10 Rules I Should Have Followed to Avoid Damaging My Bleached Hair

Happy #transformationthursday! Okay, I know that's not a thing, but check out these 10 color treated hair care essentials anyway.
Publish date:
February 26, 2015
shoppables, hair dye, hair care, damaged hair, hair styling, hair coloring

I was recently (and very badly) blonde. I knew it, my friends and family knew it, and all the xoJane readers knew it — although I would like to say thank you for the kind way you all tactfully addressed it in the comments.

I knew I couldn’t write beauty articles with a hot, fried mess of almost-curls atop my head, so I did some research and booked an appointment with the brilliant Lucille Javier of Sally Hershberger. My goal going into the big change was simple: give complete creative control to someone who knew more about hair than I did. I’m a control freak, but based on my bad, brassy hair color decisions in the past, I knew it was best to leave the next step to the professionals. And I am so glad I did.

The new silver gray is much better, yes? The answer (obviously) is yes because I let Lucille Javier take the wheel and am now following her — and stylist Eddie Parra’s — 10 commandants for healthy hair. The rules writ in stone are as follows:

1. You Shall Listen to Your Stylist.

This one goes without saying, but still: listen. One of the first things Lucille told me when I sent pictures of my hair to her pre-consult were that she couldn’t promise the bleach-y, vampy blonde I was initially looking for. Instead, she said she would do her best to create a look that I could be proud of and comfortable with. So, if your stylist tells you that the silver fox blonde you’re lusting after won’t work, take no for an answer and move on.

2. You Shall Not Aspire to the Hair Color of Your Idols.

Bringing in pictures is all well and good, but wedding yourself to a single idea that a fashion icon or celebrity is rocking can be damaging. In January, I wanted Rita Ora hair — the platinum icy stuff dreams are made of. The result was a five hour process that left me with buttery yellow, frizzy hair. So I didn’t get what I wanted and my hair turned out the worse for it. Again, acceptance comes into play. When I met with Lucille, I hadn’t had visions of sugar plum violet curls dancing in my head, but I’m incredibly happy with the new color.

3. You Shall Know the Difference Between Hair Gloss and Hair Dye And You Shall Know Request Olaplex.

Everyone has written about the mythical powers of olaplex — the salon treatment that protects and rebuilds the damaged hair — but I’m going to say it again and will sing its praises from mountaintops: Olaplex! Request it! Live it! Love it and consider using it in conjunction with hair gloss (instead of hair dye).

Lucille turned me on to glosses: a gentle alternative to traditional hair dye. Here’s how she described it (because, you know, I’m all about expert opinions now):

“A gloss is a semipermanent color/dye that can be applied at the shampoo bowl. Glosses can become as creative as you make them. They are designed to treat the hair, but do rinse out easily. I strongly recommend my clients to come in for glosses every 2–3 weeks.”

4. You Shall Remember the Right Way to Care for Damaged Hair, to Keep It Healthy.

Once you bleach, your hair is changed forever. It’s sad, but true. Most of the damage I’ve done to my hair was a result of treating my delicate bleached hair the same way I did when it was thick and healthy. So, I went about my morning and evening routine, roughly toweling, brushing, and pinning up my hair, and wondering why it was breaking off in my hands. Here’s why:

“My advice to anyone with the blonde ambition is to know it will take some time and dedication. It's not a hair trend for the lazy. The process stresses the natural hair and needs TLC. So from the moment you shampoo, being very gentle, pat drying with your towel, combing your hair with a wide tooth comb.”

Showering takes me much longer now. I pat my head gently, the way I would pat down a new tattoo or my dog after he gets a bath. It feels a little weird to not hurriedly scrunch my hair, but my hair loss has decreased in a major way.

5. You Shall Honor Your Colorist and Your Stylist.

Processed hair equals hair that break equals a need for consistent trims, so finding someone who I could trust to cut my hair was important, but also difficult. I have a complicated haircut: both sides of my head are shaved*. The back of my head was shaved into an awful rat-tail-mohawk-situation because I sat quietly in a salon while a stylist who I did not communicate with buzzed the back of my head. I cried. It was awful and it’s going to take over a year to get my hair to grow back normally.

So, it’s important to find someone you can talk to — openly and honestly — about your hair. If you have trouble communicating with your stylist, it’s probably time to try someone new. And, in case you are distrustful of my advice, Lucille agrees with me. She actually said this (and it actually warmed my heart):

“My first thought when someone is unhappy with their color is that the communication between the colorist and client must have been off. I would suggest going in for a detailed consultation before any color. But if things have gone in the wrong direction, asking the colorist to see you again and if they are not agreeing with you or want to compromise, find a new colorist that will listen and take responsibility.”

Basic, right? Well, wait! There’s more! You have to honor said trustworthy stylist. Listen to their advice and follow it. Which means that the next four commandments are ultra-important and must be followed religiously.

* Eddie, by the way, wholeheartedly approved of my undercut-tastic haircut.

6. You Shall Not Use Products That Damage Processed Hair.

I (wrongly) thought that I could simply start using deeply moisturizing products like oils, masques, and leave in conditioners, post-bleach. However, Lucille steered me toward Color Lustre and Davines products in her very fairy ultra-Queen-Mab voice that is absolutely hypnotizing and makes you want to do whatever she says.

Davines is my new favorite brand, not only because they have cool handwritten-looking labels and use words like "alchemic," but because they make my hair glint-y in the light and soft to the touch. In the salon, Lucille used Color Lustre post bleaching and my hair was actually softer than when I came in for my appointment so . . . awesome (very obviously). Here's the whole Color Lustre line, as recommended in a soft, luxurious purr, by Lucille:

Are they expensive? Yup. However, unicorn hair is an investment.

More crucial tips from Eddie:

“Always approach your hair with a product that you think will make your hair feel healthier. If you are starting from wet, make sure you apply the product to the ends first.”

7. You Shall Not Commit Heat Styling.

THIS IS A BIG ONE, with a teensy tiny caveat: an occasional blow out is not terrible. But, here’s what Eddie said about heat styling:

“Heat Styling is NOT safe. You are always at risk of breakage. But now there are tools that you can regulate temperatures, keeping the temperature as low as possible. This will allow you to style your hair without getting as much damage. Using a blow dryer every day is much less harmful than a straightener everyday. Good tension and a round brush is key for a good blow dry. You can really polish your hair with just a blow dryer and a round brush. Practice makes perfect.”

8. You Shall Not Wash Your Hair More Than Once a Week.

This one should go without saying, but it can be hard — when you layer on deep conditioning products — and you’re dealing with strange hair with a completely different texture.

9. You Shall Not Lie About Your Hair Processing History.

Going into a glorious salon and admitting that I’d gotten a terrible, but cost-effective, dye job in conjunction with Supercuts hair cuts was embarrassing, but important. Honesty about what processes you’ve used in the past makes a huge difference in the bleach mixing process — which I genuinely didn’t know. I didn’t know there was more than one kind of hair bleach. But there is. That’s what’s secreted away in the towel closets in hair salons.

10. You Shall Not Covet an Unattainable Hair Color.

In the end, I didn’t get the blonde I wanted. But that’s okay! And you should know that it’s okay. Honestly, I’m much more into my purple-rain-silver-fox look than I was ever into Rita Ora’s platinum.

So, there you have it: the Ten Commandments I am now following in order to keep my hair healthy post-processing. Did I leave anything off the list (heresy!)? Do you do things differently (sacrilege!)? Leave me a comment and let me know.