This month, Andre shares his knowledge and insight into going grey including the science behind it, how to achieve an even colour and some options for you in the salon.
As a hairdresser, one of the things I am passionate about is giving my clients the best hair possible and that should be no different for my clients that decide to go grey.
Grey hair has been part of a movement in recent years for women all over the world to claim that age can be as beautiful as it is handsome. However, if you have a full head of grey hair or you know someone that has, then you might have noticed that not all grey hair is the same - it can be patchy, dull or have some yellow tones.
1. The Melanin of it all!
Firstly I think that it is important to understand how and why hair turns white. Our hair, skin and eyes have something in common, they are all influenced by how much Melanin our body produces.
Melanin is a pigment, the darker the melanin we produce the darker our hair, skin and eyes. The lighter the melanin you produce the lighter your hair, skin and eyes will be.
White hair contains the last of the melanin available to colour the hair shaft, therefore it is not always a complete absence of melanin, hence why you can have a small amount of colour in the white. This is why if you put your whitest hair on a piece of white paper, the hair would still appear slightly off-white. The clearer the hair becomes the more it reflects the light off the surrounding hair.
Some of us appear to have a platinum blonde white, others with light hair with white streaks, while someone who has more sparse white hairs will look more pepper than salt.
Let’s look at the image below, when we put grey pencils next to each other we can see all of them have different tones, the middle ones even look a little bit yellowish in tone, even the white one looks a bit off white.
Your hair colour may not be pure white to start with; it will largely depend on what your hair colour was before you started greying. Trying to achieve snow-white hair may be as difficult as covering the grey was, but there are ways to achieve a more even tone in the salon.
2. The Yellow streak road!
Now I have mentioned the uneven tones you can find in grey hair, I have done some research and here are some external causes for yellow hair.
Because white hair still contains pigment, that pigment can be bleached by the sun and the natural molecules that contain more blue are removed leaving the molecules with more yellow to become more prominent. Sun damage unfortunately, cannot be removed or undone.
Solution: Wear a hat when in the sun and protect your hair and your scalp from sun damage. Use SPF for your scalp and hair when you cannot wear a hat. Violet and purple shampoos can help with the permanent damage, because they deposit that opposite colour from yellow helping to neutralise it. Once you wash again, though, that purple pigment is gone.
Minerals in your water supply, some city water, and chemicals in swimming pools can deposit and attach to the hair shaft.
Solution: Some minerals can be removed from the hair with clarifying shampoos (just make sure they are safe for your white or grey hair). Others need to be filtered out with a shower attachment filter. And specialty swimmer’s shampoos will help with swimmer’s yellowing. Wash your hair less, many of us shampoo every day, in most cases this is not necessary.
Hot Irons and Hair Dryers
Not everyone with grey hair will have trouble with irons and dryers causing grey hair to turn yellow. Heat damage can be caused by a reaction to the minerals in your water, or ingredients in your hair products reacting to the heat.
Solution: Lower the temperature on your iron or dryer to the lowest needed to obtain your styles. Towel drying your hair removes water rapidly, and lowers your drying time. Switch your products out and see if one of them might have been the cause. Always use a heat protector and if possible let your hair dry naturally.
The air quality and pollution where you live as well as places that allow smoking, bars, restaurants, factories, etc. may influence the deposits of yellowing on your grey hair.
Solution: To “deyellow” use a clarifying shampoo once a week at least. Keeping your hair moisturised will also help prevent yellowing in these situations; dry hair is more prone to the elements.
Smoke has tar in it, among other things, and it will discolour your hair, skin, nails, and clothing.
Solution: With smoking there is very little that you can do, you can use clarifying shampoos, or purple shampoo knowing that if you keep smoking it is likely that it will continue happening.
Check your products, if they have sulphates and heavy silicones, staining oils, even fragrances, or added dyes, those can cause some of the discolourations. Some silicones bind to the hair and with repeated use will build up over time. That build up will alter the reflective colours in your hair and may become dingy, dull, or yellow.
Solution: Use more natural-based products with no silicones. Make sure your product is not a really dark or yellow colour.
These are only some of the external reasons that could be making your grey hair turn yellow in tone. If you think a few of the above could be causing the yellowing, you might have to discover which one is causing it through trial and error. Now let’s look at some internal causes that might contribute to the yellowing of your hair.
Malaria and chemotherapy drugs can change your hair colour. Some report their thyroid and hormone medications have also changed their hair colour.
Solutions: Limited, it may be that you have to wait out your treatment before you know what is going to happen with your hair colour.
While used externally, it is usually treating an internal issue from the outside in. A medicated shampoo like Minoxidil or Rogaine can discolour your hair.
Solutions: Unfortunately, this is a pick your battle problem The only way to stop the discolouration is stop the medicated shampoo. If you can spot treat your scalp issues this could help to mitigate staining all of your hair.
Some supplements are reported to change grey hair or decrease it; among them are biotin, pantothenic acid, iron, and PABA.
Solutions: Find alternatives to these supplements if possible, or embrace what the nutrition is doing for your melanin levels.
Ageing, hormonal levels, illness, vitamin imbalances, genetics, stress, trauma, childbirth, menopause, and our environment all have an effect on hair thickness, density, texture, pattern, and colour. Our hair changes as much as our lives do. Our hair even experiences oxidative stress the longer it gets. When we have been stressed or unwell and our hair turns white, once the stressors and the illness resolve our hair follicle can return to producing melanin (this could also look like yellowing).
3. Through the Looking glass of a hairdresser’s chair
I know that a lot of people that decide to go grey is because they don’t want the maintenance of doing their colour every six weeks so having grey hair is been publicised as a way to be natural without ever having to have any colour done, as any hairdresser will tell you it takes a lot of work to make something look natural.
I am a true believer that women with grey hair are beautiful and deserve to feel like a million dollars, but I know that to have perfect grey hair without doing anything to it would be like having the perfect blonde or the perfect brunette.
If you feel like your grey hair is patchy or yellow, or simply not as shiny and vibrant as you want it to be, visit our salon and have a patch test and strand test to see how your hair behaves and talk to your hairdresser to see what would be the best solution for you to achieve fabulous grey hair.
The colour services are not going to be as frequent as before but you might have to come in for a toner to add some vibrancy. Grey hair has been considered a staple for older men, it gives them a distinguished look and they are referred to as handsome, but now it’s time we make grey hair a feminine staple and make you feel beautiful.