If you take a peek into your first aid kit in the bathroom cupboard right now, chances are you’ll find a bottle of hydrogen peroxide there.
Yes, hydrogen peroxide – the disinfectant your mom used to swipe across your knee when you’d trip and scrape your skin as a child.
Hydrogen peroxide isn’t just for medical use.
Many of you might be surprised to learn that it’s a popular ingredient in many hair bleaches and dyes for its lightening power.
Some people are even bold enough to use hydrogen peroxide directly on their hair as a discount bleaching treatment.
It’s an excellent chemical to use for lightening your hair color.
Plus, it’s probably already sitting on a shelf in your bathroom as we speak, so you can technically use it to color your locks any time you wish.
But then there’s the age-old question: Does hydrogen peroxide damage hair?
What Is Hydrogen Peroxide, And Why Is It In So Many Bleaches And Dyes?
Hydrogen peroxide is an oxidizing chemical known for its antibacterial properties.
This is why it’s used in the medical setting to clean wounds.
But this potent chemical is also used in the hair realm as a bleaching agent present in many lightening treatments and dyes.
See, hydrogen peroxide is excellent at breaking down and penetrating your hair shaft.
This releases the oxygen and melanin in your hair strands that give them their natural color.
This makes the shade lighter and more translucent.
When combined with hair dye, hydrogen peroxide allows the pigment to sink deeper into your hair to replace your natural pigments, for a permanent color change.
This is a far cry from semi-permanent dyes that coat the outer layers of your hair instead of inside the cortex, which hydrogen peroxide does.
Because hydrogen peroxide allows for a more permanent effect on your hair, it’s among the most popular hair dye ingredients, alongside ammonia – another tricky hair ingredient.
Can It Be Used At Home?
While hydrogen peroxide is a popular ingredient in bleach and hair dye for blonde and other lighter colors, some people like to use it directly into the hair to bleach strands easily at home.
These brave souls mix hydrogen peroxide with baking soda for a fuss-free DIY bleaching session.
These two powerhouse household items may pack a punch in lightening your hair and saving you a few extra bucks.
But like dyes and bleaches laced with hydrogen peroxide, the mixture can still have a negative effect on your hair.
Does Hydrogen Peroxide Damage Hair?
Efficacy and safety don’t always go hand in hand.
While hydrogen peroxide may be a gold standard for sucking natural pigment out of your hair to lighten up the shade, it’s not as impressive when it comes to maintaining your hair’s health and integrity.
When hydrogen peroxide enters your strands and sinks deep into your hair shaft to get your natural color out, it essentially destroys the hair bonds.
It lifts the cuticle to the point that way too many of the nutrients and proteins are broken down, oxidizing and rendering your hair cuticle “dead”.
This leads to a lot of hair damage that can be seen in many dreadful symptoms, from uncontrollable frizz, chronic dryness, a rough texture, and even your hair breaking and snapping off like twigs.
You might also notice more hair fall and split ends because of how weak and fragile the state your hair is in.
Hydrogen peroxide is pretty much the reason why your hair feels lifeless and straw-like every time you bleach it.
It breaks apart the things keeping your hair intact, like the proteins that keep it thick and fortified and the oxygen that keeps it alive.
The cuticle damage also increases your hair’s porosity, making it hard for your hair to retain any sort of moisture.
Since hydrogen peroxide lifts the cuticle, it leaves gaps and holes in the shaft that force your hair to release moisture as soon as it absorbs it.
A tell-tale sign that hydrogen peroxide has damaged your hair is dehydration that doesn’t go away no matter how much you try to hydrate it.
Your hair will have a hard time taking in moisture, leaving it dry and rough to the touch.
What Happens To Your Hair And Scalp When Damaged By Hydrogen Peroxide?
When your hair is in a weakened state because of the damning effects of hydrogen peroxide, it’s not just dryness and roughness that will take over your life.
There are more serious implications that come with these symptoms.
You should carefully consider these symptoms as possibilities before risking your hair health by using hydrogen peroxide.
One possible side effect of hydrogen peroxide damage is hair loss.
Remember, hydrogen peroxide is an oxidative agent.
That means it can cause oxidative stress on your hair, the same way UV rays, pollutants, and other environmental stressors can.
Oxidative stress can cause weakness and fragility in your hair, making it more susceptible to breaking apart easily just with a tiny bit of tension.
It also ages your hair faster, which can lead to premature balding or hair loss.
Plus, since hydrogen peroxide already causes breakage and split ends because of the protein breakdown, you can suffer immense hair fall from that too.
But it’s not just your hair that can suffer the wrath of hydrogen peroxide damage – your skin can be a victim of it too, specifically on your scalp.
Hydrogen peroxide is super potent and strong, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that it can be irritating on delicate skin.
If your skin is particularly sensitive, hydrogen peroxide can cause chemical burns that can be super painful.
They can also cause your skin to crack and your hair to fall out faster.
You can also develop dermatitis and other forms of skin inflammation when you don’t use hydrogen peroxide properly.
This can result in itchy bumps and rashes that are difficult to tame.
So while there are tons of tutorials online on how to DIY your bleaching treatment at home with hydrogen peroxide, you have to be very careful about how you use it, lest you suffer the consequences.
If you’re a first-timer, you’re better off working with a professional at the salon for bleaching your hair.
Tips To Repair Hair Damaged By Hydrogen Peroxide
Thankfully, the damage dealt by hydrogen peroxide on your hair is hardly ever permanent.
If you know how to nourish and care for your hair properly, you can nurse it back to health in no time.
Replenish Moisture And Protein Levels
The most important thing to do when dealing with damaged, bleached hair is to replenish its moisture and protein levels.
You can do this in many ways, from being consistent with your leave-in conditioner application to doing a series of deep conditioning treatments, which you can do once a week.
If your hair is feeling a bit brittle, you can go for a product rich in proteins like keratin, hydrolyzed quinoa, and even eggs!
This will help strengthen your hair to make it resilient once more.
When picking out your leave-in conditioners and serums, make sure they’re ultra-moisturizing and can help eliminate frizz, especially when you live in quite a humid city.
Look for products with vitamins and minerals to strengthen your locks to help speed up the healing process.
Sulfate-Free Shampoo And Conditioner
Another small adjustment you can adapt in your hair routine to care for damaged hair is to switch to a color-safe, sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner.
Sulfates are notorious for drying out the hair, which you definitely don’t need if you’re suffering from hydrogen peroxide damage.
Instead, go for shampoos and conditioners with naturally-derived surfactants and hydrating ingredients.
These allow for a deep cleanse while hydrating your strands.
Avoid Heat Styling
One more thing you can do to keep your hair healthy while it’s recovering is to lay low on heat styling.
High temperatures can dry out your hair even more and cause heat damage in the long run.
This will make your hair more susceptible to dryness and breakage, which is exactly what you’re trying to avoid.
Instead, try air-drying your hair once in a while.
If you must heat-style for an important event or photoshoot, make sure you slather your hair in a heat protectant to ensure your hair doesn’t have to deal with so much thermal damage.
Hydrogen peroxide may be one of the most effective bleaching ingredients in your fave hair dyes.
It offers a solution when you want a quick way to lighten your strands at home.
But does hydrogen peroxide damage hair? One word: Yes.
While it’s efficacious and convenient, you pay a hefty price to get the job done – your hair health.
This chemical deals at least some degree of damage every time it touches your precious hair.
If you’re lucky, you’ll have to deal only with dryness for a couple of weeks.
But if you get the short end of the stick, you might have to nurse serious chemical burns, persistent breakage, and other hair horrors.
So next time you want to color your hair a couple of shades up, think twice about using hydrogen peroxide.
If you have no choice but to use it, make sure you care for your hair properly afterward to prevent long-term damage.