It's clichéd but true: the weather gets warmer, and the bleach beckons. Going lighter for summer is suddenly on everyone's mind, including my own, but the unfortunate truth is that a brighter hue comes with a downside: damage. While a degree of harm to your hair is unavoidable, there are some amazing products out there to revive dry, lifeless strands. From the daily basics to the optional extras (collagen supplements, anyone?), I've done the hard work for you and compiled a list of the tried-and-tested products that have saved my dry, bleached hair.

IMAGE: INSTAGRAM @ROMEESTRIJD

THE BASICS

Let’s start with the basics: shampoo and conditioner. My quest for the perfect, lived-in balayage means I’m dealing with two different hair textures: my natural roots are softer, while the bleach-treated lengths are dry, rough and rebellious. Through trial and error I’ve found the solution is using products with nourishing ingredients that are smoothing but lightweight. This way, my roots aren’t weighed down, and my fragile lengths get the love they need.

I’ve been truly impressed by the Fortifying Shampoo and Conditioner from Goldwell’s Dualsenses BondPro+ range. These clever products utilise peptides and amino acids to penetrate the hair and target damaged areas, while red and brown algae extracts form ionic and hydrogen bonds, locking the peptides in place. It all sounds a bit science-y, but the takeaway is stronger hair with less breakage. Regularly using this shampoo and conditioner has left my hair with a glossy sheen it hasn’t had since high school (before the word ‘balayage’ had ever entered my vocabulary).

Another firm favourite is the Virtue Recovery Shampoo and Conditioner, which utilise the brand’s signature ingredient, Alpha Keratin 60ku, designed to mirror the natural proteins in human hair for extra strength. The gorgeous scent (a unique combination of wood, citrus, coconut and yuzu) needs to be bottled on its own, because it’s absolutely beautiful. This delightful duo not only adds a dash of colour to my bathroom, but effectively smoothes my many split ends without leaving my hair flat.

THE BODY BUILDERS

When dealing with damage, I add in an a stronger protein treatment to restore strength and elasticity. Original & Mineral’s The Power Base masque uses rice protein to strengthen fragile strands, allowing them to grow longer and stronger, while hair feels thicker. The entire O&M product range have scents reminiscent of delicious desserts, and this potent treatment is no exception – using it makes my shower smell like a banana cream pie.

Damaged hair can be finicky and overloading on protein can actually leave hair feeling extra parched! Alternating a protein-based treatment with a more hydrating mask has given me great results. An especially luxurious option that balances both hydration and repair is Virtue’s Restorative Treatment Mask, and it’s worth every penny. Alpha Keratin 60ku and brown algae strengthen strands, while baobab seed oil and shea butter condition. The rich, balmy texture leaves my hair feeling silky and soft, but not heavy.

An absolute essential to bring hair back from the brink of disaster is the buzzy K18 Leave-In Molecular Repair Hair Mask. While other bond-repairing treatments work on the hair’s surface, K18’s game-changing patented bioactive peptide literally reverses damage by repairing the inner structure of the hair. An added bonus is the time-saving method of application: simply shampoo and towel-dry hair, apply the mask and leave it to work it’s magic for precisely 4 minutes (no touching!) before styling as usual – no rinsing required, and no standing around in the shower. I swap out my usual treatments for this miracle-worker when my hair has been freshly bleached – a few consecutive uses has my hair feeling decidedly less ravaged.

THE GENTLE STYLERS

Air-drying whenever possible is key to avoiding further damage, in my humble opinion. Finding the right products is imperative, otherwise the end result can be more tangled than tousled, and I absolutely swear by R+Co’s Cool Wind pH Perfect Air-Dry Cream. Applied generously to towel-dried hair, this hydrating, smoothing cream ensures I wake up to effortlessly frizz-free waves. It uses a unique cold-sealing polymer to seal and give shine without requiring heat activation, so you can give your hair a much-needed break.

I will admit, however, that my long, dense mane can take hours to dry when left to its own devices. Sometimes life calls for heat styling; when I’m in a hurry or want an extra-sleek finish, I break out my ghd Helios Rose Pink hair dryer (feel-good bonus: $20 from every sale of brand’s Rose Pink collection goes to the National Breast Cancer Foundation). This lightweight hairdryer uses a combination of four advanced internal elements to deliver a highly concentrated airflow for drastically faster styling, which means less time under heat and ultimately less damage. And always, always use an extra-gentle hairbrush when styling: I swear by the WetBrush Epic Professional Quick Dry brush. Its vented design allows for faster airflow, speeding up drying time, while the gentle HeatFlex bristles don’t tug or snap my fragile strands.

THE EXTRA HELP

When hair is truly damaged, there’s only so much you can do to bring it back. Growing out damaged lengths takes time, and it’s a frustrating process I know all too well. After a self-induced bleach disaster a few years back, I began taking a daily collagen supplement in a desperate bid to grow out the mess I had made (collagen contains non-essential amino acids which help build keratin, the main component of hair). The results weren’t instant, of course, but I truly believe my dedication rewarded me with faster growth and healthier, more resilient hair.

My current favourite is Rochway’s Gut Restore Collagen Complex, containing 500 mg of collagen per serve alongside herbal extracts, postbiotics and probiotics to support digestion, collagen health and skin elasticity. It dissolves easily in liquids and has a bright yellow hue courtesy of anti-inflammatory turmeric, which also lends a slight spicy component to the otherwise sweet taste.

Another option to make the growth process less laborious is AÉDE’s Hair Activist. Designed specifically to encourage hair growth, this supplement combines marine collagen with hair-loving vitamins and minerals, including riboflavin, biotin, silicon, and zinc, to reduce shedding and support your body’s collagen production for healthier hair.

Story by Karina Wharton. Holding shot via Instagram: @romeestrijd

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