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For many people the idea of going grey is terrifying. From the moment those first rogue hairs poke through, it’s straight to the dye to mask it before anyone sees. And why? Because we’re terrified of age, of course. Whether you’re 60, 40, or even 25, grey ain’t good, and we’ll do anything to avoid it.
Well, that’s not strictly true, in fact, and in recent years grey – or silver, as I should say – hair has seen a long-awaited surge in popularity. Browse the drug store aisles and you’ll see silver among the blondes and browns of the hair dye section, not just in the 50+ category, but with brands like L’Oreal, Bleach London and Jerome Russell each offering treatments to help you go grey fast.
The reason behind its popularity – irony, of course. You only need to look at current fashion trends to spot that, more and more, age is becoming exactly what it is – a number – and we’re doing all we can to eradicate it from our lives. From the resurgence in vintage fashion to ‘60s and ‘70s-inspired decor, we’re creating a timeline of our own, and making going grey a choice rather than a fact of life.
But how easy is it to achieve a cool, natural grey without channelling the blue rinse look of old? Well, easy enough, I have to say. For a simple and safe home-job, here are the three products I swear by to keep my grey hair in shape.
Bleach it blonde
When it comes to playing with your hair colour preparation is everything, and the last thing you want to do is douse it in chemicals and wake up the next morning with your locks stuck to the pillow and not your head. Yes, we’ve all heard the horror stories and it really can happen, so before you reach for the bleach – if you’re not a natural blonde that is – you’ll want to give yourself a week to bring things back to their best.
By giving yourself at least 7 days you’ll buy enough time to nourish your hair back to good health. How? Use conditioning masks every other day and keep washing with shampoo to a minimum. And when you come to use bleach make sure your hair’s been unwashed for at least 2 days/48 hours – it’ll take to your hair much better.
Other ways to prep include:
- Avoiding heavy styling products such as gels and waxes. Where necessary, use a lightweight mousse instead.
- Dry shampoo is a lifesaver when you’re keeping washes to a minimum – try the Colab range for all the benefits without the chalky white residue.
- Towel dry and avoid heat when it comes to styling.
Before you go the whole way, though, make sure you do a strand test to check a) that your hair takes to the bleach and b) how long you need to leave it on to develop to achieve your desired shade. It’s easy to think that the darker the hair, the longer it’ll take – but that’s not necessarily true. Hair condition and even genetics can have an effect, so be safe and test first.
When you’re ready to bleach, make sure your hair is dry before you begin. Wear old clothes or cover what you’re wearing to avoid damage, and prepare your skin around your hairline by applying petroleum jelly (this will help combat redness). And with that, it’s time to begin.
My go-to bleach is the Total Bleach Kit from Bleach London*. I’ve also used the Jerome Russell Bblonde Maximum Blonding Kit No. 1*, which works great and is one of the cheapest on the market. In fact, the only reason I really favour the Bleach London option is because of the Reincarnation Mask included – which is AMAZING. If you have damaged hair you have to try it! You can buy separately here*
From there on out, it’s really just you and the kit. Mix the required amount and apply as directed. Don’t leave on for too long and keep checking so you’re aware of the shade you’ve reached – wipe a strand clean, check and, if necessary, add more to continue bleaching.
What shade of blonde do I need?
When it comes to bleaching, there are different stages, and it’s important you don’t wash off the bleach too soon, or you won’t achieve the results you’re looking for. Remember, bleach is full of chemicals, so there will be a burning sensation – but don’t worry, it’s not going to burn your scalp off (that’s why patch tests are so important!).
Follow the instructions and, depending on the natural colour of your hair, leave on for the recommended time. For example, I typically leave mine for 35-45 minutes, because I have naturally very dark brown hair. This way, you’ve got the best chance of success.
When it comes to the bleached colour, don’t despair. If your hair is naturally dark, you’re going to have hues in there. However, you want yellow and not red/orange. Why? When it comes to using dye and toner, orange is more difficult to mask, and will often show through the products you use. You need to get past this stage to ensure you achieve the best look possible.
Remember, when it says on the dye box that certain shades of hair show different results, they ain’t lying!
Going grey – with Toner
Once you’ve bleached your hair and removed the natural colour, you want to give a little time to let it rejuvenate. Bleach kits always come with a conditioning formula, which you should use as soon as you remove the bleach itself. But ideally you’ll also want to leave a little time for your hair and scalp to recover naturally.
As a minimum, bleach on Friday night, leave unwashed Saturday and wait until Sunday evening to take the next step. It may not seem long, but giving at least a little time can do wonders. Ideally you’d wait even longer, but life’s busy, and you can’t stay indoors forever – you know what I’m saying.
To accommodate your hair’s recovery, use toner after bleaching instead of dye. Toners are semi-permanent and will wash out after a week or two. They’re also far more nourishing than dyes, and are a better first step to grey that lathering more strong chemicals onto your scalp.
Again, I love the Jerome Russell Bblonde Maximum Blonding Kit No. 1*. It’s super effective and so nourishing – It almost feels like a conditioner, actually, and leaves hair soft and smooth. L’Oreal’s Age Perfect Colour Care Silver Grey Hair Toner* is also a great alternative – and a good choice if you’re going to use their dye (see below).
Toners are fairly simple: you apply to your hair, usually apply 5 minutes of heat, then leave for around 30 minutes to develop. If in doubt, check the instructions. The other good thing about toners, I have to say, is they don’t show up on naturally dark hair – so if you’re looking to colour only a particular bleached section and don’t want to risk splashing dye elsewhere, they’re a great alternative.
Going grey – with Dye
Once your hair’s looking and feeling healthy again, you can move onto dye – which will offer you a more permanent colour that won’t need topping up so often. I will say, grey dyes can be a little more difficult to get right, and it really is SO important that you do a patch test. I didn’t – and I basically had a blue rinse (which might have been because I got distracted with a bag of pretzels and forgot the time mid-dye).
However, one of the best I’ve found out there is the L’Oreal Colorista Silver Grey Permanent Hair Dye Gel High Intensity Permanent Hair Colour*. A lot of greys have really weird undertones which I think can show through the final colour and leave it looking a bit – meh. However, this one is great and gives a nice bright – if that’s the right word – finish. Another favourite is the Schwarzkopf LIVE Men Silver Chrome U71 Permanent Colour* – find and more and shop here!
Again, be careful when you use dye and really check your hair before and during the process, to be sure you end up with the colour you want. Otherwise it can be a long journey to get it back to a shade you’re happy with.
And that’s it – once you’ve got the colour you want, make sure you maintain it by using the right products (silver shampoos are great), topping up your toner, and applying colour-enhancing masks regularly to keep it looking and feeling good.
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