What Can I Do About Extreme Hair Breakage from Bleach?

Linda White

At some point in our lives, we want a dramatic hair change – even if it means changing our hair color completely. Unfortunately, bleach is an inevitable part of changing the color of your hair, especially if your hair is dark.

Bleach works by raising your hair’s outer cuticle, making your hair swell. This allows it to enter the inner part of your hair strand, the cortex, where your hair’s natural color resides. When it enters the cortex, it dissolves the hair pigment, melanin, making your hair lighter.

This process leaves your hair brittle, fragile, dry, and porous. It also takes away your hair’s natural moisture and strength, leaving it less elastic and susceptible to breaking or falling. If you’ve gone through this and are desperately trying to fix your hair, take heart.

Cutting down fried hair is not the only solution. In fact, taking care of extreme hair damage from bleach involves just three main steps: hydrate, add protein and maintain, along with managing your diet and stress!

How Can I Fix My Damaged Hair without Cutting It?

By now, you understand that harsh chemicals can dry out your hair and scalp and make them prone to breakage. This causes hair to break before its lifecycle is complete, often close to the root or midway down, leaving broken strands much shorter than the rest of your mane.

Unlike managing a haircut gone wrong, you cannot blend in your broken hair with the rest of your hair by curling or ‘ironing’ it. This will only cause more breakage. You also can’t cut the rest of your hair to match the broken pieces because they tend to be pretty short. At this point, you’re just stuck waiting for them to grow out.

Bleach-damaged hair treatment options

Your best method is to seek professional help first to examine the extent of the damage. Once you are aware of what you’re dealing with, you can design a strategy that’s specific to your hair type and concerns.

Most individuals get discouraged as care recommendations for bleach-damaged hair can be quite extensive. Understand that caring for your hair is going to be a regimen. There is no quick fix product out there that can reverse the damage caused by bleach.

However, adding simple care steps, such as using the right products, locking in protein and protecting your hair from heat damage can go a long way in ensuring your hair returns to its natural shape.

1] Hydrate Your Hair and Scalp

Following your latest bleaching disaster, you’ve probably already figured out that conditioner is now your new best friend. In fact, it’s your entire squad. Depending on your damage, you’ll need at least 2-3 different types of conditioners. Think conditioner as your new shampoo and your conditioning mask as your new conditioner.

Hydration involves two steps: Eliminating all drying elements from your hair care routine and adding in high-quality moisturizing products.

Shampoo smart – or not at all.

Those tiny shampoos and conditioners in hotel bathrooms? They’re probably not bleached-hair friendly. Swap your daily shampoo with a sulfate-free formula which offers some conditioning properties as well. If you’re traveling and don’t have one in hand, use conditioner only.

Most sulfate-free formulas do not lather. Massage your hair gently, yet thoroughly, to clean your scalp before you wash your hair.

Or better yet, eliminate shampoo completely.

Washing your hair with conditioner alone may sound odd, but hear us out. Most shampoos contain detergents that will not do your damaged hair any good. In fact, they may worsen it by stripping away the little moisture you have left. Even if you workout frequently, try washing your hair thoroughly with water and then condition it. This will leave your hair smelling fresh.

More on detergents…

Shampoos typically contain synthetic detergents or surfactants that are meant to clean your hair. A surfactant is amphiphilic, which means its molecules possess lipophilic (oil-attracting) and hydrophilic (water-attracting) sites. While the oil-attracting sites attract sebum and oils from the scalp, the water-attracting sites bind to water, thereby facilitating the movement of sebum while you wash your hair.

Shampoos contain five main categories of detergents:

  1. Anionics
  2. Non-ionics
  3. Cationics
  4. Amphoterics
  5. Natural surfactants

Each category has cleansing and conditioning properties, such as treating oily hair, softening hair, imparting manageability, being non-irritating to the eyes and so on.  Modern shampoos contain a mix of these detergents for maximum cleaning levels, according to hair type.

Among the most popular detergents, notorious for being too harsh on the hair and scalp are the anionics. This group contains lauryl sulfates and laureth sulfates, which when used excessively can cause rough, frizzy, dull hair, prone to tangling. They’re added in higher concentrations in shampoos meant for oily hair because they provide a richer lather and can help remove sebum clogs quickly.

However, if locking in moisture is your goal, these detergents can offer more harm than good. You want to preserve the natural, nourishing oils in your scalp to repair hair breakage.

how to take care of bleached and dyed hair

2] Use Deep Conditioners

Everything great about spring and summer – more outdoors time, the sun, the humidity, the swimming, can all make hair drier and more fragile. Together with severe hair breakage from bleach, it’s a recipe for disaster. In this scenario, your regular care products just won’t cut it.

During summer months, it’s ideal to spend extra time on your hair with a moisturizing mask for at least one week. It’s best to use hair masks on weekends because you can slather it on in the night, clip it up and enjoy a cocktail before rinsing. If you’re looking for an effective, yet inexpensive deep conditioning mask, L’Oréal Paris Total Repair 5 Damage-Erasing Balm works like a dream.

Take deep conditioning a step further...

A couple of times a month, try using any leftover deep conditioner you have on your hair overnight. To lock the conditioner and prevent it from drying out, wrap your hair with cling film before going to bed. The next morning, use a de-tangling comb instead of a brush and comb gently to not damage your hair. Let the product dry throughout the day and rinse in the night.

  • Important: This method isn’t functional if you have work the next morning. Reserve it for Friday or Saturday nights as damaged hair takes much longer to dry.

3] Use Essential Oils

If your hair is feeling dehydrated following your bleaching treatment, your best bet would be to grab an oil and massage it all over your scalp and hair. Argan oil, coconut oil, olive oil and almond oil are some excellent options. Leave a healing argan oil mask on for at least one hour before you shower.

Most oils can leave your hair sticky or greasy, so they’re not ideal if you’re heading out. In this case, using a hair serum with lightweight oils such as argan or macadamia nut oils can help combat frizz and manage flyaways and split ends. Remember with hair serums, a little bit goes a long way and you want to apply some to give your hair some nourishment and oomph.

4] Treat Your Hair before Swimming

Contrary to popular belief, it’s not the chlorine that turns bleached blonde hair green, but the copper found in pool water.  Copper gets oxidized by chlorine and as a result, binds with the proteins in your hair, giving it that greenish hue.

To prevent this, apply a leave-in conditioner on your hair before you go for a dip. Alternatively, you can wet it with bottled water or a quick shower, so it’s less likely to soak up the copper from pool water.

bleached hair and swimming

Note that even if it isn’t pool water, beach water can also affect your hair if not treated properly. The salt and minerals found in seawater can cause buildup in your hair, leaving it looking frizzy, dull and discolored. Therefore, whether you’re hitting the beach or your hotel pool, make sure you rinse your hair with regular tap or bottled water to minimize damage and residue.

Aveda Sun Care Protective Hair Veil is a great hair breakage product that you can take to the poolside as it contains moisturizing elements such as shea butter, vitamin E, and coconut oil while being water-resistant. It also offers long-lasting UV defense.

5] Avoid Drying Products

Since we’re on the topic of beaches, one great example of a product that can dry out your hair is the mighty sea salt spray. We love beachy waves as much as you do, but while they do an incredible job in giving you a beach look, sea salt sprays can dry out your hair.

However, if you are going to use them, we suggest mixing in some leave-in conditioner to minimize drying. Spray both on your hands, rub your palms together and scrunch the mixture into your hair.

6] Thermal Defense Prep

Heat equals more breakage. Think of all the things that introduce heat to your hair – hot showers, curling iron, flatiron, blow dryer and even the sun. Each of these can cause severe damage to your already suffering hair.

Let’s get down and dirty with each of these elements and determine how we can minimize them to suit your routine best.

scalp protector for bleaching hair

  • Styling Tools: Flatiron, Curling Iron, and Blow Dryer

You probably need these for your beachy look, but understand that introducing more heat can break the natural disulfide bonds in your hair, resulting in loss of texture and severe hair loss.

Blow dryers can be avoided by allowing your hair to air dry. According to a 2011 study published in the Annals of Dermatology, using a hair dryer causes more surface damage to the hair than natural drying.

You’ll also want to say no to towel turbans as this can pull your hair from its roots and cause broken hair at the crown. Instead, grab an old t-shirt and dry your hair with it. A t-shirt is much gentler than a towel and will tug on your strands much less.

If you have to use your curling iron or flat iron, be sure to use a heat protectant spray first and reduce your iron’s temperature to 375 degrees. This will ensure the iron does it jobs while causing minimum damage. However, if you can live without a curling iron or straightener – do it.

  • Hot Showers

Not only does the heat from the shower dry out your hair and cause further damage, but it also makes your hair follicles looser. This allows hair to fall much faster.

If you’re trying to treat your color-damaged hair, try reducing the temperature of your shower and having a cold shower for just 20 seconds before you step out. Cold showers reduce hair fall, prevent frizz and increase hair shine – something bleached hair can use.

  • The Sun

When hair is bleached, it becomes more porous, allowing UV rays to worsen hair damage.

UV rays, wind, humidity, environmental pollution, etc. can damage your hair, drawing its moisture out and leaving it limp, dry and brittle. These factors intensify dryness by continually stripping hair of its natural oils, moisture, and nourishment.

Think of your hair as a sponge. After bleaching, the absorbing properties of your hair increase tenfold. When UV rays enter your hair, they produce free radicals. Free radicals can have adverse reactions towards hair proteins, notably keratin. However, they can be inhibited by the melanin found in your hair.

When you bleach your hair, you’re stripping away the melanin that blocks radiation from entering the keratin matrix. The solution? Try wearing a hat for starters and later, use hair products that provide UV ray protection –like sunscreen, but for your hair. One excellent product is Clarins Sunscreen Care Oil Spray as it is a lightweight formula that can be used on both your hair and your skin.

7] Restore Protein

Bleaching increases the porosity of your hair. This increases gaps and tears in the strands, making them more prone to breakage. These gaps allow hair to absorb too much water, causing extreme tangling, frizz and even color-loss on dyed hair.

Furthermore, when you color-treat your hair, the formula changes the texture of your hair. Do it enough times, and the bonds in your hair begin to break, causing split ends and breakage. To fill these gaps and provide a better base for your hair color, you need a protein treatment that will fortify your strands.

bleach damaged hair repair

Here’s how a protein works...

Your hair is made of keratin, a protein. Therefore, it makes sense to “add” protein to fill in the gaps and patch up your damaged cuticles and cortex. Apart from choosing conditioning products that are enriched with keratin, you can also receive a salon protein treatment every month to restore the vital proteins in your hair.

You can also make your own DIY protein-packed hair mask using high protein foods such as eggs or yogurt with a moisturizing agent like coconut oil.

8] Maintain the Hair

A few touch ups can go a long way in making sure your color-treated hair is healthy.

If you’re trying to sport a long, beachy hair look, a few trims may sound counterintuitive. However, bleached hair often harbors split ends, which can later split entire strands and make them more breakable, if left untreated.

how to hydrate hair after bleaching

While split ends can be tamed with a basic trim, extreme damages such as broken hair at the crown, broken hair at the hairline, or frizzy broken hair on top of your head need a more extensive maintenance routine. Rethink using your curling iron or flat iron, and allow your hair to heal for the first few weeks at least.

As discussed earlier, you’ll also want to air dry your hair instead of blow drying it. Also, try showering only 2-3 days a week and use dry shampoo on other days. If your hair is wet when you’re heading out, try braiding it – it looks beachier and far less damaged this way.

9] Style Smart

When styling your hair, stick to letting your mane loose or braiding it loosely.

Here are some solutions to common mistakes most of us make while styling bleached hair:

  • Comb Gently

Brushing or combing your hair too much or too roughly can cause hair breakage from the crown. Avoid thin-toothed combs as they can tug on your hair and result in mechanical damage around your scalp. Instead, comb your hair gently using a bamboo wide-toothed comb just once or twice or day, or as needed.

  • Avoid Tight Hairstyles

Certain hairstyles, for example, tight ponytails, top buns, knots, tight braids, adding weaves and extensions can break your hair. Tight hairstyles apply excessive tension on your hair follicles, resulting in hair breakage and even hair loss. This can also cause traction alopecia – a condition that permanently weakens hair follicles and slows down hair growth.

  • Avoid Teasing

Teasing or backcombing your hair frequently can tangle it and make it more prone to split ends and damages that may last for months. When you tease your hair, you’re lifting up your cuticles, which can massively impact the proteins and natural fibers that make up your hair. Aggressive combing also causes too much friction, making your hair weaker, frizzier and more brittle.

  • Avoid Banding

Hair banding is a technique that involves stretching your hair. It may sound safe, but it can silently break your hair because it adds more tension. Don’t do it.

  • Avoid Styling Wet Hair

Your hair is most fragile when it is wet. Styling your hair when it is wet or drenched can cause mechanical damage. Depending on the manipulation required to style your hair, it’s best to wait until your hair is slightly damp or damp-dry.

10] Add Hair-Friendly Nutrients

What you eat affects your hair and skin health. Your hair needs protein, vitamins, minerals and plenty of water to stay healthy. According to a 2002 study in Clinical and Experimental Dermatology, essential amino acids, protein, serum zinc, and iron are vital for hair growth.

how to repair damaged hair naturally

Since your hair is made of protein, it makes sense to up your protein intake. Chicken, fish, eggs, lentils, and legumes are some excellent sources of protein that also contain B vitamins, iron, and zinc that are essential for hair health.

Taking a multivitamin every day can also ensure that you are taking enough of these nutrients to repair your hair and boost hair growth.

11] Manage Stress

Stress is not only mentally debilitating, but it can also affect your physical health, even causing hair loss. Therefore, if you’re suffering from extreme hair loss following your recent bleaching appointment, try your best not to stress as it can put you in a vicious cycle.

When you’re under stress, your hair goes into telogen phase, where it falls out. According to a study published in the American Journal of Pathology, hair follicles are a vital target for most stressors.

Furthermore, research states that the effect of neurohormones, neurotransmitters, and neuropeptides during stress can severely impact the cyclic activity of your hair follicles.

If you’re feeling stressed, try talking to a friend. You can also add in some relaxation techniques to your routine (yoga, meditation, dance or aromatherapy). Simply listening to some relaxing music or taking an Epsom salt bath can also help alleviate stress.

Now that you’ve understood the basics of how bleach causes hair breakage and how you can treat and prevent it, your care routine should feel much easier. Watch the products and tools you use, check what you eat and opt for the hairstyles your follicles will love. If you’re looking for a fresh start, trim your hair and follow our tips to ensure your hair returns to its natural health and sheen in no time.

Copyright 2018 by DryScalpGone.