Let’s talk grey: Resolving the grey hair coloring challenge

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I spend a lot of time teaching salon professionals the finer points of grey hair coloring.

At a recent training seminar, a few of us got to talking about something we’ve noticed over the years: we seem to be seeing more and more grey hair  — or “wisdom pieces” as I affectionately call it.

Fifteen years ago it seems like none of my clients had grey hair. About 70 percent of our client base at Salon Povera are looking for repeat grey coverage services. Grey is everywhere and I’m often troubled that stylists don’t always do the right thing or know the right way to address it. That’s a shame because with a little expertise and the right blueprint for success, we can magically erase grey and keep you looking your best.

Why Grey Hair COloring is tricky

Grey hair lacks the natural melanin that pigments the rest of your hair. “Covering” grey is actually the process of replacing those pigments, hopefully with a premium brand colorant. If done correctly, we can give you consistent, beautiful results every time.

This sounds easier than it is. Every time you add color to gray hair, you have to evaluate the amount of grey and the fade-age of the existing color to create a harmonizing result. In other words, you have to figure out what color is on the end of the hair and apply that to the rest of the hair strands without creating bands or lines or other tell-tale signs that you’ve had a (poor) coloring job.

Fortunately, as I said, I spend a lot of time teaching the finer art of getting this right. But I can’t teach every stylist, so there are some things you should know before looking to get your grey situation erased.

Tips for Coloring Grey Hair

Start with a consultation: When you go to the salon, be prepared for a consultation. This shouldn’t take more than 5 to 10 minutes, but it’s a vital step that separates a color job from a professional service.

It’s not okay to color dirty hair: If your stylist wants to apply color to dirty hair, stop him or her. Build up of product, natural oils and environmental contaminants can prevent hair color from successfully completing the chemical reactions required to get a great result. There’s a lot of chemistry that goes into this, but I can put it simply by saying: always color clean hair.

Use premium products: There’s a reason premium hair color has value. I mentioned above some complex chemical process that occur on a molecular level when hair color is applied to your hair. Premium products, simply put, do this better. Make sure your stylist is educated on how to effectively use the products in his or her shop. You should feel free to ask questions about the benefits of one product over another.

Set expectations: Talk with your stylist about your expectations for finished results. In the United States, clients tend to want an opaque style finish, meaning the grey is covered. But there are other ways. If we embrace our natural grey, we can use translucent coverage techniques to create a multi-dimensional and very beautiful result that literally shines. So talk about your options.

Never layer color: If you want the best effects of hair color, don’t layer new color over older color. When getting a touch-up, new color should be applied to the new hair. The existing color should be refreshed with an appropriate demi-permanent product. This is an important technique, one that your salon professional should be using.

Do your homework: Before you leave the salon, make sure you know the proper support products to keep your hair looking great. Your stylist will be able to recommend the right products and treatments based on your hair color.

Don’t forget to rebook: Regular maintenance is the key to success. If your stylist is uber-busy then you need to be on his or her book with follow up appointments to ensure that your hair consistently looks amazing.

If you have any questions about grey, color, or anything else about your hair, don’t be afraid to ask.