If you have ever bleached your hair, you know the damage it causes to your strands. Or worse, you might know the pain of when bleaching your strands goes too far - the chemical cut! In this month's newsletter, we tackle what happens when you bleach your hair and how to avoid significant damage so you can live your best blonde or rainbow coloured unicorn hair day.
WHAT IS YOUR NATURAL HAIR COLOUR?
Hair gets its colour from melanin, a pigment found within the hair strands and is produced by melanocytes. Hair has two types of pigments: eumelanin and pheomelanin.
Eumelanin has two types: brown eumelanin and black eumelanin and like the names indicate, is largely responsible for brown and black pigments.
Pheomelanin, on the other hand, is most responsible for red and yellow pigments. The ratios of these types of melanin determine the wide range of hair colours.
The more brown eumelanin and black eumelanin present in the hair, the darker the hair strands will appear, and the less brown eumelanin and black eumelanin in the hair, the lighter the hair strands will appear. The absence of melanin causes hair to appear white/grey.
HOW DOES BLEACH LIGHTEN HAIR COLOUR?
When you bleach your hair, the melanin in the hair shaft is broken down – or to put it scientifically, the bleach oxidizes the melanin, causing the melanin to lose its colour and makes the hair appear its natural colour – a pale yellow.
“… bleach oxidizes the melanin,causing the melanin to lose itscolour and makes the hair appearits natural colour – a pale yellow.”
FUN FACT: The bleach you use to lighten your hair IS NOT the same bleach used to disinfect your bathroom.
To bleach your hair, the bleach is added to hydrogen peroxide and mixed together. When applied to hair, this alkaline mixture changes the pH of the hair and causes the cuticle layers to lift up and open up, which allows the lightener to pass under the cuticle and into the cortex.
Once the bleach reaches inside the cortex, it oxidizes the hair’s melanin and the oxidized molecule is colourless. The brown and black pigments are first dissolved followed by the red and yellow pigments; the yellow pigments react the least with bleach. The pale yellow colour bleached hair has is due to this and also because the natural colour of keratin, the protein that comprises hair, has a yellow tint.
The bleach will continue to lighten hair until it is removed from hair. This is why a professional should bleach your hair, as they will know when the right shade has been reached. A professional will also take into account the texture of the hair and its health to know how long to process hair.
Bleach can also destroy the cuticles and cortex which can lead to dry, brittle, rough, straw-like hair. Dry, brittle hair due to over bleaching is referred to as “oxidative” or “bleaching” damage (Wolfram, 1970). Porosity and elasticity of the strands can also be affected if hair is over processed (Hesserfort, 2008). Hair that is overly porous will be hard to hold any style, which is why you may notice your hair is flat and limp and has no body. Overly porous hair will not be able to retain moisture.
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Bleached hair is fragile and most of the bonds that were lost during the bleaching process are no longer remade. This leads to the deterioration of the cuticles and cortex, which is vital to the inner structure of the hair.
During the first week after bleaching, it is best not to shampoo. Use a conditioner to clean hair instead - as conditioners have some cleansing properties. You’re probably not adding a lot of product to your hair at this point so a deep shampoo is not necessary.
“Use a gentle low lathering sulfate-free shampoothe first week after bleaching.”
After the first week, you can introduce shampoo back into your life. Use a gentle low lathering, sulfate-free shampoo the first week after bleaching. Make sure your shampoo does not contain sodium lauryl sulfate or sodium laureth sulfate; these are powerful degreasers and are just too harsh for over processed hair.
The shampoo we love is NIUCOCO’s Hydrating Shampoo. It’s free of sulfates, its low lathering, and it cleanses hair without stripping your natural sebum – needed for healthy scalp and strands.
Be gentle when you shampoo and don’t rough towel dry. The added strain on the hair can lead to further damage.
Sorry, but it’s just a must to stay away from heat styling tools. Heat styling can remove added moisture from the hair strands. At this point, your straw-like hair wants to keep all the moisture it can in the strands. Although not recommended, if you have to heat style, make sure to use a thermal protectant like NIUCOCO’s Renewing Serum.
Hair is associated with fatty acids and several integral hair proteins (Lee, 2011; Wertz, 1988). Bleaching doesn’t just break down melanin and the cuticle structure, but also the fatty acids within the hair and other integral hair proteins – causing that straw-like feeling.
To add fatty acids back into the strands, use coconut oil treatments. Coconut oil is one of the only oils that has been scientifically proven to penetrate strands, thereby nourishing parched, damaged hair. Only use extra virgin, cold pressed, unrefined coconut oil as it maximizes the coconut oil’s benefits and ensures that the naturally occurring phytonutrients are intact; it contains a superior lauric acid content, the main fatty acid that comprises coconut oil, than other types of coconut oil.
Directions: For an intense treatment, liberally coat strands with coconut oil. Wear a shower cap and let the goodness in the coconut oil penetrate strands overnight. The next morning, shampoo with a gentle shampoo and follow with a conditioner. Repeat oil treatments on a weekly basis until hair is back to healthy.
Implement the coconut oil treatment starting from the second week after bleaching. Start with 2 times per week for the first week and then 1 time per week afterward.
During the day, add a pea-sized amount of coconut oil to your hair to give it some extra nutrients or apply a small amount of leave-in conditioner to hair.
We recommend this DIY deep conditioner that will give results that will amaze you.
Directions: Mix together to form a slurry. Slather onto hair strands liberally and cover with a shower cap. Let sit for 30-60 minutes. Shampoo with a gentle shampoo and follow with conditioner.
We know what the coconut oil in this recipe does for hair (see tip #3). The other main ingredient, kaolin, is a clay that is high in silica, which helps to strengthen hair and add moisture. It is the gentlest of clays so it won’t remove moisture from the hair.
Apply this mask to your hair twice a week for optimal results.
We've bundled the best of what we have to offer to help you restore dry and damaged hair that has been through abusive heat and color treatments to give you soft, shiny and beautiful hair.
Author: Yasmine Ishmael