Recently, I posted about dyeing your hair and how greasy it should or shouldn’t be. Do you remember? If not, you can find it here.
Anyway, the gist of it is this…if you’re going lighter or bleaching your hair, you want it to be a little more on the greasy side. A fabulous way to grease things up a bit just prior to bleaching to protect your scalp and your strands from the harmful effects of the chemicals.
Using coconut oil to mitigate the damage is an awesome idea. It adds in enough grease while nourishing your hair. But how long should you leave coconut oil on your hair before you bleach it? A good hour, at the very least, should do the trick before you bleach your hair.
But don’t go slather your hair in coconut oil just yet. I want to tell you more about the science behind all this, so you have a greater understanding for the sake of your hair’s health, so keep reading!
How does bleach work and why it will damage your hair
The reason your hair goes blonde or light from bleaching it is because of the melanin in each hair shaft. That melanin pigments the hair, which is why you have the color hair you have. Bleaching your hair breaks the melanin down by way of oxidation. So the melanin loses color and makes it a pale yellow, or blonde as we know it.
And for any of you out there who are new to hair coloring and bleaching, please know that the bleaching products designed for your hair are NOT the same as the big jug of stuff you use to disinfect your home. Please do NOT use that kind of bleach anyway in or on your body ever!
When it comes to bleaching your hair, it is mixed with hydrogen peroxide. Together, it creates an alkaline mixture that changes your hair’s pH, lifting up the cuticle layers and opening them up. The lightener then passes under the cuticle and embeds into the cortex of your hair. From there, it breaks that melanin down and renders it colorless. Brown and black pigments go first, then red, and yellow.
Yellow pigments have the least reaction from bleach. Interestingly, keratin, the protein in hair, is yellowish in color as well.
So, the bleach on your hair will keep lightening it until you wash it away. You can do it at home, but when it comes to lightening hair, it is much better to let a professional do it. Colorists are adept at knowing when the hair has reached the right shade. They also know how to work with hair texture and hair health to find the ideal time to allow the bleach to process on the hair while minimizing the damage.
As anyone knows who has bleached their hair at home without knowing anything about what they’re doing, it can destroy your hair cuticles and cortex, leaving you with brittle, dry, and rough tresses. This is known as oxidative damage, or in layman’s terms, bleaching damage. In addition to scarecrow hair, your strands will be overly porous and won’t really hold any style. They’ll fall flat and have zero volume because they lack enough moisture.
Enter coconut oil…
How can coconut oil save your hair from bleach damage according to scientific research?
Coconut oil has really small molecules that allow it to penetrate hair with ease. When it gets in there, it can nourish from the inside out. In 2012, research found that hair absorbs up to 20% of its own weight in nourishing coconut oil. Adding heat to the mix can make it work even better.
The coconut oil works by filling up those hollowed-out shafts in your hair, which instantly plumps it up. Your hair will look thick and rich, plus that coconut oil adds protection to your hair from additional damage. On top of that, coconut oil also helps close your hair follicles and smooth the shaft, adding shine and helping it trap protein within. In fact, coconut oil is a wonderful thing to apply after having a keratin treatment done; for this reason, however, it should never be applied before it as it can keep the good stuff out of your strands.
Another thing about coconut oil is that it is loaded with some key vitamins. Vitamins E and K, which are both fat-soluble, are used and stored by your body. Additionally, vitamin E is a known antioxidant that can help protect your hair when it comes to vicious free radicals as well as any pollutants.
Some people say honey is a way to bleach your hair. Like coconut oil, it’s antibacterial, but honey will take eons to lighten your hair. That’s why there are bleaching kits, professionals, and even fun spray-on products that can work in the sun. But with the latter, you have to use enough heat, or you’re going to wind up with reddish hair rather than blonde hair when you attempt to go from dark to light.
While blondes do seem to have more fun, bleach causes damage to your hair. And if you’re not bleaching it properly, you’re not going to have that California girl look to you. You’re going to look like you’re ready to scare children in a haunted house if you slap a with hat atop your head.
This is why professional colorists always tell you to condition your hair when bleaching. They’ll do it for you, but it’s up to you afterward to keep up proper hair hydration. Even if you do attempt to DIY, you’ll find those kits all have that deep conditioning packet to soothe and moisturize your hair.
It isn’t enough though. By the time you’ve finished bleaching your hair, it’s already too late as the damage has taken hold. You can’t really fix it (I wrote about that here!).
The best thing you can do is give a little preemptive strike to save your strands. Not many people know this secret, which is surprising since scientific research has supported it since circa 2003.
Why is bleaching more problematic than other methods of changing your hair color? It reduces the protein in your hair, and that leads to breakage. But researchers discovered that coconut oil, which is a triglyceride from lauric acid, can sneak into the hair shaft thanks to its low molecular weight.
And yes, they tested other things like sunflower oil and mineral oil too. What they found was the coconut oil was the only one that reduced the amount of protein loss for damaged and even undamaged hair when it was used before and after.
Moroccan argan oil has long been recommended by even the top hair brands in the world. It’s also one of the most expensive oils around. Moroccan argan oil surely has its benefits, but no data really exists about it in relation to benefiting hair.
Some say coconut oil is just hype, but it can protect your hair from losing out on those proteins better than anything else. The key is in using it prior to a damaging event, like bleaching. When you saturate your hair cuticle with coconut oil, it prevents damage from bleaching—applying it after really won’t help unless you’re doing it again after the bleaching. Basically, using it before is most crucial. Using it after will help too only if you’ve used it prior to bleaching.
To that end, you should actually leave that coconut oil on your hair for the bleaching process. You want it to penetrate your hair for at least one hour, though ideally 2 hours, and then you can bleach. The coconut oil shouldn’t be rinsed from your hair prior. You should use enough of it to saturate your hair.
The bleach (or any other color for that matter) will still penetrate the coconut oil. And you won’t have damaged hair. You’ll just have to get the coconut oil out of your hair after you’re done by washing. You can do this before seeing your favorite colorist, and if you’re going to use any type of bleaching methods at home, you really shouldn’t skip out on this hair-saving trick.
How to take care of bleached hair
Regardless of how you bleach your hair, at the salon or at home, you need to know how to take care of your hair. You really have to be committed to it because if not, you’ll wind up with a chemical cut from styling your hair and having it break off in odd places, giving you a 70s-style of layers that flatters no one. Here are some tips to help you coddle your bleached hair.
– Be gentle to your hair
When you bleach your hair, it becomes fragile and delicate. Most of those bonds you lost during bleaching are not recreated, so you have cuticles and cortex that deteriorates, and your hair support system is gone. For the first week after bleaching, you should avoid shampoo. Instead, use a conditioner.
After that, you can start using a sulfate-free shampoo. It should go without saying the conditioner you use should be sulfate-free as well. The shampoo should be low-lathering, and it must be free of SLS, sodium lauryl sulfate, or sodium laureth sulfate, which is really rough on bleached hair.
A hydrating shampoo is a good option as it will cleanse without removing that natural sebum to keep your strands and scalp healthy. Easy does it as you wash too. You should scrub too hard. And when you get out the shower, gently pat your hair dry. Being too rough with the towel can cause breakage.
– Deep conditioner is a must
As I said before, bleaching is a commitment. You need to budget for special treatments at the salon to do your hair right. And if you’re daring to do it at home, you MUST get the right hair care products to nourish your stressed-out strands. Without this care, you might have to chop things off and start anew, and I know you don’t want that.
Deep conditioners are important as they’re richer with ingredients that penetrate deep into the hair. They restore and nourish cuticles with more viscosity on a temporary basis. As such, they’re heavier and need more time to sit on your hair to really get in there.
Worth the splurge, Olaplex No. 5 Bond Maintenance Conditioner repairs and conditions all types of hair. It leaves you with shiny and healthy hair that’s much easier to manage. Because it’s color-safe, it is an ideal choice to use when you’re bleaching. It protects and repairs split ends and damage and gets rid of frizz by rejoining broken bonds in your hair.
– Avoid heat styling
If you really want your hair to stay alive after bleaching, you’ve got to social distance from your heat styling tools. Heat styling in any form removes moisture from hair. When your hair is already damaged and feels rough and ragged, you’re just making things worse.
Ideally, you’ll have done things right by preparing your hair with coconut oil first. But if you’re reading this and you’re like, “Dang, I wish I saw this BEFORE I bleached,” then you can read my other post about correcting damage (here!). And regardless of whether you’ve bleached your hair or not, if you must use heat styling tools, use ones that have intuitive features to help keep you from damaging your hair.
No matter how healthy your hair is or isn’t though, when it comes to heat styling, you should never go without protection. Section off your hair and use a thermal protectant that will keep heat from frying out and drying out your tender tresses.
Coconut oil is definitely a game-changer when it comes to coloring your hair, especially if you’re bleaching it. Using it and leaving it on for an hour or two just prior to bleaching can protect your hair and have it looking more luscious than ever. The key is to use it before you process your hair, saturating every strand, and leaving it in for the bleaching. This will keep your hair protected and healthy without that dreaded fried-out look.