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  • Applying a white or silver colour to dark hair will have little or no effect
  • Your hair should be lightened to a very pale blond before going white or silver
  • Do a strand test first as colour results can vary

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Going White/Silver

2 November 2002

White and silver hair never goes out of fashion but they happen to be the hardest colours to achieve. In this article I look at how it’s done.

Firstly you’ll need to start with light hair – very pale blond. Do this using bleach (see Beginner’s Guide to Bleaching if you don’t know how to bleach your hair). Fix any uneven colour as this is going to be really noticeable once your hair is white.

Some people say the best way to get white hair is to bleach it white but that’s a bad idea. The good thing about it is that the white will be permanent, but unless you have really short hair you’re going to end up frying it since you will need to bleach to near breaking point to get all the pigment out. The best thing to do is to get your hair pale blond and then apply a toner to get rid of the yellowness.

How do toners work?

White and silver toners work by canceling out the colour of your hair to give it a more neutral appearance. For example: bleached hair usually has some yellow tones remaining in it. This is what gives it the blond colour. Violet is the opposite colour to yellow on the colour wheel. A pale violet will cancel out a pale yellow leaving white. This is why white toners are purple. The purple in the toner is a very weak colour and shouldn’t turn your hair violet. However it can go wrong. If you were thinking there were lots of cool old women with blue and purple hair, it’s not usually because they thought what the hell and went purple, it’s more that the hairdresser got the mix wrong when toning their hair.
Silver toners work in a similar way to white toners only they are blue based rather than violet based. It cancels out the yellowness in the hair but also dyes it a very very pale shade of blue to give it a silvery look.
Since toners are like a very weak dye, they will only work on very light hair. If your hair isn’t light enough not much will happen. Don’t try to dye yellow hair white by using a stronger violet. You’ll end up with something mucky and nasty looking.

There are a number of white and silver toners around. The easiest to use are the ones made by the same companies that make unnatural coloured dyes. LaRiché Directions makes both white and silver toners and this is applied like any other semi-permanent. You can leave it on your hair for a few hours but one hour is usually plenty. Special Effects make an excellent white toner (the best I’ve tried) but be careful to follow the development time as it has a tendency to colour the hair violet. Other toners come in liquid form and can be applied by dabbing it onto the hair using cotton buds. Be careful as these are often setting lotions as well as toners.

If you’re feeling brave you can make silver and white dyes to your own recipe. I recently did Tony’s hair silver using a mixture of professional dyes. It’s quite difficult to get right first time round but if you don’t mind having blue or purple hair for a couple of weeks it’s a good way to experiment. I used schwartzkopf Igora Royal to make quite a strong silver. You can buy this at beauty supply shops but be aware that you buy the colour and the developer separately. The correct mixture for silver (and not the blue that his hair was first coloured) is 6 parts “platinum” and 1 part “anti-orange concentrate”. I mixed that with 30 volume peroxide though you can use 10 or 20 volume if your hair is weak. This will produce a very pale silvery white colour.

You can make a darker pewter colour by mixing 2 parts platinum, 1 part light ash blond and 1cm of blue concentrate. You must do a strand test before applying this as results can vary widely.

Keeping your tone..

You’ll probably find out when you have really light hair that hair grease is yellow. You’ll need to make sure your hair is always freshly washed for it to look its best. Try adding a spoonful of semi-permanent (like Special Effects or Directions) violet dye to your conditioner for white hair, and a spoonful of blue (blues that have a hint of purple in them rather than those that are more turquoise) to your conditioner for silver hair. This will prevent the yellowness coming back as quickly.

Silver hair achieved using Igora

Comments

  • This is a really nice guide, although i believe a picture of what the hair should look like before placing the toner would be a lot of help. I've placed toners on what I considered to be 'pale blond' and got absolutely no effect, and I'm sure I'm not the only one who's wondering what the correct shade looks like! Thank you Report Comment
  • heya! im trying to get my hair white and i have no idea how else to do it besides bleach -toners dont really seem to work, and i was wondering if the time i left the toner on would make any difference... Report Comment
  • Just thought i would add, you can buy silver shampoo. I use it and it really helps get rid of the yellow tones. Report Comment
  • I have a quick question (or a couple...) ; as far as the recipe for the dark pewter colour, are all of those igora colours? I'm not exactly sure how to go about doing this; I'm hoping to get a nice dark gray colour, and I really want to try out your combo! Thanks for your time! xx Report Comment
  • Hi Meiran, All those colours are in the Igora Royal range. Although Igora Royal is usually permanent it tends to lighten gradually over a few weeks. I've added a picture there of the results. This was Tony's hair after a few washes. Report Comment
  • my kwestshion: so,if i want to keep my white ,i will bleach it sometimes. will this make my hair yellow again? i actually thought,bleaching white or very pale blond hair will make it more white. can someone help me? Report Comment
  • Bleaching is permanent so once you have it light enough (pale blonde) you don't need to bleach again but you will need to tone it occasionally. A toner is different from a bleach. It only deposits colour whereas bleach removes colour. The toner neutralises the yellow tones in pale blond hair to give a white or silver appearance. While bleaching is permanent, toning is not usually, particularly with white toners so you will need to re-tone the hair every few weeks. Report Comment
  • This is so helpful! I've been thinking about going white blond for a while now. I'd like it to be a white/light silvery color. Will this technique achieve that shade, or will it turn out a darker silver? I don't want it to look too silver/gray. Thaaaaanks :] Report Comment
  • How do u touch up the roots if your natural hair is dark brown or black? Just bleach and tone the roots? Does bleaching white hair do anything to the white? Report Comment
  • You didn't specify how much of violet I should add to the mix. I would like to go white. I have been bleaching trying to get it to a very pale blond. I'm sure the next will be achieved. Thing is.. When I use a hair straightening iron.. The color seems to fade away and it gives me some yellow pigmentation. Some people tell me is because of the fantasy colors which they seem to fade away quickly and aren't resistant to heat.. && Others say is because of the bleach not reaching that pale blond which makes the color not stable enough for the use of the iron. I have spent so much money trying to get to this color. I first wanted silver.. But I now want white. Thing is.. All the different stylists that I've been to.. When they mix the color. I get the results on some parts of my head. But on the sides of my head I either get the very pale blue. Or the violet. I have short hair btw. And if you have any advice on how to maintain the color I would appreciate if you could tell me how. I have a conditioner that adds more color. It comes in a violet tint. It sais platinum. Last time I used it I left it on for too long and I got the blue on the sides of my head.. And the rest turned into a greenish blond... Really gross. Thank youuuu <33. Report Comment
  • If I have black hair can I still do this? I want silver white hair with grey tones. Report Comment
  • The key to getting this look is starting with a pale blonde base. You'll have to see if you can lighten your hair to pale blonde without damaging it too much before you can try going silver. Do a strand test to see if your hair can be lightened enough and to check the condition. Report Comment
  • Thanks for the guide! I tried the 6 part platinum 1 part anti-orange recipe but now my hair has turn greenish grey. and which platinum should i have used? because i chose platinum blonde cendre (light blue paste) 9.5-1 which looks greyish in the hair colour swatch. should anti-orange be a yellowish paste? I thought anti-orange was supposed to be blue. or would this strange colour come because I had not bleached my hair pale enough? is there any easy way to get my hair from greenish grey to pewter colour now? would violet shampoo help? thanks! Report Comment
  • Your hair really needs to be bleached to pale blond before dyeing with that mixture. It sounds like your hair wasn't light enough to begin with. Report Comment
  • ive read the previous posts. what would you recommend for products for a medium silver-grey (not as light as the picture) color. would it be better to get a semi permanent for better color? what are some quality brands? i have long brown/dirtyblond hair. & never dyed my hair before. lol where do you live ill go and pay you for some help. thxs : ) Report Comment
  • yeah its not an eazy takes i am a natrul darl black and i bleached my hair 4 times with 40 developer had scab on my haed for a week ... but now my hair is white Report Comment
  • @ Abink: to darken the shade use a bit less platinum in your dye mix. Always do a strand test first as results can vary hugely. Don't forget that this recipe only works on pale blonde hair. You'll need to lighten it first. @ TableTopFreak: That's pretty bad for your scalp and can cause permanent baldness. If you feel any intense itching or burning when bleaching you should shampoo it out straight away and allow your scalp time to heal between bleach sessions. I have bleached very very black hair to pale blonde in 2 sessions so I'd suggest trying a different brand. Also, use 30 volume bleach next time to reduce the risk of burning. Report Comment
  • this article is the one i have been looking for!! thank you so much. Report Comment
  • Very helpful. I actually read some of your comments as well, and I'm sure I can get white but I actually have another question. I've been wanting to do white/pink. Maybe fade the ends to pink. How do I keep the white white without turning the pink into a pale purple :( I want the pink to be it's brightest and pinkest, I don't want a purple/pink. In case it helps, I'm using special effects atomic pink. Thanks! Report Comment
  • @Cassysauce, just bleach and tone your hair as per dyeing it white. Keep some toner over and mix in a tiny bit of pink and apply where you want the fade to start. Add a bit more pink to your mix and apply below the pale pink. Continue like this until you reached the desired depth of pink on the ends. You can use undiluted pink on the tips but be careful - Atomic Pink is super strong and so you'll only need a tiny amount to make a pale pink. When you wash your hair let it fall naturally and don't pile the hair on top of your head as you shampoo or your white is likely to go pink! Hope this helps. Report Comment
  • So as far as peroxides go, as long as its meant for hair and between 10 - 30 volume, will any brand do or is there a certain brand you recommend? Also, I have been looking at the Igora Royal platinums but there is more then one such as platinum blone gold beige, platinum blonde copper gold, platinum blonde beige violet, etc, which one is the one you used? Report Comment
  • Could I use Manic Panic Shocking Blue & Virgin Snow to create a more silvery cool "white" on palest yellow bleached hair. I am not sure which Blue would be the best to MIX with the Virgin Snow. If you have any Ideas please share. Thank You! TY for the tips. Report Comment
  • hi, iv been trying to find some sort of colour chart to create my own colour or find out how to do this colour that i saw somebody with, it was like a very white silver but with a very subtle purple tint that came through in certain light or movements. iv wondered how i could get this ever since ! Do u have any idea how id get it?? Report Comment
  • @keira: You could try the above recipe but use a small amount of violet concentrate to give a slight purple tint. Report Comment
  • I just wanted 2 say thank u so much Jude for submitting this article! ^.^ <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 lol i'm planning on dying my hair silver-white soon (once my summer job is over the big cheese won't let me dye it till it's time 4 me 2 go back 2 school XP ) and this info is Great! i think it's really going 2 help me a lot.... just 1 question: can i order the dye on this website? or do i have 2 search for it on the web or somewhere? i don't think any of the local stores here carry what u recomended.... ://// darn. lol thanks again! <3 Report Comment
  • This is an amazing article Jude. I knew most of this but it's great to sit and read a comprehensive guide! :) Report Comment
  • Do stylists in the US not have this product knowledge?? I have been trying to find someone to help me achieve this silver-white and with no luck!!!No one seems to have any idea how!! Whats a girl to do??? Wish I could find somebody who knows this!!!! Report Comment
  • major sadface..i may need helping hands because i do not want to kill my hair again lol Report Comment
  • After having my hair numerous colous over the years i have recently ventured into silver/white hair from very dark brown. Here's how i did it! At first i bought a strong lightener. This turned the hair quite ginger which wasn't great. Th next day i cut my hair to get rid of all the dead ends. After i cut it i put yet another lightener on it which left the hair ginger still, and although i didn't really want to walk around with ginger hair i decided to leave it a few weeks. About 3 weeks later i put yet another lightener on it which finally turned my hair blonde (YAAAAAAAAAAAY!!!!!!) Then about 3 months after that i had quite bad rootage (:/) so i decided i'd venture into silver/white hair! I bought some Touch Of Silver shampoo and conditioner (can't remember the brand but it was less than £2 a bottle) and another lightener. The shampoo nd conditioner takes a while to work so in the meantime i bought a wash in wash out dye (which works as a toner) which is Superdrugs own brand, it comes in a silver coloured bottle and is a bargain at only 99p!!! It worked really well on my hair but the only downside is that by this time my roots were practically fresh hair and non porous so the silver didn't stick as well as to my roots as it did to mthe rest of my hair. I'm sill trying to work on this!!! Hope that this helps anyone :) Report Comment
  • Hi! everybody tells me the same that you do, that you have to bleach and then add a tiny amount of purple. but i have an little detail thats making me insane. What does toner stand for? im from a spanish speaking country and when i want to go buy those things i dont know how to ask for them :/ its a toner a hair dyer? or whats the difference? its like a shampoo? wish you could answer me and remove my ¿?'s :) (and please XD feel free to explain even stupid things, everything helps) Report Comment
  • @dulceluoh1 toner is just a semi or demi permanent hair dye. You put it on your hair after after bleaching. You towel dry your hair then mix the toner with 10 or 20 volume creme developer and put it on your hair. Leave it on anywhere from 10min to an hour depending on that specific toner. Always read the directions and follow whatever it says because some are different form others. Report Comment
  • I noticed in a picture that someone posted on here, can't remember where, but she had dark red hair with a patch of turquoise. Once the turquoise faded and the red bled through a little, it turned a deep silver grey colour that I've not seen before... Report Comment
  • I bought some colour that even dyes brown hair white in one step. after reading this, I'm not sure if I should trust those xD Report Comment
  • I have dark brown hair, and really want to go White (or maybe Silver), I've never bleached my hair before (But I've died it a couple times), So would I have to bleach it pale blonde, then use a toner to lighten it to White? And Do I have use a special Shampoo or something..? Sorry! I'm like a little clueless when it comes to bleaching/Lightening! :/ Report Comment
  • Hopefully you're still here and can answer my question or maybe someone else can. I have very dark brown hair, I've bleached it four times now and it is a pale yellow or as to what I think is pale yellow, it's very light. I've tried toning it with Color Charms White Lady and tried Manic Panic Virgin Snow and neither of them did anything to my hair, it's still that same yellow color. Does this mean my hair is not light enough? What else can I do? Report Comment
  • Hi Jude, thanks fgor the article and congrats for the babhy!!! aaawwwww! lotsa love, vicky. xxx. Report Comment
  • directions white and silver toners are awesome. leave for about an hour (the silver one goes a bit blue with this but goes to a nice silver after a day or two). could people please post questions in the forum? they are much more likely to get answered there Report Comment
  • I'm happy to say that I have had great success with this article, thanks!! :) Report Comment
  • I recently had my hair done silver/white but I still have like a light shade of yellow to it as I left my bleached hair for 2-3 months before having the hairdresser tone it and bleach the roots. So it was quite yellow when I had the toner put over it. I'm going to buy a silver shampoo, will this take out the last of the yellowish tint? Great article btw, I've never been able to understand the whole colour wheel before but now I do :D Report Comment
  • great article! i really wish i could get my hair white. i have tried many times over the years and i just end up having to cut it all off :/ Report Comment
  • I am right this moment in the process of trying to get a white result :P I've had two bleaching sessions, starting from a very dark almost-black. The first came out a light ginger and I didn't leave the second on long because it was 40 vol so that turned it only a couple of shades lighter. However it is now a vaguely gingery light blonde. I feel doing another bleaching session might be risking it (considering I only have 40 vol left) but I have no idea if the toner (directions) will take, so I'm doing a strand test. Also a lot of websites talk about mixing toner with developer... should I be doing that? Any help would be great, thanks :) Report Comment
  • @Codex_42, if it's gingery then it won't tone very well unfortunately. You might have better results with a high-lift blonde colour. As for mixing with peroxide, it depends on the dye. For example, something like Directions/Special Effects/Manic Panic should only be applied directly to your hair. Adding developer will ruin the dye. If it's a professional one like the Igora colours I mentioned, then they should be mixed with peroxide. It says on the packaging whether to mix or not and usually suggests what volume developer to use. Usually you would use 10 or 20 volume. @Emmy3 @uyli glad you found this article helpful! @vj Thank you :) @Daethoron, it sounds like your hair may be just a shade too dark still. You're looking for a pale creamy blonde. People compare the colour to the inside of a banana peel. You could try using a blonde dye in "Platinum". Dyes that you mix with peroxide will have a lightening effect on the hair. It may just lighten it enough to get it white. @Blue_Six, yep, bleach and then tone. When you get it light enough you can use a shampoo like Touch of Silver to help maintain it. @dulceluoh1, a toner is a very pale hair dye that just adds a small amount of colour to give a very subtle tint to your hair. Report Comment
  • I want to achieve the pewter colour you have spoken about although i'm unsure about what you mean by blue concentrate? if you could please explain in more detail for me it would be very much appreciated:) Thanks Report Comment
  • Hi I had medium to some dark hair with lots of blonde highlights in an went to the hairdresser to get it bleached blonde but was a bit scared to go for white platinum so come away with yellow ginger hair instead I have been using provoke touch of silver shampoo conditioner an twice weekly treatment but havnt done much to it to be honest I'm now stuck in my house until tomorrow an wanted to send my boyfriend to the shops to get me something to fix it but not sure what to get to fix it I want to have platinum white blonde hair an then if it doesn't suit me change to a blonde hair dye I'd love a really light ash blonde if not silvery white how do anyone suggest I get that before I try a normal hairdye please help me so stupid an I have never done bleaching myself before so really worried if I have to do it myself thanks Lucy xx Report Comment
  • I make my own Silver blend from Wella Charm...its EASY....1 part Cooling Violet to 1 part satin Blonde with 3 1/2 parts 20V...(some people add a little less cooling violet since they changed formulas.) add more satin for lighter silver...careful about adding more Cooling V. U may end up with more purple/silver than just plain silver. If so I just use a white toner...yes I know but it works....I use one of wellas or Directions or the like. If you use Wella 20 mins is to long I leave it on for about 7-12 mins. then I have Silver hair! Report Comment
  • Thanks for this. I have really been wanting to dye my hair white after having it red for almost two years. I just need the toner now. Report Comment
  • I have researched this a lot and was told to mix violet with conditioner. This, for some reason does not work on my hair. I have already reached a very pale blonde color but my hair will only take the color in some parts. What do I do? Report Comment

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