Shades of grey: Modern thinking about hair colour


Washington - Should you let your hair go grey or dye it? Certainly the advantages of the former leave you with a lot more time and money.

And role models include singer Emmylou Harris and actress Ellen Burstyn, who both look terrific with their white locks. But for most of us, white or grey hair leaves us looking washed out.

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Emmylou HarrisActress Ruby DeeActress Ellen BurstynDespite reaching 70, Dame Helen has remained unconventional, showing off her twerking skills in 2014, having dyed her hair pink the year before.Actress Blythe DannerJamie Lee Curtis

Women of colour or those with olive complexions can carry off steel grey or white the best; if you have pink or yellow tones in your skin, it usually doesn’t work, according to hairdresser Jeremy Buchanan.

We spoke to Buchanan to dispel some myths about the process and for advice on how to get the best results.


Most hair colourists will tell you that women as they age should lighten up their hair colour. What’s your take?

People hold on to adages like that, but it isn’t necessarily true. Hair colour formulations used to be very matte and didn’t reflect much light, so dark hair dye was ageing. That has changed, so chances are that if you liked yourself as a brunette, the modern formulations of dark shades will still flatter you. Some people choose to go lighter because there’s less maintenance involved. Grey shows through dark strands more quickly and evidently than through blonde hair.


Does hair change with age? How so?

As you age, the number of cuticle layers in your hair builds up, making your locks coarser and more difficult to condition.

On the other hand, there are benefits: A good blow dry, which flattens the cuticle and also makes your hair look shiny, will last longer. Furthermore, you don’t have to wash your hair as often because coarser hair doesn’t get as oily.


We pay a lot to colour our hair, but it fades so quickly. Is there a way to prevent that?

Wash it less frequently. Even the most gentle shampoos cause wear and tear on your hair. And just because you work out every day doesn’t mean you have to wash your hair daily. Rinse it to get out the salt and surface smells and then use conditioner.


What’s the latest thinking in hair colour?

We’re using techniques that mimic the way hair looks in nature. Consider the head of a seven-year-old child. The ends are lighter than the roots, and colour is lightest around the face. This is the effect we’re aiming to accomplish.

It’s not a choice between light and dark; colour should be dimensional. I have seven different types of hair colour to choose from and more than 400 shades. With new chemicals that have less concentration of ammonia and peroxide and more ingredients such as ceramides (which retain moisture in the hair and give hair shine), we’re able to manage the results. Instead of unnatural striations, we can get hair that “blooms” with colour.


Any other tips?

Colour takes darker around the face because it interacts with salt from sweat, which is most concentrated around the face. To prevent that from happening, remember, when you wash your face, pay attention to the area around your hairline. – My Little Bird/The Washington Post News Service

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