This is a hair question.
February 15, 2013 10:46 AM   Subscribe

For 9 or so months, I've been dying my usually light brown hair pink and blue after bleaching it. I bleach it every 3 months or so, and use manic panic every month or so. How can I keep my hair as strong and healthy as possible?

The bleach (the manic panic type) is harsh, and my hair has been breaking and becoming even thinner than it normally is. For the first few weeks after bleaching, I'm half-afraid I'm going to go entirely bald. My hair stands straight up and I look like Nick Nolte's mug shot before I shower in the morning. I'm a hot mess.

I don't know crap about hair products, and I'm wondering what options are available to try to keep my hair strong. I could always go back to natural, but I truly enjoy the pink hair. I let the roots grow out until I really can't stand it anymore before I re-bleach. The only thing I've been using is a cheap Garnier Fructis type shampoo meant for colored hair, but I know that probably isn't helping much. Most hair questions seem to be about how to keep the color in longest, but my problem is just how sad my hair is in general!

Can any pros give me tips on what works best? Cheaper's better, but if it's something worth ponying up for, I'll do it.
posted by kpht to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (22 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Are you using conditioner? Dyed hair tends to get really dried out -- if you're just bleaching and shampooing, you need to address that.
posted by cranberry_nut at 10:48 AM on February 15, 2013

I find that a tiny dab of coconut oil, rubbed between my palms and then distributed throughout my hair, REALLY helps cut down on the dryness after dyeing, especially if you can leave it in all day (it will make your hair feel a little greasy but shouldn't make it look stringy-- if it does, you've used too much.) Plus you will smell just fabulous all day long!

There are also great Hair, Skin & Nails type vitamins that can help make sure you have enough nutrients to attack the problem from the inside, too.
posted by WidgetAlley at 10:53 AM on February 15, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: 2nding coconut oil...but honestly you're just destroying your hair with this regimen so no matter what you do it's gonna be damaged. i know you look good (bet you look awesome, pink is awesome!) but the damage and frizz is sort of the price of that look. you could try to find a gentler bleaching product to start off with, but i don't know of one to recommend - ask a professional stylist about that.

here's what i would suggest for damage: please use very gentle shampoo w/o sulfates! (you can get this in the drugstore, $5-10 - look in the natural or organic area). garnier is ok for regular hair but it has a lot of sulfates and your hair is fragile. wash your hair with a small amount of shampoo (nickel or dime sized dollop in your palm) every other day instead of every day if you can get away with doing that.

use an everyday kind of conditioner (ex. dove, or john freida, should be ~$8) in the shower after you shampoo. try not to use a lot of styling product and gel, since you have to kind of scrub that out, the more you use it. don't comb or brush roughly when hair is wet, it's easier to break then. & heat style your hair as little as possible.

1 or 2 times a week when you have a bit of time, apply a deep conditioner treatment (you can also buy this at the drugstore; i like the Shea Moisture organic line, they make a deep treatment masque for $9.99 that should last you a while. you don't need a lot. put it on damp clean hair, wrap up your head maybe in a warm towel, let it sit there for 10-15 min then rinse thoroughly.

if you want to spend a little more & get better results, you could try the above with top of the line brands, genuine, from a salon, such as paul mitchell, aveda, or l'oreal's professional lines.
posted by zdravo at 11:03 AM on February 15, 2013 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: cranberry_nut: yes, I am, I'm just using some non-specific-problem-helping conditioner, herbal essences or something.

And I don't use styling products at all - just brush it once it's dry and go.
posted by kpht at 11:04 AM on February 15, 2013

Are you using the MP 30 or 40 developer? How long are you leaving it on? Do you re-bleach areas that have already been bleached?
posted by oneirodynia at 11:13 AM on February 15, 2013

I'm hardly a pro, but I currently have bleach blonde hair with royal blue pieces. I've previously been all blonde, all pink, blonde with pink pieces and blonde with teal pieces. I've had some form of bleached hair for 2+ years.

While I do go to the salon to get my bleaching and coloring, my stylist always comments with awe about how healthy my hair still is. She only re-bleaches the roots. I've never bleached at home, so this might be a factor.

Another factor, and what I think has helped me to maintain somewhat healthy hair, is I don't wash it often. Maybe this is gross, but I notice after bleaching, it does get really, really dry, so I wash it two times a week, and use the conditioners I've found work best for me (the Macadamia Organix one and some repairing John Frieda one). Washing twice a week means only two days of blow-drying and straight-ironing, and before doing these, I use that argon oil on the bottom half (just a little bit, even though my hair is a decent length and really thick).

I haven't noticed any breakage, and my hair is pretty soft and shiny (but not greasy).

Maybe this would work for you?
posted by dearwassily at 12:03 PM on February 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

I like using baking soda to cleanse and apple cider vinegar to condition. I don't have dyed hair, but it leaves my hair soft and clean. It's the closest in ph balance to your hair and is supposedly very gentle on dyed hair. One tablespoon baking soda dissolved in one cup of water, massage into hair, and rinse thoroughly. The one tablespoon apple cider vinegar in one cup water, same deal. The smell can be off-putting, but it rinses out and dries unscented.
posted by E3 at 12:12 PM on February 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I bleach and dye my hair all the time, and I haven't even owned a brush in decades. In my experience, brushing hair that is bleached will really mess it up. Besides that, I have found two products that really help. One is this Mending Masque and the other is Mending Complex. It's part of a whole line of Mending products, so the others might be really good too.
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 12:17 PM on February 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

I second dearwassily on the "shampoo only when necessary" thing. I get my (naturally brownish) hair bleached and dyed green and blue at my salon, and have for a little over a year, though I used to dye it myself. Getting it done at the salon helps a lot (product quality) as does only shampooing once a week. I have a pixie cut, so getting it trimmed on the regular also helps get rid of the super damaged bits.
posted by picklesthezombie at 12:18 PM on February 15, 2013

Also, I wash my hair in cooler rather than warmer water when I can stand it, and I wash it as rarely as possible (twice a week in my case.)
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 12:22 PM on February 15, 2013

I found that the L'Oreal and Clairol bleaches were much easier on my hair than the Manic Panic bleach kit, but that was years and years ago, so all of the products may have changed formulations since.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:19 PM on February 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

And seconding the suggestion that brushes can be rough on bleached hair. A wide-toothed comb in wood, bone, or rubber is going to be a lot more clement.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:21 PM on February 15, 2013

Best answer: Hi! I've been having my dark, thin hair professionally bleached and streaked with semi-permanent funky colors for over a year. Only in the last round did I notice serious breakage to the point where I decided to give it a rest.

The secret to my success is mostly to do with my awesome stylist, but I know having it done professionally isn't always an option.

My stylist turned me onto Deva Curl No-Poo (which I've recommended before) to help preserve my color and go easy on my hair, and I am a complete convert. It was hard for me to get used to something that doesn't lather like normal shampoo, but my hair is healthier than it's ever been and the colored sections of my hair didn't feel or look any more brittle/dry than the rest of my hair until I'd done the bleach+color thing like 10 times. Plus the color lasts a lot longer.

It is pricey, but my stylist also told me to dilute the bottle halfway with water (saving the other half of the shampoo in a plastic bag to squeeze back in later) and this really helps offset the cost for me.
posted by juliplease at 1:52 PM on February 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks for all the great recommendations. I am a too-frequent washer. I wash my hair at least once a day, and occasionally if I've had a long day I'll take a bath and wash again at night. My hair gets GROSS if I let it go any longer than 36 hours, and even my husband will be able to pick up on its stankness.

I use 30 developer, and while I try to just do the roots, a lot gets on the upper parts as well since it's super hard to get just on the roots. I'll look into a boxed L'Oreal or Clairol bleach instead of Manic Panic next time to see how it turns out. I don't need to bleach it super platinum, since the pink is dark enough.

I'll be trying out some of these products and suggestions - thanks so much!
posted by kpht at 2:00 PM on February 15, 2013

My hair isn't pink but it has been bleached, dyed dark red, stripped twice, bleached again and toned blonde. In other words, it's FRIED. I am in process of growing it out, but for now:

Shampoo as infrequently as possible. I do it once or twice a week, and I mainly only scrub my scalp and then sort of rinse the suds through the rest of the hair. If you need to wash in between, either (a) just use water and scrub at your scalp, or (b) scrub your scalp with conditioner. Serious. Doesn't clean as well as shampoo, but it's better than nothing and less drying.

Dry shampoo is also a godsend for in-between days.

A sulfate-free shampoo is best, though the consistency takes time to get used to (it doesn't foam much). Some of them run expensive, but the Organix line isn't bad, and they are often buy1 get1 free at the grocery stores near me. Otherwise you can try a Marshalls or TJ Maxx type place for nicer-brand hair products that aren't insanely expensive.

You need two things for such damaged hair - moisture (softness) and protein (strength). Buy conditioners accordingly; Herbal Essences SUCKS. It really does. Ideally, you would find a deep conditioner that doesn't include silicone, as silicone (though it looks shiny-pretty) doesn't rinse out and after a while it can dry up and gunk up your hair.

So: rare, gentle shampoo; frequent, good conditioner.

Deep treatments:

For a protein treatment, to keep hair from breaking, you can get something called Aphogee at a beauty supply store like Sally's. A little packet with the protein and moisturizing treatment is about $4. It's full of frightening chemicals and bad for you as hell, so yeah, don't do it every day and try not to breathe the stuff, but... it works. Really well, at least for me (and lots and lots of online reviewers). Follow the directions on the packet or Google it.

Moisture: Coconut oil, olive oil, even your basic sunflower seed oil are all great! Here's what I do: When you're going to take a shower, rinse your hair really quick, squeeze the water out, and get back out of the shower. Mix up some oil and rub it all up in your hair, and then take a plastic grocery store bag (or a shower cap, I do the cheap ghetto way) and stick it on your head and tie it so it stays. Aim a blowdryer at your head, not till it dries, but just get your hair (under the plastic) hot for a while. Then leave it while you do some stuff around the house, and then go wash your hair as usual.

Helps a lot to keep it looking nice while we continue to torture it. :)

Oh, and yes, combing while wet and leaving it is better than brushing. Basically minimize as much as possible how much you tear at your hair, scratch and scrub and scrape it and anything like that.
posted by celtalitha at 2:07 PM on February 15, 2013

you're probably bleaching it too often - I know that roots do suck, but it's a trade off, y'know? also, you don't need to bleach your hair anytime you add the colour - a new application of blue and pink without bleaching will freshen up the colour wonderfully. I generally to a full bleach about once a year, and touch up the roots maybe once or twice during the year.

as for manic panic, it kinda sucks - smelly and it doesn't last. I love punky colour, it's a nice thick paste that smells like grape candy, so I put it in my hair and leave it on for hours - sometimes overnight. I generally use l'oreal bleach, it's pretty gentle on the hair. following this routine leaves me with thicker and fuller hair than if I didn't dye it at all (which seems counterintuitive, but there you go) A lot of my friends use f/x hairdye, which is good too, but their blue isn't as awesome as punky colour's atlantic blue.

washing with shampoo for colour-treated hair also will preserve the colour longer - and only use a small dab just by the roots
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 2:07 PM on February 15, 2013

Oh goodness, yeah, don't bleach the whole thing every time! Lord. Bleach your roots, and add color to the rest. If you really can't get a clean color deposit on old color, or want to switch colors, try a color stripper on the dyed lengths (like ColorOops). It's damaging, but nowhere as bad as bleach.
posted by celtalitha at 2:10 PM on February 15, 2013

If you're interested in trying to reduce your shampooing frequency (which is what I was going to recommend until I saw so many others do so), you can do it. I did this a few years ago, but in order to get there I had to go through an excruciating week or two of HATING my hair. Once my scalp got used to not being robbed of its oils every day, it stopped producing so much.

I tapered down gradually. Now I use a little shampoo about once a week (twice if it's been a grody week) and my hair never gets too greasy. Not sure if it's relevant, but my hair is long...goes about 6 inches down past my shoulders.
posted by hannahelastic at 2:15 PM on February 15, 2013

forgot to add, though I bleach very infrequently, I'll re-do the blue every month or month and a half- and my hair always looks it's healthiest after a good punky-colour bluing. thick and shiny.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 2:23 PM on February 15, 2013

Someone here on metafilter suggested once to put lots of conditioner in your hair and leave it in for a few hours while you are watching TV or otherwise lazing around at home now and then. I started doing that, although I was skeptical.

I've been doing this every weekend for a month or so now. I put my conditionered hair into a shower cap so it doesn't get on clothes or furniture. And I leave it on for at least two hours. It's just cheap-o supermarket conditioner but it's had an amazing effect. My (dyed, brittle) hair feels so silky and smooth now. I think it's just that a small coating of the conditioner ends up staying on the hair. I don't believe it's possible to actually "repair" hair on the inside, since it's dead. But I don't really care what the mechanism is; I'm so happy with the result.
posted by lollusc at 2:42 PM on February 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

I use 30 developer, and while I try to just do the roots, a lot gets on the upper parts as well since it's super hard to get just on the roots. I'll look into a boxed L'Oreal or Clairol bleach instead of Manic Panic next time to see how it turns out. I don't need to bleach it super platinum, since the pink is dark enough.

Try the Ion Color Brilliance and Sensitive Scalp Developer from Sally's.

when I had pure white hair I used to use a hot oil treatment a few days after bleaching, followed by a vinegar rinse. The products that bleach hair are alkaline and open up the hairs' cuticle. Vinegar halps smooth it back down and restore pH. Vinegar may fade your pink and blue dye, so test first. I agree that you should wash less frequently if at all possible.
posted by oneirodynia at 7:33 PM on February 15, 2013

I don't color my hair but it is dry. Here's my routine:

-Put conditioner in your wet hair before you shampoo, all through your hair, not just the ends. Use a lightweight conditioner without proteins like Alberto VO5.

-Shampoo your scalp only while the conditioner is on your hair then rinse it all out. The conditioner protects your hair from the shampoo. Use a moisturizing shampoo, ideally it will be opaque like conditioner.

-Apply conditioner again after shampooing and leave in as long as possible. I would use a heavier conditioner with proteins for the second application. Protein (wheat protein, silk protein, there are all different kinds in hair products) fills in the gaps in the hair shaft that are causing the breakage.

-You may want to experiment with alternating between non-protein conditioner (the Alberto VO5 again is fine) and protein conditioner for the after shampoo application. Too much protein can make hair brittle but that may or may not be the case for you.

-Squeeze dry your hair with an old t-shirt instead of a towel, less breakage.

-Let your hair air dry about 30% and then apply leave-in conditioner. Use a dab of your lightweight conditioner if you don't want to buy more products. I would apply the coconut oil others have recommended after this step. The oil will lock in the conditioner and the water in your damp hair.

-I've heard of people (maybe I read it here) mixing in Manic Panic with their shampoo/conditioner to help keep the color bright.

Most of these tips are from this site. Check out the product reviews for some recommendations.
posted by fozzie_bear at 8:47 PM on February 15, 2013

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