When people aren't trying to grab my hair while I walk through bars, or calling me the Black Khaleesi -yes this happened- some people offer a much less annoying fascination with my hair, simply asking how I keep my blonde hair so soft and healthy after years of bleaching it.

The first time I bleached my hair was in the early 2000s, you know- that weird era when Alicia Keys wore a gown over jeans on the red carpet, non-Black pop stars started trying to wear box braids, and before Kanye had fallen into the sunken place. My motivation to go lighter came from Queen Bey, and while I knew I would never be able to hit a note or dance on a chair like her, I was determined to have her honey blonde hair.

I started with just a few streaky highlights-another questionable trend of the early 2000s and over the years I experimented with how much color, but stayed true to the Beyoncé honey blonde tones. On top of that, I also followed the trend that every other preteen at the time was participating in, and began straightening my hair. I refer to this time as when I joined Kanye in the sunken place.

It took me awhile to notice that my hair was starting to look and feel damaged, and I assumed it was the bleach. The mix of bleach with daily heat was not nice to my fine 3b hair, and I decided to stop coloring my hair in high school. Unfortunately, the damage remained. .

Damaged hair

Peep those damaged flyaways^^^ "Oh no baby what is you doin?"

During college, I dyed my hair blonde by bayalayage for the first time. By now, I knew better than to straighten my hair daily, but my curl pattern had become loose and damaged after years of heat application, motivating me to still occasionally straighten it. Still in the sunken place. My hair wouldn't grow, I had flyaways everywhere, my curls had loosened to a funky wave pattern, and the blonde would go brassy due to the damage. From here, I decided to take a break from coloring my hair for the second time.

Damaged hair

My curls looking like overcooked ramen noodles at this point ^^^

In addition to no longer coloring my hair, I also stopped regularly applying heat to it. It took about two years for my curls to return to their natural 3b texture and fullness, and for the first time in years my hair looked and felt healthy again. I also began to pay attention to my diet, what products, and routines worked best for my hair, and which styles protected my hair-something I never paid mind to in previous years.

Kiana with Brown and Healthy Hair

Around the time Beyoncé dropped her first surprise album, my blonde bug was coming back. I went to my hairstylist and told her my concerns of ruining my curl pattern like I had in the past, to which she responded that bleaching your hair blonde is much easier when you are starting with a healthy head of hair. She insisted on a few preventative and sustinititve tips that remain staples in my hair regimen today.

1. Stay away from heat. Stop straightening your hair. Stop blow-drying your hair. Stay out of the sun if possible, or wear a hat if you plan to be in the sun all day.

Once I stopped straightening my hair, my hair grew faster, it was easier to detangle, softer, stronger, and more full. My stylist would mention how healthy my hair looked, and how much easier the color was lifting each time I came in. I still straighten my hair a few times a year for fun, but I no longer rely on that look to feel beautiful.

2. Olaplex. If you are familiar with beaching hair, you have most likely used or heard of olapex. Olaplex is an additive to the bleaching process that helps prevent your hair from breaking and restores bonds that have been broken, helping to retain your natural pattern and health.

"One of the biggest concerns with color treatment is compromising the curl pattern. This is because usually when you bleach and color the hair, bonds are altered and broken, creating unavoidable breakage to the hair. However, with Olaplex you can leave bleach on the hair longer, and instead of breaking and damaging the hair, you're actually keeping it in a better condition to achieve even healthier hair." Pekela Riley

3. Purple Shampoo. Purple shampoo is a densely pigmented purple colored shampoo that helps to tone bleached hair. I use Clairol Lights Shimmering Shampoo about once every other week, or whenever I feel my hair looks a bit brassy. I do not shampoo with anything else on the other days, I only condition. Over the summer, especially if I avoid my own advice and stay out in the sun all day and expose my hair to UV rays, I rely on purple shampoo to correct any color damage that may occur from sun exposure, hard water, chlorine, or natural causes.

4. Deep Condition. After chemically bleaching your hair,  the chemicals can create small holes in the cuticle, meaning many people with bleached hair have high porosity. If you have high porosity hair, these holes can equally let in too much moisture or lose moisture quickly, and can leave it prone to frizz and tangling in humid weather. To combat this, I condition daily, and do a DIY deep conditioner every week. My deep conditioner consists of a mix of avocado oil ( lighter than coconut oil but still rich in moisture and antioxidants), honey, baobab oil, and my regular conditioner.

I distribute this evenly through my hair with a comb, roll into a bun on the top of my head, and let sit for about an hour while doing something super productive- like stalking my curl crushes on Instagram.

Healthy Curly Hair

After years of coloring my hair, I finally have a routine that works. And while I may not look like Beyoncé, I definitely feel like a "Grown Woman" now that my hair looks as good as I feel.