Woman looking at her damaged hair

Here’s What Happens to Your Hair When You Bleach It

It’s one of those beauty touch-ups women fear, but at the same time, look forward to: hair bleaching. It’s something to be excited about because it’s a step closer to having the dreamy, Pinterest-worthy locks. But just before you can get your hands to comb through that ombre or rainbow perfection of locks, your girlfriends tell you the bad news of having to go through the dreadful hair damage.

But is it really true, that your hair would look unhealthy when you bleach it? Here’s exactly what happens when you do this touch-up.

The strands swell

It’s not a myth. The hair indeed has a lot more volume after it’s bleached. That’s because the alkaline agents cause the strands to swell, so even the finer hairs tend to appear fuller. The swelling helps in adding more color later on. So the more the strands are swollen, the more that the hair absorbs the pigment.

Just note that in this state, your hair is more fragile. So exercise extra TLC after your bleaching session. Use a hair mask at least once a week. Leave it on your head overnight. Or, you can also apply some leave-in conditioner. It’s wise to avoid washing your hair every day as well to maintain natural, essential oils. If you do wash it though, use shampoo and conditioner specially formulated for bleached hair.

After taking a bath, use a flat brush in detangling knots. Go gentle when combing through, especially when you haven’t air-dried it yet.

The texture changes

Bleaching raises the outer cuticle of the hair to let the chemicals in and remove the original color of the strands. Unfortunately, it’s not just the color molecules that are changed in the process. The protein bonds that make hair strong also get weakened.

You also have to take note that the darker your natural hair is, the more pigment has to be removed. That means a harsher bleaching process. The texture of your locks then is completely changed, often resulting in thicker, drier and more brittle strands.

One way you can prevent this major damage, or at least reduce its effects, is to use a pre-shampoo deep conditioning treatment three days before your bleaching session. This adds moisture to the shaft, which then makes it less likely to break or snap. And then weeks after your salon appointment, use argan shampoo from a Philippines-based brand. This can help repair hair fibers and give your strands a moisturized, healthy look.

The split ends appear

Woman looking at damaged splitting ends of hair

At this point, you should have already surmised that bleaching indeed damages hair. It opens up the cuticle, breaks bonds that support the inner structure of the hair, and thus leaves your mane vulnerable to breakage (aka split ends).

Aside from the hydration tip above, make sure to avoid heat too, as this notoriously aggravates damage to bleached hair. Keep your hands away from blowers and curling irons. Yes, a bummer, since you’re dying to have those ombre beach waves for the longest time. But if you don’t do this right, you won’t have any chance at perfecting your locks. Make sure to stay away from the sun’s heat, too. Wear a hat when going outdoors and use sun protection.

Although bleaching looks bad news for your hair, don’t let it stop you from achieving those Pinterest-y locks. Just be extra diligent and consistent in taking care of it—before and after your session.