How does bleach swell the upper layer of your hair to allow the developer to pass through and oxidize melanin in the inner hair cortex? It does so by raising the pH of your hair to 8 or 9.
But this pH has back-pedal to the normal. Otherwise, your hair strands may sustain damage. So, do you need a neutralizing shampoo after bleaching hair or anything else to bring the pH back to 5 or 6?
While you can use a neutralizing shampoo with a pH as low as 2 or 3 after bleaching to normalize the pH of your hair and seal the swelled cuticle, the anionic surfactant in the shampoo might damage your bleached hair strands. So, it would be better to employ an acidic conditioner or apple cider vinegar instead.
Or you can use the fruit juice as well. Its low pH will neutralize the alkalinity caused by bleaching powder (ammonia) and save your hair from further damage.
Let’s plunge into some details to find whether you should use neutralizing shampoo after bleaching your hair or if safer options are available to restore the raised pH to normal.
Should You Use Neutralizing Shampoo After Bleaching Hair?
To make the hair cuticle smooth and compact after bleaching and reduce the swelling in the cortex, you need to use a neutralizing shampoo or any other recommended acidic solution. It will spring the pH of your bleached hair back to 5 or 6 from the 10.
Your hair is protected by its outer layer, the cuticle, which locks in moisture. But when you apply bleach mixture to your hair strands, its ammonia content opens the cuticle by raising its pH to almost 10. Using a neutralizing shampoo after bleaching can swap back the pH to normal, sealing the hair cuticle.
But, as I have mentioned above, a neutralizing shampoo is not the best option to normalize hair pH after bleaching. In any shampoo, they add several surfactants, which are meant to rinse out dirt and build-up from your hair.
These surfactants are not optimally suitable for your hair, especially when your hair is bleached. They might damage hair by causing it to lose proteins that are exposed because of the loose and raised cuticle.
But you don’t need to clean your hair but neutralize its pH after bleaching.
Therefore, ignore the big claims of neutralizing shampoos printed on the front of the bottle. And look at their ingredients instead. Don’t use shampoo on your bleached hair if you find any of the anionic surfactants in it.
There are different things you can use instead of neutralizing shampoo to balance the pH of your bleached manes. I have discussed some of them in the following.
After you have neutralized the alklanity of your hair, you can use a gentle shampoo to wash your hair.
Neutralizing Shampoo Alternatives
According to John Halal, a veteran chemist, the neutralizing shampoo can be harsh for your just bleached hair because of its anionic surfactants. Therefore, it is better to look for other options. And what are those alternatives to neutralizing shampoo?
Why conditioner but not neutralizing shampoo after bleaching hair? It is because conditioners do not contain any harsh chemicals or surfactants. They intend to nourish and moisturize your hair with their natural oils and protein formula.
But can you use any conditioner to neutralize the pH of your hair after bleaching? No!
You will need the conditioner designed to be used after the hair bleach and intends to lower the pH. And where you would find this?
Avlon has made a conditioner (affirm 5 in 1 reconstructor) specifically to normalize your hair after bleaching or relaxing. It contains argan, pequi, and buriti oil, nourishing and conditioning your hair.
Additionally, it includes fruit juice that gives the conditioner an acidic pH. So, when you apply it to your bleached hair, it penetrates the swollen cuticle and restores the pH to normal.
You can wash your hair afterward with a gentle baby shampoo after using Avlon conditioner.
2. Apple Cider Vinegar
In this age of social media, almost every other of us knows about apple cider vinegar and its benefits. And when you are struggling to conclude whether should you use a neutralizing shampoo after bleaching your hair, apple cider vinegar can end your struggle.
The pure form of apple cider vinegar has a pH of around 2 or 3, making it suitable to use on your bleached hair and neutralizing the alkaline pH.
So, how do you use it on your hair after bleaching? It is simple!
- Wash your hair with cool water, and let it dry.
- Mix half a cup of apple cider vinegar with a quarter cup of water.
- Put the solution in a spray bottle and apply it all over your hair.
- Let it sit for 10-15 minutes, and then rinse it with cool or cold water.
If your hair still does not feel smooth, you can reapply the apple cider vinegar in the way mentioned above.
Typically, fruit-fresh is used to preserve the color and taste of cut fruits for almost 10 hours. Because of its acidic nature, you can use it to restore the pH of your hair after bleaching.
It would be better to condition your hair before applying the fruit-fresh solution to your bleached hair.
- Mix half tbsp of fruit-fresh in eight ounces of water.
- Put the solution into the spray bottle.
- Apply it all over your hair until it is soaked.
- Follow with rinsing it out with cold water.
- Regular tap water will also work.
What If You don’t Use Neutralizing Shampoo After Bleaching?
Rinsing bleach out from your hair just with water may not fully close the open cuticle because water does not neutralize the alkaline pH while itself being neutral. You will need something acidic with a pH of around 2 or 3 to do the job.
But if you don’t use neutralizing shampoo, conditioner, or anything else after bleaching, the pH of your hair will remain high, up to 8, for a few days. It means the hair cuticle will not be closed to its original compact shape, and your hair may suffer damage.
Typically, experts recommend not to wash your hair with daily base shampoo after bleaching for 2-3 days. I will suggest the same for a neutralizing shampoo. It would be better to use a conditioner or fruit-fresh instead to bring the alkaline pH of your hair back to normal.
While you can use neutralizing shampoo after bleaching hair to restore the compact cuticle form from the swollen, there is a risk that surfactants in the shampoo might be harsh on the hair shaft. Therefore, it is better to use a conditioner to neutralize bleach hair instead. Or, you can employ apple cider vinegar or fruit-fresh to do the job.