About a year ago, I made the poor decision to mix baking soda and 20-volume developer and leave it on my hair for 45 minutes.

I was trying to get the remnants of a color-depositing conditioner out of my hair. I failed to realize that I was actually just intensely bleaching my hair.

When I took off the shower cap, it revealed bright white hair that was so stretchy and fragile that I couldn’t even brush it for the next three days. As I washed my hair, large clumps of dead strands began falling out. It was then and there that I realized I had a long road of recovery ahead to get my hair back to a strong, healthy state.

SEE ALSO: The 10 best dry shampoos if you have fine hair

Over the next six months, I embraced platinum white hair, brassy yellow hair, and even blue hair. I refused to go to a salon and have a professional help me or pay for pricey, tiny bottles of Olaplex. I was a college student working a minimum wage job and spending my entire paycheck on one trip to the salon was not a reality for me. A year later, I am happy to say that my hair has (mostly) healed and its natural shine has been restored. After plenty of trial and error, these are the products that I used to save my hair on a budget.

1. SheaMoisture Jamaican Black Castor Oil Shampoo, $9.99

To be honest, when his mishap first occurred I didn’t even want to shampoo my hair because I was so afraid that anything that removes moisture from my hair would only make matters worse. However, I found this shampoo to not only be really gentle on my hair, but also great for removing all of the leave-in conditioners and oils I was putting on my hair during the daytime. The castor oil in this product helps to condition your hair from the roots down.

2. Eva NYC Therapy Session Hair Mask, $14.99

I was initially attracted to this hair mask because it comes in a large tub for only $14.99. I bought it with the intention of using it as a hair mask, but I actually just used it as a daily conditioner instead. I found that my hair needed something more than just a normal conditioner, so using a hair mask gave me the extra boost I needed. I put this on the bottom of my hair and clipped it up while I washed my body and face to give it time to absorb.

3. Garnier Whole Blends Honey Treasures Repairing Conditioner, $3.59

I hate to say it, but this $3.49 conditioner might literally be my holy grail product. I have tried spending upwards of $20 on nice conditioners, but my Garnier has always beat them out. I don’t know what it is about this product but it makes my hair SO soft. Once my hair started to get stronger, I liked alternating between this conditioner and my Eva NYC hair mask. The bonus with this product is that it is so cheap that you can use a lot of it at once and not feel so guilty.

4. SGX NYC Hair IQ 10 in 1 Leave-in Treatment, $7.99

Once I got out of the shower and towel-dried my hair a bit, I would work this product through my hair with my hands so that I could carefully comb through it without losing much more hair. I liked this product because it helped loosen up my tangled hair, but it was also very light. I had a lot of trouble finding a leave-in product for my hair that was light enough for how thin and stretchy my strands were.

I hope no one makes the same mistake as me, but if you do, these products truly saved my hair without breaking the bank. As I keep up with my bright blonde color at the salon, I still use these products daily in order to make sure my hair never returns to that terrifying, frail state.

Read these stories next...

1) Better than Olaplex? We tried the viral K18 hair mask on weak, color-damaged hair

2) The 10 best dry shampoos if you have fine hair

3) Vibe Body Care is the coolest men’s haircare brand made by and for Gen-Z

4) SWAIR’s Showerless Shampoo puts dry shampoo to shame. Here’s how the founders created the revolutionary product.

Share this post