If your silver strands are gunning for a starring role, maybe it’s time to let them shine?
For decades, women have hidden under the guise of colour; reaching for the nearest box dye or heading for a colourist’s chair to eradicate the telltale silvery hairs of age. While we tell ourselves grey is ageing on the skin and that rich vibrant colour looks more youthful, this simply isn’t true. “It’s a fact that as you lose the pigment from your hair, your skin tone changes along with it,” says Shona Bain, signature colourist at the Gielly Green salon. “There is always a point that you get to where you can no longer have the same depth of hair colour you had previously. This is easily observed when you see a woman or man in their 70s with very dark dyed hair. It’s pretty obvious and too much of a contrast with their skin tone. They probably had very dark hair when they were young and it looked great but at 60 plus, it just doesn’t work anymore.”
So, then, why are we putting ourselves through lots of time, expense and maintenance (often using harsh planet-damaging chemicals) when nature has us covered?
Men are often seen as distinguished and powerful when they go grey (ever heard the term ‘Silver Fox’?) yet women are often seen as ‘old’ with the perception of not bothering to maintain themselves. Sound familiar? If you’ve ever wondered why this is, Shona has a theory that makes a lot of sense. “I think this is quite a patriarchal view from times when gender roles were very set,” she says. “As men mostly went out to work, at the age of greying they were seen as wise and more authoritative. Whereas women’s main role was to look after the house and children, and then the grandchildren.” At the point of becoming a grandmother back then, more commonly in their 40’s and 50’s, this would have coincided with going grey, hence the ‘Grandmother’ association. Nowadays, of course, women are just as likely to be CEO of a large business, a powerhouse in their local community or have toddlers nipping at their heels, but remnants of this outdated perception of going grey have remained, holding women (and, let’s face it, many men, too) tied to the dye. The good news is that things are beginning to change…
In an age where people refuse to be put into boxes of gender, let alone an age category just because they have a certain colour hair, people are wearing their grey as a badge of honour.
“There is a huge movement towards clients embracing their natural grey colour,” says Ian Michael Black, Global Artistic Director at Aveda.
“This may not be a case of ‘fully going grey’ though many people will ask for this I’m sure, but it will again be moving away from that solid colour to a softer look that incorporates some of their grey hair, so it has a softer grow-out and requires less visits to the salon – think Modern Greyage, using tints, face-framing balayage, modern cuts and glossing to ‘keep’ going grey but still feel styled, fashionable and cool.”
In Hollywood, celebrities such as Helen Mirren, Judy Dench, Merryl Streep, Diane Keaton and Jamie Lee Curtis have all proudly transitioned to their natural grey and look fantastic. So fantastic, in fact, that many younger celebrities have emulated the look over the years, with Kelly Osborne, Cara Delevigne, Ellie Goulding, Nicole Ritchie, Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lawrence and Ariana Grande all stepping out with silver locks. Vogue’s deputy editor Sarah Harris is also a big advocate, claiming she loves the rebelliousness of silver hair.
It’s true, what’s more attractive and confident than a woman who is prepared to throw off the shackles of her colourist and wear her grey with pride? There are other benefits to going natural, too. If you’ve got fine, lifeless hair, the good news is your grey hair could bring a whole new lease of life. “The texture of white and grey is normally different. Thicker and more course,” adds Shona, “For people with finer hair this is a welcome change. It can make your hair look so much fuller”.
1. Let your tint grow out and fade as much as possible beforehand. Getting a build-up of years of tint out of your hair is not an easy task. The colour change process can take a few sessions and be very pricey. My advice would be to grow it out and let it fade as much as possible before trying to remove it.
2. If you are using permanent hair colour consider changing to semi-permanent for a while – semi-permanent colours fade out as they grow out so this will make your transition to grey a lot easier.
3. Check the percentage of white/grey hair before committing – most people envisage an even steely grey or fresh bright white hair when they grow out their grey but the reality is normally quite different. People very often think the percentage of their grey is high, thinking they have a lot; now if this is not the case and your percentage is less than 60 percent you will end up with a salt and pepper look or a dull end result. So it’s important to know what you are going to get.
4. The end look you want will probably still require some colouring at first. Firstly, you want your hair to look purposely grey and not just abandoned. This will most often require some TLC from your hairdresser. Secondly, the looks you like online and on Instagram are more than likely being coloured to look that way. Whether it’s lighter around the face and tips with some white balayage or darker reverse balayage added to break up the white. There are so many amazing colouring techniques you can have that will see you through. I have created an anti-ageing freehand hair colouring technique which allows you to stay white whilst adding carefully selected tones through the hair in a way that looks natural and is very low-maintenance.
5. Getting the right haircut is very important if you decide to go naturally grey – the texture of grey and white hair is different so a good haircut is vital to keeping your hair looking good. You will have to more than likely put a bit more effort into the styling of your hair so you have the desired look you want. A good cut can help you with this. I would recommend cutting specialist Ava Holland at Gielly Green (@avahollandhair) for all your re-style needs.
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