Blame it on those Scandi babes, Cali girls or queen Hailey Bieber, but the appeal of a golden halo is real. From babylights to balayage, most of us will have experimented with bleached locks at some point. And if you haven’t but are considering taking the platinum plunge? A shiny new year is a great time to start ☺.
Bleaching isn’t the gentlest thing you can do to your ‘do, though – so knowing how to care for bleached hair is a must.
Lucky for you, we’ve created this hairdresser-approved guide to exploring your lighter side. From the things you should ask at the salon, to the top prods for pampering pale strands at home, here’s everything you need to know to go – and stay – bright, beautiful blonde. Read on.
So, how does bleaching damage your hair?
To understand how bleach damages hair, you need a basic understanding of the structure of your strands. Firstly, there’s an outer layer called the cuticle. Comprising of overlapping scales, the cuticle protects the inner cortex, which contains most of the hair’s pigment, plus protective bonds.
These bonds help keep moisture in and irritants out. Unless, of course, they’re damaged by bleaching.
Creating gaps in the hair cuticle, hydrogen peroxide (or bleach), lightens hair by oxidising the melanin pigment inside. And according to Brisbane hairdresser Nell McDonald, this process weakens the internal bonds that keep the hair healthy. Leading to more porous and easily damaged strands.
“Lightening the hair essentially opens up the hair cuticle, breaking down its strong internal structure, causing breakage and split ends,” says McDonald, Head Colourist at Togninis.
More likely to swell when wet, bleached strands are more susceptible to breakage when dry. A damaged cuticle allows moisture and colour to escape. And locks can quickly become dry, brittle, dull or brassy.
But don’t cancel that colourist appointment just yet, Goldilocks. Rest assured, with a bit of extra care, your bleached tresses can still look – and feel – the business.
Minimising damage when going blonde
According to Unico Hair’s Sofia Basile, there are a few things you can do to minimise damage when bleaching. “My first tip is to always choose a good quality bleach and always add Olaplex or a bond builder to add protection,” she says.
“It’s something we always do in the salon,” says the Melbourne-based hairdresser. And it’s something you should ask your stylist about if they’re giving your dark locks a major overhaul.
The more dramatic the colour change, the more potential damage to the hair. So, make sure you’re working with a trusted colourist who cares about the integrity of your hair. Not just the final colour.
Another tip from Basile is to take things slowly. “Consider dropping a level in hydrogen peroxide as this will be gentler when lifting your hair,” she says. “Be prepared to take things step-by-step and consider experimenting with something like balayage first. You never know, you might have that’s enough of a change to feel like a brand new you.”
Keeping hair healthy with regular salon visits
There’s no denying lighter locks need more love – and this usually means more frequent trips to the salon. “Bleached hair tangles easily and has a tendency to break,” says Basile. So, you’d better believe regular trims are going to be part of your life now.
According to McDonald, “Regular trims not only ensure your lightened hair looks healthier and styled, but more importantly, it stops the split ends from working their way up the hair shaft and causing more breakage.”
As well as trims every 6–8 weeks, bleached locks will often benefit from professional in-salon treatments. McDonald wears by the Kerastase Fusio-Dose system for prolonging your colour, boosting moisture and strength and adding shine.
Washing and styling bleached hair – the right way
Naturally, highlighted strands also require more day-to-day care at home. Start by tossing any products that contain drying, colour-stripping sulfates. Then update your washing routine with a super-hydrating shampoo and conditioner. Keep an eye out for hydrating ingredients like hyaluronic acid, plus nourishing natural oils.
Want your blonde to look bright, not brassy? Consider investing in a purple toner, such as evo Fabuloso, to refresh and extend your colour.
While you don’t need to break up with blow waves altogether, it IS a good idea to keep heat styling to a minimum on bleached strands. And always use a heat-protectant product, like our Miracle Hair Elixir, which protects hair up to 220°C.
“I love a good quality heat protectant and serum in one, as this will flatten the cuticle, seal in moisture and boost smoothness and shine,” says Basile.
As for McDonald, she has this simple advice. “Do your best to minimise the heat styling you do. Whether that’s only air drying the hair first if you then need to straighten or use a curling wand, rather than blow-drying it first.”
Consider yourself told.
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Nourishing blonde hair with masks and protein
Bleached hair loves a deep moisturising treatment, so the pros insist you’ll need to schedule in a mask sesh at least once a week. According to McDonald, protein treatments are also key. “Protein acts like cement for the broken or weakened bonds caused by the lightning process. It helps repair the ‘chain’,” she says.
(Out of protein products? Basile suggests using good old fashioned milk.)
Everybody’s hair is different and requires a unique approach, so discuss the best routine with your hairdresser. Especially if you’re finding your hair is suddenly very dry, damaged or brittle after bleaching.
One product both experts give the go-ahead for bottle blondes? The nourishing, super-restorative Olaplex No.3 Hair Perfector – also loved by Kim Kardashian.
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Keeping lighter locks protected in summer
The sun, surf and time in the pool take their toll on all hair types. And guess what? They’re extra tough on porous and vulnerable lightened locks.
“During summer to protect your hair against sun damage, use a specific sun protectant hair product to act as a sunscreen for your hair. Kerastase has its Soleil shampoo and conditioner range, specifically for protection from the sun,” says McDonald.
To avoid a green tinge and chlorine damage when swimming, she recommends rinsing hair after swimming. And using a detoxing shampoo to remove all traces of chlorine.
Basile agrees with the use of a clarifying shampoo post-pool. And she also recommends protecting bleached hair with a swimming cap and barrier cream.
Our dream team for bleached strands
Already addicted to our hydrating, sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner, but want to show your locks some extra love? Our Oh My Hair Kit is the ultimate pampering bundle for blondes. Revitalise and protect thirsty tresses with our Miracle Hair Elixir, then strengthen, soften and repair strands from within with our cult Like A Virgin Hair Mask.
Written By: Pip Jarvis
Edited by: Vidhya