Think Before You Color: What to Know About Bleaching Hair
The end color? Fun. The process? Not so much.
For most color aficionados, bleaching hair, like death and taxes, is inevitable. Until someone discovers another way of making strands fully switch colors at a whim (and we’re not talking about wigs here), we have to resort to this time-tested method of color-stripping which, unfortunately, does come with a downside.
Admittedly, the process of bleaching hair can sound barbaric, medieval even—it opens up your cuticles and allows chemicals to oxidize your natural pigments. This is to allow strands to better absorb artificial pigments, or the colors in your hair dye. Read on to discover more about bleaching hair as you discover more about this process.
Bleaching Hair: A Brief Biology Session
The hair shaft is made of three layers: The innermost layer is called the medulla, which is covered by the second layer or the cortex, which is then covered by the cuticle. Melanin, the dark brown to black pigment present in our hair, skin and eyes, is only present in the medulla and cortex. Hydrogen peroxide, or the active ingredient in bleach, softens the outermost layer (a.k.a. the cuticle) and reacts with the darker melanin in the medulla and the cortex, effectively dissolving the pigments via oxidization and leaving behind an orangey residue. (Good to know: This “brassy” shade is irreversible until hair grows out.) Hair is then toned or neutralized afterwards to match the desired blonde shade. This can be done in-salon and maintained at home with a purple shampoo, such as Bed Head by TIGI Dumb Blonde Shampoo.
Blondes vs. Brunettes
It’s true: Not all hair color is created equal. Bleaching hair that’s darker is more challenging, as darker hair has more melanin than lighter hair. Darker hair therefore requires a longer exposure to bleach to dissolve the existing melanin, a process that can inflict some damage to your hair strand.
What to do after bleaching
Bleaching hair can leave it dry, brittle and damaged. It’s not unusual for your texture to also seem completely different afterwards—what used to be straight hair now has a slight wave, or your natural springy, bouncy curls have now become a frizzy mess. It is crucial to now include a deep-conditioning step into your hair care regimen, in order to help strengthen, rebuild or even replenish the protein bonds that have been broken or damaged by bleaching hair.
An immediate, restorative, keratin-infused system to be used after coloring, such as Nexxus Emergencée Reconstructing Treatment, can help improve the health, shine and condition of damaged hair.
A weekly mask used after shampooing and conditioning can help infuse hair with a shot of much-needed moisture and nourishment as well. Be on the lookout for protein-infused products, such as Dove Anti-Frizz Oil Therapy Hair Mask, which has nutrients, protein and nourishing oils to help smoothen and fortify weakened hair while keeping hair color electric.
Want to learn more about hair dyeing? Check out our comprehensive guides to hair color.