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Dublin: 5 °C Saturday 23 March, 2019

Skin Deep: Does bleaching your hair really destroy it?

Spoiler: Yes, it does.


Welcome to Skin Deep with Louise McSharry, my opportunity to put years of obsessing over beauty products and techniques to good use. I won’t tell you something is good if it’s not. I won’t recommend products I haven’t actually tried. As the magical sitar in Moulin Rouge said, I only speak the truth.

I bleached my hair for the first time about ten years ago. I’d wanted to do it for years, since the first time I saw Gwen Stefani’s perfect blonde pony tail in No Doubt’s video for Just a Girl. (TUNE, by the way.) My mother’s ban on hair dye meant it was only in my early twenties that I had A) the balls and B) the relationship with my hairdresser to make it happen.

You do need a good relationship with your hairdresser if you’re going to bleach your hair, because most of them will resist you when you tell them it’s what you want. You have to really convince them you fully understand the repercussions of this decision before they’ll do it. Ordinarily, I find this kind of carry on irritating. It’s my hair, let me do what I want. But when it comes to bleach, they’re right. In fact, when my sister recently sent me a photo of light blue ‘mermaid hair’ and asked me if I thought she should do that to her dark auburn hair I found myself rolling my eyes and shaking my head. That’s right, years of bleached, white blonde hair has turned me into a jaded old hairdresser. Today, I thought I would impart what wisdom I have gained from my icy white experience to you.

PastedImage-25986 Me in 2009, PEAK BLEACH. You'll notice I don't have that much hair, probably because the rest of it was destroyed.

I’m going to tell it to you straight.  Bleaching your hair is probably the worst thing you can possibly do to it. Is your hair shiny? Expect that to go. Can you let it air dry to a lovely wave? You probably won’t be able to do that anymore.  Have you always had long hair? You probably won’t be able to maintain that, due to nasty breakage.  Going white blonde is basically saying goodbye to healthy hair and the texture you’ve known all your life.

It’s also really hard to maintain. To keep a perfect white colour, you’ll need to go to the hairdresser about every six weeks, and you’ll spend several hours there each time. If you’re lucky it’ll be three, but it’s more likely to be four or five. I once spent eight and a half hours in a salon. It’s not exactly a fun salon visit, either, because the damage the bleach does to your hair it also does to your scalp. Expect blistering, which leads to itching, which leads to scabs. GLAM!


If you want to salvage what condition you can, you need to regularly deep condition via hair masks or salon treatments. You’ll need to use purple shampoo (I like Joico’s Colour endure Violet), otherwise it will turn a brassy yellow. White blonde hair needs to be styled every time you wash it if you want it to look in any way decent, so you need to allow for drying/straightening/curling every time you get ready.

ALRIGHT, ALRIGHT, I hear you crying. You get it. It’s hard work and turns your hair to shit. Why the hell would you do it then?

Well, it looks absolutely incredible. It suits almost everyone. It takes the most basic of bitches, and gives her a rock and roll edge. You need only apply some black eyeliner and a red lip to become the cool girl you always dreamed of being. Not only that, it’s the base for all the amazing pastel ‘unicorn’ and ‘mermaid’ hairstyles which are all over instagram at the moment. If you have white hair you can also have pink hair and purple hair and blue hair and rainbow hair (although it is worth mentioning that these colours only ever last a very short time, and are their own high-maintenance nightmare). It is loads of fun. For that reason, it is also terribly, terribly addictive.

When I lost all my hair during chemotherapy, I looked at it as an opportunity to start again and rectify years of damage from my dear old bleach. I’ve spent the last two years growing my hair, but every time I go to the salon I get a little more blonde, and I know it’s only a matter of time before I go the whole hog again. It’s a terrible idea. I don’t have the time to style it. I can’t really afford it. My husband will kill me if I hand him the baby and spend five hours in the hairdresser every couple of months. And yet, here we are. God damn you bleach, I just can’t quit you.

New Product


Budget conscious beauty addicts will be delighted to learn that E.l.f. cosmetics (pronounced Elf, despite the full stops) is coming to Superdrug stores and some pharmacies acrossIreland. Up to this point we’ve only been able to shop for their products online, but now we’ll be able to try before we buy to a certain extent. Check out their brushes and super on-trend releases (a little birdie told me they can get a product from concept to shelf in twenty weeks!).

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