Beauty Clinic: Colour solutions for grey hair


Q. My mid to dark brown hair is going grey. It’s coloured shades of blonde, gold and chestnut, on an all over dark gold-y-brown tint. I would like a more natural look that doesn't show the regrowth so harshly. A colourist suggested ‘balayage with a glaze’ – I don't know what this is! But would it be good for me?

A. Leading hairdresser Paul Edmonds ( advises you to have ‘a proper consultation with an experienced colourist to guide you through the process of the colour change and produce the correct colour going forward.’ This is where you probably need to do a bit of homework to find the best salon near you. We always suggest talking to other people whose hair is coloured and, if you like the results, asking for the colourist’s contact details.

You should be able to call and book a free short consultation. Assess the colourist’s approach, look at the clients going in and out, and, importantly decide if you like the staff and the salon (you don't want somewhere that makes you feel unable to say what you really want). Then you can narrow down the options.

In your case, Paul Edmonds says there are a few variables in the way a colourist would approach your hair. The percentage of grey hairs and how/where they are distributed will affect what’s possible in terms of balayage and highlights.

You ask what balayage is: well, balayage (from the French word meaning ’to sweep’) is highlights but it’s a way of painting - or sweeping - on colour freehand to produce a softer, more subtle and natural look than traditional highlights, which are usually wrapped in foil or similar. It‘s quicker to do than foils and shows up much less as it grows out.

So back to Paul’s comments: ‘if you have a low percentage of grey hairs, it’s possible to feather over the grey – ie colour all over them – using a balayage technique, or have highlights to blend with and disguise the grey.

If you have a high percentage of grey, however, Paul suggests highlights so the colourist can blend different shades to give dimension to the hair.

Using a tint  (permanent or semi-permanent) all over the hair will always show regrowth – more so if the colour is different to your natural shade. Paul explains that ‘because tints require developers, they can throw up warmth as these oxidise, hence the warm gold look of your tinted base colour’.

A better approach to disguising a significant amount of grey, bearing in mind you want a more natural look, would be to start with highlights and lowlights at the root, then balayage through the mid-lengths and ends to keep these lighter, giving a sun-kissed look.

Glazes are a recent multi-tasking treatment option, giving tint and condition. They’re used in salons and leading ranges have also recently introduced products for at home application. They work as a finishing touch to either ‘notch up your colour overall or temper it down,’ Paul explains. ‘They’re a great way to tweak or smudge your colour to the right tone and also add more depth, shine and light-attracting translucency to both the natural root and to the coloured part of your hair.’

We love glazes, btw, not just for the colour tweaking but because they enhance the condition of the hair, also helping to tame flyaways and reduce frizz. Unlike hair glosses, which are a very similar treatment option, glazes typically have no ammonia or peroxide so any colour sits on top and they have a shorter life on your hair.

Léonor Greyl has just launched a new range called Soin Repigmentant - nourishing conditioners that beautify and enhance colour. The products, which come in five shades, took several years to formulate, mainly because they’re made with 96 per cent natural ingredients. The promise is that, used every three shampoos, they can make colour stay as fresh as the day you walked out of the salon, and also leave hair, soft, silky and luminous. (We’re big fans of Léonor Greyl products anyway, and this is a fab addition to the at home range - although we've been known to take our own products into salons.) Paris master of colour Stephane Pous, the co-creator of the range, says the results make him ‘very, very ‘appy…!’ (The results made us pretty happy too.)

The Léonor Greyl products won’t cover grey but Christophe Robin, another French colour legend, offers Temporary Color Gel/£24, which promises to immediately cover greys and blend with hair colour as well as providing fullness and shine.