Grey into gold?
April 16, 2012 3:51 AM   Subscribe

How do people with white hair dye it blonde? Is there such a thing as blonde dye that isn't bleach?

My mid-brown hair is acquiring some noticeable grey at the front. Apart from the grey, I like my natural colour. Is there any way I can put a blonde or yellow rinse through it that will just blondify the grey bits while not having a noticeable effect on the rest of the hair? It's long, so I'd like to keep chemical damage to a minimum.
posted by Pallas Athena to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (14 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Here's a decent blog post about how to approach gray hair when wanting to go blonde.

If you want a bit less of an insider/hairdresser approach, this answer on another forum seems to be a good place to start.
posted by xingcat at 4:11 AM on April 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

Is there any way I can put a blonde or yellow rinse through it that will just blondify the grey bits while not having a noticeable effect on the rest of the hair?


If you put any kind of blond "rinse" through your hair you will be lifting pigment from your natural color. It could be a disaster. I don't know of any blond or yellow rinse. Blond is bleach and it will affect your natural color.

A better option may be to get highlights, sparingly, to frame the face and blend the gray. Or, you could color the gray your natural color. I would absolutely see a professional if you would like to go blond, no matter how subtle.
posted by Fairchild at 4:54 AM on April 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

I do exactly what you're talking about doing (when I think of it). I use this stuff. It doesn't have any ability to lighten hair, it only deposits color. I use a golden brown or ash blonde and it does the trick. It doesn't last terrifically long in my hair, but my hair is like that.
posted by acanthous at 5:15 AM on April 16, 2012

"If you put any kind of blond 'rinse' through your hair you will be lifting pigment from your natural color. It could be a disaster. I don't know of any blond or yellow rinse. Blond is bleach and it will affect your natural color."

My understanding from when I used to go almost to platinum blond is that it is a two-step process -- one step to bleach out your hair to nearly white, and another to add toner to give it the color you actually want, which is blond.

So, yes, in that sense if your hair is already white you can add blond color to it without bleaching by only doing the second step.

However, I am not a professional (my mom is, but I honestly never wanted to do hair for a living so I didn't pay a ton of attention to the technical details) so I am not certain that the toner or tint works well on white hair that isn't bleached hair. I'm sure someone here will know, though.

Now, having said that, I have similar hair to you at the moment, and I just use a semi-permanent color such as Natural Instincts, not a permanent one, often in dark blonde but sometimes in light brown. Semi-permanent technically does damage the hair slightly, but it is very slight for me. I rarely go to a salon but when I do they always tell me my hair is in great condition. When I use the semi-permanent in a light color, it really barely changes anything except the gray hair. It might slightly change the tone of the brown hair, depending on whether I used a golden shade or one more neutral, but YMMV. The color fades gradually as the hair grows out. I wouldn't do anything else -- it really is pretty trouble-free.
posted by litlnemo at 5:17 AM on April 16, 2012

See a professional. If you try something at home and mess it up, you will only have to go to the hairdresser anyhow to fix it. Speaking from experience, and hoping to get highlights to cover the grey in my light brown/blond hair when it grows long enough. Once the professional shows you what to do and what to use, you might be able to do it yourself next time.
posted by mermayd at 5:55 AM on April 16, 2012

Anecdotal info only, but my neice has white hair and it able to dye it a light blonde. But yes, I'd definitely see a professional to do so.
posted by aclevername at 6:13 AM on April 16, 2012

Blonde dye is basically just translucent yellow dye- there's no reason you can't make blonde dye without bleach in it, it's just that you can't dye light over dark, so people bleach their hair before dying it yellow so that the yellow will show up. HOWEVER, a drug store blonde dye may have some bleaching properties, so you shouldn't just blindly use one.

Either go to a stylist, or try something like John Frieda's Sheer Blonde line, which is meant to jazz up hair that is already blonde and contains no bleach (except for the 'go blonder' stuff, don't use that). You could use the shampoo and conditioner for a week or two and see if it makes any difference. I used to use the Brilliant Brunette line, and it did seem to give my hair a little bit of depth in color.
posted by showbiz_liz at 6:49 AM on April 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yes, there are deposit-only/toner-only techniques you can use, but it'll depend on how color-resistant your gray is. If it just refuses to "stain" - which gray does, it's not very porous - it'll have to be primed with peroxide/developer and you might have to go with a highlighting process.

You can probably quiz the staff at your local Sally or other beauty supply. Don't necessarily do what they say, but at least gather some preliminary information from them and then use that to ask your hairdresser some additional questions.

All permanent and semi-permanent dyes use a developer/peroxide to "lift" the color from the hair and make it more porous, and then a toner to put the actual color on. There are lots of blonde toners on the shelf at your beauty supply, which I have used by themselves mixed with shampoo to correct light hair turning green from nasty city water (used a warm/gold medium blonde toner to balance out the ash/green), or to keep my reds fresh longer (capful of red toner with shampoo two washes a week. This is sort of a stain method with no lift aside from roughing your hair up slightly with shampoo; it will stain all of your hair to some degree (and again, may not stick to your gray at all) and so you might get a bit of warm/red/blue/ash change on the rest of your hair. That's the homebrew method; your mileage may vary.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:28 AM on April 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Talk to a professional colorist. I am prematurely gray, and for the last twenty years (since I was 24) I've been having a semi-permanent vegetable dye thing to cover the gray. It gives my red hair a little more oomph, but it's basically similar to my natural color. There is no peroxide, no smell, and no damage done. It's a one-step process- she mixes up the color, puts in on the roots, sometimes pulls it through the rest of my hair to brighten up a bit, lets it sit for 20 minutes or so, then shampoos out. I don't know how well it would work to cover the grays (or, as my colorist calls them, the "unpigmented strands") with blonde, but it works great for red. So it is definitely possible, but I would not attempt it on my own.
posted by ambrosia at 9:33 AM on April 16, 2012

Paul Mitchell PM Shines in the 6 range (a guess without looking at you). It's a salon-service demi.

There's over-the-counter demi/gloss/celophanes stuff now (or semi-over-the counter like sally's); but I can't vouch for how much those would darken your ovreall color or stick to the grays. Look for medium to light; and decide beforehand whether you think warm or cool (ash) is a more flattering tonality on you.

I don't recommend the lightest, 9 range shades, though logically one would go for 'blonde' colors if one wants 'blonde', because they don't seem to stick to the gray at all. Oh, and yeah you can just concentrate color on the parts you want it on. Really clarifying the hairs (removing product buildup and hardwater minerals) beforehand and not shampooing 48hrs after helps demi/semi's take.

Roux fanciful makes me itch, but the cost of entry is very very low, so if it's at your drugstore check it out.

I just saw a magazine rave about this color mousse; if it's as opaque as they imply it could cover gray hair just as well as it lightens dark hair, but I haven't tried it myself.

I, too, disagree with Fairchild's statement that blonde is bleach. Blonde is not always bleach; depends on where you're starting from (and, what product you happen to be holding in your hand). Also, the hairdresser parliance definition of 'rinse' is pretty much temporary, non-lifting color.

I do agree with the assessments that it's kinda hard to do hair over the internets, and if you are not a person for whom radical experimentation (and possible bad hair days while you fix experiments gone awry) is fun, the gentle assistance of a pro is probably in order.

Good luck!
posted by Rube R. Nekker at 10:45 AM on April 16, 2012

You're not going to get a result unless you use a level 7 or darker on the front of your hair with out using a permanent color. You need to determin what the color of your hair is by using a swatch of a number of different hair colors. After you find out what level you are (1 being black hair and 12 being the lightest blonde) then go two shades lighter in the front because thats what looks most natural. You will need to use a peroxide based product because thats what opens the cutical of the hair and allows the color to penetrate into what is called the medula. The center part of the hair which retains color. After you do so, it will be necessesary for you to use a gental shampoo for color treated hair so that u can retain the color and keep the front of your hair in the best possible condition. I recomend The purology line (professional line of hair care) so that you don't damage the hair in the front, which is the most delicate. It isn't what you do to your hair that necesessarily damages it, its how you take care of it in the future. Purology has a shampoo called antifade complex which will not strip your hair of the color. Rinses will not do the trick. Believe me. The only was to change the front of your hair from white to somthing similar to that of your natural color is to color it with a permanent hair color. It will not damage your hair, the only thing that will damage it is how you take care of it in the future after you color it. Use an N series of color so that it covers the white hair completely. :)
posted by brittaincrowe at 2:12 PM on April 16, 2012

I should just add something about the drugstore semi-permanent (Natural Instincts, etc.) method. For most people, semi-permanents run dark. So when they tell you to go a shade or two lighter than what you want, do it.

I find that the "dark blonde" or "natural dark blonde" type of colors work ok for this on my hair. But I went back to a light brown recently because it really seems that it covers the grey for longer. The blonde fades back to grey really fast. The brown fades to blonde. So it's better. :)

The recommendations to see a professional are excellent; my method is recommended only if you don't want to see a professional.
posted by litlnemo at 2:17 PM on April 16, 2012

I'm a Pro Colorist, and have been since 1996, I don't know if i'll get into trouble saying this, but i shall soon find out.
posted by brittaincrowe at 2:24 PM on April 16, 2012

I recently quit colouring my blonde hair red, and have found my lengths go super brassy (I used one of those hair dye remover kits to get the artificial colour out). I never in a million years thought I'd say this, but cassia has helped the brassiness enormously. It'll deposit a goldy, yellowy stain, so I now have a strawberry blonde instead of a golden blonde. It also has the pleasant side effect of making my hair feel much thicker, stronger and softer. The staining effect is subtle enough that it probably won't have much of an effect on the rest of your hair.

Caveats: it's an absolute filthy pain to apply. The cassia looks like mud, and you leave it on for hours. It's also impossible to find in stores (I buy mine from Henna Sooq), and the effects aren't permanent.

But it might be worth a go. Pure cassia doesn't have the metallic salts that react with conventional dyes, so if it doesn't give you the effect you're hoping for you can always colour over it.
posted by nerdfish at 4:14 AM on April 17, 2012

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