How can I transition from dyed to gray when the gray is just emerging?
March 21, 2014 6:19 AM   Subscribe

All my Google searches either tell me how to cover up the gray or go to completely white/silver. Is there any in-between?

My hair is a dirty blonde, and tends to look really drab, which is why I have alternately dyed it lighter blonde and red for years. Now that I'm in my late 30's, I'm starting to see more silvery white coming in. I think that tone will be much nicer than my natural muddy blonde, but I don't know how to transition from a fully dyed head of red to blonde with emerging white. My hair is long, so it will take years to grow out my roots to full-length.

In a perfect world, I'd be able to dye the non-white hairs to red or blonde and let the white ones strut their stuff, but obviously that isn't a possibility. If I go completely white or silver I will age 20 years in a day, and I'm not sure I'm ready for that. I'm left feeling like my only practical options are to either 1) go back to mud-blonde and let it grow naturally for several years to let the gray come in, or 2) Keep on dyeing it more vibrant red and blonde as my moods shift until the roots are sufficiently white enough to warrant a full-on transition to silver/white.

Is there another option that I'm not considering? I feel like the wonders of hair color technology must have something more to offer that I just don't know about.
posted by JanewayJunior to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Is there another option that I'm not considering?

Totally. Dye it blonde - perhaps slightly lighter than your natural "mud-blonde" color - and have your stylist add in very pale highlights (something in the white/silver spectrum without being overwhelming).

I imagine as it grows out you can keep it looking fresh with just highlights. You probably won't need to routinely dye it all over anymore.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 6:31 AM on March 21, 2014 [6 favorites]

Hi, I'm you, but ten years on. I also have mud blonde (good name!) hair that I have been dying for years, mostly on the spectrum of red. And I also started going gray about ten years ago. schroedingersgirl is pretty much correct: highlights are what you want except you also must add lowlights - darker tones - which will let your roots begin to grow in naturally without looking bizarre. It's the best way for people with long hair to transition out of dye and back into natural. I even did it.

BUT! It took 8 hours - EIGHT - hours to get the lowlights and highlights all in my hair. It cost, um, around $200? in 2004 money. It looked great for about 3 months and then I couldn't afford to get it done again and it started to look worse . . and worse. . . and then I suddenly realized that mud blonde hair mixed up with gray is really a terrible, terrible combination. I went back to red, serious red and I haven't looked back since. My hair is about 80% gray now, but you would never know it to look at me. I think in about five years though, I might try again, but this time I think I'll just cut it super short and multi color it with manic panic and let it grow out on its own. Either that, or they'll have to pry the dye bottles from my cold, dead fingers.
posted by mygothlaundry at 6:49 AM on March 21, 2014 [8 favorites]

to go gray: How long is your hair? Hair grows 1/4" a month or so. If you move to a color that's about the same color density as your graying hair will be, that's a start. Then gradually move from coloring to lots of highlighting, gradually reducing the highlighting.

To go not-quite-gray: Try using a more transparent color, and stay closer to, or lighter than, your natural color. The gray hairs will be brighter and lighter, for a naturally streaked effect. Works best on lighter shades.

Take a picture of yourself, and change the haircolor - if you can't do it, somebody on amazon mechenical turk, fiverr or can.
posted by theora55 at 7:42 AM on March 21, 2014

This won't leave the white hair white, but you could dye your hair with henna (or a henna/cassia mix) to tint it. Your blonde hairs will turn redder, and the white hairs will be lighter red. Natural highlights! I used to dye my hair with henna, and it had the added bonus of increased glossiness, and fading out over time/washings so there is no harsh "Hair Dyed Here!" line. There are lots of online resources on henna use. Lush makes a few henna bars that are nice but there are cheaper options as well. I found powdered henna at a local middle eastern grocery. MeMail me if you'd like more info!

One thing to consider is that you cannot dye your hair with a permanent dye over the henna with a box or salon dye. I believe you can use semi- or demi-permanent dyes though.
posted by jorlyfish at 7:47 AM on March 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

My hair is long, so it will take years to grow out my roots to full-length.

Ombre? Occasionally re-dye the dyed part of your hair so it doesn't get that washed-out old-dye look, maybe sticking to colors in the same family as your new natural mix but a little lighter or darker. It'll still look kind of funky until the break line gets to your ears, but that won't take a hugely long time.

I think highlights are what most people do, though. You can blend in a multitude of odd circumstances with highlights.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:57 AM on March 21, 2014

I'm like you. I have some grey not a whole bunch and dying it is an option but I use John Frieda color refreshing gloss (for brunettes) that is like a minor color that gives my grays a great highlight. They make it in a blonde version as well. I use natural instincts on the front only and the John Frieda as needed. It seems to stretch out the time you need to color. It definitely gives a boost.
posted by lasamana at 8:20 AM on March 21, 2014

FWIW my mother simply stopped colouring her hair and I thought it was going to look terrible growing out, but it was fine.
posted by tel3path at 8:31 AM on March 21, 2014

I have a friend who is naturally a light blonde, now in her 60's, and she colors her hair with straight up cassia. Obviously everyone's hair is different - some people's gray is very stubborn - but I can tell you that hers looks amazing! She just looks like a light, very natural blonde (most like this photo of someone's cassia-colored hair) with a little bit of gold. The greys blend in very well, and because it's just finely milled grass, you can use it as often as you like, even as a weekly conditioning treatment. (I've used it a few times just for conditioning and it makes my hair feel a bit thicker and curlier).
posted by rada at 9:18 AM on March 21, 2014

You need some intermediary steps to go from red to natural.

Red and long > blonde and short > highlights only and growing out > long and natural.

Cutting off the majority of the red and dying what's left blonde will make that grow out less jarring. Keep in mind that as your hair goes totally grey, and dying stops, it's texture might change too, and you might want a new cut anyhow.
posted by fontophilic at 11:01 AM on March 21, 2014

you wouldn't just want to cut your hair short for a bit? then as it grows out, there won't be any of these issues.
posted by andreapandrea at 2:40 PM on March 21, 2014

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