What Bleach Really Does To Your Hair

by Lindsey Rose Black

If your hair isn't naturally a light blonde, all of those trendy bleached and rainbow colored looks are going to require some serious bleach. Stopping to ask yourself, "What does bleach do to your hair?" is a wise move before hitting up a stylist or purchasing a box so you can know what to expect. Since you're literally changing the chemical composition of your hair, you want to be as informed as possible.

In a seriously amazing video for Chemical and Engineering News' "Speaking of Chemistry" series, host Matt Davenport explained exactly what happens when you bleach your hair. To summarize, bleach breaks into your hair shaft and reacts with the pigment molecules (basically destroying them so you're left with light hair). To be able to tackle the dark pigment, bleach has to break down the natural fatty acids on your hair shafts, which is what can leave your hair brittle.

For more specifics on what can happen after you've bleached your locks, hair specialist Robert Dorin of True & Dorin Medical Group shared details with Huffington Post. He said, "Hair becomes frayed making it brittle, dry, and more susceptible to tangling together, causing a bird's nest type of effect." Womp.

But, that doesn't mean you can't bleach it successfully. Dorin mostly advised, "You should gradually lighten hair (making multiple trips to the salon) instead of going from dark to platinum in one step. This will most likely just completely destroy the hair." Patience will be rewarded, my friends.

For full details on all things bleach, below is the "Speaking of Chemistry" video:

I've also scouted out a few products and tips to help hydrate your strands after bleaching if you decide to go for it!

1. Use Heat Protectants

GET HEATED Repair Thermal Protect Mist, $14,

Since your bleached hair will be extra vulnerable, Dorin recommended always using thermal protectant sprays before heat styling tools.

2. Try Purple Shampoo

TIGI Catwalk Fashionista Violet Shampoo, $36, Ulta

Cosmopolitan warned that without purple shampoo, your blonde locks will turn a seriously brassy hue. Speaking from experience, this could not be more true.

3. Buy Products Designed For Bleached Hair

Color Lustre Treated Hair Conditioner, $58, Shu Emura

Your standard conditioning masks won't cut it anymore. XoJane advised investing in proper post-bleach care products to keep your hair soft.

4. Consider A Pre-Shampoo Deep Conditioning Treatment

Pre-Shampoo Elasticizer, $51, Philip Kingsley

That's right: pre-shampoo. This will help protect your more delicate strands from snapping when you do need to give them a good shampooing. Philip Kingsley advised using it weekly to boost shine and strength.

5. Reach For Dry Shampoo

Klorane Dry Shampoo, $10, Sephora

Since shampoo can strip your hair of oils, give your hair as long as possible in between shampoos by shaking in dry shampoo.

6. Protect With UV Products

Paul Mitchell Color Protect Locking Spray, $13, Ulta

Bleached hair doesn't need to be even more dried out. Before you hit up a sunny spot, spritz with UV spray or pop on a hat.

7. Trim Frequently

With bleached hair bound to be a little more dry, keeping up with regular trims is essential to quelling split ends.

8. Avoid Heat Styling

For at least the first few weeks, try to avoid curling irons, blow dryers, and flat irons that add damage to your already "fried" hair.

9. Use A Wide Tooth Comb

Detangling Comb, $3, Sephora

Fluffy round brushes can cause more breakage than a gentle, wide tooth comb. Since your hair needs all the TLC it can get, invest in a quality comb to brush with.

Want more beauty tips? Check out the video below, and be sure to subscribe to Bustle’s YouTube page for more hacks and tricks!

Images: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images; Dusan Kostic/Fotolia; Courtesy of Brands