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How to Dye your Hair Grey

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Published on 5th February 2018

The Basics

The most important first step in dyeing your hair grey or silver is creating a light blonde base colour, so you should start by lightening your hair, if needed. You’ll get the best results if you lighten to light blonde (level 9), though if you can’t quite manage a level 9 blonde, some of the darker greys I’ll talk about later may be able to cover warmer blonde.

Even darker grey hair colours are translucent, so they need to be applied over pale coloured hair to show up. If you were to apply a grey dye over dark brown or black hair, there would be no visible effect.

It’s important to make sure that your starting blonde is very evenly lightened because dark spots will be more noticeable when you add a grey or silver colour.


Photo by DePemy

Types of Dye

No silver or grey dye is permanent. Dyes marked as “permanent” tend to lighten the hair and lightening is always permanent but the grey colour usually washes out in a few weeks.

If you’re going to dye your hair grey or silver, you’ll have to maintain the colour every few weeks.

It’s best to use a non-damaging colour for maintenance and frequent recolouring. Generally, colours that are applied directly and not mixed with developer will not cause any damage and most will condition your hair. The brands we stock such as Pravana Vivids, Directions, Adore, Crazy Color, Sparks and Stargazer can all be re-applied as often as needed without damaging your hair.

A Note about Wella T14/T18

Wella Color Charm has been a favoured brand for silver and grey for many years, and is still a really popular choice. Color Charm is more like a traditional “box” dye; it’s a liquid dye that you mix with developer. It can lighten a couple of levels, which often it gives the extra boost needed for not-quite-light-enough hair. However, anyone who has bleached their hair a few times knows that repeated lightening accumulates permanent damage. Frequent use will cause irreparable damage that can only be grown out, therefore it’s not a great long-term option.

Dyes by Shade

All the dyes listed below can be used on bleached hair as often as you need to, without damaging your hair.

Pale Silvery Shades

Perfect for an icy platinum look and great for anyone who’s nervous about taking the plunge into grey, pale grey/silver colours add a hint of colour but wash out quickly so you can change your mind. Although you need to recolour more often, these dyes don’t stain you skin so topping up your colour takes about as much effort as applying a deep conditioner. They’re ideal for the lightest blondes.
As always, it’s best to shampoo (avoiding conditioner) and dry your hair before colouring.

Crazy Color Silver – gives a soft, delicate silver colour. Crazy Color tends to froth up during application, so use plenty of dye and don’t emulsify it until you’ve got all of your hair well covered. Leave on for 30 minutes or more for best results.

Directions Silver – an icy silver with a hint of blue. Directions has a thick formula which makes it very easy to apply. It conditions your hair to leave it feeling soft. Check your hair frequently as the colour tends to deepen to a bluer colour over time. Typically it takes around 30 minutes to use.

Stargazer Silver Look – much like Directions Silver, Silver Look has a slight blue tint. Stargazer also conditions your hair as it colours. Unless your hair is short, you’ll probably need more than one bottle.

Light Greys

Manic Panic Blue Steel – a solid pale grey that works well on most shades of light blonde. Apply for 30 minutes or more, checking frequently for the colour result. Remember that wet hair tends to look darker, so the final colour will be a little lighter.

Adore Titanium – a fantastic neutral to compliment any colour and looks particularly good with pastels. Adore’s formula is runny but it’s packed with pigment. Colour goes on easily and soaks into the hair quickly. Takes around 30 minutes to achieve the final colour.

Crazy Color Graphite – more grey than Crazy Color’s Silver, graphite is a great shade of light grey. Like Silver, the colour tends to develop as it’s absorbed into the hair.


Photo by BabyJ

Medium-Dark Grey and Pewter/Gunmetal Colours

We’re no longer limited to pastel silver shades with the arrival of these new deeper shades of grey. Darker colours offer longer-lasting colour. When using deeper shades, it’s best to do a strand test to check the outcome.

Adore Platinum – this should be a staple in your dye stash. It’s a chalky grey, perfectly neutral with no overwhelming blue tones. Adore Platinum is a very beautiful dove grey that also teams up well with other colours. I think it pairs particularly well with Rose Gold.

Sparks Starbright Silver – if you tend to suit warm colours best, then Starbright should be on your shopping list. While still grey, it has a slight warmth to it that makes it unique. Sparks colours tend to be richly pigmented and long-lasting.

Pravana Silverthe go-to silver. Pravana Silver is highly pigmented and offers great coverage. I recommend doing a strand test with this colour as it can look too blue initially. Many find it helpful to dilute the colour with conditioner before applying to avoid this issue.

Pravana Smokey Silver – less blue than Pravana Silver but still gives great coverage and long-lasting colour.

Sparks Silver Mist – almost natural-looking and very similar to Pravana Silver. Sparks is very comparable to Pravana with plenty of pigment and long-lasting results. For best results, strand test first.

Need something darker? Mix in Pravana’s Black Additive to make your grey even darker

PaintGlow Rebellious Silver Storm – a good flat, chalky colour like Adore Platinum. Great coverage and forgiving on slightly darker blondes.

Most brands now have at least one silver or grey colour in their collection. Also check out Arctic Fox Sterling, Pulp Riot Smoke, Nirvel Nutrecolor Grey (these are just a few).

Maintenance

Silver and grey are high-maintenance colours. They tend to wash out faster than darker colours like blue or purple so you’ll need to be prepared to re-colour as often as every 2 weeks depending on the shade. Products like Touch of Silver can help add some colour back while you wash and condition your hair.
You should also keep in mind that sunlight will quickly destroy your colour so keep it covered in the summer.

Troubleshooting

Here are a few common problems our forum users ask about when dyeing their hair grey, and how to solve them:

Some areas went grey, the rest looks darker
This problem is almost always caused by an uneven base colour. The parts that are sufficiently light in colour will go the desired shade of silver, but the toning effect on darker blonde areas makes them look darker (it’s adding colour after all).
To solve this, wash hair frequently with dandruff shampoo to get rid of the grey dye. Spot-bleach the parts of the hair that didn’t go grey or silver to match the lighter areas that took the colour well. Strand test before reapplying the silver/grey colour.

Bonus tip: To find dark areas in your hair look at it under UV light. Dark areas won’t glow as well and will be easy to locate.

Hair went blue instead of silver
This is usually caused by using a colour that’s too dark. Dyes like Pravana Silver are very pigmented and might be too deep for very light hair. The solution is to wash out the colour as much as possible and dilute the dye with conditioner next time you re-colour. Reducing the time the dye is on your hair may also help. It can be useful to strand test your mixture before applying it all over to prevent the problem recurring.

A darker band is visible in the hair
This is often caused by overlapping your bleach when doing root touch-ups, resulting in a band of hair that’s been over-processed. This hair can absorb the colour differently to surrounding hair. The solution is growing out the over-processed band. It can be disguised by applying a diluted colour to this area when retouching your colour.

Hair has a greenish tint
Applying a grey or silver over warm blonde hair can give a green cast. Just like mixing paint, adding blue to yellow will make green. Allow the grey to wash out naturally and attempt it again after lightening your hair further.
Green tones can also occur if you try to bleach out blue, purple or grey hair colours. For this reason, I always recommend washing an unwanted grey colour out of your hair.

Hopefully this helps you choose the perfect grey and gives some insight into how to achieve it. I’d love to know what grey hair colours you’ve had success with in the comments below. If you have a specific hair question, why not post in our forum?

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