Can I bleach my thinning hair?

We women with thinning hair do any number of things to our heads to help keep the hair we have, create a way to fill in where we know our scalps are showing, and to look great. With various treatments come questions, and I get plenty of them in the salon about beaching hair.

“Will I get more volume if I bleach my hair?”

“If so, how often will I have to bleach it?”

“Will it damage my hair?”

Personally, I prefer to wear my hair with dark roots and lighter ends, and to get those lighter ends I need to use bleach. As a stylist, when I use bleach, I know exactly:

  • what is going to happen to my hair’s health;

  • what I need to do in the salon to mitigate damage; and most especially

  • what I have to do at home to take great care of my freshly bleached hair. (You know I’m all about having a plan!)

So, how do we take the best care of our hair from chemical damage and still get the looks we want?
By arming ourselves with info.

First, know exactly what bleach is and what it does. Bleach is an oxidizing agent. It decolorizes, or extracts color out of, the hair. It has a mixture of hydrogen peroxide and ammonia and is a chemical, and unlike some other chemical processes, bleach has to be kept on your hair for a long period of time.

Do you want to take your hair color significantly lighter? Then you're almost certainly going to have to use a bleach, especially if you are trying to deal with any kind of underlying warm tones that you don’t want. By warm tones I mean gold, or the dreaded brassy that one gets when the hair color isn’t lifted light enough.

Next, understand that the hair you bring into the salon is 50% of the equation. Discuss the condition of your hair with your stylist and know the shape it’s in when discussing using a chemical like bleach. For the record, I have advised certain clients with compromised hair NOT to use bleach. So have a trusted stylist on your side. Stylists: ask questions; be open, honest and empathetic and help your clients understand the costs - both in hair and dollars - of the process and maintenance.

All my years in the salon have taught me that clients loooooove the results of bleach. Once that genie is out of the bottle (so to speak), it’s hard to get it back in. This means more damage every time you come in for another highlight or another bleach process.

You can't just go back to business as usual after you bleach your hair. You need a maintenance and care plan with a set of products to help support your hair. While your blonde style can look amazing thanks to bleach, you still have to combat the chemical processes that can also cause the hair to be dehydrated, dry and dull. That hair on your head - the stuff you’re styling every day? It’s dead hair and you’ve got to invest in it while enjoying the benefits of a look and style that comes from bleach.

Finally, if you want a blonde style or want to add blonde highlights and feel that the benefits will outweigh the damage, then this is what I suggest you do at home. If you are a stylist: make sure your clients are doing these as part of their plan!

1) Always use an additive like Olaplex. This will help mitigate chemical damage. Please don’t nickel and dime your stylist about some add- on services. These new innovations help take care of your hair. If you’ve ever had your hair break off, then you know what I’m talking about.

2) Tone it. Toner is essential. Toner is basically semi-permanent hair color that goes back on top of the bleach and will neutralize some unwanted tones, or add tone back to the hair. At the same time, it is restoring the hair's PH level and sealing down the cuticle.
Important to know: After you bleach your hair, it is the most porous it could possibly be, and when it is that porous it's going to be dry and brittle. It's going to be in its most inelastic state, making prone to split ends and breakage. If you take your hair through multiple chemical processes and then add styling tools to the mix, you’re inviting damage.

Clients may not want the extra step or to pay for a toner, and stylists some times run out of time, but it’s important. So make toner a priority.

This is my hair when 'it’s been blown out straight, unwashed and brushed. Am I scaring you? Lol.

If you're going to spend the money on your hair and go to the salon, or if you’re a stylist and your client is spending the money, then we all need to agree to work toward the acceptance of what it costs to 1) get your hair to where you want it to be in terms of style and 2) keep it in great shape so it doesn't break, fall out, or look like shit.

After I bleach ( and we are talking 2-3 times per year- that’s it!) I do lots of treatments and treat my hair to fancy dinners and flowers and of course say nice things to it. All jokes aside, after I bleach I condition, hydrate ( inside and out), sleep on silk, and use.