Color Processed Hair Do's & Don'ts | Part I.

Color Processed Hair Do's & Don'ts | Part I.

As someone who has been dyeing her hair since 17 years old, one of the most common questions I get from people is "how do you keep em healthy and shiny despite all the bleaching and the dyeing?" The answer is to diligently treat, maintain and understand when to bleach and what to do after that. I am going to divide this short series into parts so as to not bore you down. For the first part, I'm going to give some tips, do's and don'ts on color processing that involves or requires bleach.

If you follow me on twitter or instagram, you might already be informed that I recently dyed my hair. After trying to grow out my dark brown-almost black hair for two years, I decided to have a change and dyed it to a chocolate brown color. The process required me to bleach my strands once, have my hair turned like this and then returning for another appointment the next week so my hairdresser could fix my auburn Weasley head. Overall, the process took me 7 hours — 5 hours during my first visit and 2 hours on my second time.

Most people I know are really scared when they hear the word 'bleach.' I get it. The term 'bleach' is really not favorable, especially knowing that we are using 7~9% peroxide on our hair, our scalp even! If you are someone who dreams of colorful hair or wish to have a change, don't worry because bleaching is not as horrifying as you think when it is done correctly. What you need to know is that there is always a safe way to manage your hair, even if it's something as scary as bleaching. Keep in mind that bleach is not always necessary. Just because you are willing to dye your hair doesn't mean you always have to bleach them.

Disclaimer — I am not a hair stylist, nor do I go to school for this. I'm only speaking based on my experience from having virgin Asian hair to bleached blond, ginger peach, red-purple ombre and back to chocolate brown (now) so please, if you doubt any of the words I say, you should consult your trusted hairdresser. It is also always advisable to communicate with them before having your hair colored.

I will only be talking about the general maintenance, the do's and don'ts for colored hair. I won't be guiding you through the science of it since you can google them by yourself.

How to avoid bleach

Do not dye your hair black or any color below Level 5

It's not rocket science but bright and dark colors are determined by levels. Level 1 is the darkest and will always be black (jet black, raven black or blue black) and anything above level 10 is super light, super blonde. If you no longer have virgin hair (aka the hair you are naturally born with, never been touched by semi-permanent or permanent dye), the safest way is to choose a level 5 hair color. Anything below that is going to require bleach on your next appointment. This is because colors below level 5 are considered dark and will not absorb any color above it in the future unless you strip those pigments with bleach.

For example, if you dyed your virgin hair light brown (which is usually a level 5~6) and you want to go dark, do not buy a level 1~3 box dye from the drugstore UNLESS you are a) 100% sure you don't want to dye your hair anymore in the future or b) you are ready to pay for that bleach on the next visit. Because COLOR DOES NOT LIFTS COLOR, buying a level 7 dye also does not mean it's going to lift the level 1~3 color you dyed your hair with so don't do it unless you want patchy, uneven and embarrassing results.

Refrain from choosing fashion colors

The term 'fashion colors' are usually used by hairdressers to describe those really fancy bright, dreamy pastel colors such as pinks, lilacs, greens or blues. Anything like that will more often than not requires bleach. If you are born with really dark almost black hair, you definitely require bleach. Like I said before, unless you are naturally blonde, you will require bleach to strip your natural hair color. The bleaching process may also be done twice or thrice, depending on how dark your natural or current hair color is. Blondes may also require bleach but I'm not really sure since I'm Asian and I have dark, almost black hair. The key point you need to understand is that it is easier to dye hair darker and not lighter.

See, it's pretty much a two-steps thing. Pretty easy to follow...unless you really cannot give up those dreamy pastel unicorn hair you see on Tumblr. I personally have had experience with bleach multiple times. I dyed my hair peach, blonde with pink ombre and red with purple ombre before giving up and settling down with darker shades because I'm bored of looking too fancy. But I still stand by my opinion about pastel hair colors looking so beautiful, especially lilacs and pinks. If you are thinking of going on that path, here's what you need to know.

For more information regarding different hair color levels, check this out.

Bleached / color processed hair do's & don'ts


Do choose your hairdresser wisely. I'm not joking. Find yourself an expert hairdresser or salon that you trust and let them do the bleaching. If hair stylists can trim your bangs wrongly, you bet they can also bleach your hair badly. It is also advisable to not bleach your hair by yourself or let a non-expert (e.g. your friend) do it. The reason why is because hairdressers will explain the whole process to you before they jump in and paint peroxide onto your scalp. A good hairdresser also knows how to apply bleach properly on your hair without hurting your scalp. I personally recommend a Japanese hair salon because Japanese hairdressers know how to do this kind of shit so well.

Do listen to your hairdresser. This is as important as finding a skilled stylist, colorist and/or salon. If your hairdresser says that it will take multiple appointments before you can walk out the door with the perfect blue hair you've always dreamed of, deal with it and move on. I know you probably think your stylist is fooling you into paying more but believe me, it's best to lighten your hair step by step and not in an instant especially if you're going from really dark brown or black to, say, platinum blond.

Do use hair conditioner and masks. You cannot skip this okay. Just no. No matter how much or little of your hair is bleached, you need to invest in a hair conditioner and mask. Since bleached hair and split ends are practically partners in crime, deep conditioning treatment will help keep your strands healthy, shiny and less prone to breakage or tangles. You can also use natural DIY products like coconut oil for a more budget-friendly alternative.

Do wash your hair using cold water. Or at least, not too cold. I personally cannot stand cold water all the time so my best bet is to use light cold to normal temperature water. Nothing too warm or hot especially if you bleach and dye your hair super bright colors because they will bleed. Keep in mind that out of all the basic hues (red, brown, blonde and black), red is the easier color to bleed and every time you wash it, your bathroom will turn into a crime scene.

Do use heat protectants. I am someone who cannot live without my hair dryer and flat iron despite being born with broom-stick straight hair. If you are like me, you'd understand the need to have thermal protecting products. This is definitely a necessity if you have color processed hair so don't argue against me and say no! Your hair, especially the ends, will be thankful.

Do try hair oil. Hair oil is one of my favorite hair styling products and a stable one at that. When I went through a whole lot of bleaching process 4~5 years ago, I relied heavily on this guy to save my ends. It's really helpful if you are someone who also constantly heat-style your hair.

Do invest in purple shampoo. Now this is an optional step if you have dyed or highlighted your hair blond or ashy colors. Color fades over time, around 2~3 months after you first dyed them and blond or ashy colors tend to fade into this ugly, brassy color. To avoid going back to the salon too often for touchup, try using purple shampoo once or twice a week. Read this article for better understanding.

If you have brown hair, you can also use purple shampoo or try a blue shampoo instead. I never used a blue shampoo so I wouldn't know but blue will cancel out the orange/coppery tone that brown hair usually fades into after 2~3 months.

Do use professional hair dyes. Different salons will carry different hair dye brands but all of them are definitely going to be for the pros. I personally love colors offered from Shiseido Primience and L'oreal Majirel. I have tried Wella before but I don't like that the brown fades to copper. Shiseido is usually more expensive than L'oreal but it's definitely worth the price. It is also tailored for Asian skin and hair tone. Highly, highly recommended.

Do get regular trims. I used to get my hair bleached so often, almost every six weeks or once a month and that really fried my hair, especially the ends. If you do this, do get regular trims once your ends look like a dead broom. I don't have to get regular trims now because I will not bleach my hair anymore unless I'm thinking of going from a level 6 to a level 10.


Don't scrub or scrunch hair with towel! Even when you don't have chemically processed hair, it's never recommended to scrub your hair dry. Now that you have color processed your hair, your hair needs gentle TLC and you can do that by gently patting the towel instead.

Don't buy box dyes unless you have to. Here's a thing about box dyes: they are cheap. And I don't mean that they are cheaper than professional dyes because they are. I'm saying that their quality is cheaper than professional dyes. If you really want to purchase drugstore box dyes, make sure you stick with one color unless you're fine with experimenting around and have results that are way beyond your expectation. Also, if you really want to use box dyes instead of paying an expert, make sure to buy one from a reputable brand like L'oreal and choose a cream based formula. Those that come in bubble, foam formulas suck!

Don't expect the same exact result seen on your reference. Bring in pictures when you have an appointment with your hairdresser but don't expect the same identical result as seen on other people because chances are, you won't get that. Keep in mind that each person's hair varies and what you see on your friend may not work as easily on you.

Don't bleach your hair by yourself! I just have to have to remind you again not to do this especially if it's your first time. I don't care how capable you are with box dyes, just don't do this. Which one would you rather have: a one-time expensive but worthwhile bleach at the salon or having it done twice because you have to seek a pro for a fix? Plus, you don't even know how much bleach you need in order to get that specific color.

Don't use anti-dandruff shampoo....unless you want to fade the color off your hair. While I personally never used anti-dandruff shampoo, I heard people say that it's bad for color treated hair. I, however, also heard that Head & Shoulders is one that is safe for colored hair so I guess finding one that isn't as strong is the way to go. But if you don't suffer from dandruff then please choose something for color treated hair instead.

Don't wash your hair every day. I think this is self-explanatory. Bleach and dyes can lead to drier hair and you don't need to strip more natural oils by shampooing. This is why we have dry shampoo, ladies. Use them.

Don't heat style often. Again, self-explanatory even if you don't have color treated hair. But if you must, do use thermal protecting products and only blow-dry your damp hair instead of the moment you stepped out of the shower.

via pinterest

A few questions...

"Great, now I don't know if I want that unicorn hair or not."

A few questions you should ask yourselves is: how committed are you to taking care of your hair? Are you ready to invest in products and pay attention to what your hair needs? Are you ready to go back to the salon every 2-3 months for a touchup? Are you ready to spend so much time and money for that perfect pastel hair? If you don't mind all these things then go for it.

"Do I have to bleach my hair if I only want to lighten it?"

Like I said in my disclaimer, I am not a hair stylist nor do I go to school for this. It might be best to consult a pro before jumping into your own conclusion. As far as I know, there's this thing called "high lift lightener" which can be used to lighten your natural hair color but don't quote me on that. You might want to read this to compare the two.

"Help! My hair color is too dark / light!"

Again, go back to your hairdresser and make sure you tell him / her. Don't feel like you have to like whatever color they put on your head because honey, you paid for that so you should be able to get the result you are happy with. If your hairdresser said he/she cannot give you a free fix then you should never go back to that salon because that is not fair and professional.

If your color turns out too light, ask your hairdresser to use toner. Toners are semi-permanent dyes used to darken, never lighten. Instead of adding more permanent hair dyes (which is more damaging), toners are less destructive for our hair.

"I dyed my hair at home and now I have patchy, uneven results looking orange!"

As always, seek a professional. Never try to fix a bad dye job by yourself because you're going to insert and layer colors on colors and that will not work. Trust me, I've had this experience.

"I only want a hair color that is only one or two levels lighter than my natural shade and nothing too fancy. Can I dye it at home?"

Sure why not. Just make sure you coat everything evenly or ask someone else to do it for you. I still suggest you buy a cream based hair dye and not those gimmicky bubble foam types. Also, if possible, get a professional dye instead of drugstore box dyes. Some professional brands are accessible for personal use while others may be exclusively sold in salons. Either way, there will be professional ones available for you to purchase.

"I only need to touch up my roots and don't want to spend so much to go to the salon!"

If you know what you're doing then go for it. I've seen a lot of people touch up their roots at home and without the help of professional stylist. It certainly can work. But if your roots is supposedly bright (for instance, a bright blue color), I still recommend seeking a professional.

"How expensive is all of these?"

Depends on how much hair you have and where you get it done. Bleaching is usually a fixed price, at least that's how it is at the salon I frequently go to. I don't recommend going to super cheap hair salons unless you are confirmed that they know what they're doing. Japanese or Korean hair salons usually know how to color your hair properly so I'd definitely recommend them. Personally, my recent trip to the salon cost me $15x because I bleached once and had to use about 6 tubes of hair dye. It will definitely cost you a whole lot more if you request for a difficult-to-achieve hair color.

Wow. That is a lot of do's and don'ts and this is possibly the longest post I have ever written. I'm sorry but I just feel like I have to address a lot of things. I know what it's like to fear bleach because trust me, I've had my hair so damaged I couldn't combed or even touched them without seeing a few falling strands. I also had to pay so much to get my hair fixed and it was such a lesson learned.

For part II, I'm thinking of writing a guide to choosing which color holds and lasts the longest and which one fades the fastest. I am also thinking of giving product recommendations if anyone is interested.

If you have more questions, feel free to leave them in the comments below.