How I Rescued My Bleach Ravaged Hair

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I’ve been bleaching my hair on and off since I was 16. I started doing it myself at home, and then progressed to getting it done at a salon every six to eight weeks. Not really knowing any better, I was going to a well known chain (one that rhymes with ‘phoney and pie’… ahem) for around three years, and unwittingly allowing them to ravage my fuchsia tresses more and more with each visit!

I’m not really sure if it was just inexperience with unnatural colouring or what, but when I became friends with Elbie and decided to go to her for my hair preening instead, she informed me that my hair was… to put it bluntly… completely fucked.

Obviously we can’t know for sure, but she suggested that it looked like the bleach had been applied really carelessly. My hair is naturally very dark so perhaps it was just left on for too long, under too much heat. She said it also looked like the bleached areas had overlapped each time, again, most likely in an attempt to get it as light as possible.

When I started to see Elbie, my hair resembled chewing gum when it was wet (stretchy and thin!) and was like crunchy straw when it was dry. It was also THIN AS HELL. What a cacophony of delights!

You can see how awful it used to be in these photos. Look at the ends especially – frazzled! My hair also wouldn’t grow any longer than this, it would just snap off. Sad times…


Still don’t believe how bad it was? How about an extreeeeeme close-up?!

bleach damaged hair

I’m not gonna lie, when I first had this realisation I cried. A lot. I was actually very near just chopping the whole lot off and starting again, or at least going back to my natural colour. Luckily my fairy hairmother pulled me back from the brink and promised that we could fix it. That was probably about two years ago, and now my hair has never looked better!

Here’s how we did it:

Lop off the straggly bits

The first thing we had to do was cut off the damaged bits. As you can see my hair was already pretty damn short so I managed to convince Elbie to just do a few millimetres at a time. If we’d taken all of the damaged bits off, I’d have been practically scalped!

When your hair is as destroyed as mine was, the ends are probably not salvageable. Rip that metaphorical plaster off and chop off as much off as you can bear!

Restore the protein

Hair is made of protein and chemical damage is essentially the degradation of those proteins that make up the outer cuticle layer. The cuticle is made up of keratin (protein) cells that fit together a bit like scales and create a waterproof and airtight barrier around the cortex. When you use bleach, the chemicals in it cause those cuticle scales to lift and separate, therefore exposing the cortex.

So the first thing you need to do is repair this outer layer by getting as much protein back into your mop as possible. When you use products with it in, you are effectively replacing the missing and damaged keratin from your hair. This will help to patch up the frayed cortex and smooth out the scales.

I started by using Redken Extreme shampoo, conditioner, treatments and their anti-snap heat protector lotion. Be sure you only use this stuff as long as you need it though (while your hair is still at that stringy when wet stage) because it has a LOT of protein in it. If you use them for too long it will cause a build up in your hair which can make it break even easier. Hair that breaks with very little effort is a sign of an over-abundance of protein, and a deficiency of moisture.

You can also use homemade hair masks about once or twice a week if you’d like too. Make them from anything high in protein – eggs, mayo, olive oil, banana, avocado, coconut or almond oil!

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Slather your head in moisture

As well as being protein deficient, your bleach mangled hair is most likely very, very thirsty. Healthy hair has the perfect balance of both protein and moisture in it, so you make sure you restore both. A lack of moisture is what makes your hair that awful straw-like consistently or causes it to snap off when it gets to a certain length. 

However, you need protein for the moisture to latch on to, which is why it’s important to crack on with your high protein hair diet first. 

For a moisture injection I am a massive fan of Moroccan Oil products. I use the Treatment Oil after every wash, before blow drying (it’s also great as a serum on dry hair, but only use a teeny tiny bit!) and their Intense Hydrating and Restorative Hair Masks are glorious. I rotate between the two every few weeks.

Also look out for anything containing Argan Oil. There are lots of conditioners, oils and treatments around with it in these days and it works wonders. It’s gained massive popularity in recent years due to it’s natural antioxidants and the fact that it’s packed with vitamins. I currently have this Lee Stafford Argan Oil Deep Nourishing Treatment in my bathroom and it’s delicious. I use it between my shampoo and conditioner and leave it in for around 10 minutes while I soak in the tub.

Take Fish oil tablets

I was recommended Xtendlife Omega 3 DHA Fish Oil tablets by a friend and they literally transformed my hair in about six months. I’m not really one of those people that believes in or ever takes supplements but I truly think these things are pure magic!

The purity of the oil in these babies is a lot higher than a lot of other omega 3 products on the market and there’s no nasties like mercury in the water that these fishes are bred in. Honestly, if you buy just one thing after reading this article, make it these tablets!

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Give your hair a break

I don’t mean you have to get rid of your beloved rainbow hair completely (I didn’t!) but just tread a little more gently. One of the things we did was to make my roots darker than the rest of my hair with either a darker pink (with the bottom of it staying pale so it was a nice ombre effect), or more recently with purple. If the roots of your hair are darker than the rest, you won’t need to bleach the regrowth as intensely, giving your new hair a fighting chance at staying healthy.

Wear clip in extensions

You can find some good natural hair extensions online and dye them to match your hair colour. I do have a few clipped in in the photos used to illustrate this article, but no-one can ever tell!

When we first started on my hair repair journey I would have to wear a full head of them, which is a right pain. However these days I just wear two single strips on either side, at the front, to add a bit more volume. It’s my little secret!

Don’t over-wash your hair!

I only wash my hair once or twice a week (ahh, the joys of working from home!) because the more you wash it, the more you will dry it out (hello, irony!) However if, unlike me, you can’t go a whole week with dirty hair, make sure you are using PLENTY of conditioner each time and, if at all possible, leaving it to dry naturally.

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Throw away your straighteners!

Damaged hair and heat are not friends. These days I very rarely get the straighteners out favouring the more gentle (and volumising!) technique of my Babyliss Big Hair Spinning Brush.

I love this contraption! It smooths the hair and adds volume to the roots without tugging, pulling or emitting the same intense and damaging heat that you get from straighteners. I love, love, love it! You can see Ruth from A Model Recommends’ demo of it here. I actually bought it after watching her video!

The thing that you need most of all when repairing chemically damaged hair is patience. None of these products or techniques are going to work overnight, especially if your hair is in as bad a shape as mine was. It may take a little while before you start to notice a difference, but I promise all is not lost.

Look, if I can get my hair back from this then I know you can certainly fix yours too! Good luck!

Update and further reading: Solve these three common bleached hair problems FAST!

Supporting Cast


  1. Lilly fields

    Hello I am a Afro American, and my hair has been bleach blond for over 20 yr, & I never had problem until now. I started off with a Afro and as my hair began to get long I went for the wet natural look, so my hair I thought was alway moisturizer , soft.but just last week I wanted to lock my hair. that’s with a twist so I went to the shop to have it done.i was worried about going under the dryer ,my hair never been under one, I informed the stylist.because of the color,of my hair . she stated it was ok. a week later my hair start coming out in my hands as I was moisturizer with cream , now I am 4in short on the top and back .i used wen shampoo, should I continue or get redken. I will try the ombré my daughter hair is light pink with black roots it’s Beauitful .and I will order the omaga oil.

  2. Tiffany Gamble

    Hey lilly I would tell you to try its a ten for blonds is the best repair that you can use. in case you want to go a little further I have a weekly hair care routine for blonde hair that works great on repairing and protecting your hair.

    Hair mask
    1 banana
    1 egg
    3 tlb of honey
    3 tlb of milk
    5 tlb of olive oil

  3. Tiffany Gamble

    leave the hair mask in for 15 to 30 minutes then shampoo and condition first shampoo once with silver lights and then once with Paul Mitchell forever blonde shampoo and conditioner then you want to deep condition it with its a ten five minute hair repair for blondes leave it in for five minutes then rinse completely after that use the its a ten miracle leave in for blondes

  4. Brianna Wilds

    Hi. Ever since I was eleven (I am fifteen now), I’ve dyed my hair dark colors. a lot. I was born a natural blonde and now I wanted to go back to blonde. but when I bleached my hair (7/21/15) it wouldn’t rinse out. so now it’s stringy and stretchy. I’m not too worried about some of it falling out because I have really long thick hair. I’ve only bleached my hair TWICE. but how long does the stretchy and stringy phase last??

  5. Sarah

    What a lovely positive article! Thank you! Hairdresser said my hair was too ruined for blonde yesterday but now I have faith!

  6. This article has made me realize if I want my blonde hair, I’m going to have to commit fully to it and it is going to be expensive to do so. I decided I want to keep my blonde hair but right now it is stretchy and fragile. I have bought omega 3 and Argan oil shampoo and conditioner after reading this article from referred me to this site for the best hair products at the best price. I’m ready to have my hair blonde and healthy! Bring on the bleach! This article opened my eyes that this too shall past with proper treatment and maintaince.

  7. Lei Lei

    I just bleached a strip of my hair today, just to put a chunk of lilac in my hair. Anyways, my hair is naturally really dark, thick, coarse hair. I always use serum, Moroccan Argan Oil, and heat protectant. My hair came out really dry and feels really rough compared to the rest of my hair. If I cut the damaged ends , do you think it would grow out better?

  8. Ive been searching for advice like this for ages. Ive been having bleached highlights for years. I have fine hair anyway but the bleach has broken my hair and it was looking so fine. Ive recenly had the back cut shorter so its like a graduated bob. Im ready to go darker but need a rescue hair programme to help grow and keep it healthy. Thank you

  9. Summer

    Hi there ok so about 4 months ago I bleached my hair and I’ve done it before and they were fine, but after I bleached it this time a whole chunk of my hair fell out. I went to the hairdressers who cut loads off. I have it trimmed and I use all the shampoos she tells me too but it’s not growing and when it’s wet it falls out in my hands please help me !!!!

  10. Felicity Carnegie

    Greetings from South Africa!! This was a very informative article! I used to bleach “in my younger days” until it just broke off and I ended up 60% bold. I’ve been a brunette ever since! With the urge to go blonde again, I didn’t want to do it at home as it backfired a few times and I ended up looking like Ronald Macdonald with gummy bear hair! Went to the salon this morning for my first full head of highlights with many to follow. I was quite frazzled that the lady who does the rinsing did it very hard and agro! Everyone who has bleached before will tell you that you have to be careful! My ends look a little “pokey” now so tonight I will be slapping overnight moisture on these babies! Its a long, emotionally painful process! Wish me luck!

  11. Robyn Locatelli

    Hi there, I just bleached my hair at home and it’s now stringy and fried. I’ve been dying my hair since I was 12, I am 18 now, and I’ve bleached my hair many times, this is the first time my hair has turned out this way. I bleached my then purple hair, to prepare for my upcoming Beetlejuice cosplay. Do you have any at home remedies that could work? I want to get my hair as strong as possible because there is still some bits of purple in it, and I want to get it out as soon as possible without doing anymore damage. (9/6/15)

  12. Gail

    Before I bleached my hair from dyed dark brown to light blondeI completely saturated my hair in Coconut oil for several hours And I processed the bleach with the coconut oil on. It worked very well and the coconut oil did not Hinder the process. It helped to protect my hair a lot.

  13. B

    Wld cureplex restore the protein layers? Wld this be a good idea to use on very damaged hair? Cld it damage even further?

  14. Just stumbled across your blog looking for good hair treatments. My bleached blonde hair has gotten SO thin and one side just does not grow and it’s embarrassing! I have been wearing the clip in extensions and trying to repair the damage that hasn’t been done by not washing it every day and using hair masks with protein and moisture. After reading this I am going to give the Redken and Moroccan oil products a try. Thanks for all the great info :)

  15. clare smith

    i originally had an ombre but recently went to a full head of foils, but a few days later when i washed it, its become even thinner (i usually have thin hair,) and so brittle, i already use purple shampoo and conditioner, I’m not sure on what else to do

  16. Madi Serio

    Hi! Im a natural light blonde who straightened her hair a few times a day for about 3 years. I chopped it off, and now it is long enough to touch my butt. All of my hair was absurdly healthy and happy and i wen 4 months without even touching a heat product. then this weekend i decided to try to ombre my hair. i ended up bleaching the ends of my hair three times in 48 hours and its just like straw practically. HELP. I miss my healthy tresses but the last thing i want to do is get them cut.

  17. Samantha

    Please help. My hair has always been my pride and fucking joy. I figured since it is pretty damn healthy, it could deal with some bleach damage. And I figured the master stylist who did all the color-corrections would know how much would be too much. I was wrong, and now I want to burst into tears every time I look at my hair or touch it. I just don’t know what to do. my hair has also NEVER been shorter than this and it breaks and falls out. What should i do to regrow hair?

  18. Haley

    Clare Smith: I’m a cosmetologist and wanted to let you know that purple shampoo and conditioner are just to tone your hair when it starts to get that overly yellow tone to it. The purple removes the yellow to brighten your hair to a cooler blonde and isn’t meant to heal the damage done from putting lightener (same thing as bleach) in it. What I’ve always used on my hair (I’ve used lightener on my hair for a few years) is Malibou Miracle Repair Deep Conditioning Treatment. They sell it many places online (like Ulta or Walgreens). On they sell a 12 pack for 26 dollars and I kid you not after just one use you will notice a difference. I use it once weekly or biweekly, depending on how bad the damage is, for the first 4-6 weeks after doing lightener all over. I hope this helped!

  19. Nerina h

    Hi i have bleached my hair with 40 volume and under the heat because my hair is dark brown so to make it platinum that is what my hairdresser does , but at the back of my head i have noticed more breakage , and i found out about olaplex this stuf can save your hair if you going blonde they mix it with the bleach and what it dies it bonds the hair so it doesnt break i use the number 3 home as a treatment once a week . Hope this helps😄

  20. Wendy

    Hey girls I’m a hairdresser and unfortunately I went to a girl that had no idea what she was doing and fried my hair. I am using olaplex now and I swear by it. If you want to turn your hair around make sure you buy the no 3 and use olaplex in any color treatment you do. Your hair will thank me later..

  21. kate

    My hair *still* breaking two years after I bleached it white. Is this it for life? I had never touched any kind of die let alone peroxide until a disastrous trip to a hair dresser who burned my scalp. And I only did it the once and grew the lot out since the experience was so traumatic for my hair and emotional health! The hair seems otherwise back to ‘normal’ apart from I have this continual breakage at the roots. I thought if I grew the lot out it would go back to normal but the breakage is still occurring. Help!

  22. Mary Ryan

    Dove pure care dry oil.
    it’s brought my hair back from damage. And I’m still bleaching
    . Give it a few weeks you’ll see the difference. My hair was snapping and frizzy due to bleach.
    Now it’s getting fuller no more snapping….bits great.
    try it xx

  23. What clip-in hair extensions do you recommend?
    I have never used them. Looking for funky colors most likely, like your hair in the pictures (purples, pinks) but that don’t look too shiny or fake.

  24. Post author

    I buy real hair blonde ones (the lightest you can find) and dye them myself! As long as they are real hair and not polyester they won’t look shitty

  25. mandy

    hi I had amazing bleached blonde hair in great condition, just dyed it brown for winter and its all fallen out. Now my hair is about 3 inches long, I hate it so much can anyone help please I really want my blonde back I no I cant do a thing about the lengh and can u buy these products in UK Thank you.

  26. tiffany

    I bleach my hair regularly and have done for many years. It’s dry/brittle and my scalp has a kind of stubborn layer of dry skin that doesn’t really flake unless I scratch it, but it’s definately there and itches too much if I don’t.

    From the first application of the Shielo Smoothing Conditioner – i left it a couple of minutes to do its work – it felt like I’d just given it a deep condition in something luxurious. It gave me a bit of a shine as well. It saved me so much money at the salon…i buy shielo products online though cause the salon charges a bit more.


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