Be Careful When You Color: It Could Happen to You

I recently complimented my girlfriend Amelia*, a natural ginger, on her new super short 'do on Facebook. She wrote to me personally and said she didn't cut it, but rather after bleaching it, it started to break off. This lead me to start wondering how that could happen, which sent me down a scary rabbit hole in the land of YouTube (turns out this happens to people constantly! I honestly didn't know. Talk about scary!).

Somehow I had missed the thirteen-year-old who was recently on Ellen for a hair tutorial gone wrong. She was trying to show her audience how to curl their hair using a clipless iron, and instead burnt her hair OFF. She even used a heat protectant spray (allegedly), although I'm sure the company doesn't want the press. If you haven't seen it, watch it here:

While searching for what could have made my friend's hair fall out, I found this video of a young woman showing how combing while bleaching was making her hair fall out and turn into a gum-like substance. (Yet she kept doing it, so I'm guessing she really wasn't that concerned.)

How can you prevent damage like this?

1. Don't bleach your own hair. Bleach is a serious chemical. It can blind you, remember? Let a pro who knows what they are doing work with the chemicals. If you have lightened your hair in the past, lightening your hair again could be very risky business. Only let a pro do this and make sure you tell them EXACTLY what you used in the past. Remember - lightening hair that has been previously lightened is always a calculated risk.

2. Don't color your hair more than every four to six weeks and only color the new growth. If you need to freshen the ends, run color through the ends for the last 10 minutes of your processing (or whatever the directions say) every other time at the most. Coloring your entire head every time will result in serious damage (unless your hair is less than a few inches long, trust me on this one).

3. Deep condition your hair weekly. Taking good care of your hair is really important. I really like the new Vidal Sassoon Pro Series Restoring Repair 1 Minute Mask, L'OREAL Total Repair Hair 5 Damage Erasing Balm and Leonor Greyl's Masque Fleurs De JasminFor reader favorites, check out this list compiled by other readers like you!

4. Avoid brushing and sleeping on wet hair. If you do need to comb out wet hair, apply a detangler or oil first and then use a wide tooth comb or Wet Brush. Have you ever heard that snapping sound when brushing your wet hair with something like a vent brush? That is the sound of your hair breaking off! Be gentle with wet hair!

5. Leave major color changes to the pros. I know, it's more expensive, but unless you know how to work with chemicals, going from black to blonde is very, very difficult. In fact, it should probably only be done over a period of a few weeks. If highlights are what you crave, it's a good idea to seek a pro's help. If you can't afford it, give someone at a beauty school a shot. The teachers there will make sure you leave happy. If it comes down to risking your hair breaking off or going without, think long and hard before you jump into a color your hair can't handle!

Wondering what happened to my friend Amelia's hair? According to my research and queries to professionals It turns out that she had her hair colored previously and wanted to go lighter. Had the pro been paying closer attention to her hair, she might have realized that it was already in a fragile state and couldn't handle the lightening process. Thankfully, she looks great with a pixie!

The moral of the story is that hair color often looks easier to achieve in the television commercials than it is to do in real life. If you are going lighter, seek out a pro!

Have you ever had a hair tragedy?  How can we learn from your mistakes? Share in the comments!

*Name changed. She's still too traumatized to share her name or photos.

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  1. In my youth I used to bleach my hair A LOT and it reached the gum state. I ended up deep conditioning it all the time and using vegetable based dyes in the processes of growing the damage out. I wish the internet had been around then because I could've saved my hair all kinds of grief.

  2. I had a hair coloring disaster about 18 months ago. In the process of having it fixed at the salon, my hair started to gum up at the ends. The professional said this was a sign of it about to break off. It was awful! She should have known better as she was coloring and bleaching my already over processed fragile hair. She had to cut off a few inches and my hair is still recovering from all the damage.

  3. I never knew my mother to go without a wig, even after they went out of style. I'd always thought the family legends about her brunette hair being destroyed by processing (something like three times in as many weeks, trying for platinum and changing her mind, back in the early 70s) were exaggerations. She never got over it and wore terrible bouffants till the end of her days, poor thing.


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