponytail habit is important, even though it might not come as a surprise. Too tight of a ponytail (or wearing one to bed) can weaken the section of hair held in place with the tie in addition to causing breakage near the hairline.

08 of 20

A straightforward styling technique will ultimately benefit your hair when it comes to caring for damaged hair. Finding high-quality goods that can accomplish multiple goals at once is essential. Unite's 7Seconds Detangler ($33) is what Dueas suggests using to keep things simple and make damaged hair happy. She claims, "It does everything." It provides shine, detangles, protects against heat, and is lightweight enough that it's virtually impossible to use too much of it. It's one of the best things you can put in your hair and you can use it quite liberally. ”

10 of 20

Although my colorist in 2013 shouldn't have bleached directly on top of my highlights, I still share some of the responsibility. I had been having my hair highlighted for long enough to be aware of the potential harm and irreversible effects, but I still succumbed to impatience. The colorist noticed that I was in a rush and wanted a fix at that moment. Which caused her to panic, which then caused her to use a ton of bleach improperly, which ultimately caused the mother of all panic: horribly damaged hair. It is not worthwhile.

"You just can't highlight your hair so close together in time if you've recently had a lightening service and you're unhappy with the color or something needs to be adjusted. It's best to wait at least a couple of weeks so that your hair can get a break. Wait it out instead, then return and explore your alternatives for color correction without bleach. There are numerous ammonia-free options available that can brighten or alter the tone, according to Dueas.

Aim to alternate full and partial highlights with six to eight weeks in between once your hair has returned to health.

11 of 20

Sorry, but water can be one of your worst enemies if you have blonde hair because it contains dirt, minerals, and chemicals that could hasten brassiness, dehydration, and breakage. I took the plunge and have been a supporter of the purchase ever since a colorist in my college town suggested using a filter in my shower (more than once) to preserve the color and integrity of my hair. The Raindrops Luxe ($120) from Nine Zero One is a fantastic option that has a thorough six-step filtration system and an easy-breezy setup.

A filter can remove minute amounts of chlorine, but if you're going swimming, make sure to rinse your hair afterward. It is best to avoid swimming in pools because the chlorine can harm and discolor bleached hair.

12 of 20

Sincerity be damned, before using a silk pillowcase, I didn't believe the hype surrounding them. In terms of your hair, this Slip Silk Pillowcase () is an investment, but it's a worthwhile one, especially if you have extremely lightened strands. This type of pillowcase beats cotton cases from hair nightmares past because it allows your hair to slide over the case rather than stretching, pulling, and breaking it. It is made from the highest-grade mulberry silk. Since switching, not only have my blowouts lasted longer, but I've also noticed significantly fewer broken-off hairs around my hairline.

13 of 20

In the first three weeks following your treatment, dry shampoo is especially important because the hair is already weak and prone to breakage and shampoo tends to further strip the cuticle. Ward advises shampooing at most once every three to four days. Utilize dry shampoo to prolong washings as much as possible.

14 of 20

This does not imply that you should completely stop caring for your hair. In fact, hydrating conditioners and masks can help to make up for your lack of shampoo. Protein and moisture are intended to fill in the extra porosity of the hair, according to Jelaca. "This promotes muscle growth." (And sparkle, too) Bottom line: Bleach causes very dry strands, so use a color-saving conditioner liberally while showering. A weekly leave-in treatment applied to damp hair will also help quench parched hair.

15 of 20

Invest in a natural, essential oil-based hair cleanser if you absolutely must wash your hair in some way but find yourself reaching for the shampoo bottle far too frequently. What we're talking about might be known to you as "no-poo." It just balances out the oils on your head, so it won't strip your hair as a shampoo would. Our favorites include Hairstory's New Wash.

16 of 20

Any type of hair (treated or untreated) would benefit from purchasing a microfiber towel because of the ultra-soft, absorbent feel that keeps strands from frizzing or suffering damage. However, it's crucial when your hair is particularly vulnerable to breakage. Just be careful not to rub your hair with the towel, but rather gently scrunch or squeeze it.

17 of 20

While it's crucial to use purple shampoo and conditioner to prevent brassiness in your hair, you may also want to keep another product on hand given that you won't be washing your hair for several days. You can add IGK's Mixed Feelings Drops to almost any hair product to add a little toning assistance. Put them wherever you can think of: in your conditioner, mask, leave-in treatment, etc.

18 of 20

Similar to sunbathing after getting a severe sunburn, using a straightener or curling iron on freshly bleached hair exposes the hair to additional damage. (In fact, to protect hair after bleaching, avoid direct sun exposure for two weeks.) Although air drying is ideal, we recognize that it is not always practical. Repeat after us: You will use a heat protectant if you must use heat-generating equipment. Even if you've used one in the past and weren't particularly impressed, they have advanced significantly in recent years. Caviar Bond Repair Leave-In Spray from Alterna is good.

19 of 20

By faking shine when hair isn't healthy enough to be glossy on its own, it also helps seal and protect the color by smoothing out rough cuticles and filling in any holes. Rita Hazan's at-home product is a necessity for between visits even though stylists typically add a glossing treatment at the salon (ask to be sure).

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