From The Straits Times    |

Photo: Irene Kim/Facebook

If you’ve been inspired by Soo Joo Park, Irene Kim and the Mother of Dragons and are seriously considering bleaching your Asian hair, you’ve come to the right place.

Bleaching Asian hair is a big step, and it’s best to know what you’re getting into before the dye sets. Here are a few pointers. 


Virgin hair bleaches better

Images: TPG/Click Photos

Your colourist doesn’t care whether you’ve had sex or not. All they care about is if you’ve coloured or bleached your hair before.

Uncoloured or unbleached or virgin hair lightens and bleaches better than hair that has been coloured before. If you have coloured lengths and virgin hair at the roots, you might get uneven results with your bleach.


But it takes time

Asian hair is often thicker, coarser and, thanks to the rich natural pigment i.e., black, it takes longer to bleach. It takes a double process: your hair is bleached from mid-lengths to ends first, rinsed out and the process is repeated—only this time the roots are bleached as well.

Depending on the length and the thickness of your hair, this could take anywhere from one to several hours, so be prepared. We suggest binge-watching your favourite K-dramas or catching up on Story of Yanxi Palace or new episodes of Dynasty while you wait.


And it can be painful

Depending on your pain threshold and whether or not you washed your hair right before you bleach it, the sensation can be anywhere from uncomfortable to my-head-is-on fire. Shampooing even the day before you go in for your bleach makes the scalp sensitive, so it’s best to lay off washing your hair for a few days before your appointment. The natural oils help protect your scalp.

And don’t even think of taking a painkiller before you go in. “You need to be able to sense how much pain you’re in and tell your stylist when it gets too much to bear,” says Joie Goh, former beauty editor and Barre instructor who bleached her hair a few years ago. “I made the mistake of popping painkillers before a root touch-up, and because I couldn’t feel the pain of the bleach, it was left on for too long and I got a chemical burn on my head!”


Your hair will change

Yes, of course the colour will change, but your hair will also be more porous, holding on to water like a sponge.

When wet it’s likely to feel elastic and saggy and when it’s dry it could feel and look dry and straw like. You will also experience more hair breakage as well as more split ends after you have bleached your hair.


Your hair care routine will change too

“Don’t wash your hair for the next few days after bleaching,” Joie advises. “Your scalp will feel intensely itchy, and big flakes of dandruff will peel off your scalp. That’s totally normal.” She recommends applying coconut oil to your scalp and lengths and really soaking your head with the oil before your first shampoo.

Massage your scalp to loosen all the flakes, then shampoo, condition and mask. Thereafter, bleached hair needs to be washed less often—think two times a week—and preferably with cold water. And it’s best to use an intensive repairing mask each time you wash it.


You will need to change your hair care products

Forget about using just any shampoo and conditioner for your bleached hair. You will need a special purple shampoo to keep the yellow tones away. You will also need a good leave-in product to keep your hair smooth and fight frizz.

And you will need a lot of it given how porous hair gets after it is bleached. If you have long hair, you will have to switch from cheap elastic bands to soft scrunchies that won’t break the strands. And you will have to be very gentle and careful when brushing your hair.


Bleached hair requires commitment

Think about all the time and energy you put into looking after your hair now, and triple that. Because your hair is so delicate, you will need a microfiber towel to soak up excess moisture.

And you will have to blow-dry it after each wash because bleaches hair takes hours to dry. You will also have to switch to a satin pillowcase, which doesn’t cause friction and breakage while you sleep.


It comes at a price

One more thing to consider is the cost involved. The process itself is expensive and you will spend quite a bit more on the special shampoos, conditioner and masks.

There are also additional costs of root touch-ups and the accessories like microfiber towels, etc. So think it through before heading to a salon!

This story was first published on CLEO.