From silver to platinum and every shade in between there are so many different options when it comes to grey. “With the whole pastel trend, the silvers and greys are another palette that extends that range,” says Joey Marchese, Essential Looks Artist for Schwarzkopf Professional. Even when it comes to gray coverage, the traditional formula of mixing one colour and applying it all over the hair is no longer. In fact, according to the pros we spoke with, clients want a natural look whether they are covering their grey or using it as an accent hue. Here’s what you’ll need to know to make the most of your next request for grey.
Achieving Base Excellence
For many colourists, including Silas Tsang, creative director and owner of Blushes in Ottawa, the biggest challenge in achieving a beautiful shade of grey or silver is lightening the hair without damaging it. “To overcome this challenge, using a high-quality lightener and the proper volume of peroxide is only half the battle; the other is in the application of the lightener, which must be done quickly with fine sections to attain an even base for the colour application.” Kathy Reilly, Goldwell’s national education manager agrees that the base is the key to achieving the best end results. Reilly says that it’s important to analyze the percentage of grey in the hair; otherwise, the end result can be too solid a shade or not enough.
TOP TIP: “You need a fairly pale blonde base, with as little yellow as possible,” says Marchese. And that that’s not to say brunette clients couldn’t achieve a great grey, but clients need to know that the process can be time-consuming with variable results.
Using shades of grey can be a terrific way to enhance the natural reflection of your clients’ hair. “Grey can help in a big way, in creating a natural reflection that enhances silver and platinum in their hair,” says Reilly. When it comes down to it, Reilly says that most clients want their hair coloured not covered. What does that mean? Reilly suggests grey blending services that make it more silver or platinum. Tsang also finds that using dark grey or silver tones can be very versatile in adding shine to a finished look. “Silver tones can be woven with platinum blonde, which gives the hair character and movement,” he says.
TOP TIP: For long hair, Tsang suggests incorporating different grey tones or silver ombre, which he says will make the hair more luminous.
Mixing the right grey formula can be an issue, but most colour companies now offer a product that doesn’t require specific technical skills to achieve the perfect hue. Marchese recommends using grey as a highlight shade with clients who already have graying hair but want to be a bit funky, while a younger crowd will gravitate towards blending it with pastels. Reilly cautions colourists to keep in mind they’ll need to take thin enough sections to allow the colour to penetrate the hair. According to Tsang, taking clean and detailed sections of hair during colour placement guarantees your colour will be even. “Depending on where grey is placed, it can add depth, movement and accentuate details in the hairstyle,” says Tsang.
TOP TIP: “Play with the hair when it is dry. By doing so, you can see the natural movement of the hair,” says Tsang. “This allows you to see how applying colour in certain places will affect the final look.”
Down Through the Ages
As hair begins to grey, it tends to be coarser and more resistant to colour, which will affect the product you choose. Even if clients have the same amount of grey in their hair, Reilly says that you might be able to use a demi-permanent formula on a client with fine-textured hair while the client with coarser hair will require a permanent one. “When hair is coarse, you can’t expect to prelighten it and have it feel soft,” says Marchese adding that offering clients the right home care products is as important as giving them the right service.
TOP TIP: Marchese and Reilly suggest presoftening the hair with water and then using a hair colour that is alkaline and contains ammonia,whichwillreducetheresistancetothecolourformula
Start the Conversation
Although you’ve developed a good rapport with your clients over the years, addressing their grey hair may not be an easy subject to approach. Here’s how you can ease into the conversation.
“Emphasize to clients how powerful grey can be in enhancing their hairstyle. I approach this by showing examples where the colour grey in one’s hair has been used to accentuate their appearance.”
– Silas Tsang, creative director Blushes in, Ottawa, Ontario
“Generally clients come to see me with this idea because they are embracing grey instead of hiding it and are asking for grey highlights. But I’ll let them know if something isn’t right for them.”
– Joey Marchese, Essential Looks Artist for Schwarzkopf Professional
“People are younger at heart. Even though we’re greying at the same rate as we always did, our minds aren’t at the same level age-wise as 20 years ago. I think that most people are looking at enhancing the grey, embracing their age and still wanting to look hip.”
– Kathy Reilly, national education manager for Goldwell
Photos: 1) Hair: Francesco Group Creative Team, Stafford, U.K., Styling: Thea Lewis-Yates, Photo: Jack Eames. 2) Rokk Ebony Creative Team, Makeup: Sarah Baxter, Styling: Melissa Nixon, Photo: Elixabeth Kinnaird. 3) Hair: Jack Morton, Toni&Guy Georges, Melbourne, Australia, Makeup: Molly Oakfield, Photo: Matthew Web.