I have spent a significant amount of time over the last few weeks writing about trending hair colours and the coolest summer hairstyles, so it's no surprise that I've been incredibly tempted to switch up my own hair look. And this week, that's exactly what I did—I took the plunge, headed into salon and dyed my Afro hair. Honestly, I’d been thinking about it for a while and obsessing over the warmer blonde-brunette balayage images that I’d been pinning, but I was finally ready to have the Hot Girl Summer hair of my dreams.
However, like with any chemical hair service, I knew that there was a huge risk attached to colouring my hair. "Bleached hair is more porous, so it becomes more sensitive," warns Zoë Irwin, a Wella Professionals colour trend expert. "When you lighten hair and remove pigment, it naturally has more sensitivity, especially when lightening to white or very pale colours."
The pre-lightening process can take its toll on any texture, but for Afro hair, it can be particularly brutal. I’d had my hair coloured before, but my colourist this time—Lloyd Court from Skyler London—was taking it lighter than it had ever been. A common misconception is that if you have dark hair, it can’t safely and healthily be lightened—an idea that Adam Reed, the UK editorial ambassador for L’Oréal Professionnel, wants to turn on its head. "A thorough consultation with your colourist is a must, but if you have the right plan and hair protection process in place, your colourist can always help you get to where you want to be whilst ensuring the hair health is a priority," says Reed. "Never try to lighten your hair at home. This is something to be achieved by a professional."
Luckily, having experts on hand with tips meant that I knew the lead-up to the appointment was as important to the outcome as the appointment itself. "In the run-up to your appointment, make sure you are nourishing and strengthening your hair. This will make a massive difference to the colour result and the condition of your hair after your in-salon service," says Irwin.
When it comes to at-home treatments, keeping washing to a minimum has stopped my hair from becoming over-sensitised. While bleached hair may feel dry, a common myth is that it has to be moisturised often. "This is the worst thing you can do because bleached hair needs more strength and protein to restructure the hair in the first instance. By adding more moisture, you stretch the hair and this weakens it further," warns Irwin. Sticking to protein-enriched treatments when you wash will give it a boost of strength.
Speaking of washing, the only thing that keeps my colour vibrant is using a pigmented shampoo and conditioner. "I always recommend to my clients that they use a professional hair colour shampoo and conditioner at home to maintain the vibrancy of the colour," says Reed. I followed the advice of my colourist, Lloyd, and am using a toning duo every three washes (any more and it can make the colour look dull).
And it's worth noting that when it comes to styling, I have really had to cut back on the heat. I now use straighteners once a week, if that, and when I do, I load on the heat protectant.
Following these expert tips has, quite honestly, given me the balayage of my dreams, and I want to share the love. Ahead are the six products that I've added to my routine for bleached Afro hair products and the ones that I recommend for healthy bleached colour all summer long.
1. Colour-Protecting Shampoos
This shampoo cleanses effectively without stripping moisture and the colour from your hair. The formula contains Keravis and astaxanthin, which aid in strengthening weaker strands.
Formulated with curly and coily coloured hair in mind, this formula is a gentle cleanser free from SLS.
2. Colour-Enhancing Shampoos
Blue shampoos and conditioners are key for brunette balayage, as the blue knocks out the orangey, brassy tone that can crop up between salon visits.
If you opt for a blonde hue, then a purple shampoo and conditioner will be needed to keep your tone cool.
3. Protein-Enriched Treatments
With restorative quinoa and added protein, this treatment will help to restore strength and elasticity after colour treatments.
This deep conditioner is super nourishing for all hair types. The babassu oil combats dryness and restores elasticity while stimulating follicle growth. Inca inchi oil regulates oil production and locks in moisture; coconut and argan oils protect hair against frizz and seal in moisture.
4. Bonding Masks
The plex formula in this mask is excellent at fortifying hair and holding colour’s vibrancy. Use every other wash for upkeep.
I love this pre-wash mask for keeping my hair soft while restoring the keratin bonds and keeping my hair strong. I apply it, and then do a workout before continuing with my washday.
5. Nourishing Oils
If you have curly or coily hair, this oil is so nourishing without weighing curls down. It’s really become a staple in my hair routine. It contains Kakadu plum, which is packed with vitamin C to keep hair bouncy and vibrant.
6. Heat Protectant
A heat protectant is a no-brainer for all hair types, coloured or not, but this cream is great for hair that’s been sensitised by bleach to protect without feeling coated as you style.