Let's talk about Grey - hair!
With hairdressers closed (through no fault of their own) more often than they’re open these days, a lot of us are contemplating a whole new hair scenario – natural grey hair.
So whether this situation is new to you because it’s been thrust upon you, or you’re getting the first streaks of grey and wondering how (and whether you need) to manage it, I’ve got the answers to your questions. Huge thanks to some of our Colour Club members who have helped us illustrate this post!
‘I was first typed as Spring back in the 1970’s when I was a golden blonde. My hair darkened after children to what I’d call dirty blonde. As my children became teens, my hair turned gray and now in my 70’s it is mainly white with some blonde tones. I was reclassified as a Light Spring in 2018.’ - Gail
As a romantic, I obviously call my hair silver sparkle not grey!’ - Helen
Does my colour palette change?
This is almost always the first question people ask when they discuss going grey in the context of wearing their best colours. And the answer is…. not straightforward.
If you’ve been analysed under a seasonal system (so you have been ‘given’ one of the four seasonal palettes), it is generally believed (including by us at Kettlewell) that your season will never change. But within that seasonal palette, your absolute best colours might shift. So you might once have been a Deep Autumn, suiting the darker, more intense colours of the palette, but going grey might shift you elsewhere in the palette, perhaps to Soft Autumn, meaning that the most muted, grey toned Autumn colours suit you best.
If you’ve been analysed under a tonal directions system, such as that used by Colour Me Beautiful, then it is believed that your dominant and secondary tonal directions (Deep, Light, Soft, Bright, Warm, Cool) can shift as your hair colour changes, as the natural level of contrast and brightness within your hair, skin and eyes alters. However, this is unlikely to be a dramatic shift, and one or two of your three tonal directions are likely to remain the same; similarly to seasonal analysis, you will shift within a range, and are unlikely to have a complete change of palette.
Here at Kettlewell, we really encourage you to stick to your broader palette, but explore where you sit within it as your hair colour changes.
‘I was very nervous about growing out my grey to start with and friends were a bit negative, but now it's done I've never had so many compliments and my "negative” friends are converted.’ - Jennifer
‘Since going grey, I tend to choose lighter versions of my Summer palette, and often combine them with cool grey shades, which I never wore previously. My natural silver-grey hair is now in harmony with my cool skin and eyes.’ - Sue
Do I NEED to dye it?
Let’s be absolutely clear: dyeing your hair is optional. Your hair is not suddenly going to start working against your natural colour palette and make all your clothes look awful just because you got a few years older. That’s not how our colour palette works – our hair, skin and eyes are in balance, and our hair going grey doesn’t change that natural harmony which exists within all of us. You might notice that if you are a warm toned season (Spring or Autumn) or dominant Warm, that as you go grey your hair retains a slightly warm, creamy tone. Whereas the cool toned seasons (Summer and Winter) and Cool dominants tend to naturally veer towards a much steelier grey, or pure white. Whichever you are, your hair will harmonise with your palette, although remember that your best colours within your palette might shift as your hair gets lighter.
If you do choose to dye, you can ensure your hair colour continues to match with your palette by simply taking inspiration from your palette – warm or cool tones, bolder or softer colour, as appropriate for your own seasonal palette. You might find it helpful to remember the following hair dye key points for each of the four seasonal palettes:
Spring – Keep it lightly golden toned, honey, caramel, biscuit, cream. Pale blonde highlights can break up very light grey hair if you don’t want to go for a full head of dye.
Summer – Cool, blueish toned grey, ash browns and blondes. A blend of shades and a mixture of high and lowlights can add interest.
Autumn – Rich, warm tones, chocolate, honey, caramel, red earth, copper, can all work well. A blend of shades, and both high and lowlights work well for your tonal Autumn look.
Winter – Cool, blueish toned grey, ash brown, white blonde. Opt for more solid colours and fewer tonal highlights to avoid softening your high contrast look too much.
If you are transitioning from dyed hair to grey, a few well placed highlights or a colour that blends your dyed colour with your grey roots can help ease the transition, and avoid the dreaded badger stripe. Stick to the colour rules above, and choose a shade somewhere in between your roots and your main hair colour.
The one other question that seems to crop up here is ‘will I look older if I leave my hair its natural shade’? Once upon a time, this definitely felt true – everyone dyed their hair, so leaving it to go grey made one stand out as an ‘older’ looking person. These days, there is a mixture of those who dye and those who go au naturel, and even younger people choosing to dye their hair grey, that such a definitive statement is no longer the case. I also believe (or hope!) that the world is somewhat less ‘age-phobic’ than it has been in the past – we are allowed to celebrate the wisdom and experience that age gives us, rather than trying to hide and reverse the process.
One final note on the hair itself – grey hair is often more coarse and more dry than your ‘old’ hair, and needs specific care – looking after your greys with appropriate haircare will give them a glow all of their own.
‘‘Do I regret all those years of colouring my hair? No. Do I regret my decision now to go grey? No. I think you know when you are ready. It isn’t for everyone and I never thought it would be me. I’m looking forward now to continuing to wear my colours from my bright autumn palette (and, no, I haven't changed to a cool season because my hair is grey).’ - Sue
'I embraced my gray at age 43 (six years ago). I have not regretted it — I get compliments on it daily about how shiny & healthy it looks — especially now that I know what colors to wear!'- Cindi
Do I need to alter my wardrobe?
You may find that as you go grey (and other shifts happen, such as the brightness in your skin and eyes also diminishing, and maybe your lifestyle changing) that the colours you have loved for a long time suddenly don’t feel quite right. This almost certainly isn’t because your entire palette has changed, but because you have had a shift in your best colours within a broader palette, as discussed above.
If you haven’t yet had a colour analysis, this might be the perfect time, in order to help you feel as confident as possible while you transition into a new look.
A good consultant can help you explore your new best colours, or you can go solo and treat this as an adventure! Play around with new areas of your palette; for example, if you were previously a Bright Spring, try experimenting with Light or Warm (You can read more about seasonal sub-types here). I would encourage you to celebrate this as an opportunity to explore a new and improved palette for you, one which will give you the confidence to transition into grey with a smile on your face!
Remember also that your personal style can play a role here. Somebody with a very laid back, casual style might prefer a more relaxed, tonal look (even within a bright colour palette like Spring or Winter) to a bold high contrast one. But remember, getting older, and going grey, absolutely doesn’t mean you need to start dressing like your grandmother used to. Whether your style is quirky, preppy, pretty, flamboyant or minimalist, you can still honour that style as you get older. Going grey absolutely doesn’t mean ‘giving up’ on enjoying colour and style.
'Going grey was a big thing for me, and once I’d done it I really felt like I’d ‘come home’ and was comfortable as a winter again. When I had my hair coloured, I looked like an autumn and wore a lot of autumn colours, but there was a terrible dissonance. Of course, for me, and probably for everyone else, the other important issue is to have a really good hair cut to show off the grey.’ - Alex
‘It was a big decision for me to let my hair go natural, and I needed advice along the way’ - Kellee
Do I need different make up?
As we age, our skin loses the natural elasticity and brightness of youth, and is almost always more dry. Also, we lose colour in our lips, cheeks and brows. This means that regardless of going grey, now might be a good time to reassess your make up, in terms of both colour and the specific products you use.
You might find that some areas you used to be able to skip without noticing (blusher, lipstick) now need a little more attention (and colour!), whereas the stronger eye colours you used to love now feel heavy and crease in your lids. Again, I would encourage you to treat this as an adventure, exploring the way your best make up looks might have evolved. You might want to check out Look Fabulous Forever - a range of makeup and skincare created specifically for older women by Tricia Cusden (who looks fabulous with her grey hair!). Her Youtube channel is full of helpful tips and tutorials.
I hope that all of this encourages you to see going grey (whether by choice or because your hairdresser is closed for the foreseeable!) as an adventure and a chance to explore and learn more about your colours, rather than a sentence to a lifetime of blue rinses and boring clothes. If you haven’t already had your colours analysed or you’re looking to have a colour re-fresh to help you transition the grey, click here to see our directory of consultants. If you are reading this in the US click here.