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Grey Hair

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Being here must mean that you either "gone grey" or started to find the "odd grey". So what now?

Why is it happening to me?

As we age, the amount of hair pigment (melanin) that we produce lessens, turning the hair clear or 'grey'. As to how grey you will become and at what age the process begins, is all down to your genes, so take a close look at your parents for a clue about what will happen. For the guys reading this: Mum has probably been colouring her hair for years without your knowledge so she's probably not a good reference point!

Most people go grey from the front back, but again this is inherited. It is common too to get a streak of grey and a few people get a condition where the hair goes grey then natural colour alternately along its length every millimetre or so. This is nothing to worry about as your body is just deciding to produce then not produce melanin.

Ever heard the one about the guy that went grey over night? Strictly speaking this can't happen, because once the hair has grown, it can't just 'go grey". The colour molecules are formed below the level of the scalp and then proceed to grow, therefore it would take the same length of time as your hair takes to grow to see a major difference. What can happen though, is that the person may suffer some form of shock or illness that causes them to lose a lot of hair. The majority of the hair left behind can be grey and not the original natural coloured hair and new hair that grows after that may be only grey, possibly also as a result of the illness or shock.

It is not scientifically proven but large amounts of the vitamin PABA, found in health food stores, is said to slow down the process of going grey. Also the supplements taken to improve the strength and growth of hair can help (biotin, tyrosine, B vitamins, cystine, inositol and choline).

Oh No! I've got Grey Hairs! What do I do?

Grey hair can look everything from sexy and sophisticated to ageing and draining depending on you. The following list of options will disguise grey hair in varying degrees or enhance it. This information is designed to help you choose the most suitable options for your needs and lifestyle. Once you think you know what you want, go armed with your new-found knowledge, to your hairdresser and discuss it further. A consultation will cost you nothing and will probably not even require a booking. Call first and avoid the busy times (Saturdays and late nights) to ensure prompt attention.

Love your greys and want them to look their best:

If you suit grey hair it really can look fabulous. Smooth, sleek, classic styles like the bob work really well to give an air of sexy sophistication for women. Men often suit grey hair, women are not just being kind when they say 'it looks distinguished' think George Cloony or Richard Gere. Also personally I hate to see men that look dyed!

To keep it in top condition do regular treatments (once every couple of weeks) and condition your hair every time you shampoo. It's not just our skin that needs added moisture as we age.

Grey hair does tend to suffer from yellowing, often linked to smoking but this is not the only cause. The yellowing is due to pollution in general in the air, so use a purifying shampoo, every once in a while to remove build up. A shampoo with a blue/ash or silver tone to it will also help to naturalise any yellow tones and enhance the white or grey hairs. Don't worry, you won't end up in the 'blue rinse set' unless you use it way too often. Evenly distribute this type of coloured shampoo though or you will get a patchy result, see our section on good shampooing for tips.

Hate those greys and want them gone without a trace:

Besides painfully plucking grey hairs out one by one (never an option), permanent hair colour is your only way to go. It's important to remember that "permanent" colour is not forever, it is until your hair grows and it will also fade a little, especially over those stubborn greys, which are difficult to colour. If you choose this option it means a 5 to 6 weekly visit to the salon for your roots to be "touched up". The re-growth and how obvious it is will depend on the contrast of the colour chosen. So, if your hair is greyer than natural colour, go for a lighter look. If your hair is more natural colour than grey, go for something closer to your own natural colour. You can do a combination of highlights and all-over colour to make it look less of a contrast but you may need to think about what you are committing yourself to financially as it can become expensive to maintain if you get lots of highlights. This could be something you may want to discuss as part of your consultation.

If you already get your hair coloured and are not getting full coverage there are several things that your hairdresser can do to rectify this problem. One of the simplest is to change brands as different manufactures products will give different results. They could also try some tricks like softening the greys first or pushing the product in more firmly for just a couple of examples.

Permanent colour can cause an allergic reaction on very rare occasions, so ask for a patch test if you are worried. After colouring, the condition of your hair will change and feel a little coarser. This is not damage but the way coloured hair feels and using specially designed shampoos and conditioners will help. When damage does occur, it is usually after the process has been applied over a previous one for the third or fourth time, so don't be tempted to change the colour too often.

If you are thinking of doing this for yourself at home we would strongly recommend against it. Firstly, grey hair takes colour differently to the rest of your hair and can ends up with tell tale pink hues if not applied by a trained professional. Long term build up of colour incorrectly applied will cause dark areas and condition problems.

Just a few grey's at the temples or on the parting:

DON'T pull them out! You will end up with short grey bits sticking out all over the place. Ask your hairdresser about "combing on" a little colour which will not cover all the grey but will blend it into the rest of your hair. This method is also a great introduction to colour without commitment as if you don't like it you won't notice it growing out. Other advantages are that it is cost-effective and will not cause allergic reactions as does not touch the scalp nor take long to apply. It can also be used in combination with non-permanent colour to get a little extra coverage on those grey's. This technique is however only suitable for small areas of grey.

Got a good spread of grey's and would just like to blend them in?

Or

Don't want to have a major re-growth.

Or

Don't have the time to be in the salon every 5 to 6 weeks.

What about considering having low-lights? These are simply highlights that are darker, rather than lighter than the rest of your hair. This means that you can choose a colour that is the same as your natural colour and use it to blend out some of your grey's. You can even get adventurous and try several different colours together. Check out our more detailed lowlighting section to discover more. Because this type of colouring will only be on 30 to 50% of the hair, the re-growth will not be as strong and will only require touch-ups every 8 weeks plus. Remember the more contrasting the colour you chose is the more often it will need to be done.

Don't want to put strong colour in my hair. What else can I do?

Demi-permanent colours (these are a cross between a semi and a permanent colour and will be more effective than a semi-permanent on grey hair) will give you up to 70% coverage with certain brands. They gradually fade out over a period of weeks or washes, although a slight re-growth will be visible as they fade more slowly than your hair grows. If your hair is very fine or if you repeat too often (before the last one fades out) you will however get a re-growth. Demi-permanents may also require an allergic test if you are worried. There are many different types of "demi's" on the market and a consultation with your hairdresser will be the way to choose the best one for you. We would suggest that if you have never tried colour in your hair before that this is also a great introduction without commitment.

There is the option of one-wash coloured shampoos and mousses that will tone grey hair. This means that they give the grey a hue of colour rather than any coverage of grey. We are not talking the purple rinse set though! These days you can buy silver/blue based ones will make the hair look whiter and less yellow or others that give the hair anything from a slight champagne or beige hue to a soft papaya.

If you are interested in finding out more about colouring in general, visit our colouring section.

Special Considerations For Grey Hair When Trying To Find A Colour To Suit You.

We have a whole section devoted to colours that suit certain people, but before you check out that area more specific considerations for grey hair are:

  • The re-growth and how obvious it is will depend on the contrast of the colour chosen. So, if your hair is more grey hair than natural colour, go for a lighter look. If your hair is more natural colour than grey, go for something closer to your own natural colour.
  • As you get older your skin tone tends to fade and this effects how dark you can wear your hair. No one ever wants to acknowledge this but the colour (and that includes natural colour) we had at 20 does not suit us at 50. Another example of this is make-up. You often see women who's foundation or lipstick looks fake or the wrong colour, the cause in many cases is staying with their favourite colour for too many years.
  • Grey hair is often a different texture to the rest of your hair and if your grey is in a patch rather than throughout your hair, you may want to ask your hairdresser to use different products on that section to the rest to get an even result.

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