Go ahead, make mine grey


Are you finding your first silver strands? Or, like Chatelaine editor Rona Maynard, are you fed up with constant colour jobs to hide them? Rona worried that going grey might make her appear tired and washed out. Still, she took the plunge and discovered the reverse–that the right tone, accented with a stylish cut, can give you a modern youthful image.

Grey picks

Rona envisioned a silvery wash without a speck of pepper, but Norm Wright of Toronto’s Johnny Cupello and Associates Salon convinced her that a blend of cool silver tones with her current warm gold highlights would be more flattering to her fair skin tone. A white crop would look dramatic but hard and quickly show off her natural peppery roots. Wright positioned the highlights throughout Rona’s hair to create texture and a more natural regrowth.

The process

“A believable natural grey is the most difficult colour to achieve,” says Wright. All of the pigment in Rona’s hair–both natural and salon-added–had to be taken out first. A colour remover was combed on to small closely spaced sections throughout her short thick locks and then sealed in foil packets–an arduous two-hour job involving more than 150 packets. This compares to approximately 15 foils used to add golden tones to her previous dark brown hair. The reward? Her own grey will grow in more naturally so future touch-ups will be less frequent and lengthy. Next, Rona spent 20 minutes under a hair dryer–heat speeds up the colour absorption–before the packets were removed and the solution was rinsed off. Finally, a toner with a blend of ash, violet and blue tints–to make grey–was added to her pigment-free highlights. One more rinse and her silver transformation was complete.

Polishing your silver

Sun exposure, pollution and mineral deposits in water leave silver strands dull and yellow. You can preserve your shade and add shine with a violet-tinted colour-corrector shampoo. Wright formulates his own for clients or you can try Aveda Blue Malva Shampoo, 250 mL/$10, or L’Oréal Professionnel Osmose Pure Grey, 250 mL/$10. If your hair is very dry and porous, use a corrector just once a week–more frequently and your hair will take on a bluish cast. In-between, try a shampoo and conditioner formulated for colour-treated locks. Stylist Johnny Cupello recommends these Sebastian Collection products: Mohair Shampoo, 250 mL/$14, to add texture and body; Titanium Protector Leave-in Conditioner, 250 mL/$15, to protect hair from environmental damage; and SueDeluxe Reconstructor, 250 mL/$27, to strengthen hair fibres.

Late-breaking news

L’Oréal Gray Chic Translucent Colour Tone, $13, a new home colour treatment, gives naturally grey locks a longer-lasting luminous cast. Available in five sheer shades, from crystal to creamy golden blond, this gentle ammonia-free formula gradually washes out, lasting up to 28 shampoos with no worries of visible roots.

The cost

At top salons like Johnny Cupello, an involved highlighting process such as this costs about $180. If Rona had skipped the long highlighting process and chose an overall silver finish, she would have paid the same amount because the previous colour still had to be removed. However, future maintenance costs would be less.

Can I do this myself?

Home hair colouring experts like Robin Thornton, education and public relations manager at Clairol Canada, don’t recommend it. “Adding colour is easier–like going from light brown to brunette–than removing it once you’ve gone dark,” she explains. Brown hair goes through colour levels from red to orange to yellow and finally white before the pigment is fully removed. If you don’t leave the solution on long enough, you’ll end up with a dingy yellow hue. If you leave it on too long, your hair will become porous and break.

Why not just let your silver grow in?

Not all of us are lucky enough to grey gracefully. We have to deal with an ever-increasing scattering of silver that may look dull against our natural shade. If you colour your hair, you’ll have to put up with a slowly deepening and unflattering salt-and-pepper stripe hair grows just half an inch monthly. Adding silver highlights helps disguise your roots and ease the transition.

What will happen when Rona’s current gold highlights grow out?

Her new silver highlights will make her peppery regrowth less noticeable. With a cut this short, the gold tips will likely be snipped off in her next cut, allowing more of her own natural colouring to shine through. Wright will then blend in more silver highlights to give Rona an overall pearly grey look.

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