Over the past decade, my hair has been through it. However, when I bring this up in conversation with friends and colleagues, they always seem shocked. "But your hair isn’t even that blonde,” they say. And sure, I have always maintained my natural dark brown at the roots, but believe it or not, I’ve been routinely bleaching my hair for the last 10 years. I have been from chunky highlights to ombré to balayage to full-blown buttery lengths and then back to balayage again.
Not only does keeping my natural root color mean that bright-blonde lengths don’t jar against my jet-black brows, but it also reduces upkeep and, most importantly, further bleach top-ups on my fine hair. My strands are so fine, in fact, that any sort of bleaching requires some serious post-treatment care in order to avoid breakage. And with my blonde-tipped lengths now hitting my mid-back, I can safely say that 10 years' worth of toning treatments and nourishing remedies have finally started to pay off. So if you’re struggling to manage your bleach at the moment, keep scrolling for everything I have learned about caring for bleached hair and to shop the products I swear by, with some expert tips and tricks along the way…
Always Incorporate Purple Pigment
If there is one thing I have learned on my decade-long bleach journey, it’s that naturally dark hair really wants to turn orange, and that makes regular toning treatments seriously important. Because I don’t have the time or money to go to the salon every time my blonde starts to go a little brassy, I opt for at-home products to do the job for me. Blonde specialist at Larry King Harriet Muldoon explains, "Despite leaving the salon with fresh pearly locks, the sunshine, heat tools, pollution and life, in general, can leave unwanted brassy tones.” To help counteract unsightly yellow tints, Muldoon recommends using a purple shampoo or toning treatment once or twice a week.
And I second that recommendation. After three or four washes without using a purple-toned treatment, the orange tones in my hair start taking over. The issue, however, is that highly pigmented shampoos rarely feel particularly kind to hair. "From my experience, purple shampoos can sometimes make the hair feel drier,” warns Muldoon. Instead of opting for drying shampoos, why not look toward pigmented conditioners and masks?
Purple Products I Love
This hair mask means business. It's seriously pigmented and makes brassy tones turn icy white in a matter of minutes. Be careful not to leave it on any longer than it says. I mean it when I say it's powerful.
Slightly less focused on the pigment side of things, this shampoo works hard to nourish colour-damaged strands and protect them from fade-inducing UV and hard water.
Without a doubt, this is one of my favourite pigmented shampoos out there. Not only does it help to cool warm tones, but it also leaves hair feeling clean and not stripped of moisture.
While the pigment payoff of this nourishing conditioner isn't quite as intense as a shampoo might be, it really helps to inject moisture back into the hair without compromising on cool tones.
Not only does this intense cream bring out icy platinum tones, but it also leaves lengths feeling unbelievably silky.
Use a Strengthening Hair Mask Once a Week
When it comes to hair structure and the actual science behind it all, I’m no expert. With that being said, I am sure of one thing: Bleach weakens strands. Redken educator Jimmy Green explains, "When you lighten hair and remove the natural pigments, you may also take some of the natural proteins that form the structure of the hair. If you constantly lighten, you are likely causing weakness within the structure, which will leave hair in bad condition.” To keep hair strong and reduce the risk of breakage, it’s important to use nourishing treatments whenever you can.
"Using a product that is specifically designed to repair, replenish and support the lightening process will ensure that the condition of the hair is maintained and that hair remains strong. The molecules in a hair mask are smaller and therefore have the ability to work deeper into the hair,” says Green.
Hair Masks I Love
This mask uses natural peptides and amino acids to help strengthen damaged strands. Plus, I love that it doesn't leave hair feeling weighed down.
Designed specifically for hair that has been overprocessed, this repairing mask leaves hair looking bouncy and healthy.
No deep-conditioning mask compares to this cult classic. Simply slather it all over hair before shampooing and leave on for 15 to 20 minutes. If you haven't tried this yet, what on earth are you waiting for?
The thing I love the most about this fortifying mask is that it only takes three to five minutes to leave hair silky smooth.
Oils and Serums Provide Much-Needed Protection
Keeping bleach-damaged hair looking glossy and sleek is a job all in itself. When the hair structure has been damaged by regular bleach treatments, it can start to appear lacklustre and dull. "Serums and oils are a good way of nourishing hair to leave a beautiful shine,” says Green.
Similarly, opting for such products that come with extra protection can only be a bonus. As bleach weakens and damages strands, it’s important to make sure they are protected from other potential aggressors. "Any protection for bleached hair is good protection. Many oils and serums come with some form of heat protection, which is important, especially when using heating tools,” he adds.
Oils and Serums I Love
While the original, rich argan oil formula is a little too heavy for my fine strands, this lighter treatment gives my dry ends all of the nourishment they need.
I'd go as far as to say that this is one of my favourite hair products ever made. It's a nourishing oil that's so lightweight it works wonderfully in my fine, thin hair. Plus, it contains heat and UV protection, making it my daily go-to.
Not only is this nourishing oil-serum super affordable, but its weightless finish also makes it one of the best I have ever tried.
This heat-protection spray also contains ginger root and aquaxyl to deliver maximum hydration and prevent further breakage.
It's totally okay to buy this cult hair oil for its incredible smell alone. However, as an added bonus, it provides unrivalled silk and shine.
Conditioning Sprays Work Wonders
I would say the thing that has shocked me the most is definitely how much drier the bleached areas of my hair are in comparison to the roots. Naturally, my hair is oil-prone and requires little extra nourishment. However, as soon as I have had a bleach top-up, I have to prepare myself for extreme matting.
Anyone who has ever tried to drag a brush through freshly bleached, wet strands knows this pain all too well. In order to help restore some moisture and make things more manageable, Muldoon suggests a conditioning spray. "Not only do they moisturise and strengthen the hair, but some also come with UV protection, which makes them great for the summer,” she says. Simply spritz onto wet hair after every wash and behold sleek, moisturised lengths.
Conditioning Sprays I Love
This particular spray is silicone-free, so it provides necessary hydration without any unnecessary weight.
It's an oldie but a goodie. For just £5, I really can't fault this super-nourishing leave-in conditioner. When my hair is feeling particularly dry post-wash, I just spray this all over, and it's good as new. Plus, that smell makes me so nostalgic.
It conditions, nourishes, detangles, protects, smooths… The list goes on. Honestly, if you only buy one post-wash product, I'd make it this.
Shannon Lawlor is a renowned beauty journalist and has contributed to Who What Wear’s beauty content since 2020. As a leading beauty editor, expert and brand consultant, she has over eight years of experience working for some of the industry’s most esteemed titles, including Who What Wear (of course), Glamour UK, Stylist, Refinery29 and Fabulous.
Having also worked behind the scenes with some of the industry’s biggest brands and retailers, Shannon has a unique insight into what people really want from their beauty routines. Understanding that beauty lovers seek honest, open and responsible advice, she has it made her mission to demystify the intimidating world of beauty, taking a no-frills approach to the most relatable topics.
While Shannon is the first to admit she doesn’t hold the answer to every beauty question out there, she is dedicated to sharing her expert insights in a bid to help. As a self-proclaimed lazy girl, Shannon has an affinity for easy-to-use, foolproof beauty products and has made it her mission to scope out the best of the best.
When she’s not working, Shannon is likely soaking in the bath or giving no-holds-barred beauty reviews on Instagram from her bathroom floor.