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Should I Wash My Hair Before Bleaching It? How To Prepare Your Hair For Bleaching

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I was born a natural redhead, hair as bright and shiny as a copper penny. But over the years, my hair has gotten significantly darker. In my quest to return to my baby hues, I have had to experiment with bleach on several occasions. Now, my daughters, both of whom have very dark brown hair, have wanted to play with hair color, which, as anyone who knows anything about hair color knows, will require bleach. As a result, I have found myself a sort of experiential expert on all things hair bleach, including how to properly prep and care for bleached hair. One of my biggest questions has been whether or not to wash hair before bleaching it. Here’s what I’ve found:

Table of Contents: 

  • What Effect Does Bleach Have on Hair?
  • To Wash or Not to Wash Hair Before Bleach
  • How to Care for Your Hair Before and After Bleach
  • Products that Care for Bleached Hair

What Effect Does Bleach Have on Hair?

For many years as a child, I was terrified to bleach my hair. Why? You know moms. Scary stories abound about that one girl who bleached her hair only to have it all fall out or the one about the girl whose bleached hair turned green after she swam in a chlorinated pool. It was all stories of destruction. The truth is, yes, bleach does essentially remove all pigment from your hair, stripping it of its melanin, which gives hair its darkness and/or redness.  

However, removing pigment does not necessarily spell destruction, and thank goodness for that. Studies show 50% of women over the age of 25 dye their hair, with blonde being the most popular color. That's a lot of bleach. Fortunately, the consensus among celebrity hairstylists is that, with today's technology and proper preparation and aftercare, you can have beautiful, healthy bleached hair.

To Wash or Not to Wash Hair Before Bleach

DO NOT WASH YOUR HAIR BEFORE BLEACHING IT. There, that was easy, right? A simple “no.” And here’s why: remember those horror stories from above? Right, those girls with falling-out hair and green hair had severely damaged hair. You see, your hair and scalp produce natural oils that protect your skin and follicles from everyday damage like chlorine, the sun, and washing with chemical-laden, harsh shampoos and conditioners. Add bleach to all that natural damage, and suddenly you’re unwittingly bald. No one wants that.  

You want to refrain from washing your hair for several days before bleaching so that your scalp and hair have time to build up those natural, protective oils before you strip your hair of its pigment. Your colorist may wet your hair before bleaching it, but that is often a natural part of the process that allows the colorist to control the amount of bleach and the lightening process. No professional will ever wash your hair before bleaching.

How to Care for Your Hair Before and After Bleach

So, you know not to wash it, but what should you do to care for your hair before and after leaping into lighter hair? 

Blonde hair girl – general image

1. Oil! 

    Yes, your skin and hair provide natural oils, but it cannot hurt, and it can only help to add an extra layer of protective oil to your hair and scalp before adding the harshest of harsh hair chemicals. 

    2. Patch 

      If you have never bleached your hair before, try a patch test. You can get the kits online, and it will allow you to experiment with how your hair will be affected by the bleaching process before you invest what will likely be hundreds of dollars into your transformation.  

      3. Restore. Restore. Restore.  

        Enough cannot be said about the value of oil, and fortunately, a plethora of oils exist for your hair and skin needs. Once you have bleached your hair, you will need to help it rebuild the oils essential to protecting it. You can do that with a restorative shampoo and conditioner and/or with oil made to target restoration.  

        4. Get Professional Help 

          I'm a huge fan of DIY for many things; bleaching is not one of them. Ask anyone (including those girls with green hair), and they will tell you to see a colorist and a good one at that. Yes, it will probably be pricey, but save your money in other DIY areas and save up for a colorist. Your hair will thank you. 

          5. Limit Sun Exposure 

            I know. You want to enjoy your lightened locks during the summer, and I want that for you, too. But try to limit the time your hair is under the heat of the blazing summer sun. We all know of the damaging effects of long-term sun exposure, and with bleached hair, this damage is magnified. Invest in cute summer hats to be safe.

            WOW Is Here to Help

            You have researched, planned, and patched, and you’re ready to dye your hair. Now you need to make sure you have the products on your shelf and in your shower to support the health and endurance of your new look.

            Moroccan Argan Oil Shampoo and Conditioner

            Moroccan Argan Oil Shampoo and Conditioner

            Designed specifically to prevent damage and to restore any damage done, this shampoo and conditioner combo pack employ what healthy and beauty scientists call “liquid gold.” Moroccan argan oil is replenishing and moisturizing, the perfect treatment for bleached hair.

            Castor Oil for Hair

            Castor Oil for Hair

            Rich in Vitamin E and essential fatty acids, castor oil will alleviate any dryness and/or itchiness caused by the bleaching process. A must-have for anyone who loves to lighten.  

            Onion Black Seed Hair Oil

            Onion Black Seed Hair Oil

            I cannot say enough about onion and its myriad healing properties. The onion black seed hair oil targets damage and helps restore your hair to its natural shine and sheen.  

            These products are but a small sampling of ways you can support your hair’s restoration after deciding to bleach. Click the links above and browse the website to determine what might work best for you.

            Shanna Mendez

            Shanna Mathews Mendez is a freelance writer and blogger on topics related to self-care, naturopathy, female empowerment, and motherhood. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and children, where she enjoys traveling, being active outdoors, and studying herbalism and plant-based remedies in her free time. Drawing on her graduate degree in comparative literature and her own life experiences, she is currently writing her first book. She can be found online at her website

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