Going to a salon to get your hair bleached can be daunting. Knowing what to expect and what to look out for, however, can make the difference between leaving with a gross, scabby scalp or shiny, soft, white-blonde hair.
I’ve written at length about my trials and tribulations as a (fake) blonde, and I still get stopped on a regular basis by strangers with questions like “How many times did you have to bleach your hair to get it this light?” or the scariest of them all (asked by someone with crunchy, bright yellow hair), “What’s a hair mask?”
Here are my top three salon red flags that could prevent you from getting the best blonde possible (and yes, you can go this light in one sitting).
1. Your colorist doesn't go through your hair as it processes and reapply bleach
The key to bleach is how fresh it is. It stops working as well after about 20 minutes, so if someone is bleaching your hair, applies it, then leaves it without touching it for the 40 minutes or so it’s on there, you’re not getting the most out of the product.
Your color tech should be going through your hair to make sure they didn’t miss any spots (it happens) and reapplying any bleach where needed to ensure you get a nice, even lift with as little damage as possible. If they’re a touch-it-once-and-leave-it kind of colour tech, you might—um, just kidding, I mean DEFINITELY—want to go elsewhere. A great color tech will remix bleach for every section of your hair.
2. Rough application of the bleach
Your color tech should be sliding the bleach onto your hair, not pressing it in. Oh, and if you can feel the bristles of the tint brush stabbing you in the scalp every time they apply bleach (yes, it’s happened to me) you’ve made a terrible mistake, because whoever is bleaching your hair right now has no business doing so.
Keep an eye on how thick the section of hair the bleach is being applied to. If they’re applying gobs of bleach to thick portions of your hair, get out of there. The bleach should be applied to such a thin amount of hair that application of both sides isn’t necessary. This doesn’t even take more time; it all just depends on the skill of the colorist.
3. The colorist doesn't go easy on your scalp and hair
Proper bleaching is all about how it’s going to look the days and weeks AFTER your salon visit. If you have a colour tech or assistant scrubbing your hair and scalp at any point in the process, speak up or have fun with those red itchy scabs on your head.
I love Amanda because she’s a stickler for this, and she keeps a close watch on anyone touching her bleached clients’ hair. Anyone rinsing your hair should be using an open palm method. Why? Because aggravating your scalp is the absolute last thing you want to do when bleaching.
Scrubbing hair dry with a towel, are all terrible, TERRIBLE, things to do to such delicate hair. If I taught you anything, let it be this: ALWAYS scrunch/press the water out of your hair. Never scrub. Sure, it looks cute in '80s movies when the protagonist is dancing their way out of a shower, but the broken ends you’ll be living with won’t be.
Other quick tips:
- If you can get a hair mask done between your bleach and tone (it will take about 15 minutes), do so. It helps protect your scalp further and your hair will be healthier and happier for it.
- Invest in a good post-salon routine, be it a hair mask, great nourishing shampoo, serum, etc. Do a hair mask every time you wash your hair, and use my cheap towel method! Your hair will thank you.
- Try to avoid heat styling as much as possible when you have bleached hair. A good cut should let you get away with this.
- If the people working on your hair sound stressed out/worried about what just happened while your head is hanging over the sink, it probably isn’t good. I found this out the hard way when I had an assistant whisper to a colour tech I went to about how yellow my hair still looked. They toned it twice.
- Don’t let anyone convince you it “looks great” if you know in your gut it doesn’t. Sometimes the trust is broken and you don’t exactly want to stick around to have them melt off your hair in an attempt to fix it, but don’t ever pay for something you know is bad. If they’re worth their salt, they won’t let you walk out the salon door looking awful anyway (but sometimes they do, and you need to return to the best of the best in tears, like I did).
Got any tips or red flags you can add?