For most naturals, doing as much as you can do for your hair to avoid damage is the ultimate goal. What happens when the damage is self-inflicted in search of style, self-expression, or even fashion? This is the dilemma that is bleaching.
Who wouldn’t want to rock a platinum blonde on a casual day just so they can feel like a superstar? This, however, begs the question, is it worth it? Can you bleach your natural hair without causing irreversible damage to the hair?
Stick around as we tell you all you need to know about bleaching without damaging your hair in the process.
What Is Bleaching?
Hair bleaching is a chemical process that involves stripping hair’s natural pigmentation for a lighter shade. It is quite different from dyeing, which is changing one’s natural hair to another by use of dyes and colorants.
Bleaching involves using an alkaline solution like dye to open up the cuticles and an oxidative agent like Hydrogen Peroxide to penetrate the cortex, dissolving hair’s melanin. How light your hair becomes is mostly dependent on how long the bleach is left in the hair and how strong your developer is.
What to Do Before Bleaching Your Hair?
It is safe to say that no matter how careful you are with your hair, chances of damage due to bleaching are almost inevitable because of how harsh the chemical process is. However, there are ways you can keep the damage as minimal as possible by following these steps:
1. Consistent Routine
Having a great routine is pivotal to the entire bleaching process. You want to make sure that you cleanse, moisturize, seal, protect and cover your hair as you sleep for months (if not longer) before you bleach.
Why? Because the healthier your hair is, the more it can withstand this process. Trim your ends, and do not forget protein treatments to solidify the bonds in your hair. This chemical alteration will test your hair’s health and if it’s not at its best, then the damage is inevitable.
2. Mind Your Diet
Apart from the superficial ways of taking care of hair, a good diet will fortify its health if it’s getting the right nutrients. Foods like whole grains, sweet potatoes, leafy greens, lean meats, eggs, seeds, and nuts are a great place to start.
Additionally, invest in the right hair vitamins and supplements that help your immune and significantly boost your hair’s health. These include Zinc, protein, B-Vitamins, Vitamin A, Omega 3, 6, and 9.
3. Hydrate Often
Water is life. Ensure that your hair gets water regularly. Shower without a plastic cap on and let the steam work its way into your hair, spritz some water when your hair is dull, dry, and frizzy, and drink lots of water to hydrate your hair from the inside while expelling out toxins.
4. Invest In the Right Tools and Products
You will need:
- A bowl.
- An applicator brush.
- Bleaching cap (if you want highlights).
- Your bleach.
- A developer (preferably with a 20% strength). Anything past that is just overkill.
- Wide-tooth comb.
- plastic shower cap.
- Hair clips.
- Shampoo, deep conditioner, moisturizer, and oil
These items will help make your application easier and faster.
During the Bleaching Process
Mix your bleach and developer in your bowl to the consistency that you are comfortable with. Use oil, butter, or pomade of your choice to apply along the borders of your hairline all around. This will help you avoid getting bleach on your skin which can burn and discolor your skin.
Section your hair in 4 equal parts and start applying it. Remember to begin from the ends making your way to the roots. If you’re highlighting, this is where you put on the bleaching cap to help you avoid the parts you may not want to be colored.
After application, cover with a plastic shower cap so that body heat can help hasten the process for not more than half an hour. Remember, the longer the bleach stays in, the lighter your hair, and the more damage it incurs.
After half an hour, rinse off the bleach and use your moisture-rich shampoo to cleanse your hair being very mindful of the scalp. Deep condition to re-introduce moisture back to hair that was stripped by the bleach, moisturize, and seal with the oil or butter of your choice.
After bleaching, you may notice that your hair feels a bit different than it usually does. It may feel coarser and may be prone to split ends and damage, so here are a few things you can do to maintain the bleach and avoid further damage.
Use the right products for your hair
This means moisture-rich shampoos, deep conditioners, and moisturizers to replenish moisture in the hair.
Do NOT use heat
The last thing you want is to further aggravate your hair after undergoing such harsh treatment. For this reason, any kind of heat, including how hot your shower is, heat tools, and any kind of heat styling, are strictly not allowed.
Avoid constant manipulation and styles that are too tight
Tight buns, braids, leave outs (weaves), and styles that could further jeopardize the integrity of your hair should not even be a priority. For now, get your hands out of your hair and avoid anything that could cause further damage.
Protect your hair from the elements
Swimming in salty or chlorinated water is a risk to natural hair, even without bleach. You should have the right gear when at the beach or swimming. Furthermore, avoid sleeping without a silk bonnet since your hair is so much more prone to split ends, breakage, and further damage.
Line your hats with silk when you go to the beach and avoid your hair rubbing on fabrics that could ruin it.
Although bleaching is harsh enough on its own, it can be done safely. However, since your hair’s structure is chemically being altered, problems like having highly porous hair may arise no matter how careful you are.
For these and many other reasons, we recommend that you see a professional colorist to help you guide and provide solid advice, recommendations, and knowledge for better results. Good luck!