The two biggest problems when it comes to keeping your hair healthy and growing is bleaching and sulfates. Bleaching your hair removes the pigment, the bleach "opens" up your hair cuticles and breaks down the pigment inside. This leaves the hair more porous and susceptible to damage and breakage.
Sulfates which are found in shampoo, liquid soap, shower gel, facial cleansers, toothpaste and so on, is a compound that makes things foam and cleanses. The problem with sulfates and hair is that it opens the cuticles of the hair, not as extreme as bleach but a close second, every time you wash your hair. This strips your hair of the natural oils it needs to stay moisturized and healthy.
This process is entirely useless as your hair can be cleansed without sulfates entirely, sulfates does one thing that sulfate free shampoo cant and that is to remove silicone and mineral oil. Silicone and mineral oil are common ingredients in conditioner and hair products.
The biggest mistake ppl do is to wash their hair to often, it strips away all the oils and makes your scalp over produce oil which leads to greasy hair and more washing. Limit your hair washing to 1 or 2 times a week tops. If you are used to washing every day it can take up to a month before your hair stops overproducing oil, be patient.
Many ppl say "I have to wash my hair every day because its so greasy" well you most likely made it that way by over washing. If your hair is greasy only by your scalp and the lengths and ends are dry its likely you are washing to often. Be aware that if your hair is bleached it might always be like that even if you don't wash to often.
Not everyone has problems with regular shampoo but if your hair is dyed the sulfates will strip the color really fast, due to opening up the hair. So what are your options?
Sulfate free shampoo
These shampoos usually contain fatty alcohols that help clean the hair. Some ppl find them drying, I have not had that problem. It is important that you make sure to not use products containing silicone or mineral oil if you chose a sulfate free shampoo. They will not get washed of and create a build up which can leave your hair dull and give a greasy feel.
So what if you have a product you cant live without that contains silicone or mineral oil? No need to stress use the sulfate free shampoo as your regular shampoo and once a month use a normal shampoo to get rid of the build up. Just make sure you use a hair mask or deep conditioner afterwards to give the hair some moisture.
Note that you need to thoroughly wet your hair and scrub your scalp with the sulfate free shampoo. It does not foam as regular shampoo so you need to do the work with your hands. A tip is to brush your hair and scalp before showering to evenly distribute the oils from your scalp onto your hair.
I recommend The Body shop's Rain forest moisture shampoo, the conditioner is a bit to heavy for my taste.
Here is what you want to avoid when going sulfate free
Ammonium Laureth Sulfate
Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate
Sodium Alkyl Sulfate
Sodium Laureth Sulfate
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate
Sodium Coco Sulfate
(note that they may be spelled sulphate)
Paraffinum molle album
Paraffinum molle flavum
Paraffinum liquidum leve
Paraffinum liquidum tenue
Yellow petroleum jelly
Washing with conditioner
Another option is to use conditioner as shampoo. Find a conditioner without the mineral oils and silicone's listed above, usually the cheaper the conditioner is the likelier it is to be silicone and mineral oil free. (there are of course exceptions)
Now some ppl use 2 different conditioners one washing conditioner and one treatment conditioner. The washing conditioner is usually cheap and more liquid than creamy while the treatment conditioner is a bit more expensive and creamy.
Brush your hair thoroughly then make sure it is wet all the way to your scalp. Take some washing conditioner and start scrubbing your scalp, make sure you do it thoroughly then massage through the lengths. Wash it out and apply a treatment conditioner to the lengths like you would normally do with a conditioner.
The treatment conditioner is not necessary for everyone.
Using baking soda and vinegar rinse
Many sites suggests this all natural method to hair cleansing. DO NOT USE BAKING SODA! If you are familiar with the fact that skin is slightly acidic and baking soda is alkaline then you might get why. Your scalp likes being acidic and if you use an alkaline compound to wash it the pH will fluctuate and leave you with a dry itchy scalp. Worst case scenario yeast infection on your skin.
Vinegar rinse however is a good thing. It's pH is acidic from the start and wont break havoc on your scalp. The preferable vinegar used is apple cider vinegar. It's usually mixed with water and massaged into the lengths and scalp, then allowed to sit for a few minutes until it is rinsed out.
A warning about this, I have never tried it myself, even though I've heard great things about it I can't attest for its efficiency or outcome. I would be very careful with vinegar if your hair is dyed, I'm suspecting it might alter the color.
Only using water
Some ppl just stop washing their hair with anything other than water. According to internet sources it can take more than 2 months before the scalp adapts and stops producing oils in the same quantity. I have never tried going without any cleanser so I cant attest to the efficiency. Google it if you are interested and I'm sure you will find heaps of info.
Cutting your hair
Its important to trim your ends every 4-8 weeks to get rid of breakage and eliminate the possibility of further damage by existing breakage. You can trim it yourself or at a hair dresser.
I trim it in the shower, make sure my hair is wet and simply cut of 2-3 mm on the ends. You cant even tell I cut it after the hair is dry. If you have a slightly more complicated hair cut than a bob you might want to see the hairdresser instead.
Heath styling is really bad for your hair. This includes but not limited to; straighteners, blow dryers, curling irons, crimping irons, hot coils and so on.
A good heat protection is absolutely vital to use if you choose to heat style. Apply it on wet hair right after you washed your hair if you intend to blow dry it. If you let it dry on its own and then want to heat style you can still apply it while the hair is wet.
Do not use coconut oil or any other oil if you intend to use a straightener. curling iron or similar it will literally fry your hair.
Options to heat styling
Make pin curls, sleep with foam rollers or similar, make a braid. If you want really straight hair I suggest trying to put the hair in a bun right on top of your head, in the middle of the top of your head, while you sleep. It might not work for everyone but it does give some volume as well. Otherwise you can use a round brush and a blow dryer set on very low heat and style your hair while its drying.
Use a good brush
Using a traditional paddle brush is not something I recommend. Most of them are designed to "get a grip" of loose hair this means it may yank out a few healthy hairs as-well and break your already damaged hairs of.
Round brushes can be similar to paddle brushes so try finding on where the pegs are all in a straight line.
Combs, the best combs to use are big and wide toothed, they can even be used on wet hair with caution and preferably a bunch of conditioner. Remember that hair is very fragile when wet just like paper that gets wet.
The tangle teezer, and its knock offs, I absolutely love this brush as some of you might know my hair is bleached, dyed purple and I tease it alot. The tangle teezer is really gentle and I have found it to limit breakage even on wet hair. I know many black women like this brush aswell, it is apparently good for Afro textured hair.
Treatments, serums and so on
There is really millions of these all claiming to be the wonder product of your dreams. I have some suggestions on how to find a good product.
I'm in love with the olaplex hair/home treatment,step 3, I really think it has repaired some of my breakage and its not to expensive either. This is only my personal opinion but I think its worth a try for anyone with bleached hair. It costs around 25 $
Using appropriate hair elastics
You might never ave given this a thought but hair elastics with a metal piece on them and rubber bands are bad news. The metal pieces will strain your hair by constant rubbing and sharp edges. And as for rubber bands, have you ever used one in your hair? They get stuck and tangle up not a good thing at all.
Try going for elastics covered in fabric of sorts without a metal piece or the ones that look like a telephone wire.