I had my hair bleached to white and dyed it purple a little while back. Even though I read a ton of articles about how what to expect and how to look after bleached Asian hair, I was still really surprised by the change in haircare required! Here’s my tips and advice on what to expect when you get extreme bleaching done.
Your hair will feel completely different
Pre-bleach, my hair was smooth, shiny and strong, even when I didn’t use much conditioner. Like most Asian hair, it had low porosity, which meant the cuticle of the hair formed a tight layer on the surface of the hair. It felt pretty much the same wet and dry, and was pretty stiff and springy.
Fast forward to post-bleach. Bleached hair is a lot more porous, so the cuticle has lots of gaps in it, and water can enter and leave hair very easily. My hair is now massively elastic and floppy when wet, almost like wet noodles. When dry, the texture varies from soft and smooth to dry and straw-like, depending on what products I’ve used on it.
On the upside, my hair feels a lot softer now on a good day than pre-bleach – but that’s only on good days. Luckily good days are more frequent now that I’ve gotten to grips with my new haircare routine!
Speaking of that…
Your haircare routine will change
Before I bleached my hair, it was largely easy to look after, and honestly sort of boring. My pre-bleach routine involved washing my hair every day or two with pretty much any shampoo and conditioner, then drying with a hairdryer and dragging a brush through it in the morning – brushing would take three seconds and forceful brushing would cause zero breakage. That is no longer a thing.
I wash my hair a lot less: twice a week now. Generally this will involve an Olaplex treatment, double shampoo and a dye-laced hair mask, which then gets rinsed out in cold water. If I’m feeling lazy I’ll rinse it out with warm water in the shower, but when I do that I really feel the difference in my hair.
Related post: How Does Olaplex Hair Treatment Work? (with Video)
Drying also takes a lot longer since my hair is now basically a sponge, although using an Aquis microfibre hair towel definitely helps.
Related post: How do Aquis Towels work? Science and review
Leave-in products are a must now, and with the higher porosity my hair drinks up product much faster. Whereas before I had to be careful with the amount of product I added to my hair, I don’t need to worry about applying too much anymore – a greasy mess will absorb and look normal after about 5 minutes! On the flip side, it means I do need a lot more product than before.
One really nice change I noticed is that my hair holds a style for much longer. Natural Asian hair is notorious for not being able to hold a curl, but after bleaching, I only have to curl my hair once and it’ll look great for the next few days if I refresh it with a bit of hair product. My hair style lasts through showers, exercising, hot yoga and sleeping, and in fact it looks better after the first day!
Split ends and breakage everywhere
Before bleaching, my hair was pretty hardy and sort of boring. I did have some box dye on the ends which made it a bit fragile and prone to split ends, but before the box dye finding a split end was a rare occasion.
After bleaching: so much delicate handling. I need to use leave-in products a lot more to stop my hair from snagging on everything. Sometimes I can literally hear the strands breaking when I drag a brush too forcefully through my hair, or when I take out a tight hair tie. It’s actually kind of fun finding so many weird split ends! On the other hand, every time a hair breaks I feel like I’m losing a dollar of my expensive bleach job.
Here’s one of the most impressive split ends I’ve ever seen in my life – 10 splits!
Your hair will like different ingredients
My hair used to be pretty un-fussy – any shampoo would do, and any dimethicone-heavy conditioner made my hair feel nice (although the best was still Dove Intensive Repair conditioner). Very few products were especially good or especially bad.
Now, the wrong product will mess up my hair for at least the rest of the day, sometimes longer! I’m going through the process of working out the products and ingredients that will make my hair feel nice. So far, cetearyl alcohol, amodimethicone, sunflower oil and glycerin have been winners, while anything with a lot of SD alcohol is guaranteed to make my hair dry out and strip the colour.
Avoiding brassiness needs constant vigilance
The biggest issue for me was with the colour. Asian hair gets brassy quickly (like… 4 days quickly), so my regimen includes a whole bunch of steps targeted at getting rid of the yellow tones in my hair.
Purple shampoos and treatments are a must for any extremely bleached hair, unless you actually like the yellow colour, or you’ve picked a colour that disguises it well! I use Fanola No Yellow Shampoo once a week.
Once every week or two (on a weekend), I’ll redye my hair as well with a semi-permanent (direct) dye. Purple is a colour that fades pretty quickly on most people, so be prepared for a lot of redyeing if you also pick a colour that fades!
Related post: How does hair dye work?
However, redyeing isn’t as big a job as I thought it would be. It’s basically a prolonged hair mask (10+ minutes) that you’ll have to rinse out in cold water. If you wear dark clothing, have a dark towel, wear gloves and rinse your hair overhead in a bathtub or sink, staining isn’t even a big issue. And because direct dyes don’t involve opening up the hair cuticle, you can leave the dye on for longer without risking any hair damage – if anything, it makes your hair feel nicer.
I’ve been using Arctic Fox Purple Dream and Poseidon mixed in with conditioner. I try to use a conditioner with main ingredients that match the main ingredients in the dye (cetearyl / stearyl / cetyl alcohol, essentially), so I’ve been using Herbal Essences conditioner.
Your make-up and wardrobe might need to change
The convenient thing about black hair is that it matches everything. Now with purple hair, I always feel more fashionable by default – but I wear black clothes a lot more, and I’m not sure when I can wear my jungle jacket again without feeling too over-the-top.
I’ve also found that my hair makes my facial features look washed out, especially when the purple fades down to a muted grey. As a result I’m wearing darker make-up than before on a daily basis.
For example, the lipstick in the photo below used to look too dark to be natural on me – now it barely looks like I’m trying!
I have no regrets at all about dyeing my hair, and kind of wish I did it sooner! I was actually prepared for a lot more upkeep, but since a lot of the steps are leave-in-and-go-about-your-day, I do everything on a weekend day where I’m pottering around the house anyway and it fits in nicely with my routine.
I’ll do a full overview of my haircare routine soon, when I’ve tried a few more things out!
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