On top of oil pulling regularly and the occasional yeast infection treatment, I've just found an amazing new use for my big old tub o' coconut oil: the coconut oil bleaching method.
To be honest, I had never even heard of such coconut oil hair magic until a commenter tipped me off on my magical rainbow pastel hair post. I did some further research, curious about this mysterious method that left bleached hair healthy-looking and soft. My hair has been cursed with a slight crunch for years as a result of constant bleaching, and I am always eager to try anything to get a slightly softer texture back.
So here's the low-down: it's affordable, easy, and it really works. All you do is slather your whole head with melted coconut oil, cover it, and sleep like you usually do at night (or not sleep because your cat is obsessed with licking the coconut oil and it's creepy and hilarious), and then bleach your hair as usual with the oil still slicked on the next morning.
The idea is the night of oil-soaking replicates the buildup of natural oils in your hair and protects both your scalp and the hair itself from the chemical death goop that is bleach. This is good news for someone like me, who has been bleaching my hair every few months for at least four years consistently. (It has also been mentioned on the internet that the oil helps the bleach process faster, but personally I didn't notice any difference in that regard.)
What I did notice was my hair felt all angel-soft and lovely, and still does three days later! The bleach also didn't burn or itch, not even when I applied heat, and that is reason enough for me to do this forever and always from this day forward till the day my hair and I die.
Want to try it too? Here's a step by step.
BUT FIRST: Remember, bleaching your hair is scary and could result in hair damage or unforeseen results or orange madness, even if you’re just doing your roots. Everyone’s hair reacts differently, so be careful, follow my directions and the directions on the back of your chosen hair products, and don’t panic! You can do this (probably).
STEP 1: Gather Your Supplies
Create a little base camp with everything you'll need. Bleaching can get messy and intense, so it helps to be organized from the start. You'll need:
- Virgin coconut oil
- A comb
- 30 volume activator
- A packet (or two) of bleach
- A cap or clear plastic bag
- 20 volume activator
- A toner of your choice (I went with the xoVain fave, Wella's Colour Charm T18 whitest ash blonde)
You'll also need a non-metallic mixing bowl, an application brush, and an ugly old towel (not pictured).
STEP 2: Coat Your Hair In Coconut Oil
Melt the coconut oil by placing the sealed jar into a bowl of hot water, or spoon a bunch of the solid oil into a saucepan and melt it that way if you need it liquified faster.
Pour the oil onto your head and rub it all through. I covered my hands with oil repeatedly and ran my fingers through my hair, then poured lots onto my roots and combed it to the ends. There was oil all over me, but it felt like a nice tropical super moisture treatment, so I was OK with it.
Cover your oil-soaked head with a plastic cap or clear plastic bag and float away to dreamland (you may want to put a towel on your pillow first though). If you only have time to oil-soak for a few hours, that’s OK too, but the longer the oil sits on your hair, the more protected it will be, so aim for three hours minimum.
STEP 3: Add More Oil And Then Add The Deadly Chemicals
I woke up to a fresh new day with a VERY oily head of hair, so the only natural next step was to add more oil.
But seriously, really slick the stuff on, especially in places where the bleach will be applied (I did a heavy second application to my roots).
Then mix your bleach (usually 2:1 toner to bleach, but follow the directions/measurements on the package), apply your bleach carefully (try your absolute best not to overlap too much onto your already bleached hair; just get to the very edge), part your hair thinly, apply again, and continue until all your roots are covered in bleach. I start in the middle, do front to one side, then the other side, and then repeat the same pattern at the back with the help of my partner.
A few tips: Buy two bleach packs and enough developer for two packs in case you run out. My hair soaks up more bleach than most (many hair professionals have told me this), so I always need an emergency pack. The ratio for my products was a half bottle of activator for one bleach package, so I needed two packages and one activator bottle.
If you don’t have someone to lend a helping hand and paint-burning chemicals on the back of your head, or if you and you’re a helping hand friend are new to this experience, DIVIDE AND CONQUER. Split your hair into a front chunk, apply bleach, process, and rinse, and then do the back separately. Because bleaching is so timely and the chemicals can absolutely never be on your head more than an hour, it’s easier to apply and process in two parts. Just make sure you apply more coconut oil to the second half in case some accidentally gets washed out before you paint on the bleach.
If you do attempt to apply all the bleach in one go, try to get all of your roots done within 30 minutes, then cover your hair with a clear bag or cap and apply heat to the more recently applied bleach so it processes in time.
STEP 4: Wash Out The Bleach
After you have reached your maximum processing time of one hour, you have to wash out the bleach with shampoo. You will probably have to shampoo twice, because at this step in the game you also have to get all of that oil out of your hair. So scrub scrub scrub!
Your hair will probably feel a little crispy (though for me it was much less crispy than usual), but DO NOT use conditioner. Pretty please.
STEP 5: Prep Your Toner
This is the fun part, where you get to watch your hair magically meld into one awesome new colour. You can use any kind of toner you’d like, but I usually go for something really white so my pink dye layers on top nicely. You have to wait till your hair is mostly dry, so towel it off and wait a bit, then head back to your mixing bowl and put together your toner of choice and activator.
STEP 6: Apply Toner
Start with the roots only first, painting the toner on using the same dab-and-part method as the bleach. Again, you’ll need a helping hand to get at the back (or a mirror and a lot of flexibility), but this colour is less time-sensitive so you can work a little more slowly.
I waited about 15 minutes with the toner on my roots, then painted the rest of the toner from roots to ends all over my hair. Because my pink hair had bleach under it, it didn’t need as much time as the roots did to process.
Once the colour is covering all of your hair, wait until it turns dark purple. Try smushing some dye off of a chunk to get an idea of what the colour looks like, and hop in the shower to rinse when the colour looks even and matches the shade you’d hoped for.
I waited about 10 minutes with the colour all over my head, partially because it took awhile to lift all of the pink out, then rinsed and conditioned (condition HEAVILY now) to cap the whole adventure off.
STEP 7: Style and Smile
My hair turned out a perfect even white-gray tone (so pretty I am leaving it for a few days before returning to my natural pink-haired state), and oh my, WHAT--was it ever SOFT! My scalp wasn’t red at all, and I just couldn’t stop touching the softy sweet smoothness like “if this real life?”
Even if you don’t dye your hair at home, I highly recommend using the coconut oil method to prepare your hair the night before you go to the salon for bleach touchups, or at least try to do a few coconut oil soaks a month between dye jobs to keep your blonde hair healthy and not-fried.
Coconut oil, you’re an angel if there ever was one.