If you’ve been colouring your hair to cover the grey, the thought of stopping can be scary for no other reason than imagining how you’ll survive the time it takes for your natural colour to emerge.
Going grey is a big decision and a process. Julie Peacocke, Director of Lily Jackson Hair & Makeup and Lily Jackson Hairdressing Potts Point discusses how to go grey and if doing it gracefully is possible.
What are the issues faced by going grey?
The biggest issue to address is how to transition to grey and still keep the hair looking great. Going grey is a gradual process and often in the first years, the colour solution might have been to just cover the grey hair with an overall tint or highlights.
No two people are going to go grey in the same way so “going grey” really requires a bespoke solution for each individual. You would be surprised at the different patterns: some people have lots of grey hair around the hairline (think forehead, sideburns, and nape of the neck), but not a lot on the top. For others, their grey hair might grow more densely in patches.
The colour of the skin also changes with age – so this needs to be taken this into account ie are the natural shade of grey in your hair and your skin tone complementary?
Growing out the old colour
Growing out existing colour presents its own challenges and really requires a well thought out colour strategy depending on how patient or fearful the client is about the transition. It’s a really big step.
The other issue is that we assume the grey that grows out is a pleasant colour or tone and is uniform in appearance but often this is not the case. Some grey hair has unusual tones like yellow or green which need to be corrected.
The grey hair might also have different densities in different parts of the head – ie you might be a really light grey on the front of your head and still have your original pigment at the back.
Grey hair has a different texture to hair with natural pigment, so as your hair goes grey, the texture of your hair will change and as a result – these two “types” of hair will behave differently. Curly grey hair, for example, is often more wirey than the curly hair with natural pigment and can be more difficult to control.
Finally, will going grey to be supportive of your professional goals? I know of many professional women in high-powered positions who would not consider going grey because they feel they would be, consciously or unconsciously, judged and leave themselves open to bias and prejudice.
What are your tips for transitioning to grey?
If you’ve followed Instagram at all, many young women are choosing to have their hair coloured grey or silver and it’s quite a social media trend.
In the past, the limitations of technology in professional hair colour meant that stylists were not able to create grey shades and tones. But now we have many more tools, products and interesting colour technology that enables us to create bespoke levels of fashion-oriented grey hair.
So what does this mean for you?
The best news is you don’t have to grow out your hair, have a really obvious re-growth and look aged or unkempt in the process.
The first thing to consider is how much colour already exists in the hair and how big a difference there is between the coloured hair and the original pigment.
Some clients might need or want a slow transition – this involves gradually growing out the grey yet incorporating some bespoke colour so that the hair does not look flat or unattractive.
Some clients are super ready. Generally, they’ve thought about it for quite some time so an extreme transition involving a full removal of the colour that exists in the hair, is right for them. How well this solution works depends on how long the hair is (better in shorter hairstyles) and the overall health and condition of the hair being treated.
Unless you’re incredibly lucky to have a pleasant shade of grey and colour densities that are attractive, grey hair still requires a bespoke approach to look good. Finding that stylist that can take you on this journey and who makes it an adventure and not a stressful experience is key.
Some of the techniques we use are:
- Toning out undesirable colours like yellow or green tinge or sun bleached gold brassiness.
- Creating contrast be it lighter or darker (but in a minimal way where you might only need touch ups three or four times per year).
- Putting in MORE grey. Some people have white hair instead of grey and adding in grey can create a point of difference, add style and create more depth and texture to a fashionable haircut.
Can you reverse your colour?
We can remove (or strip) colour from the hair, but because of the process, the hair will have no colour. So as part of the process, we would need to deposit the desired colour back into the hair and this can be a bespoke grey colour.
The colour removal process is not suitable for everyone and definitely not to be attempted if you’ve been colouring your hair with supermarket colour in a box.
Is cutting hair short and letting it grow again the only way?
It certainly is an option if you cannot deal with the length of time a transition will take. It’s like ripping off a band-aid.
Women with short grey hair can look so stylish, but it is not the only way for the reasons mentioned above. You just need to have a lot of patience if you wish to keep your hair length.
For those who don’t want to sacrifice their long hair, what would you suggest?
The first thing about any long hair is that it must be healthy.
Many women attached to having long hair are unfortunately blind to their split or dead ends that must be cut off for any hairstyle to look good and for any colour to hold.
Again, a bespoke approach to colour is needed and transitioning the hairstyle to grey will involve allowing incremental amounts of natural colour to show through over a period of time.
Having a sharp haircut once it is grey is essential – grey hair looks best with a strong style.
Can you show us some types of hairstyles that work with grey hair?
I certainly can! Take a look at our latest professional photo shoot and video featuring women with grey hair! You will see a short pixie cut, one shorter hairstyle with a longer fringe, one medium hair length hairstyle and one long grey hairstyle.