Beauty Rehab: A 7-Step Guide to Caring for Bleached Hair
Bleaching is high impact, and not just in regard to the look itself—your locks really take a blow when you take them a few shades lighter. "Bleaching hair leaves the cuticle layers open," explains stylist Danny Jelaca, who has worked with Jennifer Lopez and Naomi Campbell. "It leaves it compromised and weak, and because the cuticle is open, that's why your hair has that rougher texture."
All this being said, there's no need to change your mind about an awesome blond color—it just means that with bleached hair comes greater responsibility. (But you already knew there was some extra upkeep involved, right?) The good news is that with the right approach, your newly lightened locks can look healthier than ever. Keep reading to see how.
This is particularly key in the first three weeks after your treatment, as hair is weak and susceptible to breakage (and shampoo tends to strip the cuticle even more). Stylist Sheridan Ward, who works with Michelle Williams, recommends shampooing every three to four days, tops. (Invest in a great dry shampoo to stretch out washes as long as possible.)
Make up for your lack of shampoo with hydrating conditioners and masks. "The idea is to fill in the extra porosity of the hair with protein and moisture," says Jelaca. "This helps to rebuild strength." (And shine, too.) The bottom line is that bleach leaves strands very dry, so don't skimp on a color-saving conditioner in the shower, and use a leave-in treatment on damp hair once a week to help quench thirsty locks.
Investing in a microfiber towel is never a bad idea for any kind of hair (treated or untreated), since the ultra-soft, absorbant feel helps strands maintain their natural texture without frizzing or damage. But when your hair is especially at risk for breakage, it's essential. Plus, make sure to gently squeeze or scrunch your locks rather than rubbing them with the towel.
As both a pre- and post-shower treatment, a great hair oil helps hydrate and protect roughed-up cuticles from the elements—not to mention it'll help make strands shiny again and keep frizz at bay, since dry strands are typically the culprit behind unwanted kinks (and again, bleach tends to leave hair very dry). Experts especially love Shu Uemura's Absolue because it contains camellia oil, which, thanks to its high content of fatty acids, is one of nature's most potent natural conditioners.
Using a straightener or curling on just-bleached hair is kind of like sunbathing when you already have a bad sunburn—you're exposing dry, vulnerable hair to even more damage. Air-drying is the best way to go, but if you must use heat tools, repeat after us: You WILL use a heat protectant. Ward likes Sebastian's Trilliant.
Not only will it help seal and protect the color, but it helps feign shine when hair isn't healthy enough to be glossy on its own, by smoothing out rough cuticles and filling in any holes. Typically stylists will add a glossing treatment at the salon (ask to be sure), but Rita Hazan's at-home product is a must-have for in-between visits.
To the same end, Ward recommends Oribe's gold-flecked pomade to add a little additional sparkle to dull hair. Tl;dr: While your hair is on the mend, fake it till you make it.
Do you have platinum locks or frequently bleach your hair? How do you care for it? Tell us in the comments below!
Opening Image: Getty