How to Care for Dyed or Bleached Hair

Updated on November 4, 2019
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I love messing around with my own hair and sharing hair tips and tricks with others.


I dyed my hair again. I couldn't help it. I got bored of having the same old plain brown color. This time I wanted something bright and cheerful; I wanted something elegant and youthful; so I went blonde. Yes, I know, not the smartest choice, but I had to have blonde hair. If you are thinking of changing your hair color, there are a few things you need to know.

Anatomy of a Hair Strand

There are three major layers to every hair strand:

  1. The medulla: This is the inner part of every hair strand and it's usually filled with air. However, if your hair is strong and healthy, the medulla will be filled with soft keratin.
  2. The cortex: This is the layer that is responsible for giving hair its elasticity and strength. The cortex also produces melanin, which is responsible for giving hair its color. The darker your hair, the more melanin you have.
  3. The cuticle: This layer is thin and transparent. It is made of several flat, thin cell layers. The purpose of the cuticle is to protect the cortex.

For our purposes, we are mainly interested in knowing about the cortex and the cuticle.

Dyeing hair can be so fun, but it's also a lot of work!
Dyeing hair can be so fun, but it's also a lot of work! | Source

Ammonia Has Advantages

One the advantages of ammonia is that it is volatile—it evaporates easily even at room temperature. This means that your hair's pH level goes back to normal as soon as the ammonia evaporates. Hair dyes that don't contain ammonia use other types of alkaline substances to lift the cuticle. These substances are not as volatile as ammonia, which leads to your cuticle being open for a longer period of time.

What Happens to Hair When We Dye It or Bleach It

The cortex is the layer of hair that holds its color, and the cuticle is the guardian that protects it. When you dye your hair, the cuticle needs to be lifted so that hair dye can get into the cortex. But how do you lift the cuticle?

Ammonia elevates the hair's pH level and causes the cuticle to lift up. Once the cuticle has been lifted, hair dye is able to pass into the cortex to color your hair.

If the hair dye is a darker color than what you have, the hair dye will remain inside the cortex. If you're aiming for a lighter color, the hair dye will contain peroxide, which oxidizes the melanin found in the cortex, leaving you with a lighter color.

Melanin and Pheomelanin

  • Melanin is a pigment. It gives color to your hair. The more melanin you have, the darker your hair will be.
  • Pheomelanin is the type of melanin that blondes and red-heads have. It gives hair those light, golden tones. This is the same type of melanin that gives light skin its pinkish tones.

What You Should Know Before You Dye or Bleach

Any procedure to change your hair color will inevitably damage your hair. Lightening or bleaching your hair will cause considerably more damage than changing your hair to a darker color. However, before you do anything to your hair, make sure that you know these two essential things:

  1. Don't bleach your hair unless it is healthy and strong. If you dye weak and brittle hair, you may end up completely burning your hair and, in the worst of cases, losing your hair.
  2. Prepare your hair before changing color. This is especially important if you're going to bleach your hair. Begin the treatments at least a month before the procedure. This will prepare and strengthen your hair to take the "beating."

*There are a lot of things you can buy to strengthen your hair, but natural is always the best way to go.

Dyed hair requires a lot of conditioning and care.
Dyed hair requires a lot of conditioning and care. | Source

Before You Dye or Bleach

So, now that you have everything ready, let's go through some things that will help you cause less damage to your hair.

  • Always dye your hair when it is dirty; never dye clean hair. Why? Dirty hair has natural oils that act as natural protection, plus the hair dye will distribute more evenly. Don't wash your hair for at least 48 hours before the day of the procedure.
  • Never dye your hair if you're wearing any kind of hair products such as hairspray or gel. This may cause you to end up with different and uneven colors.
  • Wait 48 hours before washing your hair. This helps you keep the color for a longer time and reduces the damage. This doesn't mean that you shouldn't rinse your hair right after dyeing it. You NEED to rinse it, but don't apply shampoo.
  • Use vaseline. Apply vaseline all around your hairline and all over your ears to prevent hair dye from staining your skin.

Damage-Prevention Mixture Recipe

  1. Mix a little bit of your favorite hair conditioner with 1/2 tsp of jojoba oil.
  2. Apply this mixture to your hair 20 minutes before dyeing it.
  3. Leave it on and apply hair dye. (Yes, apply the hair dye on top of the jojoba oil mixture.)

To cause less damage, apply this mixture to your hair before applying the hair dye. This little trick will leave your hair shinier and the color will distribute more evenly. Jojoba oil also serves as a fabulous protection for your hair.

Coconut oil is a great way to condition and strengthen you hair naturally.
Coconut oil is a great way to condition and strengthen you hair naturally. | Source

The Model's Hair Color

Never ever believe that you will achieve the color of the box model. Those models have been photoshopped to no end. If there's a hair color you want to reach, ask a professional what's the best way to go instead of simply choosing based on the color the box shows you.


So, now that you have the hair color of your dreams (or something close to it), you need to make sure that you take care of the color as well as your hair. Remember that your hair just went through a traumatic procedure, so you need to take care of it even more than you did before.

  • Apply a deep conditioning treatment at least once a week. Coconut oil, jojoba oil, and shea butter can work wonders on your hair.
  • Don't wash your hair every day. If you can, wash it once a week, but if you can't wait that long, wash it every other day. To reduce the damage that shampoo can cause, mix 1 part shampoo and 3 parts water. You will still get the nice clean feeling—along with the suds—but with a lot less chemicals.
  • Use warm water. Don't shower with hot water. Hot water dries and weakens hair. If your hair is already weak and brittle from dyeing it and bleaching it, then you definitely want to stay away from hot water. If you can, shower with cold water. If you can't take the cold water, then just shower with warm water and add a splash of cold water at the end of your shower. The cold water will seal the cuticle and will make your hair look and stay healthy.
  • Protect your hair from the sun. A lot of shampoos and conditioners now offer UVB/UVA protection. If your favorite brand doesn't offer these benefits, use wheat germ oil. This oil is a wonderful sun protector that will keep your hair shiny and healthy.
  • Remember: even though dyeing your hair can be fun, you have to be careful not to overdo it. Allow 3–4 weeks between every dye.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


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