If you have virgin hair, this article is not for you.
This article is for those of us with dry, brittle split ended hair that’s been feeling the effects of excessive heat since they were 12 years old. This is for the people who don’t even remember what their natural hair texture feels like and who have bleached their hair a countless number of times that the photos of themselves with their natural hair look photoshopped.
I’ve been using heat on my hair since I was probably 10 years old, or at least as early as I became conscious enough to care about my appearance. It starts with blow-drying then straightening and curling and crimping, eventually moving on to dyeing.
I bleached my virgin hair for the first time about two years ago and I don’t expect to let it grow out anytime soon, so I’m sure you can imagine just how damaged and straw-like it is.
For a visual, if I lift up a piece of my hair and let it go, it doesn’t fall down to the side of my face gracefully. It flops down and still has some lift to it by the roots because it’s so stiff. This is all thanks to the bleach that rips the proteins apart from my hair in order to remove the color and leaving dryness and frizz in its place.
The only real way to get your hair back to its normal texture and health is to grow it out, but that isn’t always an option people want to choose. Besides, I love the way the lighter color looks on me rather than my natural brunette.
There are definitely some downsides other than extreme damage bleach immediately brings to your hair, one of which being the brassy or orange tones that come out. Purple shampoo is used to counteract this color change and tone your hair outside of the salon, but it isn’t that great for you, either. The empty and large pores in your bleached hair suck up the purple dye and can change the color to a grey-purple combination color rather than platinum or white you may be looking for.
I knew how much damage I’d do to my locks once I bleached it, but it didn’t really matter to me. I’d been using heat on it consistently for over a decade, what more could a little bleach do?
Once my hair started falling out in large clumps in the shower, that’s when the panic set in and I knew I had to start taking care of my hair. Thankfully, there are so many resources, cheap and expensive, to help bring health and shine back to your hair that you can buy or make yourself.
Here are five tips and products I’ve tried or have great reviews in restoring the strength back to your damaged strands.
Fractionated Coconut Oil
Fractionated coconut oil is just like regular coconut oil except it’s been processed in a way that leaves it in a constant liquid state.
A TikTok by @alenaavictoriaa introduced me to this product, claiming it wouldn’t leave buildup on your hair like pure coconut oil does and would hydrate rather than dry it out.
This product hydrates your hair and gives it a silky, smooth look without a nasty sheen making it greasy — take it from me. There are many ways to incorporate this in your beauty routine, but the one that I go by is using the oil as a mask, leaving it on my hair for an hour at least before I get in the shower.
Run it through your ends and middle of your hair, and if your scalp is feeling a bit dry, gently massage some in to help moisturize your skin. I noticed the most improvement when using it as a mask and washing it out with conditioner, then following my normal shower routine after it’s washed down the drain, but you can use it as a conditioner by itself or run it through your damp hair after the shower.
Even before leaving the shower, my hair feels so much softer than it did before. I normally use this mask once or twice every two weeks, depending on how busy or lazy I am. Just make sure to wear a shirt you don’t mind getting kind of nasty.
Briogeo is a Black-owned company started by Nancy Twine when she realized the organic hair products she was using just weren’t making the cut. Their products are all natural and cruelty free, and this deep conditioning mask is the 2020 Allure Reader’s Choice Award winner for best conditioner.
No matter your hair type or texture, this mask helps soothe dry, lifeless locks. The mask contains almond, rosehip and argan oils to revitalize your damaged hair, and vitamin B5 and biotin to protect against future damage.
After using this mask, your hair will feel noticeably softer and look shinier while preventing more breakage in the future.
For a quick repair session, put the mask in after shampooing and leave it for five to 10 minutes. If your hair is really thirsty, leave it in under a plastic cap for up to 30 minutes then wash it out.
The Hair Perfecter from Olaplex is apparently a miracle worker for damaged hair.
Olapex started in 2014 out of a garage in California and has since grown exponentially in the hair community. With their miracle ingredient Bis-Aminopropyl Diglycol Dimaleate, hair didn’t just get shinier and healthier, it completely changed quality, making Olaplex stand out for all the right reasons.
The Hair Perfecter is their best selling product and it’s no surprise why. Though the price tag may turn some people off, it’s completely worth it thanks to its record of strengthening extremely brittle hair and bringing back shiny and resilient strands.
No matter your hair type, this conditioning treatment can be used up to three times a week depending on your damage levels and will make a difference after the very first use. You can get a whole hair set from Olaplex, but this is the product that will really make you shine.
While I heard about this method through TikTok, using rice water on your hair has been around since the Heian period in Japan. It’s super easy to make and use: all you need is a 1:1 water to rice ratio and some time on your hands.
After rinsing your rice of impurities, you’ll rinse it one more time but save the water in a plastic cup or bowl and store it at room temperature for at least 12 hours and no more than 24. Refrigerate the water after that and use it in the shower after shampooing or shampooing and conditioning, depending on the tutorial you’re following.
You can use it every day or once a week, it really doesn’t matter with this method. Rice water instantly made my hair stronger, softer and brighter. It promotes hair growth, too, which is why I don’t use it as often because I can only touch up my roots so many times within six weeks. But overall, it’s a great method of making your hair healthier.
Masks and hair products aren’t the only ways to keep your damaged hair healthy: the tools you use matter, too. Bleach and heat damage promote frizziness, and your regular towels definitely don’t help lessen this.
Look into getting a microfiber towel to help prevent tears and snags in your hair. Microfiber is smoother than your normal cotton towels and it absorbs water faster, leaving your hair dryer but not dehydrated.
Silk or satin pillowcases basically do the same thing a microfiber towel does except for dry hair. Silk or satin are the best material and weave for pillowcases because they won’t cause as much friction between your hair and the pillow, and they help retain the natural oils in your hair. Silk is a breathable material that prevents your head and hair from overheating during the night. I’ve noticed an insane difference in frizziness in my hair since getting a satin pillowcase, and it wasn’t even expensive.
A wide-toothed comb helps prevent unnecessary hair loss thanks to the placement of the comb’s teeth. It helps detangle your hair, dry and wet, and can be used in the shower to distribute conditioner or other products evenly. The best part is this is the most affordable way to keep your hair healthy.