Going grey is a part of life and, like many other milestones, tends to happen rather differently for all guys. For some, it’s gradual, a few greys here and there, while for others the transformation seems to happen over the course of a few months. But regardless of how we get there, we all face the inevitable question somewhere along the way: should I be doing something about this?
As a culture, by and large we’ve learned to embrace grey hair by abandoning negative age-related connotations and letting nature take its course, which is great. Less work, easy daily routine. It also might explain why a growing number of younger men are opting for the silver fox look well before nature comes a’calling. But there are still some who, at the doorstep of their 30s (or even earlier) aren’t ready to let the grey in, and for those guys, we’ve got a host of options on how to tackle greys: at home using store-bought dye kits, gradually by using color shampoos and temporary dyes, and professionally at a salon. And to help us weigh the options and decide which is best is top colorist Christopher-John from Salon YOSHIKO at Bergdorf Goodman in New York City.
At-Home Hair Dye
A quick foray down the hair dye aisle at CVS is enough to convince anyone that they can look like the person on the box, but Christopher-John warned us that, while at-home hair dye has its merits, plenty can go wrong if the rules aren’t followed.
- Low cost: At-home dye kits rarely run more than $15, which is a heck of lot cheaper than a professional colorist.
- Great for all textures: Boxed hair dye kits work on all types and textures of grey hair—light, medium and heavy.
- Non-committal (sort of): Christopher-John said that at-home dye comes in both permanent and semi-permanent options, the latter being ideal for first-timers or those afraid of what the results might look like.
- Easy-to-apply: Many drugstore hair dye kits come with comb applicators for no muss, no fuss application.
- Too many options: Christopher-John said the amount of shades at retail can be quite overwhelming, making it difficult to decide the right option.
- Messy/uneven application: At home hair color can be messy, staining towels, shower curtains, rugs and more, so prepare accordingly. Also, it can be a challenge (especially for first-timers) to ensure color is evenly-distributed and saturated all over the head.
- Uncertain results: Christopher-John explained there are many other factors at work, such as texture, that may affect how the dye takes, so it may require a few tries until the results are ideal.
How to Get it Right
- Know the shade you are trying to achieve: “I recommend selecting your closest match or even one shade lighter than your natural color, as most boxed colors tend to be darker than advertised,” Christopher-John said.
- Consider how long you want it to last: “I recommend that if this is the first time using at-home color, do semi-permanent to be on the safe side and ensure you like the outcome.
- Be prepared: Christopher-John recommends a proper setup, which includes laying out each product contained in the box, gloves, a timer, the directions, a towel, and wearing mess-around clothing (because, like we mentioned, dye will stain). Also, he recommends applying petroleum jelly around the hairline to create a barrier that’ll prevent the dye from settling into the skin.
- Follow the instructions: This goes without saying, but we’ll say it anyway. Follow the instructions to a T.
Final note: Christopher-John pointed out that grey hair is more resistant to color than younger hair because of its texture. “The lack of natural oils in the hair make it a rougher surface that tends to reject the color being applied, especially around the roots.” Therefore, depending on the type of grey, he advises keeping the color on a few minutes longer to allow it to take.
Gradual Hair Dye
Whether it’s a color-depositing shampoo, a spray-on dose of color, or a tinting powder, tackling greys using an easy-does-it gradual method is often a safer bet, thanks to a generous margin of error.
- Great for early stages of going grey: Christopher-John said using a product that gradually deposits color is ideal for guys whose hair is just starting to transition, i.e. at the salt and pepper stage.
- Less chance of messing up: Going gradual means we’re able to take stock of the results every now and then to make sure our journey away from grey is going as planned.
- None: Aside from getting the shade wrong (which will be obvious well before it’s problematic), taking it slow is generally safe and fool-proof.
How to Get it Right
- Choose the right color: If choosing the gradual route, Christopher-John said to select a color that most closely matches your natural color. Don’t be adventurous.
- Powder or spray formulas: These easy-to-apply gradual hair colors are meant to temporarily hide root growth and can be used to gently blend away the greys into your natural color. They easily come out when hair is washed (or after sweating profusely), so best not to use just before the gym.
- Color shampoos: Today’s wide array of color-depositing shampoos make it easy to add a smidge of color with every shampoo, thus allowing for gradual and natural-looking color. Christopher-John also said they’re great at protecting hair that’s already been color-treated from fading.
For those guys who want the gradual route, all it takes is a quick shampoo and a few minutes to let it work, and this classic from Just For Men does the rest. The more you wash, the more color is left behind, giving you total control over your greys.
“For someone with a full head grey, I suggest seeing a professional who can take the time to suggest different options based on skin tone and lifestyle,” Christopher-John said. “For example, someone who travels a lot has to consider upkeep, someone who swims in a pool often has to consider the effects of the chlorine, etc.” He also mentioned more technical aspects that could make a difference between a good dye job and one that looks completely natural, such as gloss finishes. The moral of the story is: if you can afford it, go professional.
- Get the right shade: “A professional can customize your perfect shade and help you decide if you want to make the change immediately or gradually,” Christopher-John said.
- Get the best results: A professional colorist has mastered not just the aesthetics, but also the chemistry behind hair color. They’re familiar with different hair textures, how the color will take, and how long the color should stay on, so the final result is not over or under-processed.
- Figure out the right aftercare: After getting the color just right, a professional can also recommend the best products for optimizing and maintaining said color, so your investment doesn’t literally wash away down the drain.
- Can be expensive: While the results are unparalleled, going to a professional colorist can put a hefty tax on your wallet, sometimes upwards of $150. But aside from considering it an investment, it’s also a bona fide way to walk away looking great and, most importantly, like yourself.
How to Get it Right
- Ask all the right questions: Aside from asking the colorist for a color that will match your natural skin tone, Christopher-John also recommends bringing up several lifestyle aspects as well, such as activity level (which may affect upkeep), how often touch-ups are required, and the best products to use to help maintain color between visits.
At the end of the day, there’s nothing wrong with going grey. It’s a part of life and can look really awesome. But hey, who are we to say what’s best? If a grey mane isn’t in the cards, at least you’ve got options—three solid ones, to be exact. Just ensure you do it right.