Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Recovery from damaged hair: One year without broken tufts, missing patches and frazzled ends

Okay so, it's not quite a year, it's been ten months. But it is about four years since I first decided to start bleaching my own hair at home. I began with thick, curly brown hair that reached just above my waist when I decided I wanted it "ombré", in quotation marks because it really wasn't ombre. It was medium brown with a line of demarkation to yellow bleach blonde tips. It didn't even start until near my chest and always looked odd when in a ponytail or a bun. This started in 2012, which was actually a time before at home ombré kits, balayage instagram trends and Guy Tang blessing us with video tutorials every week. I included a photo of how my at home ombré used to look in 2012, compared to earlier this year when actually none of my hair was bleached but I did the colour myself on hair extensions and found feathering, blending and using more than one tone of blonde.

This started a number of problems for me, as about 6 months after I took that photo, I decided I wanted blonde all over. I went to my local drugstore, bought about 10 bottles and sachets of Jerome Russell 30 vol bleach, had no experience or done any research and began slopping it on my head. It didn't go as badly as I would have you believe, but the bleach blonde on the ends of my hair that I wanted all over, had to go. I had about 4-6 inches cut off my hair, had a fringe and layers cut back in to repair the damage I'd caused and my hair was still thick and full. I was a little upset that I'd had so much cut off, but it needed it and this is probably where my addiction to hair extensions began. I could walk into any beauty supply store in the world, pick up an 18" pack of 27/613 highlighted blonde and it would be perfect.

I'd discovered my mixture of dark and light blonde that everyone was complimenting me on simply wasn't enough and I wanted it lighter. No matter what I did, I always felt I could always get my hair lighter. My hair was becoming fried and I genuinely didn't notice, and if anyone said anything, I was in denial. I think the worst point was when I was gluing bits of hair extension in to my "fringe" that was about 1-2 inches of pure frazzled hair, picture inserted. I honestly didn't realise this wasn't a bad look. The turning point for me however, was coming home from my holiday in June 2015, about to start at a new store with new people who I refused to let lecture me on my fried hair. I ordered 3 bundles of dark hair, went to Savers and bought 10 boxes of hair dye and let my hairs journey back to health begin! The whole time I had damaged hair, I could barely put it all into a ponytail. I couldn't reach my fringe back into a hair tie to put it out my face and I relied solely on hair extensions, as in, literally addicted. I could not go out the house without them in to mask all the broken, sticking out hair. As bombshell as it looked, there was nothing to be proud of here, because every single part was extensions, my hair was so short you couldn't even see the underneath layers when it was down

Recovery step one: Starting again

Even though I loved having blonde hair, I knew I had to go back to it being dark to allow my hair to grow without seeing my roots grow through half an inch, applying bleach, then having to cut one inch off the ends. Although there was always new growth,  I was never able to see it. It took about four months for me to replenish my hair into a state where it could handle lightening, stripping and heavy hair extensions. My fringe was reaching below my chin, something it hadn't for years, it was thick enough to get away with 22" hair extensions just being feathered in and I could put it in most hair styles. As hard as it is accepting the colour you'd worked so hard for, that you'd gone through so much hassle for and spent so much money on is about to be stained and never the same again, but unless you want to literally start again and shave your hair off, the bleaching has to stop. Of course, you could just not bleach your hair any more and let your roots grow through but that wasn't an option for me, I saw the health of my hair change instantly from just putting a dark colour on top of the damage.

Recovery step two: Changing your routine

Sometimes, even just washing your hair is damaging. The more you shampoo, the more you strip away your natural oils. It's safe to say, I could leave my hair one week while it was blonde without washing it, and no one would even know, the dryer your hair is, the less it gets greasy. When my hair started getting back to health I could see it being greasier all the time, but I still couldn't wash it any more frequently because I needed to get my scalps natural oils to the point where my hair could recondition itself. If you feel like you need to wash your hair, then do so, but use just a small amount of shampoo, lather it in your hands first and then work it into your roots. I found this worked best for me.

Recovery step three: Knowing your ingredients

Most damage repair products are just masks filled with alcohol, parabens and sulphates. These are nasty little ingredients that will make your hair look great. For one day. Your hair will get no better over time, it is just a quick fix. I started learning more about natural products and began clearing out my collection of products, shampoos and conditioners. Your best bet for kind to hair ingredients that will promote health lie in brands like Loreal Everpure, Beauty Works and Inecto. You also need to be careful of oils and serums, as the cheap Argan Oil products are the sort I'm talking about. You have to spend a little more, but it does pay off in the end. The best example I can give is that, lathering your hair in oils, leaving it overnight and then rinsing out with shampoo and conditioner, is the best way to soften and promote growth in your hair. But, you may be looking in the wrong places for the right oils. Below is an example of a good oil for hair, and a bad oil for hair. Like I said, I threw away most 'bad' oil products and Inecto can be trusted, but it's still not what you should be using for this process.

My favourite oil to use is coconut oil, and this one you can get from most beauty supply stores but I know this brand is also stocked in supermarkets. It's £5.49 for that sized jar which would last me probably 4-6 months, and I apply it almost every time I wash my hair. When buying oil, check the ingredients, if there are more than one ingredient, which is the oil itself, it's a no-go. If you can't eat it, it's not what is going to work best for you.

Recovery step four: Buying the right products

At the point where you feel happy that changing your routine is helping, you will feel like you only want to do more to help. As little product in your hair, the better, but you do need to protect your hair from heat styling, as well as replenishing it when it's becoming dry or greasy, whichever stage you're at with your damage recovery. My three favourite products for these are below.

The first is a spray in elixir that is protecting, by Loreal EverRiche and has no sulphates. The second is Palmer's Coconut Oil Formula Strong Roots, which I love for rejuvenating hair extensions but it also refreshes hair in between washes. Finally is CHI Argan Oil that is paraben free. With hair oils that aren't 100% virgin, when they tend to be more yellow or orange in colour, they are usually better for you and more natural.

I feel like this is what helped me get to a point where I wear hair extensions because I want to, not because I have to. I'm not going to lie, my hair didn't grow back overnight nor is it down to my waist again. It reaches just above my shoulders at the moment and is definitely longer in the back than in the front. But compared to this time last year, it has come on leaps and bounds. It dries quicker because it's not as porous and I can brush it through without broken hairs being all over everything around me. Below are two recent photos without hair extensions.

Although hair does always grow back, it's not as simple as saying that. I was so attached to my hair, there's something about being platinum blonde that makes you feel prestige. Everyone wants to know who does your hair, how you trust yourself doing it at home, what you do to make it less yellow. You're so protective over it when you do it yourself, and to begin with you're doing it yourself to save money, but in the long run it's more expensive; first you've got to buy the bleach, then you've got to spend money repairing it, worst case scenario, you've spent money colouring it, and then you've got to spend money having it fixed in a salon. Luckily, I never had that happen, but it does happen to others. I knew I wouldn't have to have boring hair for the rest of my life, and I am in a place where I can bleach it, colour it and do crazy things to it, but it's been long and drawn out but I'm glad it's not broken little tufts that I can't do anything with any more!
But, at the end of the day, hair does grow back so if you want to colour it, colour it. And don't listen to everyone constantly telling you that you shouldn't do this, and you shouldn't do that. I don't see anyone that I used to when I had the most damaged hair, so luckily when people say "your hair will all fall out!" whenever I change it, I am able to say no it won't because I know what I'm doing. If you are in a state where I was with damage, you can recover and start again. Just do your research, and remember Rome wasn't built in a day. If you have black hair, and you want white hair, you need to have orange hair. I wouldn't always recommend doing your hair at home but if you feel confident, go for it, it's your hair and it's only your business.

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