Thursday, 17 October 2013


Grey hair was once deemed purely a sign of aging.  However, silver has today become a fashion statement in its own right, with celebrities from Robbie Williams to Jamie Lee Curtis deciding to embrace or enhance their natural grey. 

Surprisingly, for those who not naturally grey – the path to achieving the shade is perhaps the hardest feat a colourist has to contend with. Natural grey and silver hair is formed by the interspersing of pure white hair amongst the original (natural) shade.  Initially observed as ‘salt and pepper’, the more the previous pigmented hair turns white, the stronger the silver shade becomes – as those white hairs increase in number on the head.   It’s actually the interspersion and mixing of the individual white hairs amongst the original base which creates a grey look, therefore achieving an artificial grey can be intricate.   

Creating artificial grey hair

When hair is lightened it will take on a pale yellow shade which needs to be toned with a violet pigment to achieve white.  In many instances (where an artificial grey shade is desired) the hair will end up looking blonde as opposed to silver.   Whilst it’s more simplistic to obtain a block silver - via lightening the whole head to platinum and using higher amounts of silver toners - when a natural grey is sought the application method has to be more delicate, introducing very fine bleach highlights which are subsequently toned to silver, whilst leaving the surrounding natural hair intact to create the salt and pepper effect.   Applying any peroxide based colourant or lightener onto the surrounding (non highlighted) natural hair, will cause a warm hue to be displayed effectively reducing the overall silver effect down to blonde.  It must be understood, warm tones cannot co-exist with silver tones – the two shades will battle it out for supremacy and at best you will find the hair becomes a natural ash blonde.     

If you are wishing to achieve a natural silver grey (at home) on a previously dark base, the best approach is to use a highlighting cap, pull a scattering of hair through this cap and then apply a bleach or lightener before developing the hair to pale yellow.    The bleach or lightener must then be rinsed off the hair (with the cap still on) and dried (again with the cap still).  You then have to check the hair and be 100% certain it appears as a pale yellow, if the shade looks deep yellow or copper it will not tone to silver.  In this instance, re-apply the lightener (to the hair still pulled through the cap) and lift the shade up to the required level.  If you remove the cap - when the hair is still very warm toned - this warmth will intermix with your natural base and be impossible to retrieve for re-lightening.   Once you are satisfied the hair is a pale yellow, apply (again with the cap still on) your platinum toner.  This toning stage will turn the lightened hair to white. At the point you notice the hair clearly toning and the warmth vanishing, you can remove the cap.   Once this process is complete, you should find your (overall) hair appears to have cold highlights running throughout.  However, moving forward you must only cleanse with blue and violet based shampoos and alternate your toning conditioner between a platinum and a product such as Cool Restore Cool Ash – which has a silver base.  This specific hair care regime will continually keep introducing more platinum and silver tones into the lightened hair, very soon the tone levels will exceed a pure white and begin appearing silver.     When achieving this method via a salon, the toning stage can be made easier as a specific permanent colourant exists that compromise of two cool tones, when this specific permanent colour is applied (to newly lightened hair) it produces a metallic white that requires no subsequent re-toning.  Sadly – this particular shade is not featured in any of the current retail colourant brands available in the UK.


Creating a transitional grey shade (for those who have natural grey hair and want to stop colouring)


For those who are naturally grey but have spent many years covering the silver with permanent dark colour, the long term options for you to sport a flattering grey are ultimately more simplistic.  However, (and with most) it’s the initial hurdle of transitioning from a permanent darker shade to their natural silver that terrifies them.   Whilst grey hair is fashionable and acceptable – grey roots are not!  Many women recognise that transitioning to their natural grey is going to require months (if not a year or more) to achieve.  During this time they feel horrified at the prospect of walking around with inches of grey roots against artificially coloured ends.     In addition, whilst I myself have become known for home hair colour removal I have to explain why hair colour removers will not reveal natural grey. 

I would love to be able to assure all you grey haired people (longing to stop the colouring process) that simply applying a hair colour remover will reveal your underlying grey – but it just won’t.   When grey hair is coloured with a peroxide based shade, two points occur.  Firstly, the peroxide in the colourant (developer) causes the white (grey) hairs to take on a yellow tone.  Secondly, many of the colourants on sale in today’s retail market will also lift the natural (non grey) hair - exposing underlying warmth.  Therefore, when you remove the artificial colour you will not see your natural grey, but instead a warm blonde.  In fact, the process to transition to a natural grey shade has to be undertaken similarly to the creation of silver in non grey natural bases (and as outlined previously).

For anyone who has a high percentage of natural grey and wants to transition out of using artificial colour - without simply growing it out and suffering the obvious root strap – I would suggest you undertake the exercise via a salon.  In general, you will need to accommodate around three salon appointments over a period of several months.  The key is to introduce silver threads into the hair gradually as your old colour grows out; these silver threads (when built up in the hair), will break up the grey root strap, intermix with your previous dark and eventually take over the overall shade.   Whilst many salons (today) will only work with foils for highlighting, I would still recommend (on occasions of transitioning grey) a salon uses a highlighting cap.   My reasoning for this suggestion is exactly the same as outlined for the creation of artificial grey – you need to be able to segregate the lightened threads and check they have lifted sufficiently.  With foils, it’s very difficult to weave out the same hair again if the lightener did not lift this hair to pale yellow upon the first application.  However, if your salon uses a highlighting cap – they can lift the hair, check it has taken to a pale blonde and if they feel the hair (pulled through the cap) is demonstrating too much depth or warmth, re-lighten.   In addition, once the bleach is rinsed off and if the hair pulled through the cap is pale yellow, the colourist can emulsify a silver based tone on tone colourant directly into the segregated hair and it will immediately produce a grey tone.  The cap can then be removed and the new silver threads intermix within the previous dark base.  As I previously stated, UK salons (generally) do not like using highlighting caps, however it’s crucial the threads being lighted are segregated during this process, so subsequent lightening and toning can be applied to this regionalised hair without risk of it effecting the surrounding dark base (which is needed to produce the final grey effect).   

                I would then suggest every 6 to 8 weeks the above exercise is repeated in the salon, introducing more silver threads into the hair via the cap and tone method.   Overtime, the hair will slowly begin to turn silver or grey and you will eventually be able to stop having the grey highlights added and just allow your natural silver shade to take over.

A word of caution!

Sadly not every person- who allows their grey hair to grow in - discovers a shimmering head of bright silver.  Most of us tend to go grey (initially) around the front hairline.  Therefore, the misconception with many people is they have turned fully white (throughout) – because they only observe the grey roots at the front of their head when looking in the mirror.  However, some of us are unfortunate enough to go (what I refer to as) ‘badger grey’.  Here you experience clumps of grey hair throughout an otherwise dark base, usually with the front sections very grey, but the top and the sides remaining dark.  Intermixed with this (overall) dark base you find thick wiry white hairs that are not particularly slightly.   In the past, I’ve had several clients who asked me to help them to transition to grey (believing their whole head was white).  However, as the months went on I began to observe more and more dark in the new hair growing through.  In these instances you have two options.  Option A: - you can begin the highlighting method (as outlined above) whereby you continually keep adding bleach threads which are then toned to silver.  The negative to this method can be found if you only have grey at the front areas – because you then flip the issue of the white roots and begin discovering very dark roots start appearing in other areas of the head. Option B: - is to work with what you have.  Therefore, if the hair at the front of the head is grey – you allow this to grow through (with the outlined highlight method), but ‘dab out’ the white patches in the other areas of your head with a dark permanent colour.  Via this method, you will achieve a rather dramatic and effective Mallon Streak.  You will actually find the upkeep of the patchy white hair fairly minimal but you will still achieve the silver effect via the front (hairline) sections. 


Should anyone not go grey?

Yes – there is one category who should really avoid allowing themselves to grey.  A deep true redhead will never achieve a silver shade naturally.  When the white hairs begin to appear, the redhead will have too much warmth (in the remaining surrounding hair) to showcase a silver.  Instead, the hair initially becomes a quite flattering golden blonde, but will eventually start to turn nicotine yellow (as more white hair appears).   In addition, natural redheads have a very warm skin tone that tends to clash with silver and grey hair – causing the individual to appear washed out.    Therefore, if they are able to artificially achieve silver or grey hair – it will look quite harsh on this specific skin tone.   As a general rule, redheads (as they age) should allow the hair to become a softer (lighter) warm blonde, introducing gold toned highlights.  Lulu is an excellent example of this particular colour approach. 

And maintaining grey?

Sometimes women (who artificially colour) yearn for the simplicity of natural grey, believing absolutely no upkeep is required.  This isn’t strictly true.  A negative to true grey hair can be its tendency to turn either a steely or yellowy tone due to the purity of those white hairs.  Styling products, pollutants and general day to day life will often dull pure white hair and cause it to lose some of its natural brightness.  Therefore, if you are considering going grey – you should remember that a specific range of hair care products will be needed for you to keep the shade at its optimum level.   Grey and silver hair needs shampoos, conditioners and styling products that contain a violet tone to brighten as they work.  The White Hot Hair range is an excellent selection of products for this purpose.  Designed exclusively for grey and white hair, the items not only clean and condition but enhance silver shades and prevent the hair becoming dull or yellow toned. 

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Hair Personality

Few people are as able to alter their physical appearance like Meryl Streep.  However, the majority of us harbour a completely different hair personality to the physical image we project to the world. 

When I give my classes and 121 clinics, the area attendees find the most fascinating (in addition to your hair colour season) is our hair personality.

As people, we tend to break into 6 very specific image & personality types. What we display on the outside is our physical image and how we see ourselves (on the inside) is our personality. 

Few of us share a completely balanced physical appearance and internal personality.   So whilst you might physically share similarities with say Catherine Zeta Jones - inside (however) you don't recognise this and instead relate to Cate Blanchett's appearance. In this example, you may continually try to keep your hair neat, short and fair - and never entirely realise why you are never happy with it. It's not just a case of a hair look not suiting you, it's a case of varying factors of cut, colour and style clashing with your physicality. You may genuinely feel Jennifer Aniston's look works for you - because it suits your personality, but on the outside are you physically near to Anne Hathaway?

This is a very detailed and complicated area. Firstly, it does not mean certain looks, cuts and colours are out.   However, it does mean these looks, cuts and colours have to be tailored and blended carefully and a degree of compromise accepted.   I refer to this compromise as 'bridging the inner self with the outer self' and it takes quite a while to establish a clients internal hair personality.

So, consider this factor when you next visit your salon. If you believe every hairdresser wants to cut or colour your hair into a look you just do not like, remember - they are observing the external side of you. They genuinely believe the hair look (they are suggesting) suits, the problem is - inside you feel it doesn't.  Why?  Because you are just not that kind of hair personality.  

So start to think of the areas you can harmonize the inner and outer self. 

Recognise what you display on the outside (bone structure, face shape, hair type and colour) then acknowledge what you keep leaning toward on the inside. If you are a dark eyed, deep toned brunette who keeps longing for Nicole Kidman's shade (and women of similar type), it's possible you have one internal hair image and a completely different external one. When you begin to ponder this, you might start to recognise 'hair issues' you've had in the past and why they seem to crop up again and again.

Remember, a differing hair personality and external hair image does not mean looks you desire are immediately a no go.  It just means you have to understand how you can make it work for you, how your desired look can be tailored and when you have to admit something just won't work for you - no matter how much you might want it to.

Friday, 4 October 2013

All About Hair Rollers

Rollers are perhaps the best way to create shape and movement in the majority of longer hairstyles. 
For a long time, salons would deride the use of rollers, believing that blow-drying and heat curling were far better, however this generally isn't true. Today, women are returning to using rollers and understanding the benefits. So in this piece I will explain some Roller Factors:-

1. The best way to achieve good effects from rollers is to wet set with them. This means you wash the hair, towel dry and roll. As the hair dries the temporary bonds (within it) will re-affix and create a durable style.

2. With heated rollers, the effects are also good - but any type of heat setting will not alter as many temporary bonds as you would see from wet to dry. If you are using heated rollers, you must make sure the rollers are 100% cool before you remove them, otherwise the curl will be pulled out by the weight of the hair (as it drops) whilst the heat is still setting the curl in place.

3. Good shape and movement (and ultimately curls) are only ever truly created from rollers by strong tension when winding.  Rollers must always be wound in smooth sections and pulled tight during the rolling. If you don't work with sufficient tension the hair will drop as the temporary bonds will not be pulled into the new shape. 

5. Many people use Velcro rollers as a 'roller set' item, but generally many velcro rollers are just designed to give finished movement or volume after blow-drying. For best effects using Jet Set and traditional (plastic)  rollers will give you stronger tension when winding and a firmer finished curl effect.

6. Nobody realises this, but silicones and conditioning agents are the enemy for any curl or style setting. Silicones are designed to pull moisture into the hair, when this moisture hits set hair it will cause created effects to start to drop out. Therefore, it's always preferable to set on pre-clarified hair and avoid using a conditioner and instead use setting lotions and hairsprays which shield the outside of the hair and work with the temporary bonds on the inside.

7. Many types of (naturally straight) Caucasian hair are not great at holding curl, particularly if the hair is very silky by nature. If you are really wedded to big hair, movement and volume and have this particular hair type you need to consider having a perm foundation. When hair is permed the (permanent) internal bonds in the hair will be altered.  A curly perm foundation in a silky (hard to curl) hair type will enable wet set hair to hold it's shape between washes (even if you go a week). Remember, perms were actually created to allow women set - not for the wash and wear perm looks they are now associated to.

8. A hood dryer is the best item any Roller Setter needs to consider investing in. You can pick up a hood dryer in Argos for around £60. However, the benefit to this item is an ability to wet set the hair, sit under the dryer and quickly dry the hair. The increased air (on the hair) also gives far more volume and set longevity. 

9. If you have compromised your hair with heat styling and chemicals and it's feeling dry or damaged, switching your style regime to wet setting is also another good option. If you can wet set maybe twice a week and leave the hair to dry naturally (with the rollers in), you will not only help the condition improve but also retain the style effect you want. This method is particularly good for those with whole head bleached hair - which has a tendency to snap and break when exposed to heated tools and blow-drying. 

10. If you like to wear big hair up styles, always set the hair beforehand. Remove the rollers and vigorously brush the hair out.  Once hair has been wet set you will find it moulds as you attempt to place it up - instead of collapsing or breaking free from the hair pins.

What happens when you over bleach?

Here is a good example!  This is a video from a college student who has attempted to bleach a mannequin head's hair. Although she used 30 volume she did put the head under the dryer which would have caused the bleach to turn volatile.

However (for those who have been lucky enough not to see or experience this), the video shows you exactly what happens to hair when you over bleach it. Bleach contains ammonia (which will swell the hair), coupled with the peroxide strength the chemical will go into the hair and start oxidizing (lightening out) the pigment. However, when the pigment is gone, the bleach will then attempt to start oxidizing the keratin and internal bonds. At this point the hair starts to dissolve and will turn to a gum texture.

Firstly, don't be so alarmed - generally it takes a huge amount of lightening to get the hair to this point. However, you need to remember that continual bleaching can make this happen. When I hear people saying they "want to go from black to platinum in one go" - this video demonstrates what I am afraid of.  Not to mention the damage it could do to your scalp. Notice the bleached hair on the  video clip looks fairly white.  Obtaining white (without a toner)  means the Keratin protein has actually been bleached away (hence the gummy texture). Keratin is yellow, so if you are lifting up - you should always see a yellow hue to the hair, which needs subsequent toning (as the yellow coloured keratin protein is still present in the hair). If you have got the hair to pure white from bleaching alone be careful!  With this in mind, never lift the hair to a pale yellow and think you haven't lightened enough and attempt to bleach again!  The pale yellow means you have lightened enough and a subsequent bleach application will literally destroy your hair.   Instead, when the hair has reached pale yellow it should be toned with a violet pigment.  Violet neutralises yellow and create pure white. 

Bleaching isn't necessarily dangerous, but you should always remember it's not a colour - it's only removing from your hair (not adding to it), so be careful how much you repeat the process on the same hair and if your hair feels very dry or damaged, never attempt to bleach it - as it will simply disintegrate. 

Remember, if you have bleached hair during any point of it's lifespan (and longer hair can be several years old), applying another bleach application may lead to over processing.  Many people forget (if they have coloured over bleached hair) that under the dark colourant - the results from the previous bleach are still in place.   Therefore, if you have coloured over bleached hair, you should always use a non peroxide or ammonia colour remover to take this shade out.  After this point, a bleach or lightener can be applied to the subsequent (darker) growth (only) and a toner applied throughout to create a true blonde.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Going Platinum is easier when you are short!!

This recent shot of Jessie J demonstrates her hair is growing back after shaving it for the cause of Comic Relief earlier in the year. However, it's also demonstrating a perfectly platinum shade...

Few people know the only true way to immediately achieve platinum (white) is by lightening virgin (untreated) hair nearer the roots. When hair has been treated with a lot of colourants (in the past) and is longer in length to issues arise.  Firstly, any remaining molecules in the hair slow down the lightening process and can leave the hair a peachy shade. Secondly, the hair nearest the scalp (roots) receives a significant amount of heat from your head - this boosts the lifting process. The mid and longer lengths do not receive this scalp heat - so a longer processing time and (often) stronger peroxide strength have to be used to lift the whole head to pale. On well worn and previously treated hair, this peroxide strength (coupled with the bleach) is the cause of the damage, as the hair fibres begin to weaken under the bleaching process.   Virgin hair (nearer to the scalp), is much healthier and (due to the scalp heat) can be treated with a weaker peroxide strength. Therefore, the base shade lifts up evenly and with less risk of damage. If you then only apply a lightener to the new regrowth every 4 to 6 weeks, the hair will begin to grow through a pure platinum with far less damage then seen if you try to go to the shade in one go.

You can never expect to see platinum from lightening alone

Platinum hair can only be achieved by toning after lightening. The hairs fibre (keratin) is yellow in colour.  When you remove all the natural pigment by lightening - the final stage (you will see) is a 'brassy' blonde or pale yellow. This is because the cuticle layer (which is transparent) is displaying the exposed keratin inside the hair. Therefore, the hair must be toned with a violet pigment to neutralise this exposed yellow and counteract it to white.  Yes, it seems strange but white is achieved by applying a violet pigment to a yellow. 

So you have longer hair and want to go platinum?  Be careful!

 Just remember, if you have longer hair and are considering attempting to go platinum from a very dark artificial colour, you won't be able to do it. You need to slowly reduce the depth in the hair (overtime) and then begin introducing highlights. When the highlights turn the hair blonde, you can then switch to a regrowth lightening colour and the hair will start to appear pure white. When you attempt to bleach artificially dark (long) hair in one go - it can be a total disaster - as the hair fibres will be compromised, the cuticle will become damaged and the hair takes on an unpleasant light orange shade you can neither tone nor shift with further blonde colour treatment.  
But what if you have virgin hair?
If you have short (virgin) hair - platinum is achievable in one step.  If you have longer (virgin) hair, I would suggest you undertake the process over a month period - giving the hair three gentle liftings at a time and conditioning treatments in between.
However, for those who are artificially dark, only try to go platinum very slowly over an extended period of time - the wait pays off in the end.

And (finally) a note on Pastel shades
Lastly, remember that nearly all pastel hues require a platinum base shade to display correctly in the hair.  Therefore, if you are considering a pastel colour effect you need to 100% understand the principles of going platinum still apply to you.   If you lift up a base shade to a muddy orange and then try to use a pastel colour, it will only act as a neutraliser and produce a strange earth tone blonde, brunette or auburn.   You ultimately need to have that pure white base to get the soft pinks, blues and metallic shades which have become popular with pastel colouring.