A ONE YEAR UPDATE ON THOSE GREY HAIR GOALS
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It’s been a year since I began embracing the grey so I thought it was time for a check in and to share what I found works and what doesn’t. Since starting the journey I’ve discovered lots of other women doing the same and many with different approaches. I’ll fully admit that whilst I started out in one particular direction, my grey goals eventually began to morph as I went along through the process.
Rewind to October 2018 when I decided there was to be no more root colour. Earlier that year I’d started adding in an a chestnut shade of root colour along with balayage golden blond to the mid lengths and ends to get the ombre effect I’d always craved. I loved it for a few months… until I didn’t. What can I say… I don’t have a lot of loyalty when it comes to hairstyles and I like to ring the changes often.
Give or take a few days from now and I’ll be at the one year mark of a conscious effort to work with the fledgling greys. And first things first - I should explain at this point why my goals have changed since the outset and you now see the blonde woman standing before you. This is due to discovering that a) I envisioned being an icy white blonde/grey, b) I don’t have enough prominent greys yet and c) - unless you have plenty of b) to work with, a) is impossible.
All of this I learned through the year long process of getting reacquainted with my natural colour as I began allowing the few greys to appear. And by the way, that natural colour is as dull as dishwater!
Since my late thirties and prior to beginning this process, my whole approach to blonde was one of the subtle golden streak variety. You know the one - it’s where you have to look hard to see if she’s colouring her hair, realising oh yes she is and knowing that she’s probably paying significant sums of money for the subtleness.
Ironically, over the last twelve months as the dishwater hue became more prevalent, I found myself falling more for the myriad of platinum, and in some cases, heavily assisted, silver greys like these here. Subtle has been overtaken by striking and my priority for low maintenance seems to have shifted towards something that requires regular upkeep and very careful care. But it still means no block root colour and working with the fledgling greys rather than against them.
How I Went From Ombre To Arctic… With A Few Grey Areas In-Between
One year on and about six inches of regrowth later I now know that growing out the previous colour is a long process and requires patience. It helps tremendously that my lovely hairdresser Alison at Dune has a lot of patience of her own when it comes to my Gronde leanings and is always realistic about what we can achieve. If you’re thinking of going through this process, having a colourist and stylist who knows what you want and how best to get you there is paramount.
I’ve kept up regular appointments both in terms of trims and sometimes lopping off a couple of inches and adjusting the colour as we go. This has taken the form of either a fair amount of highlights of varying hues, sometimes just a T section, always an application of toner (even if I was just in for a trim) and always an Olaplex * treatment. I also use this at home once a week but more on products and home care later.
Summer hair styling was different to winter and in some ways it was easier to be kinder to my hair in the warmer months. During the hot weather I was washing, conditioning and just slicking it back into a ponytail a lot of the time. The rest of the year I have to rely on heat styling to get my hair looking remotely close to how I like it to look but I can’t do this every time I wash my hair or I have a fear that it might just break off. A word on those effortless, beachy wave styles that we see on Instagram - they take a fair old amount of effort so don’t ever fall for the I Woke Up Like This line - it’s Boo Hockey!
Heat styling for me means blow drying it as straight as I can and then running the straighteners over it, (GHD Originals * - now about 18 years old and still going strong!), sometimes leaving it straight and others, bending some sections back and forth through the straighteners to get that wobbly kink as opposed to a curl. Sometimes I do wrap a few random sections around a curling rod * to get a more defined version of the bend - usually only for work shoots or if I’m going out somewhere deemed special enough to frazzle my hair just a little more.
Icy blond leanings aside, I know I have to be careful with the amount of heat styling when bleach is in the picture as my hair is definitely thinning and not as resilient as it once was. I’ve read numerous times that this accompanies menopause and my life stage so it’s definitely something I need to take into account when taking care of it.
As for washing, I try and make it to every third as opposed to every other day for no other reason than because I detest the process of washing and blow drying my own hair. It’s boring and I can never get it as sleek as Alison does! Plus it does seem to behave a bit better with less washing.
In terms of home products, during this past year I’ve tried a few “purple” shampoos - this is essential if you want to keep the warm yellow tones away for as long as possible. They don’t hold back the yellow forever but get the right one and you can be icy for longer. I’ve also experimented with some different styling products and I’ve kept up the moisturising regime better than I ever have before.
Here’s what's worked well for me…
In terms of trying to maintain the white blonde as long as possible, I highly recommend the Kérastase Blond Absolu * range. I was gifted a full set of products earlier this year and I’ve repeat-ordered the shampoo * and conditioner * because they’re so darn good. I’m also still using the Masque Ultra Violet Treatment * mid-week in place of a normal conditioner too.
Olaplex No. 3 * is my ultimate hair hero. I try to be religious about using it once a week on a Sunday as it seems to give my hair a strength that it didn’t have before. Before I go downstairs for a cup of tea I dampen my hair a little, comb through a good 50p sized dollop and wrap my hair in a towel. Minimal soaking in time is twenty minutes but it usually ends up being on for an hour or so by the time I’ve partaken of some weekend faffing. Alison and I were saying that the weird thing about Olaplex * is that post-use, you don’t get the silky slip feel that some masques leave your hair with as you comb through but this stuff really makes my hair stronger with repeated use.
Other favourites for quicker treatments or a conditioning top up are the Sachajuan Leave-In Conditioner * spray and for an instant overnight treat without a messy pillow, the Living Proof PHD Overnight Perfector * is fab. You don’t have to wash this out the next day so it’s a brilliant lazy girl’s haircare trick.
A new styling hero for me is the Colour WOW Dream Coat Supernatural Spray * used every third wash - this is brilliant for helping to stop frizz and fluffiness. They say to use this alone as your only styling product but I also need some kind of balm on the lengths and ends too. Once my current styling creme runs out, I’m trying out the Olaplex No. 6 Bond Smoother * as they use this in the salon pre blow dry and it’s brilliant.
And finally, every now and again I go back to my Ouai Clean Shampoo * for a wash as it helps to remove any product build up without stripping or fading colour. Plus my hair and scalp seem to respond well to an occasional change in shampoo brand.
Overall, what I love about the transition process is that I really don’t give a sh*t about the appearance of grey hair which in itself feels liberating - in fact I welcome it and would like some more please!
And on my most recent visit to the salon a couple of weeks ago, I decided to finally bite the bullet and be the icy blonde that I’ve been yearning to be. As well as getting Alison to lop off a good three inches of the old golden blonde on the ends, I asked her to give me lots of creamy white highlights and just let them contrast with my natural shade - which looks darker when put against a blonde this light but I really like that. The greys can carry on coming through at their own rate and perhaps as that speeds up I’ll need less bleach but for now, I have the hair I want.
The weird thing about this whole process is that to me, the colour of my hair never looks the same. It really depends on which room I’m in, what the light is like or if I’m outside. Some days I think it looks like the greys are coming along nicely and others not so much. And as I lighten my photos and add a filter that fits with the blog and Instagram tones, it can look different in a photo every time - as clearly demonstrated by the years worth of progress photos above! In any case I’ve stopped overthinking it.
My Advice For The Cooler Blonde/Grey Spectrum Would Be This:
Your blonde will always look at its best when it's salon fresh, preferably with a new application of toner as that’s what removes those warm yellow tones. The rest of the time, the appropriate moisture and tonal care is an essential - don’t let anyone tell you any different.
The images on Instagram and Pinterest (and I think by now I’ve shown most of them to Alison!) are good as a guide but be realistic. These images will have been edited and filtered and the hair will have been styled within an inch of its life to look perfectly undone. They’re not something to aim for most given days of the week… especially when walking the dog in winter!
Look at how much grey is really coming though. If the quantity isn’t enough then it may not work as you want it to. I had a few really wise comments when I posted this hair update on Instagram - one lady said her grey has to be bright and intentional and it doesn't mean a downgrade in effort in caring for it which for me, really sums it up. And another had been told by her hairdresser that you have to be 80% grey before you can achieve that gorgeous silvery look. Again I agree and now I know I was seriously underestimating my own sparse strands!
And finally but probably the most important, it’s a really personal thing. It makes up part of our overall style and therefore we should listen to only ourselves when it comes to what we want to do with our hair - this is just my story and won’t necessarily be yours. Bleach, highlights, block colour, cover or don’t cover the grey - do what feels right and good for you.
I was going to add… “Because you’re worth it!” but thought better of it!