Bleached hair requires a lot of work and maintenance — but it’s so worth it. I know this firsthand, as I’ve been platinum blonde for over 10 years (photos below).
Bleached hair is stunning — it catches the light, it turns heads everywhere, and surprisingly, it looks amazing on a wide variety of skin tones.
But for all its benefits, come some drawbacks: bleached hair is expensive and high-maintenance. To care for bleached hair, you’ll need frequent touch-ups, regular hair cuts, and tons and tons of treatments. (If you aren’t ready to commit to all of those things, I recommend you think twice about using bleach.)
If you don’t take care of bleached hair properly, it will dry out, or worse, snap off. The dreaded bleach haircut is a real thing!
Bleached hair isn’t for everyone, but if you’re ready to go for it, here’s everything you need to know about how to take care of bleached hair — the right way.
What Does Bleach Do to Your Hair?
First, let’s talk about how bleach actually works on your hair. This is important, because once you understand what bleach does to your hair, you’re much better prepared to counteract its negative effects.
Bleaching is a chemical process that removes the color from your hair. First, an alkaline agent opens up the hair cuticle. Next, an oxidative agent penetrates the hair cortex and dissolves the hair’s natural melanin (color). According to Naturally Curly, bleach oxidizes the melanin molecule. Although the melanin is still present, the oxidized molecule is colorless.
Here’s where the damage comes in: In order to reach the melanin, the bleach must first dissolve natural fatty acids in your hair. This leaves your hair weakened and can lead to damage and breakage.
Tips to Keep Your Bleached Hair Healthy
Over the years of bleaching my hair, I’ve amassed many tips on how to keep your hair healthy and shiny. Most importantly, here’s everything you need to know to keep it from breaking off.
Avoid Washing Your Hair as Frequently
The first, and easiest way to keep your bleached hair healthy is to cut down on how often you wash your hair. So invest in a good shower cap to keep your hair dry when you shower.
You don’t have to stop washing for weeks on end; just step it down from what you’re currently doing. Washing twice a week seems to be the sweet spot for me.
Also, immediately after I bleach my roots, I let my hair go even longer without washing — at least a full week. When your hair is freshly bleached, it’s really dry, so your hair is not going to look excessively dirty during this time. (But you can always use a little dry shampoo if needed.) I find this wash break really helps my hair recover from the bleaching process.
Invest in Olaplex
Seriously, you hear about Olaplex everywhere for a reason. This stuff is liquid gold! It’s not a conditioner, but rather a bond building system meant to fortify and strengthen damaged hair.
You can’t go wrong with any of their products, but I’ve found the No. 0 kit to be the best for bleached hair. You use the No. 0 treatment first to wet your hair, then add the No. 3 as a mask on top. This will make your hair so strong and silky, almost like it’s never been bleached!
I like to use Olaplex about once a month for best results.
Use a Deep Conditioning Treatment
In addition to Olaplex, I definitely recommend investing in a good deep conditioner to keep your hair healthy and moisturized.
And let me just say that while I love drugstore products in other areas of my life, when it comes to my hair, I always use salon-quality products. Bleached hair is already so vulnerable to damage, so I don’t mess around with cheap products.
My favorite deep conditioner of all time is Kerastase Masquintense. It’s a little pricey, but a single tub lasts me about a year. I use the one for fine hair, but they also make one for thick hair. Like the Olaplex, I use it about once a month.
Avoid Heat Styling Whenever Possible
This is a tip you’ll hear a lot when it comes to keeping your bleached hair healthy. The less heat you can expose your hair to, the better.
This means that if you can avoid using your blow dryer, curling iron, or flat iron, you should. If you want your bleached hair to be the healthiest it can be, take a break from the styling every now and then and rock your natural texture. Your strands will thank you!
Use a Good Heat Protectant
I’m going to be completely honest — although I stand by the tip above, I do heat style my platinum hair weekly, and I don’t have much damage or breakage. That’s because I always use heat protectant (and I follow all the other tips on this list).
You don’t have to swear off heat to rock bleached hair, but you do need to invest in a salon quality heat protectant. All products are NOT created equal!
Again, I reach for Kerastase when it comes to heat protection. My all-time favorite heat protectant is their Cement Thermique Blow Dry Primer. It not only protects your hair from heat, but it contains protein so it actually strengthens bleached hair when you use it with your hot tools.
Tone Up Your Hair
When you have bleached hair, toner is your best friend. Toner not only deposits color (usually to neutralize orange or yellow tones, but it can also be used to warm up your blonde), but it adds a layer of clear gloss to your hair that makes it look healthier and shinier.
Typically, toners only deposit color, they don’t lift color from your hair. That means that they can’t lighten your hair (that’s what bleach is for). Toners can only add a thin layer of color over top of your bleached strands — think of it like sheer tights or pantyhose for your hair.
Toner is usually done at the salon for best results. That being said, I like to apply my own toner at home sometimes. (Note: DO NOT try this if you’re at all unsure about it, you can wreck your hair!!) This Wella toner from Sally’s is my all time favorite, particularly the shade T-18, “Lightest Ash Blonde.” It’s the most perfect platinum blonde.
Avoid Bleaching the Dead Ends
This is probably the #1 reason my hair has survived 10+ years of bleach: When I get my hair done, I only bleach the roots; I never, ever overlap bleach on the previously lightened ends.
Overlapping bleach on top of previously bleached hair is the best way to cause breakage and damage. Even if your stylist tells you it’s safe, overlapping is going to affect your hair eventually.
So when you get your touch-ups done, make sure your stylist is only touching up your roots and not overlapping bleach on your ends. (You’d be surprised at how common this is, especially with highlights.) And resist the urge to touch up your bleach at home! Unless you really know what you’re doing, this is a recipe for breakage.
Lower the Water Temperature
Okay, I hate this one because I love my hot showers, but ideally, you should only be rinsing your bleached hair with warm or cold water. Hot water dries out your hair.
Whenever you can, rinse your bleached hair with warm or cool water and lay off the super hot temperatures.
Get a Haircut Frequently
Another classic tip that is definitely key for keeping bleached hair healthy — get your hair cut frequently!
This doesn’t have to be a major hair cut, either: a slight trim or “dusting” is totally fine. You just want to remove the dead ends from your hair on a regular basis. This will help keep your ends from splitting up the hair shaft and snapping off, and will keep your hair healthy.
I like to get my hair cut every 8 weeks when I’m trying to maintain its length, and every 12 weeks when I’m trying to grow it. Set calendar reminders on your phone so you don’t forget to make your appointment!
Sleep with a Satin Scrunchie and/or Pillowcase
This is a great tip to keep your hair smooth and shiny and help with breakage. It’s not essential or anything, but I have noticed my hair looks better since I started doing this.
These steps not only keep my hair from getting tangled at night, but they make my blowouts and styles last twice as long. This means I can go longer between washes, minimizing damage. Plus, it saves me time. Win-win.
What Are the Best Ways to Avoid Damaging Bleached Hair?
Now, I’ve just thrown a ton of information at you above. So let’s break it down to the most important steps.
If I had to choose just four things that are most important for avoiding damaging bleached hair, it would be the following, in order:
- Avoid overlapping bleach on top of already bleached hair. This one will make your hair break off like nothing else. If you’re overlapping bleach on bleach, expect damage, even if you do everything else right.
- Don’t skip the treatments. Hair masks and deep conditioners are non-negotiable when you have bleached hair. Don’t think you can just use your regular shampoo and conditioner and call it a day.
- Don’t heat style without using a heat protectant first. If you don’t protect your hair first, your flat iron or blow dryer IS going to cause damage. You need to baby bleached hair, so always always use a heat protectant.
- Don’t skip haircuts. Seriously, set a reminder on your phone and get your hair cut regularly. This will do wonders to keep your hair healthy. Also, this rule applies even if you’re trying to grow your hair out! It sounds counterintuitive, but regular trims are key for maintaining hair health.
How to Rehydrate Your Hair After Bleaching
I get a lot of questions on how to rehydrate your hair after you’ve bleached it, so here is the process I follow for the first few weeks after bleaching (and toning) my hair:
Week 1: Do Nothing
Seriously, leave your hair alone for as long as you can after bleaching! Don’t wash it, don’t heat style it, don’t do anything to it for about a week. Let your hair rest and recuperate; it’s been through a lot.
Usually, your hair will be blown out after your salon visit, so that makes it easy to go without washing or styling for a while. Use dry shampoo if needed, but nothing else!
Week 2: Olaplex, Olaplex, Olaplex
Sometimes, your salon will do an Olaplex treatment for you post-bleach. Mine doesn’t, so about 7 days after bleaching, when I’m ready to wash my hair, I’ll do my Olaplex No. 0 kit.
Sometimes I leave the No. 3 in overnight with a cap on to really let it soak in. Olaplex works best when your hair is damp so the cap helps with that.
Week 3: Moisture Mask
About a week later, I’ll follow up my Olaplex treatment with my Kerastase moisturizing mask.
I like to alternate Olaplex and Masquintense for best results, instead of doing them back to back. This is just what I’ve found works best for my hair.
Week 4: Maintain Until Next Salon Visit
I usually do my roots about every six weeks. (Yep, it’s high-maintenance.) So in between, I keep my hair healthy with my favorite purple shampoo and repairing conditioner. (I’ve listed some more of my fave purple shampoos in my guide to blue vs. purple shampoo.)
When I heat style, I use my Cement Thermique, and I generally try to dry shampoo for a few days in between styling to minimize washes and heat damage.
Before I know it, it’s time to go to the salon again! Bleached hair truly is a labor of love.
How do you take care of your bleached hair?
For more hair tips, see our guide to the 15 best hair products for college.
I hope this guide was helpful! Like I said, learning how to take care of bleached hair is a lot of work but it’s worth the struggle — platinum will forever be my favorite hair color.
My fellow bleached hair girls, please leave a comment below and tell me your tips and tricks. Have you tried any of my favorite products? Any new ones I need to know about? Any questions I didn’t answer here? Tell me everything in the comments.