Wrecked your hair with bleach? Fix it!

Hair: How to fix hair that’s turned to chewing gum

Your hair was this colour, now it's stretchy and ruined?  I have the answer.
Your hair was this colour, now it’s stretchy and ruined? I have the answer.

You’ve washed the bleach off, you’ve conditioned, you’ve looked in the mirror. It might not even be a particularly light shade of blonde. Somehow, your hair has become super-stretchy and doesn’t flex back into shape again very well when you run your fingers through it.

This is NOT going to help if your hair is coming out in clumps. The only thing that’ll help there is a pair of scissors. Sorry, but you need to be honest with yourself about the current state of your hair before you do this.

If your hair is worrying you with its poor condition, but isn’t actually breaking apart yet, this tutorial is for you.

Firstly, I’ve got some bad news for you: You are probably not going to be able to stay completely blonde. At this stage, you have almost completely bleached the core out of your hair. It’s unstable, and isn’t going to withstand staying in this state for long. Think long and hard (but not for too long) about whether you need to follow this tutorial or whether a deep conditioning treatment will help.

Is this method for you?

1. When you last washed your hair, how many hours did it take to dry?

2. When your hair is wet, does it stretch then stay stretched after you let go of it, only returning to its shape gradually, if at all?

3. Have you bleached your hair in any of the following ways (or more than one of these):

a) Left the dye on for far too long?

b) Used a 40 vol peroxide with a bleach on light blonde hair?

c) Didn’t wash the bleach out properly before drying or straightening (flatironing)?

d) Bleached it too many times in a relatively short time period (more than 3 over 2 weeks, depending which products you used)?

e) Bleached it too many times over a longer time period (three times or more per month for more than three months)?

f) Used a product not intended for hair e.g. bleached with kitchen bleach, toilet bleach, household bleach etc even just once?

g) Used blonding/lightening spray on light blonde bleached hair?

If you answered yes to any of the statements in question 3, and your hair is taking more than 3 hours to dry after washing, and it’s stretching as described in question 2, you need this tutorial.

Disclaimer: I am not at your house assessing the state of your hair, nor do I know the state of your scalp. This is your judgement call, but if your hair is wrecked anyway, and your only other option is to cut it off, this might be a helpful last resort. Obviously, like with any dying process, this could make your hair worse, and you may have to do this several times over a period of months to get a colour to stick.

1. Get your hair dry, carefully.
If your hair isn’t dry right now, get your hairdryer and blow dry it on a low setting. Once your hair is dry it’s in a more stable condition. For now.

2. Put longer hair in a gentle plait, until you’re ready to work with it.

This method is used to protect hair extensions at night time, and is equally useful for your own hair when it’s damaged like this. It will help avoid that pesky tangling that constantly happens to over-bleached hair.

3. Decide how dark you can stand to go.

Look through the shades of hair dye that are available (don’t buy any yet), and decide on a level of darkness. The darker you go, the stronger your hair will be, but it will take longer to get it there.

4. Buy the reddest permanent dye you can find, that is not darker than the shade of brown you picked in step 3. If you are choosing between two shades of red, ignore the box and choose the darkest. This is because most of this red will wash out in a couple of weeks, tops. Don’t choose anything weird or unusual, this is not a good time to experiment. I used the auburn shades of Nice ‘N’ Easy when I did this. Don’t expect the colour to come out as strong as it does on the box, you will probably have to repeat this a few times.

5. Make sure you’ve waited at least a week since you last bleached/toned/coloured your blonde hair, and follow the instructions to apply your darker shade.  While you’re waiting to colour, treat your damaged hair like antique silk.

6. When you rinse, expect most of it to go down the drain. Your hair will come out a mousey colour, probably with patches that are redder than other bits. If this bothers you, now would be a good time to bring back the bandanna or crack out a hat or headscarf.

7. Use that conditioner that came with the dye. Leave it on for twice as long as it says, and at least 10 minutes.

8. Dry very carefully, don’t rub when you towel dry and don’t use the full heat from the hairdryer.

9. Repeat this process every 2-3 weeks (don’t do it any more regularly than this) until the colour sticks inside your hair.

10. Congratulations, you have just artificially re-created the core of your hair, using artificial pigment molecules. Your hair will be stronger now, although it won’t be the way it was before you dyed it. I found when I did this several years ago, that when I tried to bleach it a year later, it was still not in a suitable condition (luckily I did a test strand because I was NOT ready for that jelly that my strand test turned into), however, it did buy enough time for roots to grow through so I could at least sport a lovely bob 18 months after I wrecked my hair, without having to cut it all off before that time. Try to take better care of it, it’s still very fragile underneath.

When I wrecked my hair, it took about 6 months to get it to hold this colour.
When I wrecked my hair, it took about 6 months to get it to hold this colour.

[hair] Silver toning routine

I thought I’d show you all my silver toning routine today.  I last toned my hair about a week ago, and took lots of photos for you.  I’ve done a video in real time of how it’s done but here it is in pictures:

1. I get Directions Silver Toner.  In the past I’ve always bought three tubs but this time I only used one and a half.

This is what the tub of silver toner looks like.  I use a pyrex dish for mixing/containing messes whenever I color my hair.
This is what the tub of silver toner looks like. I use a pyrex dish for mixing/containing messes whenever I color my hair.

2. I washed my hair then wrapped it up in a towel for ten to fifteen minutes – this diffuses the moisture out of the hair to leave it damp but not dripping (diffusion: movement of a substance from an area of higher concentration to an area of lower concentration).

3. I went back to the bathroom, opened the silver toner, scooped it out with my hand and splortched it onto my hair until it was completely covered in purple.

This is what the lengths of my hair looked like when covered in toner
This is what the lengths of my hair looked like when covered in toner
And this is what the top of my head looked like.
And this is what the top of my head looked like.

4. I covered it in a white plastic bin bag so it didn’t stain my skin or my dressing gown.

Mmm this is a sexy look (not).
Mmm this is a sexy look (not).

5. I left it for about twenty to twenty five minutes (enough time to drink a cup of tea).

6. I rinsed it off and conditioned with the Nice N’ Easy Colourseal Conditioner (it comes with hair dye or you can buy it separately from almost anywhere that sells shampoo).

7. Ta-da!  Finished result:

silver hair using directions silver toner for lightest white blonde hair directions silver toner6

It didn’t take on my roots because they weren’t light enough.

Here’s the video if you want to watch it for more specific application techniques:

[hair] Doctrine of Colours

Doctrine of Colours:  How to work out what colours will come out like when you add them to your hair.

In medieval times, when monks ran apothecaries, and medicine came from plants, and Brother Cadfael wasn’t a character played by Derek Jacobi (although he does a stunning job), there was something called the Doctrine of Signatures. This was basically the way new plants were given uses, in an absence of any other information about the plant. For example, liverwort is a plant that was used to heal the liver because it has liver-shaped bits (liver: a distinctive shape). Heartsease has heart shaped leaves, and this led people to believe it would help the heart. Culpeper, the famous herbalist, wrote about this in his book Culpeper’s Herbal (not light reading). More general shaped plants such as Common Plantain were seen as a cure all because they didn’t resemble any specific part of the body.

Taking this into the realm of haircare, I applied colour theory to come up with a doctrine of colours that can be used to decide whether to put a product on your hair. Products won’t automatically do these things if you use them, it’s more of a “if this product does anything at all to the colour of my hair, it will do this” kind of thing:

Purple: Will neutralize yellow, aka “brassy tones.” Many people try to use it to get rid of orange. It doesn’t work on orange.

Blue: Works on orange tones. Blue will neutralize orange so you can get a cool dark blonde shade. In order to do this, it might make your hair look browner, because that unnatural orange + blue will add up to light brown (also, this is how to get light brown hair – take it to orange then add the right amount of blue).

Green: Works on red tones. Green is unpopular as a hair product colourant but if it was more popular, you could use it to get rid of a bright red if you wanted to turn your hair brown again, or to get rid of a tomato stain, although it will keep the darkness of the red staining.

Yellow: Makes hair yellow. It’s a relatively large colour molecule so it stands out with minimal interference from outside products.

Orange: Makes hair orange. It’s also a large colour molecule compared to purple or blue. Will mostly wash out when added to light blonde hair, meaning you might need to repeat-colour it to make it stick better.

Red: Makes hair red. Use a permanent red or orange before trying to dye blonde hair back to brown it makes the brown stick for longer and the colour comes out better. Will mostly wash out when added to light blonde hair, leaving a reddish tinge, so repetition may be necessary.

White: Will not change hair tone.

Black: Avoid like the plague if you are blonde.

Grey: may add grey tones to your hair.

Are you wondering this: Why do half the colours just go the same colour and the other half go to a different colour?

It’s to do with the base colourings of hair. Inside the hair shaft, all the way up to pure white, there are colour molecules of red, orange and yellow, of varying proportions. The red orange and yellow molecules inside your hair are much larger, which is why it takes more effort to remove them than the blue, green and purple molecules. By the time you take your hair across to white or silver, there should really only be a bit of yellow left in any visible amount. You can’t get rid of every yellow molecule or your hair would be empty inside, like a drinking straw, which would be transparent and easily squashed (which it is to a fair extent at yellow, but it would be worse than already). At the point at which there are no colour molecules at all left inside the hair shaft, the hair turns to jelly and dissolves. You need to leave some slight amount of yellow tones in your hair.

Personally I prefer to take my longer layers of hair to a slightly brighter yellow than the internet recommends – I keep it at that day glo yellow, rather than leaving the dye on until very very pale yellow, then I rely on toning to do the rest. Toning yellow hair is the same no matter how much yellow is left – as long as the orange is all gone, it works fine. The colour result is just a shade of silver that’s slightly duller than it would have been if I left the bleach on for longer, but I feel confident that my hair is safer. I take the top (shorter layers) to palest yellow and it all blends together to give a natural result so I will continue to do this, because the top layers would naturally be brighter than the bottom layers as that’s where the sun would hit if I let my hair anywhere near it without a hat or scarf.

This is all super important because in order to get white or silver or platinum hair, you need to know what colours will do what to your hair, and what products to avoid (for example, never put red, yellow or orange coloured shampoos or products on hair that’s white, silver or platinum).

Silver hair - No I don't wear extensions!
My silver hair Dec 7th 2014; see how the longer layers are intentionally a darker silver than the shorter layers.