The One Supplement That 'Cured' My Bleach-Damaged Hair

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By: Rachel Adler

To say that I went through a period in my life where I was severely addicted to hair bleach is a vast understatement. My hair — a natural, dirty blonde — needed to be stark white at all times. I had a routine appointment with my colorist exactly every four weeks, and I would insist on her taking my strands from Khaleesi white, to pink, to green, to icy blue — as long as the white-as-snow base always remained intact.

Bleached hair damage
With the help of a curling iron and some skill, no one will be the wiser noticing my bleach-damaged hair. (Photo: Rachel Adler)

During one of our many routine toning attempts, an assistant got a little too bleach-happy, and unfortunately my gorgeous pink hair ended up breaking off the next day. For anyone who bleaches, a little routine breakage (as terrifying as that sounds) may occur at the ends of the hair (in the pre-Olaplex days, of course). However, this was basically at the crown of my head in a small section that would stick straight up if I wasn’t careful. I was devastated, and I knew it meant that after four years of straight bleach on my strands, I needed to get serious about hair care.

So, I upped my weekly coconut oil routine — slathering my hair whenever I had an extra minute at home — and switched to highlights, which are gentler on the hair. I also got serious about the supplements I was taking. I had tried to take Viviscal or Biotin on and off, but never really stuck with them, as it would take me too long to see results or I would simply forget.

Now — mostly out of necessity — I had to find a hair vitamin that would really do the job. As a beauty editor, I had to go through the mostly embarrassing process of sitting through multiple blowout events soon and explain why I had a little chemical haircut right on the back crown section of my head. If you ever had a “waterfall ponytail” as a kid, that was exactly what this breakage looked like. One day, when I was talking to celebrity hairstylist Mara Roszak about my woes, she mentioned that her salon, Mèche, was selling this brand-new supplement and it was the first one that she was truly obsessed with. It was called Nutrafol, and she told me to look into it because it might really help.

Well, look into it I did. Nutrafol ($88 for a one-month supply of 120 capsules) is a supplement that aims to target the root of hair health, working from within. Sophia Kogan, MD, a dermatologist and the chief medical officer for Nutrafol, explains it like this: “Nutrafol contains botanical ingredients with powerful antioxidant properties that not only neutralize free radicals in the body and scalp, but also help your body produce more of its own antioxidant enzymes. Additional ingredients such as curcumin (an extract of turmeric) act as anti-inflammatories to further support a healthy scalp and hair. So taking a supplement like Nutrafol can be a good way to help diminish the damage of mechanical processing like bleach, as well as support healthy hair growth.”

What makes it different from all the other supplements on the market? I spoke with Ariel Cruz, a trichologist certified by the U.S. Trichology Institute, to find out if there were specific ingredients in Nutrafol that made it stand out from other supplements on the market today. “The Synergen Complex, which is composed of clinically tested nutraceutical ingredients, including ashwaganda, curcumin, saw palmetto, and hydrolyzed marine collagen, is what makes Nutrafol unique. The brand’s approach of targeting the multiple triggers of hair loss is fascinating to me,” Cruz said.

Expanding on that, the brand actually created this supplement as a multitargeted approach to combat different forms of hair loss, from genetic to stress. Coined the “4-Phase Transformation,” the science behind the supplement helps to “rebalance (for anti-stress), repair (to restore damaged follicles), revitalize (increasing scalp circulation) and, finally, regrow (growing healthier hair).”

Colorist Bianca Hillier, who works out of the Andy LeCompte Salon, recommends Nutrafol to her clients who struggle with stress-related hair loss. “I color hair in Bahrain, Dubai, and the USA, and I have numerous clients that have been diagnosed with alopecia due to stress and/or other health-related issues. Not only do I notice progress in their hair growth, but my clients recognize the improvements as well,” says Hillier. “I also recently experienced an embarrassing amount of hair loss, and Nutrafol has helped me to a speedy recovery. My hair has never grown to these lengths or ever looked so full.”

Nikki Lee, the co-owner of Nine Zero One salon, raved about how much it helps promote hair growth, but also noted that it helps her eliminate stress too.

Repaired Bleach Damaged Hair
Healthy, highlighted hair after a lot of hair TLC and some dedicated popping of Nutrafol. (Photo: Rachel Adler)

While it does take time to see a difference in hair growth, I noticed a dramatic transformation in my hair at about the three-month mark, which is typical for most people taking supplements. Suddenly my hair had this Victoria’s Secret model fullness to it. I am typically jealous of my sister’s virgin, shiny, thick brown hair (I would never tell her this, but it’s not fair how much hair she has and how limp mine is), but I finally started to feel like my locks could stand on their own in a photo next to hers. Yes, I learned how to hide my sad, little breakage in a half-up knot for months, yet I reached the point where I could style my hair down and not have to worry about strange lengths or weird layers sticking up with a random gust of wind. It was nice not to see straggly strands, embarrassing flakes of breakage, or have to explain my weird chemical layers to every stylist.

Because of my regular supplement use, I had never needed a haircut so badly. My hair was growing at a rate that I couldn’t believe. It grew back to my pre-bleaching length in just a few short months. And if you’ve ever put your head near a bottle of bleach, you know that that growth rate is kind of insane. Friends and family even started to take notice. While I was busy explaining that I was breaking my bleach addiction, they would automatically cut me off and rave about how great and healthy my hair looked. This made me feel great for about 10 seconds until I quickly wondered if my bleached hair had looked scraggly and dead for four whole years. To calm those fears, I realized that while I had clearly been making a concerted effort with the supplements, I was also air-drying my hair more and only allowing my stylist to highlight my strands (even though I would ask for the whitest of white highlights she could manage). I had upped my hair care game 100 percent.

I’m simply happy that my healthy hair is back — as long as I can resist the temptation of a K. Stew dye job. As I live and breathe in the beauty industry, dealing with the stress of hair that was literally falling apart was not something that I wanted to hide. Even though my motto for my hair has always been to have fun with it, I’ve never shied away from a dye job, a fun cut, or hairstyle. But over the years, I’ve learned that in order to keep up with that fun-loving attitude, there needs to be a healthy balance of TLC to keep everything in check. Otherwise you end up with sad, limp strands and a little broken sprout on the top of your head.

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