Hair Bleach 101

It looks so easy when we chat casually and ask about your life and the details of your hair goals. But what’s going on inside that little bowl of creamy white mixture?

What happens when we put it either in foils or balayage it onto your hair?

And why do hair stylists have to maintain such extensive knowledge of the products we work with?

At times you may have been nervous to get a highlight due to the tragic hair story your best friend told you.

There was this wild orange color instead of blonde and some of her processed hair broke off. What went wrong?

The amount of energy and precision necessary to accurately complete each of the steps along the way are incredibly science-heavy.

I want to give you an inside look at the complexity of the “science” we use to do what we do. Are you ready?

For starters, let’s look at the components of hair and the components of bleach.

What Protein Makes Up Hair?

Hair is made from a protein called Keratin. Keratin also makes up your nails. It is a very strong protein that helps with protecting damage to the hair shaft.

This is important because of the two bonds that make up keratin ,(disulphide bonds and hydrogen bonds).

When disulphide bonds are broken down it begins the process of changing the shape of your hair.

Hydrogen bonds are broken down when your hair is wet or in a humid environment. When this reaction happens it allows you to adjust the flexibility of your hair. For us hair stylists that means style it.

The Hair Shaft

We can describe this piece of your hair as a “pool noodle”- except not hollow. Each “pool noodle” strand is made of 2-3 layers.

A diagram of a hair folical.

The cuticle, the cortex, and the medulla.

Depending on your hair thickness will determine if it has a medulla.

The cuticle is the outermost layer. It almost looks like overlapping roof shingles. It protects the inner part called the cortex.

The cortex is where the color cells live which creates browns, reds, and blondes.

Hair Cells That Create Color

The cells that create the color in our hair are called melanocytes.

They make proteins called Eumelanin and Pheomelanin. Eumelanin creates black and brown pigments (colors).

Pheomelanin produces reddish pigments.

When there isn’t much eumelanin, that’s when you have natural blonde-looking colors. Keratin appears this shade all by itself.

Hair Bleach And What You Need To Know 

What Does Hair Bleach Do?

There are lots of different bleaches, but the bleach we are focusing on is hair bleach.

Highlighting the hair of a woman blonde

What it does when it enters the cortex is (in the least polite way possible) it asks for the melanin molecules to give up their electrons.

Afterward, the melanin is still there, but it no longer has its darker color.

What Is Developer?

The bleach is mixed in a bowl with a developer.

The developer is just something that helps open the hair cuticle so that the bleach can get inside and change the pigments.

This is when a tiny Justin Timberlake shows up and sings at the top of his teeny lungs “Baby bye bye bye bye ….BYE!” Because he knows exactly what’s going to happen to the color in your hair. It’s going to change and lighten.

Just kidding, that doesn’t happen.

Washing hair bleach out of a womans hair at the hair salon

At least you will now have a picture of an iconic singer singing to your hair the next time you get a highlighting service.

If this is the only thing you remember from this piece, then I’ve done my job.

Why Is Hair Science Important?

The reason we stylists must be science -heavy is due to the chemical reactions taking place between your hair and the products we use.

We must know exactly how it works so that you can have the best experience possible.

It is imperative that each hair stylist takes care of the health of your hair.

Since bleaching your strands is almost like having them undergo mini surgery.

Woman has blonde hair foils to highlight her hair.

Don’t let this alarm you as there are many wonderful ways to maintain the health of your hair.

Now, remember your friend with the tragic hair story? There were steps along the way that could have helped her experience to shift for the better.

Just know when you find the right stylist, you can trust them. It’s through education, passion, and a drive to evolve that we keep you in safe hands.

The next time you are in a stylist’s chair make sure it is someone who genuinely cares about you, your hair, and knows the science of it all.

What was your biggest takeaway from this blog? Let me know in the comments below!

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