5 Things to Know before Dyeing your Hair Grey
Thinking about dyeing your hair grey, silver or white? It’s a great choice that looks fantastic on any skin tone and is acceptable in most workplaces. It looks amazing, but can be difficult to perfect.
Lighten Before you Whiten
The essence of achieving a great-looking grey (or white) is getting the base right. What do I mean by “base”? This is the colour of your hair before you add the grey shade. Before you even think about applying a grey hair dye, you must lighten your hair to a pale blonde colour. If you have dark hair this will mean one or two bleaching sessions to reach the required level 9 blonde. Natural blondes will be able to lighten up more easily. The photo below shows a good base colour for grey.
Remove all traces of brassy tones to create a blank canvas to add colour to. Your hair doesn’t need to be white, but it shouldn’t have gold tones, either.
Check out the guide to bleaching to get an idea of what’s involved. You might find it’s easier to have your hair lightened at a salon and keep up with the regrowth at home.
10 Ways to Remove Hair Colour
In this article I explore 10 techniques for removing hair colour. Using the right method, most hair colours can be removed or lightened.
“My hair is already dyed, can I still go grey?”
This depends on your circumstances. Has your hair been dyed brown or black? You’ll need to work on removing permanent colour before you begin the process of lightening. Do plenty of strand tests; it can be difficult to get to light blonde after having used permanent dye.
Do you have some unnatural colour in your hair? Let it wash out as much as possible, then do a strand test to check if it will cover.
It’s a Pain to Maintain (well, kinda)
Know that dyeing your hair grey isn’t a one time thing; and I don’t just mean dealing with regrowth. Grey (like all pastel colours) is low in pigment and washes out quickly. It’s susceptible to UV light and the colour can be obliterated by a day in the sun.
With that said, maintenance isn’t very time-consuming. Expect to touch up your colour every 2-3 weeks. Most dyes can be applied and processed within 30 minutes – about as much effort as using a conditioning mask. Grey hair dyes don’t usually stain your skin, so you don’t need to be as careful with the application.
Using blue or purple shampoos will extend the time between touch-ups. Crazy Color’s Blue Shampoo (intended for maintaining blue hair) is packed with pigment and can be used to build colour on bleached hair. Experiment or switch between blue and purple shampoos to tweak the colour.
What causes grey hair to turn green?There are a couple of reasons why you could end up with green instead of grey. Most common: not lightening your hair enough. Grey hair colours contain a lot of blue - add that to yellow blonde hair and it's a recipe for green. The solution: wash out the colour with clarifying shampoo. Bleach any dark areas, then re-colour.
Bleaching can also lead to green hair. When bleach comes in contact with violet pigments it can turn green. Most grey hair colours contain some violet pigment, so keep this in mind.
Buy the Right Dye
There have never been as many shades and tones of grey, silver and white on the market. But how do you know which to go for? The key is matching to the to your base hair colour. If you still have some warmth, a darker blue-toned colour like Pravana Silver offers the best chance of creating a grey colour on your hair. It’s fairly pigmented, so if you apply it to very pale hair it can come out too blue. Most people dilute Pravana Silver with conditioner to avoid this effect. If in doubt, choose this Pravana Silver; it’s our best seller and provides excellent colour.
Pale blondes have their pick of colours: from dark pewter shades like Adore’s Titanium, to Dove Grey like Crazy Color Graphite or Adore Platinum. For a metallic finish go for something like Manic Panic’s Blue Steel. Those seeking out a warmer-toned grey should try Sparks’ Starbright Silver.
“How about Wella T14 or T18?”
Wella Color Charm, and other similar dyes, can create impressive results and lighten your hair 1-2 levels. These dyes contain ammonia which is particularly harsh on bleached hair, so use them sparingly. Although these dyes are considered permanent, the toning effect washes out within 3-4 weeks. It’s better to use non-damaging colours like Adore, Crazy Color, Pravana, Manic Panic, Sparks etc.
A good rule of thumb: if the dye requires developer it has the potential to damage your hair.
Why did my silver hair turn out patchy?
- The base was uneven
Slight variations in your base hair colour can be amplified by toning. Silver or grey hair colour will take best on areas that are light enough and leave the looking dull and muddy. Likewise, if your hair has been over-processed the toner can go too dark on some areas or wash out unevenly.
Examining your hair under UV light can help you find any areas of uneven colour.
- Problems with colour application
It’s always a good idea to section your hair when applying colour. Don’t skimp on the amount of dye used. Apply plenty. Some dyes will emulsify and become a foamy when you rub them into the hair; Crazy Color in particular does this. It can happen when you try to spread dye down hair. Avoid doing this with pastels – it can cause uneven, patchy colour.
Don’t Muck up the Touch-up
(These rhyming subheadings are a bit much, aren’t they?)
You’ve finally got perfect grey hair. Yay! But here’s the part where it all gets messed up: colouring your regrowth.
I’m a fan of the dark roots look but sooner or later you’ll have to retouch your roots. It can be difficult to match the roots to the rest, so here are a few tips to help you get it right:
- Aim for the exact shade of light blonde that you started with.
- The centimetre of hair closest to your scalp will lighten faster. Make sure you apply the bleach to this area once the rest of your regrowth has reached a brassy yellow colour.
- Don’t allow the bleach to overlap the previously lightened hair; this creates problems with porosity that cause bands of lighter and darker colour.
- Make sure you thoroughly shampoo away any bleach residue; it can interfere with any colour apply afterwards. Try to wait a few days after bleaching before toning your hair.
- Fade out your grey before you retouch the roots. This has two benefits:
1. If you get bleach on your grey hair, it may turn green (many blue or violet based dyes will go green when bleached).
2. Allowing the old colour to wash out means you can reapply to your whole head of hair without worrying about matching the root colour to the ends.
After-care for Grey Hair
We all know that bleached hair requires extra care and even more so if you’ve done multiple processes on your way to grey. This means avoiding curling tongs and straighteners as much as possible. Go for no-heat curling methods and blow dry your hair smooth (on medium heat) instead. You can ensure your hair looks healthy and smooth until the next wash by using a good blow drying cream.
The colour will gradually wash out but you can keep blonde at bay by using a blue shampoo twice a week. Try adding a violet-blue dye to your conditioner. Colours like Directions Neon Blue are perfect for this.
If you end up over-toning your hair and it turns too blue, don’t worry; one or two washes with dandruff shampoo is usually enough to correct the problem.
Very light hair can look flat and dry, even when it’s in good condition. Invest some time into learning how to do a smooth blow dry. Try a drop or two of Argan Oil as a finishing treatment, concentrating on areas that look dry or frizzy.
- Get the base colour right, and the rest will follow. Make sure your hair is light enough and an even colour. Grey will highlight any inconsistencies in the base colour. Check your hair under a UV light to find dark spots.
- Do a strand test before doing a full-head application.
- Grey hair dye lasts for about 3 weeks before needing touched up. Use a non-damaging dye and keep the colour topped up with coloured shampoo or conditioner.
- Invest in some smoothing products to give your hair a metallic sheen and avoid it looking dull.
Got a question about dyeing your hair grey? Ask below and I’ll try to help.