Bleached Hair SOS: The Ultimate Rehydration Guide

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Written by Annie Walton-Doyle

Updated: May 14, 2024

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Let’s be honest: bleaching your hair is one of the worst things you can do for it.

But for many of us, the appeal of being able to change your hair color on a whim, totally switching up your look to suit your style is difficult to resist. The siren call of the bleach bottle is a temptation that we can all be susceptible to—and let’s face it, life is short, and it’s important to have a hair color you feel good about, and that makes you happy.

Luckily, there are some steps a bleach-aholic can take to help out their freshly coloured hair. From properly preparing the hair beforehand to restoring and rehydrating the hair after bleaching, there are many steps you can take to mitigate any potential damage.

Here’s everything you need to known about how to rehydrate your hair after bleaching.

How Bleaching Damages Hair

In the bleaching process, alkaline agents, acting as lighteners, induce swelling and opening of the hair’s cuticles. This expansion enables the alkaline agents to infiltrate the cortex, dissolving the natural pigments, which are called melanin.

To address darker pigments, bleach must first degrade the natural fatty acids present on the hair shafts to get to the pigment underneath, rendering the hair more fragile. The cuticle continues to expand until it reaches a point where it can no longer maintain cohesion. Eventually, the cortex is exposed, leading to the damage that bleaching causes.

Bleaching hair thus causes damage to the hair strand, which can make hair brittle, more prone to breakage, and hard to work with, per NCBI.

Bleached, and therefore less-than-healthy hair exhibits a lackluster and limp appearance due to the breakdown of individual strands. It’s understandable that after bleaching the hair, you’ll want to seek out remedies to restore its strength and softness.

Fortunately, for those of us who have put our hair through the wringer, there are measures that can be taken to rehydrate bleached hair.

Noticing Bleach Damage In Hair

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According to the International Journal of Trichology, hair is protected by a lipid layer which prevents it from taking on or losing too much moisture.

When hair is bleached, the strands are stripped of natural oils and moisture, it also causes the loss of this lipid layer, causing the hair to become extremely porous. This can give hair a dull appearance, and a dry feel, and make it less able to stay hydrated by holding onto moisture.

After bleaching your hair, alongside a brand-new color, you may notice some other changes, like your hair losing its shine and softness. You may also notice hair looks dull, and it can be more prone to tangling or breakage. You may notice more split ends, flyaways, baby hairs, or frizz, too.

Preventing Bleach Damage To Hair

Chemical treatments such as dyeing and bleaching, perming can severely harm the hair follicle, leading to immediate dryness and reduced moisture retention in the strands. Exposing your hair to excessive chemical treatments can cause breakage and snapping.

To safeguard against this damage, it’s essential to limit the chemical processes your hair undergoes. This may mean decreasing how often you switch up your hair color or opting for gentler bleaching and coloring products.

You may also wish to opt for balayage or highlights, instead of bleaching all of your hair.

Repairing Bleach Damage In Hair

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Repairing bleach-damaged hair that has reached the point of breakage is technically impossible, as damage to the follicle is irreversible. However, you can take measures to minimize further damage – and this revolves primarily around rehydrating the hair!

This typically involves reassessing your hair moisturizing routine, including the frequency and choice of products. Although you can’t reverse hair damage, you can prevent further harm through rehydrating bleached strands, enabling your hair to grow stronger and healthier.

How To Rehydrate Your Hair After Bleaching 

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Rehydrating your hair after bleaching is essential to restore moisture and improve its overall health.

By following these steps, you can help rehydrate your bleached mane and promote healthier, more resilient hair over time.

Wash Your Locks Less Frequently

During the initial three weeks following your bleach treatment, your hair is particularly fragile and prone to breakage, especially when wet. Shampooing can exacerbate this vulnerability by further stripping hair of its natural oils.

Cutting down on how often you wash your hair can therefore really help boost hydration levels and minimize the potential for breakage. Aim to wash your hair every three to four days, and use a shower cap on non-wash days. You can extend the time between washes by incorporating dry shampoo into your hair care regimen. 

Overly harsh detergents in your shampoo can strip your hair of its natural oils, increasing dryness and susceptibility to damage or breakage.

If you’ve recently bleached your hair, you may want to seek out shampoos without sulfates, as these cleansing agents can be excessively aggressive for damaged hair. Staying cognizant of your hair products’ ingredients can help make sure your routine is working for you.

Increase Your Conditioning

Bleaching strips hair of moisture, necessitating a shift towards hydrating conditioners and deep treatments. Think of bleached hair as more thirsty than beforehand, so when it comes to replenishing moisture, you need to quench this thirst. More moisturising conditioners are crucial for infusing hydration into weakened strands, fostering softness and shine. 

Your post-bleach routine needs products tailored for bleached hair to maximize moisture retention. You may also need to switch up your application techniques to infuse bleached hair with as much hydration as possible.

Incorporate Masks

In addition to the conditioner you use every hair wash, you may also want to opt for a highly nourishing conditioning product to effectively hydrate bleached hair.

Adding a more intense mask to your haircare arsenal can really help, so consider using a more intensive treatment, such as a hair mask, in place of your regular conditioner every other wash.

Seek out products tailored for bleach-damaged hair, as they are formulated to offer maximum hydration. Leave your mask on for several minutes to allow your hair ample time to soak up the moisture.

Some of our favorites include the Davines NouNou Nourishing Repairing Mask, or the Aussie 3 Minute Miracle Moist for those on a tighter budget.

DIY Solutions for Hydrating Bleached Hair 

When you’re in need of a conditioning treatment but lacking a store-bought hair mask, your kitchen holds valuable remedies to address dryness and brittleness.

Food-based ingredients boast a rich combination of fats and proteins, offering nourishment and repair to your hair strands without breaking the bank. 

For a nourishing coconut oil treatment, heat two tablespoons of coconut oil and apply it to damp or dry hair. Wrap your hair in a microfiber towel or old t-shirt and leave it on overnight for maximum hydration. Rinse out the mask in the morning with your preferred shampoo.

For added shine and sleekness, try a yogurt hair mask. Combine one cup of yoghurt with a tablespoon of olive oil, apply to hair for 10 minutes, and rinse with warm water.

Avocado and olive oil are also excellent on split ends. Mash half an avocado with half a cup of olive oil, apply to the ends of your hair and leave on for 30 minutes before rinsing.

Don’t Fear Oils!

Natural oils offer some of the most effective treatments to fortify and nourish damaged hair after bleaching. Coconut oil, almond oil, castor oil, argan oil, and olive oil are renowned for their powerful reparative and hydrating properties.

Acting as emollients, these oils create a protective barrier around the hair shaft, sealing the cuticle and retaining moisture.

Moreover, they possess lubricating qualities that improve slip between hair strands, facilitating detangling and smoothing the cuticle surface, ultimately enhancing the overall health and appearance of the hair.

With their low molecular weight and straight linear chain structure, natural oils have the ability to penetrate deep into the hair shaft, preventing protein loss and promoting hair strength and resilience.

Be Extra Gentle

There are certain manual treatments that can also help to boost the hydration levels of hair after bleaching. Be gentle with your locks, especially when they’re wet, as they’re most fragile at this time. Instead of rubbing your hair vigorously to dry it, use a softer towel or t-shirt to gently squeeze out excess water.

Additionally, detangle your hair while conditioner is in to minimize rough handling and prevent further damage to the cuticle.

To safeguard your hair from damage while you sleep, consider switching to a silk pillowcase instead of cotton, polyester, or linen options. Silk possesses lower absorbency compared to other materials, thus minimizing how much of your hair’s natural oils are absorbed away from the strands during the night.

Silk also generates less friction, reducing the risk of breakage and damage. As a result, you’ll wake up to hair that feels more nourished and softer, promoting healthier hair over time.

Color Correct

Although not technically a tip for hydrating your hair, an extra important part of post-bleach aftercare is keeping on top of your hair tone. For those with blonde hair consider replacing your regular shampoo with a purple-tinted shampoo every other week.

This simple switch effectively combats brassiness, which refers to the undesirable warm tones that often appear in bleached hair.

By incorporating purple-tinted shampoo into your routine, you can maintain the cool, neutral tones of your blonde hair, ensuring a freshly dyed look and a more hydrated-looking, glossy sheen.

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