How to Care for Just-Bleached Hair: An 8-Step Guide
Bleaching is high-impact, and not just in regards 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 blonde colour—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 3 to 4 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 colour-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 micro-fiber towel is never a bad idea for any kind of hair (treated or untreated), since the ultra-soft, absorbent 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 on just-bleached hair is kind of like sun-bathing 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 Trillant.
Do you have platinum locks, or frequently bleach your hair? How do you care for it? Tell us in the comments below!