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The Products That'll Bring Color-Damaged Hair Back From The Brink


You know those hair care commercials with the models frolicking through a field while tying knots with their shiny, totally-not-extensions hair? It's shiny and healthy and long and apparently used to be frizzy, but not anymore! Anyway, I got to do one of those commercials recently. Lil' old me. A hair dye company tapped me and my hair for a campaign—so I spent a few days frolicking and being transformed into a very colorful version of my regular, young professional self.

The reason I'm telling you all of this is because it wasn't just a hair campaign. Over the course of 48 hours, my hair was first highlighted to high heaven, then bleached, then taken to purple and pink and orange, then stripped out, before eventually being returned closer to my natural honey brown (I’MSOSORRYHAIR). Don't try this at home, kids! At the end of the ordeal, my hair was effectively the “before” picture in an early aughts romcom makeover—dry, crunchy, and my scalp hurt. Bad! But a good excuse for a beauty story. So how did I keep it all from falling out—and actually make it look good again? Well, folks, come along for the ride...


As of today, I have color layered on top of a bleach base, which means any time I wash my hair, the texture feels different as I slowly wash the dye away and get closer and closer to… nothing. If I wash my hair with the wrong product, it'll bring my hair closer to breaking. Even worse, patchy color. Not my look! Right now, I only wash my hair 3 times a week as a rule, and my winning maneuver is to slather on Bumble and Bumble’s Invisible Oil Balm-to-Oil Pre-Shampoo Mask every 3-4 washes.

My shampoos have the general theme of being thick and jelly-like in consistency; they’re more solid than liquid, which I’m convinced means they’re bigger, badder, stronger, and more packed with nutrients because there’s more product packed into each squeeze. They’re generally gentler, too. There's a fine line between avoiding stripped hair and effectively cleansing your scalp, and I walk that line with the OGX Moroccan Argan Oil Shampoo and the Davines Nounou Nourishing Shampoo. Both provide a super gentle refresh while sloughing away any added styling product I may have used between washes. When I need a little more “clean”, I go for the Sisley Revitalizing Smoothing Shampoo—it’s super thick, barely separates as you spread it, and handles everything.


Conditioning damaged hair is a lifestyle, not a choice. Case in point: I went on vacation earlier in the month and my beach bag contained SPF, a novel, and a tub of deep conditioner that I applied every. single. time I exited the ocean (because I’m worth it). Whether it’s a true conditioner or something calling itself a mask, leave it on for 5-10 minutes. At least!

On the lightweight end of the spectrum, there’s the B+B Quench Conditioner, followed by the slightly denser Kiehl’s Olive Fruit Oil Nourishing Conditioner, Verb Hydrating Conditioner, and the L’Oréal Advanced Haircare Total Repair “balm”. These are the white wines of my conditioning world, not to be considered in the same breath as “heat styling” or full body cringe “back combing”. They all hydrate and smooth—I’d say they “maintain”—but don’t cross over into any noticeable positive change for me.

The products that do the most work for my sad, sensitive hair usually require sleeping on a towel instead of my precious Slip silk pillowcases (you’re welcome, hair). My “noble red wines” of conditioners are the Sisley Regenerating Hair Care Mask, and the truest MVP of them all, the While You Sleep Damage Repair mask by B+B. Two rarities, masks that are real masks! They’re both slightly sticky (but not once they sink in), not as thick as you’d think, and have that jelly feel as the shampoos. The real winning property is that they don't separate as they spread—the product envelopes my hair with it’s delicious smelling, nourishing goodness. I slather on either for flights, for a lazy Sunday, or overnight. Rinse to noticeable results.

Treat + Style

This may be somewhat of a surprise, but when it comes to taking my hair from wet to dry, I try to add as little as possible in terms of product. Less product means less build-up which means less to wash out which means less risk of danger. A spritz of Bumble Invisible Oil Spray here, a pump of Save the Day Fluid there. The damage on top of damage coupled with a shorter cut has really wreaked havoc on my naturally wavy texture. The less I do, the better my hair behaves when fully dry. Besides, it’s usually swept into a teeny tiny bun at the nape of my neck after a couple of drops of the Philip B. Rejuvinating Oil, anyways.

At some point in the not so distant future, I expect to go to bed as an interpretation of The Goblin King and wake up as Marcia Brady (this is the blonde goal!). Until then, please compliment me on how nice my hair smells to boost my confidence.

—Kelly Mittendorf

Photographed by Tom Newton.