beauty

From lowlights to semi-permanent foils: Exactly how to start embracing your greys.

Fact: Every person with hair on this earth will go grey at some point in their life. It’s just one of those fun physiological things that happen to our bodies as we age.

But in 2020, salt and pepper hair or a full head of grey is also a growing hair trend.

As an ‘eff you’ to conventional beauty standards, if you will, Pinterest searches for ‘going grey’ have increased a whopping 879 per cent in the last year. You also only have to search ‘greyhairdontcare’ on Instagram to see there’s a growing community of women (and some men) embracing their natural hair colour and texture.

Side note – here’s what your hairdresser really means when they ask how often you’ve been heat styling your hair, among other things, in our hairdressers translated video below. Post continues after video.

Video via Mamamia

It’s wonderful and empowering and we’re all for it, but before putting down the at-home dye and root retoucher, you might ask: How… does one actually go grey?

Whether you’re blonde or brunette and can’t be bothered dealing with covering up weekly regrowth, are feeling like letting a few greys come through, or want to go completely grey, here’s exactly how to do it. Because if a man can rock salt and pepper hair, we sure as heck can too!

What does grey hair look like?

First up, here’s a quick science lesson about grey hair because according to award-winning colourist and celebrity hairdresser Marie Uva of Uva Salon, there’s a massive misconception around what grey hair actually looks like.

Grey hairs are hairs that have a small amount of pigment left in them, while white hairs don’t have any pigment at all. And while those who’ve never dyed their hair before or have naturally lighter hair might find their greys are light or white like visual artist Alexandra Grant (who happens to be dating Hollywood actor Keanu Reeves), the large majority of us have grey hairs that don’t look so shiny and silvery.

 

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“A lot of people don’t have that 100 per cent gorgeous grey, silver or white colour that looks nice. Most people are in the 50 to 70 per cent grey category, which is a mix of their natural hair colour and some greys through it,” Uva told Mamamia.

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Andrew Bradbury, master colour expert and head colourist at Barney Martin salon, added, “Because there’s less pigment in the hair, grey hair can look lifeless and dull, and there’s no shine through it. Grey hair can have a yellow-ish undertone to it too.”

How to go grey.

OK, so now we know what grey hair realistically looks like and what your version of grey might be, how do you go about embracing your natural greys? The answer is… well, there’s a few things.

Whether you choose foils (highlights, lowlights or both), or a semi-permanent colour, these options won’t save you time in the salon, but they’ll make the way your greys come through far less obvious than a regrowth stripe down the middle of your head.

1. Foils.

Uva recommends asking your stylist to use a foiling technique to gradually start allowing more of your own colour into the mix.

“You could have some white foils and some dark foils, and then we would tone it down so it blends it in with your natural colour. That variation of foils helps you not have to come into the salon too often – it’d be around the eight to 10 week mark.”

Bradbury also suggests what he calls a ‘money piece’ as a low-maintenance way to subtly lighten a darker colour.

“A good starting point for brunettes wanting to make greys coming through less obvious is putting a cool, softer ash-blonde through the front of the facade. We call it a money piece. It gives the hair a lighter feel while keeping the darker colour through the back.”

 

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2. Semi-permanent colour.

Another great option is switching from a permanent colour to a semi-permanent colour, which can be done all over as well as in foils. This approach is all about letting greys come through in a subtle, gradual way over the course of six weeks (24-ish washes).

“A blanket coverage colour covers 100 per cent of greys, which will give you obvious regrowth. When people have a small amount of greys, we usually suggest tinted foils that don’t cover every single bit of hair, or you can try an all-over semi-permanent colour that fades out rather than grows out,” Uva said.

“Semi-permanent colour is a great option for brunettes who don’t want to go lighter to cover greys too. As you wash the hair, the greys start coming back through, so it’s a softer way of colouring the hair.”

3. Lowlights.

For those wanting to embrace greys with dark hair, Bradbury recommends lowlight foils over highlights.

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“Instead of putting pieces of lighter colour through the hair, we put pieces of darker colour through the hair. This can create a shadowy effect to break up the regrowth line where your greys will come through.”

“By doing lowlight foils, you’re still covering 50 per cent of the greys while letting 50 per cent grow out at the same time. This creates a natural blend and a natural transition, and over a six-month period, you would come into the salon every few months to soften everything as the greys come through. We can also put a bit more of a cool tone through the hair for more of a smokier, pepper and salt version of yourself.”

 

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Growing out grey hair.

Both Uva and Bradbury said growing out grey hair completely is actually a fairly high-maintenance process. In other words, you’re in for frequent salon appointments for at least a year.

“Going grey in one appointment doesn’t happen. How long it will take also depends on the length of your hair, how much grey you have and whether you’re willing to cut your existing colour out,” Uva said.

“It’s a difficult process that involves a lot of bleaching and lightening to get rid of colour buildup and get the hair white and then toning it to put the grey back in. Essentially, it’s higher maintenance until you get those true greys coming through.”

Bradbury’s approach to helping clients grow out their grey hair is to create a multi-dimensional, textured colour with lots of different variations of foils throughout the hair. Again, it’s a lot of work.

“I would highlight the hair with creamy highlights to begin with, then at the end, we put an ash/silver blonde tint in between to bring out more of the natural grey and help grow the line out. It creates a dimensional blonde so the client can see their greys coming through, without the harsh line. And we can tweak the colour each time the client comes in and alter to match their greys coming through.”

“To begin with, it’s more high-maintenance because anything against grey hair looks brassy or yellow, so it’s more about coming in for a monthly toning service where we would neutralise unnecessary gold tones.”

 

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Shampoo for grey hair.

Cool, so how do I care for my new, fancy colour at home?

Whether you’re blonde or brunette, Uva suggests focusing on using really good quality shampoo and conditioner specifically designed to help hair retain colour. Her picks? The Wella SP Colour Save Shampoo and Conditioner, $36.95 each.

For those with a mixture of light blonde foils or all over grey, Bradbury loves the Oribe Silverati Shampoo, $68, which he describes as a subtle highlighter for light blonde/grey hair. You can also mix up your colour using a shampoo with a pink, rose gold or more metallic tone to it. The De Lorenzo Novafusion Colour Care Shampoos, $29.90, are a great way to do this at home – the range comes in shades like silver, rose gold, copper and grey.

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Grey hair inspiration.

And if you’re still not sure which approach you’d like to take to embrace grey hair, here are a bunch of photos of women who are doing it well for some inspiration. You’re welcome.

 

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Feature image: Instagram/@grombre and @inhersixties.

How do you feel about grey hair, would you like to start embracing yours? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.

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