Monday, 19 January 2015


A lot of people have asked me how you can transition into a grey shade.  In addition, this subject is now being covered a grey deal in the media and press.  So below are my thoughts, tips and advice.

1.  The press would have us believe that under artificially coloured hair, we all have a fantastic mane of beautiful silver tresses.  In fact, I have yet to see an article (unless I contributed) which actually explains the blunt truth - so here it is.  Most of us do not go grey in an even and stylish way.  When we get those first greys (anywhere between our early 20's to late 30's) they will be interspersed with the rest of the hair.  Some people are fortunate enough to go grey at the front and then it evenly spreads backwards.  However (for the majority) the white hairs will come through randomly and all over the place, perhaps 10 years into going grey, most people have a badger effect with patchy clumps of white.

Meryl Streep searches for her blue shampoo in Disney's 'Into The Woods' (c) Disney 2014

2.  In general (although not exclusively) we begin to grey at the front.  So here is the problem,  I have had vast amounts of people tell me "I'm completely white now and want to transition to silver".  So we start allowing the grey to grow through and guess what?  They are still completely 'non grey' everywhere but the front!  So in this situation, they can either opt for a Mallen Streak or continue to colour.  This scenario can be a real nuisance for many as it's the front hairline and parting section (of grey roots) that can be the most noticeable.

Johnny Depp's Mallen Streak in 'Sweeney Todd' (c) Warner Brothers 2007 

3.  If you were naturally dark and believe you are now very, very grey - watch out for artificial hair colours that keep turning copper!!  This is indicating the colourant (either yourself or your hair salon is applying) has a high strength of peroxide and is lightening the non grey hair.  When you lighten dark natural bases the hair obviously goes copper.  However, white hair cannot go copper as there is no longer red or orange pigment left in the hair to expose.  Therefore, if you are seeing a lot of copper in hair you believe (under an artificial shade) to be very grey, think again as you must have more or your original depth than you think!    Preventing unwanted copper in a grey coverage shade can be achieved by using a low strength developer and an ash based colourant.

4.  Some of us may never go fully white, but for those who do the transition can take a long time.  The best way to understand how white you actually are, is to get someone (hairdresser, friend, relative) to go through your head (like the nit nurse lol) and check your grey roots throughout.  They will be able to tell you how much of your original shade is remaining throughout, and how much is grey.  You might be surprised to learn your entire back section is still 100% it's original colour and never needed artificial colouring!

5.  From my experience (and as stated in point 3) artificially coloured hair that kicks up a lot of warmth (when coloured) is indicating a great deal of the original shade is still present.  When someone has a high amount of white/grey the darker (artificial) colour starts beginning to look very flat, heavy and synthetic (from root to tip) It will lack warmth and will look artificially coloured.  This happens, because there is now so much white hair (across the head) the artificial colour is displaying as an even blanket and in addition being sucked into the hair.  Therefore, a shade can look two (or even more) levels darker than indicated on the box or swatch!

Colouring very white hair  in deeper shades can cause it to absorb the colour and create an ultra dark Morticia Addams effect. (c) 1991 Paramount 


6.   When you start to cover the first signs of grey hair DO NOT and I repeat DO NOT pour an entire bottle of permanent colour over your whole head!  This is opening you up to a lifetime of regrowth application and chemical exposure you just don't need!  Instead, buy a non ammonia colour and mix in a tint bowl and using a (purpose bought) toothbrush, go throughout your hair and 'dab out' any whites you can see, but leave the natural hair untouched.  Always pick a non ammonia colour 2 levels lighter than your natural shade.  However, this simple 'dabbing' method will produce a highly natural (multi-tonal) colour, without root straps - so your upkeep is lower.  You will know when the hair needs to switch to a full head regrowth, as the grey will start appearing as a strap and the toothbrush application will be taking longer and longer! From this point switch to standard regrowth application.  However, if you find you have large isolated clumps of white (in an otherwise dark/original base) continue with the 'dabbing' method.  Dabbing also helps prevent hair becoming gingery through developer lightening as you only ever target those white hairs/areas that contain no red or orange pigment. The other benefit of 'dabbing' out isolated whites and patchy grey is it produces a very natural 'multi-tonal' effect instead of that artificial bloke colour.  Very few hairdressers do this, but it's the secret to the top colourists and celebrity coverage!

This rare capture of the Dutchess of Cambridge shows how (if you notice her regrowth) she has slight interspersed grey. However, rather than blocking out all her roots with a darker colour, a lighter colour has been used and those white hairs have been 'dabbed out' with a lighter shade (to her non grey brunette base).  This ultimately creates a a very natural multi-tonal brunette. 

7.  Always cover grey roots by application with a tint brush to those grey roots only.  Never try to select a shade the same level as your natural/original colour,instead go two levels lighter.  Only apply the colourant to the roots (never throughout).  If you are finding your roots need tending to every 2 to 3 weeks, your colour is now too dark for your grey base.  When you find yourself colouring more frequently, simply switch to a shade one level lighter than the current.  You should aim for regrowth coverage every 4 to 6 weeks.  A lighter artificial shade is less noticeable next to grey regrowth.  Think of it on percentages.  If you have 10-20% grey, you can use a colourant 1 level lighter than your original base to achieve a natural effect.  If you have 30 to 50% grey, your base is now 30-50% lighter (due to the white hair) than originally, therefore select a colourant 30 to 50% lighter than your natural/original shade and so on.  Whenever you notice you are colouring more frequently, it means your hair now has a percentage more grey (than previously) and you need to go up a level (eg from 5.0 light brown to 6.0 dark blonde then to 7.0 medium blonde and so on).  As you transition, (over the years) your hair will begin to naturally lighten with the grey - until you can decide to make a complete transition.  If you are mindful your hair is always in a state of gradual lightening and adjust your shade accordingly, you will not be trapped in a cycle of very dark hair with a white regrowth strap appearing every 2 weeks!

8.  When you have decided to transition to grey, remember you may still have to colour. During transition, the best method to deploy is to stop root colouring completely and start having bleach highlights added.  You can then tone these with Iced Platinum Colour Restore and use a blue shampoo as your regular cleanser.  Keep having the highlights added every few months and eventually (as more of your natural grey grows through) you will notice that initial blonde shade is now appearing silver.  This is indicating all the old artificial colour has been lifted away (or grown out) and instead you are now highlighting on pure grey.   This method is also very good for those who have patchy 'badger' grey and want to be a silver.  If you ask your salon to simply weave out those 'non grey' dark areas and apply bleach highlights into them, you will start to achieve a silver effect.  You can also achieve this at home with a highlighting cap. The key is to lighten those highlights through the orange stage and then tone to platinum.  If you then only use a blue shampoo, the cool tone will over deposit and the artificial highlights will appear silver.

9.   Does grey suit everyone?  No!  As a general rule those who were naturally very warm (so your typical redhead) really do not suit white or grey hair.  These skin tones are very warm and the ultra cool hair tone next to that skin causes a sallow effect.  When significantly older, the natural 'redhead'/'gold' hair type can suit a pure 100% white.  However, warm natural hair types - who go grey - will actually start obtaining a nicotine yellow.  This happens because the original copper/auburn base begins to lighten as the white hairs appear.  Therefore, you don't achieve a silver but a washed out yellow blonde.  For natural redheads and auburns  (rather than going grey) the best approach is to go light golden blonde.  A good example of this is approach is Lula.  The maintenance of a lightest golden blonde is very low and using a 9.3 to 10.3 (light golden blonde) shade gives minimal contrast between the nicotine/white roots and mid-lengths - meaning you will need those roots doing less often.

Lulu transitioned from a natural 'redhead' shade to a light golden blonde.  More suited to her skin tone than cold blondes, silvers and greys. 

10.  Lastly a word to the media!  Helen Mirren IS NOT GREY!!!!!!  This is driving me mad!  Every single article on grey hair features Helen Mirren as seemingly the poster girl for grey hair!  Helen Mirren was once a natural golden blonde.  She has (obviously) gone grey, however her colourist simply applies a platinum highlight throughout.  This produces (what I call) ice blonde or soft metallic blonde.  This is a great idea for those who were naturally quite fair and have gone grey, simply because it uses the grey hair as a base and then intermixes a cool blonde tone.  However, you cannot call this shade 'grey' anymore than you'd call an Emu a Flamingo!!

A younger Helen Mirren had golden blonde hair.  As the hair has gone grey, it has produced an ice blonde that is intensified with platinum based highlights.  However, Helen's current shade is still very much blonde. 

If the media want good examples of grey haired celebrities look to Emmylou Harris Jamie Lee Curtis and (sometimes) Julie Walters

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