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Best hair products for bleached hair, from Olaplex to Ouai oil

To say my hair was dead after bleaching it is an understatement. Luckily, Olaplex saved my hair.
Portrait of cheerful woman on beach with bleach blond hair and three different Olaplex products. Hair restoration, healing and hydration is key for bleached hair. Olaplex, Ouai, Verb Purple and Moroccanoil products can help heal hair after bleaching.
From Olaplex to Ouai, here’s what one Shopping writer uses to keep her bleached hair healthy.Cavan Images / Getty Images ; Sephora

I’m a pretty low-maintenance person, but I took it to new extremes during quarantine. I stopped wearing makeup and wore T-shirts and hoodies during my Zoom meetings. My nails went unpainted, and I let my jet black roots grow out.

When I finally did make it to the salon, I decided it was time for a change. I'd been dyeing my hair black for the past five years, and never thought I would change up my color. But after almost nine months of exclusively staying inside (and not stepping foot inside a hair salon), I was ready to change up my look drastically. I decided to go platinum blonde.

After two appointments, three bleach cycles and 16 hours, I was blonde. For those not familiar, bleaching your head three times is extremely detrimental to your hair. Hair bleach uses harsh chemicals, including hydrogen peroxide, to strip your hair of its natural color. It’s even more difficult when you already have dyed hair, like I did. I didn’t understand how damaged my hair was until weeks later — it began feeling like straw, developed split ends and would stick straight up, a sign it was completely dead. It would take hours to dry after showering.

I’ve been blonde for about five months now, and I’m happy to report it’s much, much healthier now. And during my transformation from someone who used whatever the cheapest shampoo and conditioner was to a self-proclaimed high-maintenance blonde, I learned a thing or two about which products actually help.

The complete Olaplex system

I’ll admit, I’m an Olaplex cult follower. The hyped brand, beloved by many celebrities, is a mainstay at many salons. If you’ve had your hair dyed recently, you’ve likely seen an “Olaplex treatment” on the menu. Olaplex is created to restore and repair lifeless, dead hair (like mine) by gluing together the broken bonds in hair that bleach typically causes. But you don’t need to go to a salon to get an Olaplex treatment — you can do it right at home.

Olaplex Hair Perfector No. 3

This is the holy grail of hair salvation — it’s a hair mask that you put into dry or damp hair and leave on for an extended period of time to repair and restore dead strands. I often put this hair mask in and leave it on overnight. You can use this mask as often as you want without risk of damaging your hair, though I’ll typically put it on only once or twice a week. I began to notice a difference in my hair after about a week of using it.

Olaplex No. 4 & No. 5 Bond Maintenance Shampoo & Conditioner

This shampoo and conditioner combo is a perfect complement to the No. 3 Hair Perfector. I began using them about a month ago and found that when used together with other Olaplex products, they really revive your hair and keep it healthy. My hair feels and looks more smooth and shiny, and no longer sticks up. I wash my hair every other day and use cold water to rinse the products out, which my hairstylist told me helps prevent the dye from leaking out of your hair.

Olaplex also makes other products, including a bond smoother, which you apply after washing your hair to keep it shiny all day, and a hair oil to help smooth down hair and reduce frizziness. They also have a new bond-building treatment to “prime” hair for repair, which I haven’t tried but am definitely considering incorporating into my routine.

Other products to consider

Verb Purple Hair Mask

While some blondes use purple shampoo and conditioner to maintain their color, I find it dries out my hair. Instead, I’ll use a purple hair mask once a week to reduce brassiness (the yellowish tones in my hair) and keep my white-blonde color bright. This purple hair mask is affordable and lasts me months, and doesn’t dry out my hair like other purple masks do.

While this mask works on my thin hair, it can be used in any type of hair. Hair experts previously told us that purple shampoo and conditioner work to tone bleached hair and protect against the elements, including water, sunshine, sweat and smoke.

Moroccanoil Restorative Hair Mask

If your hair is super dry or straw-like (like mine was), I recommend this hydrating hair mask. It made my hair less fried and frizzy after one use, and smells absolutely amazing. Its ingredients include argan oil and shea butter, two ingredients my hairstylist says helps strengthen hair. I use it once a week and leave it in for about 10 minutes before showering.

Ouai Hair Oil

I bought this hair oil right after I first went blonde and it’s not even halfway used — despite me using it every day. I use it on my air-dried hair to reduce frizziness and “flatten” out my hair. I try not to use heat on my hair, as it can damage already-damaged hair even more. This hair oil helps me achieve that smooth, just-straightened look without heat from a straightener or blow dryer.

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