Tips for making the transition to gorgeous grey hair

We asked the pros how to make the process as pretty and seamless as possible.

We asked the pros how to make the process as pretty and seamless as possible

(Credit: iStock/Getty Images)

Your first time finding a grey hair, no matter how you particularly feel about the matter, is a rite of passage. Whether you were 20, 30, or 40 when you found your first, it's something that can come as quite a shock, even though we know it's a totally normal, natural process. Ever heard of the 50/50/50 rule of thumb when it comes to greys, which claims that 50 per cent of men and women will have approximately 50 per cent of their hair turn grey by the time they turn 50? 

If your hair is greying, you may be considering one of these options: colour your hair to totally cover greys, simply add in some highlights to blend them in, or just transition fully to grey hair. While there's certainly no right or wrong answer, we do know that the latter option can be the trickiest to navigate. For the best way to transition to grey successfully, we asked two hair pros for tips on how to do it as smoothly as possible. 

First, what exactly causes grey hair?

It's actually pretty simple. Your hair follicles have pigment cells that create melanin, which gives your strands their colour. As you age, those cells start to die, and when a strand of hair falls out and a new one grows in, it grows in lighter than before, until you notice grey, silver, and eventually, white strands. 

So you've decided to stop colouring and go grey. Chic! What's the first step? 

According to hair colourist and founder of Toronto's Medulla & Co, Luis Pacheco, a lightener and a gloss are the very first things to reach for. "You need to consider the amount of natural grey hair present, versus the amount of pigmented hair," explains Pacheco. "If somebody is 50 per cent grey, [they'll] have that natural salt and pepper look. If they've been colouring their hair, let's say dark brown… [they'll] have to lighten (using bleach) through that artificial colour they've been applying, in a fashion that mimics the salt parts of the natural roots." This will give you a natural-looking salt and pepper effect (swoon) while you transition. Glosses will be especially handy to correct and cool tone, and working with a hairdresser will help too, as they can monitor the amount of lightener they apply to your still-pigmented strands each time you're in the chair, gradually weaning off as more and more natural greys sprout. 

What about transitioning to grey if you haven't been colouring your hair? 

"If somebody doesn't have dye in their hair, they wouldn't have to transition at all," says Pacheco. "You could do lowlights with a temporary colour, like a demi-permanent, but I don't recommend it. It never looks right. You'll still have the demarcation at the root and heavily pigmented hair at the end." The best thing to do if you want to transition to grey but don't love the line at your roots is to highlight the hair (yes, even if you've never dyed it before) and adjust the amount of "salt" strands to your liking. Don't want to go that route? Embrace the au naturale look and wait for nature to do its thing.

How do you keep grey hair feeling soft and looking healthy? 

Remember that "our hair growth cycle shortens as we mature," says hairdresser and owner of Taz Hair Co., Frank Cini. That's why grey hair doesn't tend to grow as long as pigmented hair, and breaks more easily. And of course, there's the major texture change. Grey hair gets coarse because it's lost the collagen and keratin that aging hair previously had. "I find that colouring grey hair helps with its texture," says Pacheco. If you don't want to go that route, keratin or collagen masks work, too.

Do you need a new haircut when transitioning to grey?

While not mandatory, of course, Cini says this, "A flattering cut that removes some [of your] previous colour can speed up the transition. Techniques such as channel cutting, point cutting and slide cutting can help blend solid lines." 

Will certain hair types find the going grey process easier?

"It's easier for finer hair to go through the transition," says Pacheco, "because it's easier to remove pigment from fine hair. Thick hair might just need more time." 

Last but not least — what if you went grey and hate it? Now what? 

"You're only ever twenty minutes away from going back to colour!" says Pacheco. So don't sweat it. "The entire rainbow of hair colour is [always] possible again," insists Cini. 

Below are some products you can use to help your grey hair looking great. 

The ultra-violet, brass-reducing shampoo also features hyaluronic acid for hydration. 

Blond Absolu Bain Ultra Violet Shampoo, $45, Kérastase

Want to maintain your perfect salt and pepper strands? This shampoo's FadeStopFormula will extend your time in between colour sessions. 

Goldwell Dualsenses Silver Shampoo, $17, Chatters

Feeling the dry, coarse effects of your hair naturally losing collagen? Replenish that loss with a rich, luxe collagen mask to keep strands feeling soft and healthy. 

Collagen Hair Mask, $63, TO112

Souzan Michael is a Toronto-based writer and editor with a deep, undying love of astrology, watermelon and golden retrievers. Follow her on Instagram @suziemichael_.