The Truth About Bleach-outs

If you haven’t tried it yet, maybe you’ve thought about it: the forever iconic Platinum Blonde Bleach-out. AKA the Marilyn Monroe AKA the Gwen Stefani AKA the wig Kim Kardashian’s been wearing. It’s a bold look that’s become ubiquitous, and a necessary base if you want to try out pastels. Problem is, it requires very regular maintenance and can have a hefty price tag. Feeling overwhelmed already? Hannah had a beach-out for 5 years and has been doing hair for 10, so she’s got you covered where the facts are concerned.  

Surprise! Gwen Stefani spends an enormous amount of time and money to get her hair to look (and stay) this color. 

Surprise! Gwen Stefani spends an enormous amount of time and money to get her hair to look (and stay) this color. 

Here’s what you need to know:

What it is

The process of lifting the hair with bleach opens the cuticle (the outer layer of the hair) and strips the cortex (one of the inner layers of the hair) of its natural pigments. First the black and brown pigments leave the hair, then red, then orange, and finally yellow. When the hair is lightened the texture of the hair itself will change. You can expect a slightly thicker and coarser texture. The biggest advantage to this new texture is not feeling the need to shampoo as often. The biggest disadvantage is, well, the texture. Your hair may not feel as soft or “flow” the way you’re used to.

Get a consultation

As with most hair services, the first step is open communication with your stylist. Honesty is especially important when it comes to color or chemical services since it affects what products and precautions the stylist takes to give you the safest and best results for your hair. If you’ve previously colored your hair – yes, at-home box color counts. Yes henna counts. If your hair is past your shoulders then yes, whatever you did to it over a year ago counts – plan on needing more than one visit to get you that icy blonde. Your stylist might patch test a small section of your hair to determine how many appointments you’ll need.

Clear Your Schedule

Plan on being in the salon for a good portion of your day (we recommend you bring snacks and reading materials). If your hair is all natural (ie: “virgin” hair), you might get away with just one all-day appointment. That said, everyone’s hair is different and has varying levels of warmth in their undertones. Some hair does not lift as easily, regardless of how light or dark the natural color is. As a general guideline you should expect to spend at least 5 hours in the salon for your first appointment.

The Price

The overall cost greatly depends on the area or city you’re doing the deed. It can even vary based on the neighborhood. In Manhattan, NY you can expect prices to start around $250 and go up from there, not including the upkeep. It will also depend on your hair history and how many processes it takes to get the desired color. Keep in mind your hairdresser is not a magician and might not be able to get you to your goals in just one visit. Patience, patience, patience! Budget accordingly and plan on investing in some take home products.

The Maintenance

  • Don’t wait too long to get those roots done. Plan to get a touch up every 4-6 weeks for best results. Your scalp creates a natural heating zone within the first half inch of hair growth. If you wait too long you’ll get a brassy band and need to bleach it twice which can create short tufts of breakage.
  • Even if you are attached to your length, a slight trim after reaching your color goals is a good idea. Then come back for regular trims at least every 3 months to stave off split ends (that’s 4 haircuts a year, or 1 for each season. Add that to your budget)
  • Make sure to talk with your stylist about take-home products that will help you style and maintain the health and color. Don’t skimp – get the good stuff! You didn’t just spend all that money on your color to wash it down the drain.
  • If you’re headed for a vivid or pastel color, ask your stylist for a color pot to top it off at home yourself. Everyone’s hair porosity is different so there’s no rule for how quickly your tone will fade. Generally, pastel colors last 1-3 washes while more vibrant colors can last around 10-12 washes and will lighten as they fade.
  • The less heat the better. Heat tools wreak havoc on unprocessed hair, so imagine what it will do to yours once it’s chemically processed. Braids, twists, foam rollers, or flexi rods are great ways to create waves. If you can’t go without heat, plan on at least investing in some quality heat protectant products.
  • Dry shampoo will be your new best friend. In general, the less shampooing the better. If you can keep the suds down to just once a week then you’re doing amazing, sweetie. Water should be kept a lukewarm temperature.
  • If you plan on keeping the color icy cool (think white or silver) you’ll need to pick up a “silver” shampoo and conditioner (the shampoo itself is purple or blue tinted). Use this once a week to keep out the yellow and brassy tones.
  • Add a reparative hair masque to your weekly routine and keep that hair looking healthy. Fresh out of cash to drop on more product? Consider a DIY one with 1 egg yolk, ½ cup honey, 2 tablespoons olive oil, and 1 large ripe avocado. Or try just straight up mayo. The cholesterol will do wonders for your newly bleached hair. Follow up with shampoo and conditioner like normal.
  • Consider ditching your current pillowcase for a silk one. Sleeping on silk will help prevent breakage and bedhead by reducing friction on the hair.

Questions? We have answers! Shoot us an email and we’ll get back to you straight away. For more info on hair color check out our Dummy Dictionary!

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