Tired of dealing with grey root regrowth? Maybe it’s time to embrace those silver strands and go grey.
One of nature’s cruel jokes is that you can sprout grey hair long before laugh lines register on the face. As a harbinger that one’s mortality is hurtling towards them, grey hair is not one of life’s most welcome changes, especially if it arrives before you’re even out of your teens. “I specifically remember bemoaning my greys on a holiday between my first and second years of university, so I would have been about 19,” recalls Aileen Lalor, a Vancouver-based beauty writer.
“I was lying on the grass and my friend offered to pluck out my greys but had to stop after five minutes because she said I was going to be bald if she carried on.” Elementary school teacher Andrea MacInnes was in her mid-30s when she noticed the grey creeping in. It wasn’t a complete shock as she knew early greying ran in her father’s family. “It wasn’t that bad at first but I guess [I was] in my late thirties when I thought it was an issue,” she says. Not surprisingly, neither woman opted for letting the grey flourish at those stages in their lives. When greys pop up, most people – more specifically women – look for ways to disguise it.
Lalor was in her mid-20s when she started to colour her hair and tried to replicate her nearly-black natural colour, but when she hit her 30s, she switched things up. “Five or so years ago, I started to go more of a warm mid-dark brown shade because I felt like the nearly-black wasn’t that flattering and also the regrowth was too obvious. Last year, I had highlights because I thought it would help disguise the dyeline (it didn’t work),” she says. MacInnes says going for colour was the obvious course of action for her.
Image by Goldwell Dualsenses
“At first, it was like, ‘this is what we do as women, we get our hair coloured.’ I wasn’t really thinking about it,” she says. Maintaining hair colour can be expensive with frequent visits to the salon to cover the roots. MacInnes’ routine was a few professional treatments a year and the rest of the time she would use drugstore colour kits to keep her colour looking fresh.
With a decade between them, both women came to the same decision looking to the next decade in their lives: they decided to embrace the grey and stop trying to cover it up. “I’m such a practical person – okay, lazy,” MacInnes admits, laughing. “And the fact that I just paid a whole whack of money to get my hair done, and two weeks later my roots were coming in really pissed me off. I guess I’m cheap as well.” And even though she only had her hair coloured professionally a couple or so times a year, she said, “I just started getting fed up with that even and I thought, ‘I’m just going to go grey. I’m just going to let it happen.”
For Lalor, it was both time-consuming and expensive for something that didn’t last long. “My greys were getting more obvious and harder to colour,” she recounts. “The colour didn’t ‘take’ well in the hair on my temples so sometimes I’d see greys within a week, and otherwise the regrowth would be obvious in two or three weeks.”
Factor in the fashion forward 20-somethings who’ve been opting to colour their hair grey – with blue, lavender and pink tones – for the last few years and going grey can seem like embracing a trend. As Lalor noted, grey really is just another colour. Once the decision is made to let the grey “happen,” it’s then a question of how to do it.
Both women chose probably the fastest, yet most drastic, option to make the transition. They let their roots grow in and then had their hair cut ultra-short. “I started growing it out when I had a bob and then my hairdresser chopped it as short as I could stand (I’ve had variations on a pixie cut for the last 10 years, off and on, so that part wasn’t a big deal for me),” Lalor says. “Then I went cold turkey and it took about six months till the majority of my hair was my natural colour.” MacInnes, also knowing that pixie cuts suit her, was comfortable with this method. “I let my hair grow out enough that when they cut it there was just a little bit [of coloured hair] left on the bottom.”
But lopping off all your locks isn’t the only way to make the transition. The other way just takes a little longer says Kelsi Trohan, a colour technician at Suki’s Morgan Crossing in South Surrey. “What I always tell my clients – whether they’ve never coloured their hair or have always got highlights – I tell them it will take about a year and a half depending on how long or short your hair is.”
Highlights (lighter tones) and lowlights (darker hues) are the way she helps achieve that transition without having to sacrifice hair length. The biggest key is blending and being patient. Although, it’s easier for blondes to make the transition, brunettes can do it well too. “I would go in with highlights, probably a whole head. Depending on where the grey is – a lot of the time it’s around the hairline and the crown, I would put in some baby lights. They are like the tease lights, the really tiny lights, really finely done,” says Trohan.
And once, the grey has all come in, there are still varying shades of it until the hair goes completely white or silver. Trohan makes adjustments there too with high and/or lowlights to soften the effect of the darker grey. “All the pigment is invited into the hair before changing to white,” she says. “That’s the colour that a lot of people don’t like, so I like to…add back a bit of their natural colour. That way it doesn’t feel so grey. That slate grey can be difficult to hide. Light white ones easier.”
For salt and pepper, she adds both highlights and lowlights to soften it. MacInnes has since gone that route and likes the effect, and says she’s often complimented on her hair colour. Trohan says that for all women, whether blonde or brunette, they have to be mindful of skin tone against the new hair colour – natural or highlighted. “With darker hair, the colour will be warmer, so you have to embrace those tones – caramel tones, honey tones,” she explains. “For South Asian women, I really like deep mocha colours. So, you’ve got a little bit of warmth and coolness in there. I find that anytime you go too cool, it can start aging you a little bit and you don’t really see the highlights.”
Because grey hair is associated with aging, there are a few adjustments that can be made to avert that effect. “An up-to-date hairstyle,” is something that Lalor’s stylist, Shai of Vancouver’s Pome Studio, advises, “Plus, an adjustment of colours in make-up, blouses and earrings. Get advice from a makeup artist at any makeup brand counter. Take selfies to compare clothing colours next to the face to see which colours make the face look bright/awake or tired/washed out.”
That’s what Lalor did by switching up a number of beauty choices to adapt to her new look. “I’ve always loved a bright lip but I’m never without it these days because I think my lighter hair makes me look washed out otherwise,” she says. “A makeup artist told me to use a luminous foundation/highlighter and blusher and I think that helps. I still get my hair cut every six weeks or so, even though I’m growing it a bit, because I think it’s important to maintain a good shape.”
Lalor also has lessened the amount of black in her wardrobe finding that it washes her out and is “gravitating more towards navies, greys and whites.” Once the transition has been made to grey, care is needed to maintain a bright tone and avoid yellowing. Shai recommends using a clarifying – often purple – shampoo on white hair to remove any yellowing. “On white or salt and pepper hair, when at the salon for a haircut, get the stylist to do clarifying and conditioning treatments to brighten and refresh the natural colour, sheen and texture,” she advises.
Initially, Lalor wasn’t thrilled with the results but now loves her hair. “It is so freeing not to have to dye it every six weeks and never to worry about roots.” MacInnes has no regrets and is pleased she took the plunge. “I love my hair and so do others. I have recently been getting compliments on my hair, with one friend being inspired to make the change herself.”And really, if you decide you don’t like it, you can always go back to covering the grey.
About the Author
A lifestyle journalist, Michele Marko is the former Arts & Life editor at the Vancouver Sun and Province newspapers. While writing about beauty, fashion, design, food and travel, she’s written on a variety subjects ranging from ethical beauty to couture fashion designers to discovering the best pizza in the world. Hint: It’s in Italy.