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Damaged Hair
Credit: Joern Pollex/Getty Images for IMG

Up until almost exactly one year ago, almost every hairstylist I met told me I had super-healthy hair. It was a wonderful compliment, and it always made me feel really great about myself, but it mirrored my routine. I rarely used heat tools, and besides a few sessions of subtle balayage, my hair had never been color treated. Then, I went blonde.

Things changed, and they changed fast. My once smooth, well-hydrated hair was noticeably dry, with a ton of breakage at the ends. I wasn't doing nearly enough to help mend the inevitable damage that bleaching brings. I came to terms with this fact after having high-definition pictures of my hair taken when I visited the Unilever labs in the U.K. to learn about their new beauty brand, ApotheCARE Essentials. These snaps revealed the real situation. It wasn't necessarily bleak, but it wasn't great, either.

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The R&D team cut out individual strands of my hair and used a machine called a Sensofar 3D Optical Profiler to observe fine details in the structure of my hair at a magnification of 1000x. They create colored, 3D, digital reconstruction pictures at both the root and the tip to analyze the hair's damage. The colors signify structural changes caused by damage.

This wasn't just a special opportunity for me, either. ApotheCARE actually utilizes this technique when developing its products to ensure it is targeting the correct reparative, strengthening, and nourishing ingredients in its shampoos and conditioners.

Hair Root
Credit: Courtesy

My hypothesis on the state of my hair wasn't far off. I figured my root would be fairly healthy, since it's the youngest part of my hair and comes in contact with the least amount of heat. I also try to use moisturizing, nourishing shampoos on a regular basis. I was right: The smoother fiber in the blue-green color indicates that there isn't much breakage or tearing of the cuticle. This part of my hair doesn't require a high level of care.

Hair Tip - Embed
Credit: Courtesy

The tip, however, was a different story. It wasn't as bad as I expected, but the hair had experienced some trauma because of heat and chemical contact. The healthy scales of the cuticle (what coats and protects the hair fiber itself) were irregular and worn down, and the red line showed that the cuticle had actually lifted away from the hair fiber. It put my daily use of a curling iron, as well as my hair color appointments, into perspective.

Despite feeling like a bad beauty editor, I knew it could be a whole lot worse. I also knew there were things I could do, like get a trim, cut back on heat tools, and commit to a strict routine filled with reparative haircare products. I'm currently switching between ApotheCARE Essentials Mender Shampoo (for distressed hair), Nexxus Keraphix Shampoo for Damaged Hair, and some heavy-duty masks.

Do I regret bleaching my hair? No. Blondes might have more fun, but they also might just have to have a more intensive beauty routine.