As you know, over the last few months I’ve been starting the journey towards going grey with the team at the Josh Wood Atelier in London. I still have about 50% of my natural blonde and brown in my hair so I won’t be completely grey for a few years yet however I’m no longer trying to conceal the transition. Instead I’m allowing the strands of silver to shine though in all of their glory.
My first appointment was at the beginning of March when I was invited to the salon to hear about Josh’s forthcoming home hair colour launches. I’ll talk about those later on in this post because they’re an important part of the upkeep process but first I thought I’d update you on what we’ve been doing so far. Before I do, I’ll disclose that I receive a small discount on my hairdressing but there is no obligation for me to blog about Josh Wood and I haven’t been paid to write this post.
So, since March my colour has been in the hands of AJ Blackadder who is, quite literally, a hairdresser to the stars.
When I arrived for my last appointment he was fresh from a film set where he was looking after the locks of a very beautiful and very famous Hollywood actress (who sadly I can’t name). It was exciting though, knowing that he’d left her for my appointment and actually that’s one of the things I notice about the team at Josh Wood – there are no airs and graces. In my experience of top London salons it’s the only one that treats every customer with the same level of care and dedication, regardless of status.
When I first met AJ, it just so happened that I’d had the balayage colour stripped out of my hair by my local hairdresser because I was sick of the dark roots needing to be retouched on an almost three weekly basis. This is how it was looking:
It was one tone of ashy platinum and it lacked definition but I didn’t know what to do next. AJ and I chatted things through and he encouraged me to ‘reset’ it by working with the natural tones that he could see coming through at the roots. Grey hair of course isn’t grey, it’s the mix of white with your natural colour that makes it appear that way. As I’ve said, my hair is about 50% white with the rest being my usual blonde and mousey brown. By the end of our conversation I’d decided that even though getting my hair right was going to take time and therefore be a heavy ongoing investment, I’d be stupid not to take the opportunity of working with one of the best colourists in the world.
I know I’m always saying it but I continue to believe that hair is the very best investment that you can make in terms of appearance. You wear it every day and I would always prioritise it over clothes or any kind of facial ‘tweakment’. And I know you’ll be wondering so I’ll just add that yes, I’m still loyal to Premlee for my cut meaning I have to go to two different London salons which is a bit of a faff – if only he could pop up at Josh Wood…
I’m now approaching the halfway stage with my colour. About 35% of my growth is previously untreated hair so that is AJ’s work but he’s had to blend it in with the longer lengths which still have legacy colour in them so I have to wait until they’ve grown out to see his final vision. When we get to that stage, I may decide that I don’t like it but at least I’ll have experimented with it fully. So far, the big benefit has been that I can go much longer between appointments because the colour through the lengths is blended so skilfully with my natural grey that the roots hardly show, especially if I use the Josh Wood at home products for upkeep.
Whenever I go to the Atelier, with you in mind I take the opportunity to grill the team on going grey and that includes Josh himself who I have to say is one of the loveliest people you could meet. He’s usually in the salon chatting away to people, adding his two penn’orth to the colour consultations that are going on and having a chuckle with everyone. Despite his starry status he’s a down to earth chap from Barnsley. He started out on a YTS course in hairdressing (remember those?) but the salon that trained him let him go, telling him that a career in hairdressing wasn’t for him. Josh says that he was never interested in cutting hair, all he ever wanted to do was colour so he moved to Leeds and then to London where he trained with Vidal Sassoon. The rest is history.
Anyway, I thought I’d share some of the wisdom that I’ve gleaned about going grey from some of the best colourists in the world.
Going grey gracefully – what to consider
Is it just a passing trend?
It’s ironic that the most recent hair trend for young women has been to go grey because of the startling contrast with their dewy skin. At the same time, older women have been paying a fortune for balayage to maintain the youthful appearance of dark roots and the suggestion that they don’t have a grey hair on their head. Of course until now the multi-million pound hair industry has had little interest in encouraging us to embrace our natural colour. Throughout the ‘anti-ageing’ decades the focus has been on looking younger so there hasn’t been a market for grey hair products.
Now that ‘anti-ageing’ has been designated as a pejorative term, the beauty industry as a whole is catching up and embracing pro-ageing. Suddenly products tailored towards the midlife market are everywhere and women can anticipate the beauty of their future selves rather than clinging onto their past. I was really pleased when one of the cool young stylists at Josh Wood said to me, “there’s a cultural shift going on, women aren’t ashamed of their age any more and older women are ruling the world.” So I doubt that going grey is a passing trend. I think we’re going to see more and more women claiming their status by letting the grey in their hair show through. At the moment it’s distinctive because not many people have the courage but that’s changing fast.
Gillian Anderson – actress (image from Pinterest)
Accept that you’re changing
As we all know, every aspect of life seems to change at midlife – the physical, emotional, psychological, familial and circumstantial. Hair of course is one of the physical changes – and they can be easier to manage than the more esoteric factors. This is a good time for us to readdress our appearance, there are advantages that we can play to if we take the ‘anti-ageing’ blinkers off.
From both a hair and make-up perspective, it’s good to accept that as we get older, our bodies produce less melanin and our natural pigment fades so the colours we use (and wear) need to be reconsidered. A lot of people fall into the trap of believing that they look natural because they’re having their hair dyed back to the same colour that it was in their teens but the thing is it doesn’t match their skin any more. It’s a bit like wearing black, if your colour is too harsh, it drains you. However if you get your hair colour right, it makes your eyes pop and your skin appear to glow.
If you do decide to embrace your grey, it doesn’t necessarily mean going for a single shade of grey all over, the look that says you don’t feel worth it any more which Josh calls ‘apologetic grey’. You can simply weave the lighter strands through to soften your dominant natural colour.
Christa da Souza – journalist (image from Pinterest)
Prepare for the appointment
Dress for your appointment, particularly if you’re going somewhere new. Wear something that you feel really good in and make sure you’ve applied make-up and your favourite lipstick. A good hairdresser will come to meet you before you’re seated in a gown. As they’re chatting to you, they’re busy getting an idea of who you are, along with your style and how you express your personality.
Do your homework. Be ready to talk about your hair and how it works for you on an everyday basis. Do you have any particular problems such as cowlicks or frizz for example? Bring in pictures of styles you love of course but – just as importantly bring in styles or colours you don’t like, especially if there are similarities between the two.
Don’t make your mind up about going grey before your appointment. To go grey effectively you have to have achieved about 40% of white coverage and your hairdresser will be able to assess whether you’re ready. If you aren’t, don’t worry, it’s something to aspire to!
Sarah Harris – journalist – (image from Pinterest)
It’s a process that takes time
It’s important to accept that going grey is a journey. It’s like having a dress made, you have to go back for fittings – or in this case appointments where the colour is gradually tweaked. It’s only when your original colourist has worked on the full length of your hair that you can assess the final effect, until then it’s a work in progress. So I know that at Christmas I should be able to look in the mirror and decide once and for all if I like what I see.
Helen Mirren – actress – (image from Pinterest)
It’s a privilege
Not everyone can pull grey hair off. As we’ve said, you have to have enough white in your hair to begin the journey so that in itself is a status that you graduate to. And not everyone suits grey – in the same way that red or raven black hair doesn’t work for everyone. Your hairdresser should be trained to advise you by looking at your skintone and eye colour.
Jamie Lee-Curtis – actress (image from Pinterest)
Final points on going grey
Going grey is a process that is probably best managed by a hairdresser so that you can keep some balance and tone in your colour. Even when your hair is getting to the completely grey/white stage AJ suggests that it’s a good idea to have some tonal depth worked into it to avoid what he calls ‘the magnolia effect’ where the hair just looks like a flat colour. His view is that we should all play and have fun with this gift that is exclusive to women of our age – after all, only we can do it authentically. And if you feel that you’re not ready to embrace a full head of grey, his advice is to play with a hint of it. The hair at the temples is usually the first area to go white so why not just ask your hairdresser to work on revealing a streak of it à la Caitlin Moran.
In the end, colour is something that can be changed quite quickly so if you wake up one day and wonder what you’ve done you can soon reverse it. For now I’m going to continue with the ‘breige’ look that weaves the natural blondes, browns and whites of my hair together and lifts them slightly. The upkeep is much easier, fewer appointments mean that the condition is better and it balances the cost of going to a higher end hairdresser.
Diane Keaton – actress (image from Pinterest)
Managing your colour at home
One of Josh’s aims is to ‘democratise hair colour.’ He’s aware that not everyone can go to his London salon and so he’s spent years working on a range of home hair colour products that you can use yourself. I can’t comment on the permanent colour kits because I haven’t tried them but I’ve been trialling the newly launched ‘shade shot gloss’ since March.
I’ve been using the icy blonde shot once a week. For some reason my hair goes a brassy shade of blonde very quickly and the gloss shot takes away the yellow tones and makes the grey sparkle, blending in the roots at the same time. You simply wash your hair and then leave it on for twenty minutes (I usually do it on a Sunday morning and give myself something like a couple of untidy drawers to blitz while I’m waiting). You then rinse it off and although it doesn’t condition quite as luxuriously l as I’d hoped, the effect on the colour makes it worth the time spent. I find that a tube lasts for about ten weeks.
There are currently options for blondes and brunettes in both warm and cool shades and you can buy them here.
I used the shade shot gloss on my hair this morning but the sun’s shining so brightly that only the blonde is showing in the photographs we’ve taken so here’s a picture from a couple of weeks ago that illustrates the effects better. As you can see it gives me a platinum cast that lasts for about three washes…
… and then it reverts to its usual colour – this was yesterday:
I’m going back down to see AJ on Thursday for my next colour session so I’ll give you an update after that. In the meantime, going grey is a very personal decision but I hope this has helped you to think it through. My last reflection on the process that I’m going through is that it feels empowering. You know I have a bit of a bee in my bonnet about authenticity and so this is about being my true self. I like not feeling ashamed of the grey in my hair or my roots showing through. It is what it is… but I’ll make my mind up about it once and for all in December.
Disclosure: ‘Going grey gracefully’ is not a sponsored post. Discounts have been declared, I was gifted the shade shot gloss to trial.
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