I can honestly say I've never loved my hair as much as I have over the last couple of years and I'm so happy with the colour and condition that it's in right now. My hair has always been a huge part of my identity and for most of my life (apart from my blonde bob phase when I was 20) I've had long and pretty thick hair.
I am naturally very dark-haired, but I've had this blonde-brunette blend hair colour for about 2 years now and as much as I absolutely love it, it does require a lot of upkeep as well as a lot of attention to keep it as healthy as possible. I'm sure you know how damaging bleach can be if you're not careful, so you definitely need to make sure you have a good haircare routine teamed with treatments to balance out the damage and keep your hair in tip-top condititon.
Even though my hair has more colour in it than it ever has, and I get it highlighted/bleached every 8 weeks, my hair is actually in the best condition it's ever been in.
And that's because my amazing stylist, Michael Gibson (from BRUSH Salon in Vancouver) well and truly prioritises the health of my hair when he colours it. And in-between colouring sessions, I try my best to look after my hair with regular masks and treatments and decent haircare products.
I've been seeing Michael for over 2 years now and he's the only person I trust with my hair. He just knows what looks good, he's such a talented artist and the blonde that he achieves somehow looks natural with my very dark hair and I adore the results.
Anyway, I've learned a lot about haircare over the last few years so I wanted to share a few of my golden rules of keeping bleached hair healthy, my tips to maintain the condition of your hair and my recommended haircare products to keep your blonde looking fresh, healthy and beautiful!
(Updated January 2020)
Find a good stylist
Your stylist plays a huge role in the condition of your hair and you want to find a stylist who prioritises maintaining the health of your hair as well as the colour. I've had so many nightmare stylists in the past who haven't listened to what I've wanted or who have destroyed my hair by leaving bleach on for hours, so finding a good stylist is key.
Be okay with the fact that it might take you a few sessions to achieve your desired blonde colour (especially if you're naturally dark-haired). It's much better to take it slow and steady and keep your hair healthy than it is to go aggressive with the beach and ruin your hair in the process.
Make sure you communicate the exact colour that you're trying to achieve and use photos as a guide, and emphasize how the health of your hair is just as important as the colour. If you live in Vancouver I can't recommend BRUSH Salon enough, it's been my salon for 3 years and all the stylists are so lovely and well trained.
Get Olaplex treatments
Olaplex is a brilliant treatment especially when you're bleaching your hair and I usually get a treatment every time I get my hair coloured. It essentially repairs the hair from within by rebuilding the bonds that have been broken by heat and chemical damage. Bleach can make your hair very brittle and dry and lose its elasticity, so the Olaplex treatment reverses this and strengthens each hair strand meaning that your hair won't break off as easily when you wash and brush it. You can also buy an at-home Olaplex treament for in-between salon sessions.
The L'Oreal Smartbond treatment is also amazing which is similar to Olaplex, and you can get both done at your local salon and at Brush Salon in Vancouver.
Go easy on the heat styling
Another tip for keeping bleached hair healthy is to go easy on heat styling. I probably don't have to tell you how bad heat styling is and I'm guilty of heat styling a little more than I should. However, whenever you can, limit the use of your straighteners / hairdryer / curling iron as much as possible and your hair will thank you for it. Bleach makes your hair brittle as it is, so that coupled with intense heat only causes your hair further damage.
Try to keep your heat styler on as low heat as possible, and turn down the heat even more for the hair at the front that falls around your face. The front sections are usually a little weaker than the rest of your hair due to more dying/styling, so this will help to protect your hair a bit more.
Invest in decent haircare
If you're going to spend hundreds of dollars at the salon getting your dream blonde hair colour, don't then go and skimp on your shampoo and conditioner. I've tried lots of haircare products over the years, one of my favourite professional brands is Kerastase and their Blonde Absolu purple shampoo line is fantastic for bleached hair.
I highly recommend the Blond Absolu Illuminating shampoo if you have highlighted blonde hair and it helps to illuminate your highlights and cleanse your hair of any product build-up which can often make blonde hair look dull. The Blond Absolu Anti-Brass shampoo is great if you have cool blonde or grey hair, and it's a little stronger than the Illuminating shampoo for removing brassiness. I use this one once every 4 washes or when my hair starts to go a bit brassy.
I also want to note that you should go easy on super strong purple shampoo products as over-use can actually make your hair look darker and dull. I recommend alternating your purple shampoo with a regular shampoo to keep your hair both vibrant and neutral. My go-to is the Kerastase Elixir Ultime Shampoo which is very hydrating and adds shine. I like Briogeo's haircare products as well and you can find it at Sephora, the Super Moisture shampoo is great and slightly more affordable than Kerastase.
For conditioner, the Kerastase Nutritive Conditioner is great if you have severely dry hair and it's super nourishing.
Another product that I absolutely swear by - also Kerastase - is the Elixir Ultime Oil. I bought this a few months ago and I love it. It smells amazing, works wonders to smoothe out dry and frizzy hair and keeps your hair tame all day even when it's humid. It's a bit more pricey at $62, but you only need a tiny amount so it'll last ages, it's not at all greasy and it's so effective for hydrating my hair especially when it's feeling a little dry on the ends.
Use a hair mask weekly
Another golden rule of keeping bleached hair healthy is to regularly use hair masks. You want a mask that will deeply hydrate your hair and give it an injection of moisture and life when it's starting to feel a little dry. Bleaching will suck the moisture out of your hair, and especially when you bleach it for the first time your hair will feel it a lot. So a weekly mask is really important to keep your blonde looking beautiful and healthy.
Here are a few masks that I use and recommend. I tend to rotate the mask I use every few weeks so that my hair doesn't get used to it and I see the best results.
Get your hair cut regularly
Bleaching raises the hair cuticle which means that your locks get tangled and matted much more easily. Team that with split ends from heat styling, you're going to need to get your hair cut much more regularly than before you bleached it. I used to go for 6 months without cutting my hair (bad, I know!) but now I get desperate for a trim every 7-9 weeks. Regular trims will help to keep any ratty ends at bay and while you're there you may as well get a salon conditioning treatment as well.
Don't wash your hair every day
Over-washing is seriously damaging for your hair, especially when it's bleached. When you wash your hair every day it strips out the natural oils and proteins that you need to keep your hair and scalp healthy, so that combined with bleach can lead to dry, unhappy hair.
Try to limit hair washing to 3 times a week at most to preserve both your colour and the health of your hair, and use dry shampoo in between if you need to. I like the L'Oreal Magic Invisible Dry Shampoo, it smells amazing and doesn't leave any white residue.
What are your best tips for keeping bleached hair healthy? Do you swear by any specific products? I'd love to know!