Bleaching Can Cause Hair Loss, Dandruff, and Irritation—How to Game the System



Healthybeautiful hair starts at the top—literally. The scalp is the foundation for the growth and nourishment of our strands, so it’s important we give it the same amount of attention and care we give our hair, if not more. “Scalp care is essential because it affects the health, growth and condition of the hair,” explains Rae Lynne Kinler, Hair restoration specialist and Medical Director at Ziering Medical Center in Greenwich, CT. “Hair is a dead keratinized protein, but the follicle where it is produced has a great impact on its quality. A healthy scalp and skin barrier with a well-balanced microbiome encourages less breakage and hair loss.” Basically, Kinler says, you want the best environment for new growth, and stronger, shinier, thicker hair.

Scalp health is especially important if you have bleached blonde hair, like moi. I’ve been blonde for about a year now (without going back to pink once, a record!), and during this time I’ve learned that scalp health is crucial for keeping my super processed hair healthy. “What we take or strip away from the scalp and hair. we need to return to restore health, balance, and vitality, says Philip B, scalp expert and founder of Philip B Hair Care. “From a healthy scalp healthier hair will grow. The scalp is its own little ecosystem. Those who bleach disrupt the pH of our scalp and strands. It can have a real effect on the bacterial community of our scalp—the microbiome.” Philip B says that on the scalp, bleach can result in irritation, inflammation or even a real burn, affecting the outer layers of skin with redness, peeling and pain.

To avoid these issues, Kinler says exfoliation is key. Some of her tips include using a silicone scalp brush to massage the scalp and help to lift debris, and a natural boar bristle brush to lift dead skin cells from the skin surface and move the hardened sebum or product build up. Other tips from Kinler include using a deep conditioning mask or hot oil treatment regularly, avoiding chemicals like sulfates in shampoos, which are generally safe, but some people are more sensitive to. She also says to limit or avoid dry shampoo and styling products—something that is, admittedly, hard for me to do! While I’ve definitely had some itchiness and flakiness post-bleach session, I’ve been lucky to not experience more serious issues, like severe dandruff and irritation, or hair loss, which Kinler says can result from an unhealthy scalp.

Using the right products for my scalp and hair has helped me avoid this fate. I incorporate scalp serums and oils in my routine, take the time to massage my scalp with a silicone brush when I’m in the shower, and use sulfate-free shampoos. I also had an amazing oil treatment from Philip B where he soaked all of my hair in his Rejuvenating Oil for about 20 minutes and applied heat with a blow dryer, then massaged his Peppermint Avocado Shampoo while adding water. He suggests doing this treatment at home up to twice a week for a boost of hydration, volume, and a glossy finish. As Philip B says, “Blondes may have more fun, but an extra dose of scalp care is in order.” 

The Best Scalp Products for Bleached Hair

My absolute favorite scalp scrub is this one by Philip B, which he describes as a super luxe creamy shampoo and sea-salt scrub all in one: “Gently exfoliating, it washes dirt and product build up with excess oil as it melts onto the scalp surface.” It contains avocado, arnica, and aloe to calm, soothe, and reduce itching, irritation, and inflammation.

This four-part set has everything you need to maintain a healthy scalp. It includes the Scalp Booster Pre-Wash, which contains 3% Redensyl (in clinical trials, 71 percent of subjects saw thicker hair after three months), plus the Scalp Booster Shampoo and Leave-In Conditioner, and Silicone Scalp Massager.

Dr. Kinler says true medical grade active shampoo and conditioner designed for optimizing scalp health is key. This system by Dr. Ziering is formulated with protein and polypeptide-rich colostrum extract, which helps rejuvenate the scalp and strengthens damaged and thinning hair.

This double-duty CBD and CBG oil is fast acting, fast absorbing and deeply moisturizing, allowing it to fight redness, inflammation and irritation. It also contains specific terpenes (which are basically the essential oils in plants) that have their own calming benefits.

Philip says to use a pH Spray with apple cider vinegar every time you rinse. “Combat the water and finish with the perfect level of neutral to acidic to restore balance to the scalp and close the cuticle."

Since the scalp microbiome is precious, we need to treat it with care. Biotera’s products, which are all microbiome-friendly and are focused on scalp health, are perfect. They’re a personal favorite; I just finished my go-to, the Ultra Color Care Shampoo and Conditioner.

I’ve become seriously obsessed with Ranavat’s hair care line, and this oil (which can also be used on the body) has become a huge favorite. It’s packed with scalp-loving and antioxidant ingredients, like jasmine, amla, and sunflower oil. Sometimes I’ll use it to tame flyaways, but my favorite way to use it is massaging it into my scalp and leaving it in for hours or overnight before wash day.

Since I do like to use dry shampoo, it can cause buildup on my scalp. Using a pre-shampoo treatment like this one by All About Curls, helps remove all that reside before my usual cleanse.

Blue tansy, an antioxidant and highly beneficial essential oil, is one of my favorite skincare ingredients so I’m excited to see it in a hair product. This shampoo uses blue tansy to nourish the hair follicles and support growth, while jojoba oil and bamboo extract protect against breakage and add shine to hair.

If you’re dealing with itchy and flaky scalp, this treatment from Lush will be your savior. It contains nourishing coconut oil, soothing chamomile blue oil, and lavender oil to help balance oil production.

Another massive brand favorite for me, Ceremonia’s beloved heritage scalp ritual features a combination of passion fruit oil, castor oil, and aloe vera—all amazing ingredients for hair and scalp health.

Think of this mask as a facial for your scalp, as it contains irritation-fighting ingredients like Sea Silt, Ayurvedic Neem and Apricot Oil.

A great scalp health tool, this brush can be used before you wash your hair to loosen scalp buildup. Then, when your hair is dry, massage and brush your hair from scalp to ends to distribute the natural oils.

This shampoo is formulated with chia seed and yuzu, which nourish the scalp and help make strands strong.

Your scalp will find relief from all it goes through, like heat styling, bleaching, and protective styles, with this special serum.

Micellar water and celery seed extract help the scalp feel soothed, cleansed, and totally cared for in this shampoo by Australian hair care brand Kevin Murphy.

With a complex consisting of yeast proteins, zinc salts, and encapsulated actives, plus peptides, and jojoba esters, the scalp and hair gets hydrated, strengthened, and totally nourished.

Want a scalp treatment that does it all? This helps reduce shedding, stimulate regrowth in thinning hair, hydrates, soothes the scalp, and also protects against outside stressors like pollution and UV rays.

This new scrub is the epitome of skincare for hair as it features a powerful combination of salicylic, glycolic and lactic acid that exfoliates clogged up scalps. It's a must for anyone who goes hard on the dry shampoo and styling products like me!