If you’re grey or going that way (and around 50% of us are 50% grey by the age of 50), take advantage of the bang-on-trend colour job carried out by your follicles – for free.
Grey hair is being sported by celebrities of all ages, including Rihanna, Kate Moss and Helen Mirren. For those who haven’t started going grey, it’s a long laborious process to achieve the look, but those of us lucky enough to be sprinkled with salt and pepper can save a fortune at the hairdresser (or even in the home hair colouring aisles) by going natural.
Why do we get grey hair?
Grey hair is caused by the slowdown in melanin production, supplied by cells in the base of the follicles. The mechanism that causes this reduced pigmentation is not yet understood. The individual shafts aren’t actually grey; they’re white, but we perceive the hair as grey because the white hairs are mixed with darker, pigmented ones.
Research at University College London, published in Nature Communications has pinpointed a gene responsible for grey hair, but a drug or cosmetic treatment is some way off.
This absence of our original colour, be it blonde, brunette or red, can result in hair looking dull, flat and lacking in shine. Yellow tones, caused by mineral build-up and sun exposure, can also give a ‘brassy’, harsh appearance, which isn’t flattering against the skin.
There’s also a belief that grey hair is coarse. However, hair becomes finer as we age. It appears coarser because it produces less sebum, which makes hair drier.
All of the above issues can be remedied with a good shampoo and conditioner, and you may need to use these more often, as grey hair shows dirt faster. Dry shampoo is a great volumising between-wash option for grey hair as you can’t see it if you fail to brush it out properly.
Try a vinegar rinse to boost shine. Mix equal parts of cider vinegar and water, pour on to your hair, work through, then rinse out.
Lowering the water temperature for your final rinse also helps smooth hair cuticles, giving a shinier finish.
The colour purple…
In order to cancel out brassy-yellow tones, grey-hair-specific shampoos and conditioners often contain blue or purple tones. This is the same principle as the blue rinses which became popular from the 1930s onwards. But don’t worry, the effects are subtle; we’re not talking Edna Everage…
The first-ever shampoo for grey hair, Pro:voke Touch of Silver Brightening Shampoo (£3.99, 150ml, Boots) was launched in the 1970s. It contains violet pigment to neutralise brassy tones for instantly visible, brighter hair in just one wash, resulting in dazzling shine. Follow with Pro:voke Touch of Silver Colour Care Conditioner (£2.19, 200ml, Boots).
Dubbed ‘going grey with attitude’, the White Hot range was created in 2013 by Jayne Mayled, now 57, who was frustrated with the products available. As she explains: ‘Grey and white hair is a stylish colour choice, just like any other. I wanted to use products that not only worked for my hair, but were positive and celebratory. Age and experience is a beautiful thing.’ Try the three-step regime package (£36, 200ml x 3): White Hot Glorious Shampoo for everyday cleansing and shine-boosting, Brilliant Shampoo with optical brighteners to use once or twice a week for a brightening boost, and Luminous Conditioner to nourish hair and maximise flexibility.
Philip Kingsley Pure Silver Shampoo (£18, 250ml) has violet hues and optical brighteners to minimise yellowness and boost gloss and brightness, leaving hair more lustrous. Follow with Pure Silver Conditioner (£21, 250ml), which also contains wheat protein to reduce static and improve condition. Combine with Elasticizer, a pre-shampoo treatment originally developed for Audrey Hepburn, to promote suppleness, elasticity and bounce and reduce breakage (£30, 150ml). The Jet Set pack (£25, 75ml x 3) offers trial sizes of all three.
Klorane Silver Highlights shampoo (£8, 200ml, John Lewis) combines a natural blue dye from the centaury flower, which gives soft highlights, with a volume-boosting, hypoallergenic shampoo base. Apply to hair and leave for a few minutes before rinsing.
Available only in a long-lasting litre size, Aveda’s Blue Malva Shampoo (£26.35, 1L) adds a silvery brightness with extracts of a type of mallow and coneflower, a colour intensifier. Follow with Aveda Blue Malva Colour Conditioner (£17.85, 250ml, Look Fantastic).
A word of warning: some purple-toned products can stain grouting, clothes, and your pristine pile of fluffy white towels, so don’t lather up too enthusiastically!.
Made for men
For men who are going for the ‘silver fox’ or ‘distinguished’ tag, there’s no high-street range – yet – but in the meantime, try Wella SP Men (£14.50, 250ml) which gently cleanses and maximises shine, or L’Oréal Professionel Homme Grey Shampoo (£9.65, 250ml) which promises a ‘chrome-like’ shine.