How I Care for my Ultra-Lightened Hair

I have a confession to make. This is not my natural hair color.

Three years ago, I walked in to my salon with a pretty rough hair situation. My roots had grown out, and the rest had been bleached and dyed multiple times, ending up at a brassy and extremely unflattering orange. I told my colorist, Nina, that my dream was Daenerys Targaryen. I also told her that I knew it would be a process. Dark and damaged hair to white-blonde can be a recipe for disaster (despite what Kim Kardashian may have led you to believe).

I left that day with silvery lengths, and Nina and I began the three year journey that has ended with my current color. I like to think that the khaleesi would approve.

The most important thing that I have learned along this hair journey is that how you care for and style hair that has been this intensely chemically treated is crucial.

Firstly, do NOT attempt to do this at home. Your hair will melt, it will fall out, it will be a nightmare. Trust me. In high school, I thought that cutting my Barbie’s hair in the kitchen sink at 8 years old made me a hairdresser, and that my hair was indestructible. Turns out, it wasn’t, and I wasn’t. Find the right colorist, take your time with the process (you may not arrive at the Danny Phantom white hair of your dreams after the first or second visit, it may take a few trips), and don’t cut corners, because again, it’s not worth it if you value your hair.

Secondly, the products that you use count.

In terms of maintaining your color, the frequency with which you wash your hair makes a huge difference. If you wash your hair every day, stop that right now and your hair will thank you. Even if you don’t color your hair, and you’re just reading this because you’re bored at work, stop washing your hair every day. Doing so strips the hair of natural oils, which causes your hair to produce even more as a consequence. This results in greasier roots and drier lengths over time. Daily washing also pulls out the deposited dye, decreasing the lifespan of your color drastically.

The products you use also make a huge difference. Color-safe shampoos and conditioners are crucial. I’m currently obsessed with Olaplex’s shampoo and conditioner, especially in conjunction with their Bond Building Hair Perfector. These products have been absolute game changers for my heavily-processed hair. I have sworn by the Hair Perfector for years, but since I have added the shampoo and conditioner to my routine, my hair has become softer, smoother, and healthier than it has been since I first dyed my hair at 15. I have also noticed a huge decrease in the amount of breakage in my hair.

If you have blonde hair, I also highly recommend using a violet toning shampoo once a week. Having tried an absurd number of high-end purple shampoos, I have found that Fanola No Yellow shampoo is by far the most effective (and reasonably priced). While other purple shampoos require you to let the product sit on your hair for a bit, this shampoo can be almost too effective, so make sure you wash and rinse quickly (otherwise you may end up with silver or violet-tinted locks).

My final tips are the ones that may be the most obvious, but they are what I personally struggle with the most: frequent haircuts and infrequent heat. I have always had a hard time sacrificing length for hair health, but I can honestly say that my hair looks and feels best when frequently trimmed–especially when it’s this light.

As far as styling goes, I try to only apply heat to my hair 2-3 days per week, and stretch the time between styles by utilizing the most amazing dry shampoo I’ve ever used–IGK First Class. This dry shampoo is RIDICULOUS. My hair is naturally very oily, and after a day or two between washes, my hair usually enters into “wear a hat or don’t go out in public” territory. A few sprays of this stuff, however, and my hair feels brand new. This is another product that is almost too strong–a little goes a long way. One mini Sephora sample lasted me almost two months, which is a marked improvement over a full-sized Batiste bottle a month.

Whether you’re thinking about making the leap to white-blonde hair or maintaining a darker shade, the way you take care of your hair is the most important way to keep your color looking fresh. What you pay for in the salon can only go so far if you aren’t taking the proper care of your color at home, so it’s important to consider how much you are willing to do before you make a huge shade change. Talk to your stylist and do some googling to make sure that the products and your routine align with your color goals, then go ride some dragons.