If you don't have naturally flaxen hair, attaining the right shade of blonde is a task that requires diligence, patience, and a lot of maintenance.
Hair is composed of a protein called keratin, which breaks down when it comes in contact with bleach. Hydrogen peroxide, the primary agent in bleach, works by removing electrons from melanin molecules found in keratin, effectively stripping hair of its color. However, melanin molecules aren't the only ones affected by hydrogen peroxide—it also weakens bonds in key structural cells, resulting in weaker hair overall.
Bleach is necessary for lightening hair, but it comes at the cost of some additional damage, so a bit of extra work has to go into keeping strands healthy and strong during and after the bleaching process. But that doesn't mean that bleach and healthy hair are mutually exclusive—a few steps can ensure you get your perfect shade of blonde while also maintaining the integrity of your tresses.
If you have blonde ambitions (or need to grab some bleach to achieve your pastel-hued dreams), these three steps will keep your hair in tip-top shape.
1. Get the Salon Treatment
Whether you go for a full double process or opt for highlights, any amount of bleach will damage your hair by breaking down pigment and stripping away natural color, resulting in weaker and coarser strands. Bleaching is a chemical process, so it needs a solution that's also chemically-minded: enter Olaplex, a three-step formula that is available at most high-end salons worldwide.
Olaplex works by repairing bonds in hair cuticles that are broken as a result of chemical stress. The bond multiplier, developed by two chemists, is added to bleach in the salon to combat its damaging effects as it lifts color from the cuticle, so stress is minimized from the get-go. Once hair has been bleached, a bond perfector is massaged into the hair to seal the newly repaired cuticles, resulting in smoother and shinier hair.
A take-home hair perfector (a product unique to Olaplex) helps keep bonds strong and hair healthy, even after chemical processing. Incorporate it into your hair-washing routine once a week by working it into your strands, letting it sit for 10 minutes, and rinsing with cold water to seal cuticles.
2. Update Your Daily Routine
If you have chemically-treated hair, steer clear of shampoos that contain sulfates. The foam-inducing ingredients can strip hair of natural oils, which proves especially damaging for already-dry bleached hair. Focus on moisture-boosting shampoos and conditioners to keep hair soft, manageable, and above, all healthy.
"New Wash cleanses your hair and scalp while maintaining its natural moisture," says Anessa Kivinski, owner of Headdress Salon. "It also helps the longevity of toners." With this color-maintaining cleanser, conditioner is not necessary to keep tresses soft.
Enriched with coconut oil and egg proteins, this sulfate-free shampoo works to repair broken protein bonds and strengthen your hair.
This shampoo makes hair 20 times more resistant to breakage—you'll have no split ends in sight.
Containing a blend of six different oils (coconut, macadamia, argan, sweet almond, safflower seed, and grapeseed), it's no surprise that this shampoo is so hydrating.
With keratin as a key ingredient, Drybar's Sake Bomb Shampoo helps to strengthen hair with a much-needed protein boost. Plus, who can resist a luxurious-looking bottle?
This is no ordinary shampoo. Purely Perfect's cleansing cream is free of harsh detergents (a.k.a., sulfates) that leave hair dry, and instead boosts body with the help of aloe vera and essential oils.
This citrus-scented shampoo deep cleans hair without stripping away its soft texture. Aveda's Brilliant Shampoo lifts product buildup from the roots while also conditioning strands—say hello to volume and shine!
Moringa tree oil is the superhero of this shampoo, helping to fortify hair fibers against damage. If your hair feels extra brittle, give this one a go.
3. Use Masks As Necessary
Because bleaching strips hair of natural oils, it tends to be prone to dryness. So, in addition to a regular conditioner, a hair mask can work to keep strands healthy by penetrating the cuticle of the hair. A deep conditioning mask will make hair look and feel revitalized and hydrated.
"One of the key ingredients in the High-Gloss Masque is coconut oil," says GLOSS Moderne founder Kuen Rameson, "which prevents hair from drying out and protects it from further damage." Use it a couple times a week for a moisture boost.
Living Proof's restorative mask does not contain silicones found in other masks, which can leave hair greasy, even after a thorough rinse. With a light formula, the mask can be used twice a week to heal brittle strands.
Who knew that sea buckthorn berry could be such a power player (or that it even existed)? Filled with omega 3, 6, 7, and 9, as well as vitamins C and E, this star ingredient is practically a superfood for your hair, nourishing strands and sealing damaged cuticles.
If you have chemically treated hair, Davines is looking out for you. The Nounou hair mask contains tomato extract, which boasts some seriously nourishing properties.
Looking for a mask you already probably have in your kitchen? "Coconut oil is a great moisture replenisher and styling aid," says Schielah Laugner, stylist at Headdress Salon. "It replenishes moisture that bleach strips from the hair." Use it once a month by applying it mid-shaft to ends, leaving it for an hour, and rinsing out.
Feeling fancy? Beauty Protector's hair mask contains crushed pearls, which makes your hair look luminous.