My 30th birthday was a milestone for two reasons. First, I was lucky enough to celebrate 30 years without any major life mistakes. Whew! Secondly, and less celebratory, was finding my first gray hair. Ugh! Within the next few years, that gray hair seemed to multiply. I now have a collection of about 15 angry silver hairs around my hairline. Aside from the color, or lack thereof, the texture is coarse and wiry. Whether you’re dealing with your first few gray hairs, a mix of natural with gray, or you have a full head of gray hair, there are options. I want to share the secrets of beating your gray–on your schedule and within your budget.
To start, let me define a few terms we use in the salon world. These are terms we use to describe the types of coverage we can give gray hair. Color can do one of two things:
- Blend – This is usually done with a demi-permanent color. Demi-permanent color will deposit a tone of color on the gray without totally covering it. The dimension of the hair will still show, but it will soften the silver to a warmer finish. It “blends” the gray hair with your natural hair color. Everyone’s gray is a little different in the way it takes color, therefore the deposit may be varied at the end result. The benefit of this process is the soft grow out it creates. The longevity is about 6-8 weeks. At the end of that time there will still be some color on the hair, but it will not be as intense as the day it was treated. If you want to soften your gray and not deal with an obvious regrowth requiring frequent visits to the salon, this is the perfect solution.
- Cover – When a permanent color is used, gray hair can be 100% colored to match your pigmented hair. Once this product is applied and processed, no one will know you have gray hair. This type of service can make you look immediately younger and soften the coarseness of gray hair. Because it is permanent, it is on your hair, well, permanently. It will cause a line of demarcation as your hair continues to grow, this will mean more frequent visits to the salon for maintenance.
- Percentages – Your stylist measures how much gray you have by percentage.
- 0-25% = minimal gray
- 25-50% = low to medium
- 50-75% = medium to high
- 75-100% = high percentage. Depending on your percentage, we decide what type of color to choose and how to apply it. The higher the percentage, the more effort and maintenance it will take to blend or cover it.
Now using the percentage scale, let’s talk about your gray hair and what to do with it….
Starter Gray 0-25%
You have a few gray hairs around your hairline and temples, or a small amount of gray hairs throughout your scalp. For my clients in this situation, I recommend gray blending. When your hair is 0-25% gray, it can typically be managed fairly easily with a demi-permanent color. No need to create a high maintenance program if you don’t have to. A blending process with demi-permanent color will soften the harshness of those hairs and add incredible shine to your entire head of hair.
Somewhere between 25-75%
The grays have multiplied. Maybe they are concentrated in the front or perhaps they have popped up throughout your head. Either way, they are noticeable and a distraction from your natural or desired hair color. For a low maintenance process, you can choose a blending service. To eliminate the gray all together, go for full coverage with a permanent color. A third option would be to weave in some of your natural color. This can hide some of the gray, yet still provide a forgiving grow out.
Silver Fox 75-100%
With a high percentage of gray, there are still many options. Blending with demi-permanent can soften it, but will not be as effective as with lower percentages of gray. Full coverage with permanent color will last longer and give you back the hair you had when you were younger. Foiling is also an option and it can create beautiful dimension with your natural color. Hair color can do amazing things to make you look more youthful. Permanent color will be an investment of time and money, but the difference can be worth it.
Growing out your hair after coloring it
So what if you’ve been coloring your hair and now you want to grow out your gray? Maybe you have been coloring your hair for years and feel ready for fewer salon visits and to let your natural color be the star. This is a conversation I have had with many of my clients. First, let me say that once you have permanent color in your hair it can’t be colored to match your gray. I know it’s a bummer, but it’s a fact. You have one of two choices. You can start foiling in your color instead of an all over color. Keep in mind, this will start allowing more of your natural color to grow in, but there will always be a line of change as your hair grows out. Then eventually you can back off on the foils until you are at your natural color. This process can easily take over a year or more depending on how long your hair is. My recommendation is to bite the bullet and go cold turkey. Stop coloring all together and let it grow. Again, the longer your hair is the longer this process takes, but if you have shorter hair it will go faster than you think. It is a test in patience, but with the right stylist to coach you through it, it can be a freeing experience.
Embracing your gray, at any percentage
There are so many women who look amazing with gray hair. It can create a statement that others admire. Remember, gray hair doesn’t have to be seen as something that needs to be corrected. The choice is yours, and your stylist can help you settle on a look that right’s for you. When you’re ready to embrace your gray, I suggest a glazing service with a clear demi-permanent color to really help your silver hair sparkle.. This will give you softness and incredible shine, making your new natural color look its best.
When dealing with gray hair always remember there are options for every price level and lifestyle. Let your stylist help you decide which is the best path for you.