Going grey: to dye or not to dye?

Lynnette Peck / 16 September 2016 ( 27 March 2017 )

We all end up going grey in the end, so do we stay silver or cover up with colour?



Going grey is an inevitable part of the ageing process; as the hair’s melanocytes (cells that produce pigment) make less melanin, hair seems to turn grey.

In reality, it’s just losing its natural pigment – your hair doesn’t acquire a grey colour, it is just a variation in shade. Some end up with a head of white hair and others silver, or dark grey.

Of course, the greying process is all linked to genetics. Some go grey in their twenties and others their sixties or beyond. Just blame your parents.

Going prematurely grey, prematurely

Bizarrely, there has been a trend recently for very young men and women to dye their hair grey before they have even had one grey hair appear.

Known as (don’t wince) the ‘retiree rinse’ and ‘granny hair’, it has been seen on celebrities such as singers Lady Gaga and Rihanna, various models, and has been a trend on fashion catwalks.

Well, so be it if they wish to copy those who do have natural grey hair. Take it as compliment, I say.

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To dye, or not to dye?

The decision to conceal with colour or go grey is always a tricky one.

Many women prefer to colour their hair, as they feel it makes them look younger.

Chemically colouring hair is obviously time-consuming and involves considerable financial outlay.

It can also lead to hair breakage and a dry, itchy scalp, if not cared for correctly.

The jury is out on this one though as each person will have a different take. Letting hair go completely grey is certainly easier in one respect (not having to dye it) but it does bring some other hair issues to the table.

It is harder to manage, on a day-to-day basis, as it is drier and more flyaway. Plenty of moisturising and smoothing products will sort this out though.

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Your guide to holiday hair care

Some of my key findings in the ‘going grey: to dye or not to dye’ debate:

  • I would argue that those of us with olive or yellow toned skin might want to consider colouring their hair, as grey is a cool shade and doesn’t always look great with warmer skin tones.
  • If you have very fine or thinning hair then going grey can make hair look sparser. Adding some colour will give the illusion of bulk. But again, it has to be cared for and it is best to seek professional advice.
  • If hair is frizzy and flyaway then grey hair will be harder to control; colour will add weight and make hair sleeker and easier to manage.
  • For ‘salt and pepper’ hair go to see a professional colourist, as they will be able to blend the patches with strategic highlights. If salon prices are beyond your budget, then either go for an all-over colour or all-over grey – both can be done at home.
  • If you have been colouring over grey for so long you are not sure how much of your hair is grey, then you can gradually go back to your natural colour. This will mean switching from permanent to semi-permanent colour to start with and gradually going lighter each time you dye. Only colour the new growth and not the ends – it will all catch up eventually.
  • If you have gone mostly grey but would like a hint of colour, then blonde highlights are your best option (we love Helen Mirren’s colour).
  • To look after your grey hair (which can be prone to yellowing and dryness) then condition it as often as you can and use hair masks every week. Also try a brightening shampoo and rinse once a month with water with lemon juice in.

Next article: The best make-up for grey hair  >>>

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The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.