Have I caused permanent damage to my hair using bleach?

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I have short fine hair and have had it bleached a couple of times, which gave it loads of body. When I was having the bleach done, I encouraged my hairdresser to put heat on it because it takes quicker, but now my hair has broken and split all over!

I’m sad about this because I’m 52 and have always wanted ash hair colour but never had the guts to go for it. Does this mean I can't have bleach anymore, or do I need to avoid the heat process?

Thank you,

Katrina, UK

Hello Katrina,

You are right when you say that the heat was too much for your fine hair. Using bleach, it is possible that your application was not applied carefully enough and overlapped into the previous bleached hair, which caused the breakage. 

Bleach causes the hair to swell, so this will give it more volume, as well as it feeling thicker. But, over bleaching the hair will cause breakage. It is also quite common that colourists often overlap the new colours or bleach to avoid any unwanted variations of colour lines, allowing the new colour application to fade into the previous colour.

It is true that when using heat with bleach it will lift faster and give a lighter blonde, as well as take the yellow/orange tinge away. It depends however on the strength and thickness of the individual’s hair, and on the strength of the peroxide used.

May I suggest you spend a little more time on your hair for one month by regenerating the hair you have now, feeding it with protein and keratin building products? Ask your salon stylist if they sell hair repair products.

Once your hair is in a better condition and feels stronger, you should be able to bleach it again, but only the roots and not the length! Be patient with the repair process, it will be worth it in the end.

Another thing, have you considered a different colour blonde? Instead of using bleach, a colourist could use a high lift colour and toner to keep the hair an ash blonde.

Katrina, I hope my explanation helps and you will soon be a happy blonde again.

Pierre Alexandre of Pierre Alexandre, Manchester

Dear Katrina,

Sorry to hear about your problem. From what you’ve described we recommend the following:

You can still bleach your hair, but just on the roots. 
Try to avoid heat, as this will dry your hair further. 
To achieve the ash colour, you need to find the right toner, depending on the shade you have currently. This will ashen the blonde.

Good luck.

Joseph Koniak, Artistic Director at Eleven Hair and Joseph Koniak, London

Hi Anon,

First things first: stay away from bleach because you've already mentioned breakage and split ends, so adding any more bleach will over-process the hair, causing further damage, and I would never recommend using heat on a scalp bleach.

Now, I'd suggest a good haircut to remove as much of the damaged hair as possible, and invest in a good home haircare plan, such as Bumble&bumble's Mending range (specifically for chemically treated hair). Use the full range, starting with the shampoo and conditioner, and then followed by the treatment masque. It's a bit like antibiotics for the hair, in that you use it for the period necessary to notice improved condition, and then you switch back to a milder, everyday conditioning range. Whenever you notice the condition suffering, you switch back to it.

Finally, before the next colour application, book in a consultation with your colourist to assess the condition of your hair, target colour and tones that are achievable without causing more damage to the hair.

Patrick Matthews, Senior Colourist and L'Oreal ID Artist at Simon Webster Hair, Brighton

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