How to Repair and Restore Bleached or Over-Processed Hair
How to Save Your Color-Damaged Hair
It's happened to many of us: As summer approaches, we opt for a lighter (or totally different) hair color, only to get home from the salon feeling like our locks have been replaced by a pile of hay!
The process of bleaching hair opens the shaft of the hair and removes the color by reaching the melanin in the core of the hair and changing its composition. To penetrate the hair shaft, the process has to lift the hair's cuticle. If hair is over-bleached, the cuticle will not lay flat again once the process is complete, and this is what causes hair to feel coarse and to look dull and lifeless. Bleaching will also cause the hair strand to weaken, so it will begin to snap off like a weak rubber band, causing hair to look thin and stringy.
Here are some tips on how to limit the amount of damage caused by bleaching and some tricks to help restore hair once severe damage has been done.
Talk to Your Stylist
First, prevent damage before it happens. Don't be shy when talking to your stylist—if you've got fine or thin hair, chances are your hair is not going to hold up very well through the process. Ask your stylist to use a lower-volume developer on your hair. It will take longer to process, but the lower the developer number, the slower the developer processes and the less damage it causes. You can also ask your stylist to lighten your hair to a certain point and then use toner to achieve the actual level of blonde that you are looking for.
Most hairstylists don't want you walking around looking like you stuck your finger in a light socket because it makes them look bad too. They are usually more than willing to address your concerns and to work with you to minimize the damage. Another tip to preventing damage is going from deeper colors to lighter blondes in steps—a little more blonde at each visit. The final tip is to try to schedule your appointment before a window when you can go several days without washing. I prefer Thursday evenings because I can go until Monday before I have to wash my hair. After the appointment, I brush daily with a wide-tooth comb and do a deep conditioning treatment Sunday night.
Bleach usually comes in a powder form and is mixed with a liquid developer. Developer comes in four strengths: 10, 20, 30, and 40 volume. Volume refers to the percentage of peroxide in the developer. 10-volume is the weakest level, and 40-volume is the maximum strength. If your hair is weak or unhealthy or does not tolerate processing very well, you may want to ask your stylist to use a 10 or 20-volume developer. It will take longer to process, and your hair will not turn out as light, but your stylist can use a toner to lighten your hair further without doing more damage.
Don't Wash Your Hair
If you've just gotten your hair dyed, don't wash your hair! At least, not immediately. Wait at least two or three days after processing before you wash your hair. This will give your natural oils a chance to regenerate and coat your hair follicles, which will help the cuticles lay flat. It may also help add a little shine.
Maybe you are reading this because you've washed your hair for the first time after having it bleached and have now lost your brush in the rat's nest that's been left behind. In that case, I've got plenty of tricks to help you out. I've had it happen a few times because stylists often assume my strands are thick and able to handle intense bleaching because I have a lot of hair. In reality, although I have very long, thick hair, the individual strands are very thin and delicate.
Try a Hair Mask
You can try a homemade hair mask using avocado, olive oil, and yogurt.
You Will Need
- 1–2 avocados (depending on the length of your hair)
- 1–2 tablespoons of olive oil
- 1/2 cup of plain yogurt
- Add all ingredients to a bowl.
- Mash them up into a paste and coat hair from the ends up.
- Put your hair up in a shower cap.
- Wrap a warm towel over it or heat it with a blow dryer.
- Let the mixture set for any amount of time between one hour and overnight. This will help add oils back into your hair and relax the cuticles, making hair look healthier.
Use Nourishing Hair Products
Next, find a rich deep conditioner. My favorites are (which runs anywhere from $17.00–$22.00 on Amazon) and any of the Organix deep conditioners ( $6.00–$10.00 on Amazon). You can also use any product that is designed to be used in the shower and left in your hair for two to five minutes before getting washed out. Here's how to get the most out of it: It's a 10 Miracle hair mask
- Take your deep conditioner and slather it into your hair while it is still dry. Start from the ends and work up to the scalp and get a good thick coat on.
- Then loosely twist your hair up and put on a shower cap.
- Let the conditioner sit overnight and wash it out in the morning. This will help to coat hair and get the restoration process started.
Next, you need a rich shampoo and conditioner for everyday use. I love Joyco K-Pac color therapy shampoo and conditioner! They are guaranteed to repair your hair—just make sure you purchase them from an authorized salon. They are a tad expensive—usually around $30.00 each at my local beauty supply store. Of course, you can use whatever shampoo and conditioner you prefer, just try to get a conditioner that leaves your hair feeling soft once you've rinsed it out. This will help out with the styling process and will limit the amount of breakage that you'll end up with in the long run.
Lastly, you're going to need a good leave-in detangling product. Again, I like the It's a 10 Miracle leave-in product. It only takes a few spritzes and a few minutes to work its magic, and it can tame the most unmanageable hair. Plus it also has a heat protectant in it and it's really lightweight.
Throw Away Your Brush and Use a Wide-Tooth Comb
Use a wide-tooth comb when combing wet hair and when styling. These are the times when the most breakage is going to occur, and I'd guess that a wide-tooth comb reduces lost strands by more than 50%. Start by parting your hair into two sections down the middle of your head. Next, start combing from the bottom up, working in small sections. If you hit a major tangle, don't rip or pull at it. Use your fingers to gently separate the tangle and then carry on!
Hold Back on the Styling
Try to limit the flat iron for the first few weeks—at least until your hair no longer snaps off in a light breeze! Use big clips instead of rubber bands and pull hair up loosely instead of into tight pony tails. This also will reduce a lot of the breakage and will help prevent the "lion's mane" look that occurs when hair breaks off where the rubber band ties it.
Trim Your Split Ends
Try to get in for a good haircut two to three weeks after the initial bleaching. This will eliminate split ends, even out the layers that may become uneven with breakage, and allow you to concentrate on reviving the length of your hair instead of focusing on only the split ends.
Ultimately, your best bet is to choose a hairstylist who listens to your concerns, takes his or her time with you, and has a good track record and lots of experience with this type of process. A good stylist will do everything possible to address your concerns and will use high-quality products that don't cause severe damage.
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.