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Home / Rusty's Notebook / Grey Hair and Men’s Hair Colour - The Complete Guide
Grey Hair and Men’s Hair Colour - The Complete Guide

Grey Hair and Men’s Hair Colour - The Complete Guide

Your hair is the final but most important finishing touch to your total look. The subtle difference that signals you out to the world in your own individual style.

Black, brown, blond or grey, the colour and cut of your hair helps define who you are.

It feels slightly odd then, that you’ll find mainstream cosmetic lines designed specifically for men in all our high street stores now, yet the idea of a man dying his hair to look younger is still something most men would rather neither discuss nor attempt.

The fact is, these days, professional quality, natural looking hair colour is easily achievable at home and though you may not realise it, millions of other guys all across the country have already taken the plunge.

If you are looking for some straight talking and honest advice to allow you to make a more informed decision, you're in luck. We’ve pulled together this guide to help you decide whether to cover up those grey hairs.

Should I dye my Hair?

There’s no doubt that grey hair on guys is a bit of a taboo subject. It’s fairly typical to hear a friend say, or to read a comment online that men look better with grey hair. Shortly followed with George Clooney being cited as the perfect example.

While there’s no doubt that George can certainly pull off the grey look, it’s worth remembering that he’s a glamorous movie star.

We’d say that there are a few points also worth considering:

Firstly, as noted above, a huge number of men already colour their hair - it’s a lot more common than you’d expect. When it comes to grey hair, as the objective is for the colour to look natural and subtle, it’s not surprising you wouldn’t notice that their hair is coloured. That’s kind of the point.

Secondly, despite what people say, grey hair for a lot of men is aging. For younger guys, you may not be ready to embrace the grey so soon whilst for older guys, a high quality and well matched hair colour can inspire confidence, making you feel fresher and younger.

Finally, it’s not an all or nothing choice. It’s perfectly possible to remove just some of the grey hair, blending your darker tones into the grey, whilst adding a bit more life back into your colour.

So should you dye your hair?

Well if the grey bothers you then why not give it a try. It’s inexpensive to do, only takes around 20 minutes each time and can be conveniently planned around your monthly haircut.

 

Is hair colour hard to maintain?

Covering up your greys on short hair is not a difficult process. Whilst it can be done in a salon it’s very easy to do at home.

You may need a couple of attempts to get the grey reduction just the way you like it, but once you have, you just repeat the same steps every time.

In practice, your colouring routine could easily fit in with shaving and showering and is probably best undertaken just after your haircut for maximum longevity.

For example, done before you step in the shower and applied to activate as you shave, it won’t become a hassle.

A little about grey hair.

As hair turns to grey hair it changes in texture. It becomes finer and coarser because of a fall in natural sebum, something we all lose as we age.

The “melanocytes” become inactive and this can also make those grey hairs wiry and curly.

Hair that once grew smoothly in one easily groomable direction now shoots outward and upward and stubbornly refuses to sit the way you’d like it to.

Interestingly, hair colour helps to overcome this and one of the colouring process advantages is that it makes the hair more manageable once again.

Personal style and hair colour

Your colour should blend with your individual style.

If grey reduction is the objective, it should mean a glance from colleagues in the office looking twice to work out if it’s a well cut new suit, or spring in your step that’s making you look good.

Toning in those greys to your natural colour will be subtle, but effective in giving you a fresher and more updated look.

But if you are looking for something more obvious…. 

Changing your hair colour:

If you are thinking about bleaching your hair to a cool Scandinavian blond it will work well if you are the owner of lighter colour hair or if your hair has greyed to a white ash. 

Blond all in one hair colours will work beautifully and give the desired result if they are ash toned.

This is because the blond hair colour uses a lower peroxide to mix the colour which is similar in volume to those used to mix darker hair colours. So, the damage to your hair will be minimum.

As the colour captures a mix of salt and pepper grey the colour develops to a mixture of light and blond tones (see below for tones) and the result will look very convincing and natural and be easy to maintain.

However; if you have dark, salt and pepper and wiry hair, it is a difficult look to achieve and best left to the experts. It requires gentle bleaching several times over. Toning with an ash based rinse and conditioning every time you wash.

Extra caution is required as bleaching can knock the structure of your hair, making it fragile.

Moreover, if age and greying hair are sending you reaching for the hair dye, you want to keep it close to your youthful original virgin colour; best to leave the blues and greens to the more youthful gentlemen out there.

Types of colour:

There are three main types of hair colour to consider:
  • Semi Permanent,
  • Demi Permanent and
  • Permanent.

Semi permanent colour sits on the outside of the hair cuticle. It can’t change the colour of your hair, but can add cool tones, warm tones or even deepen up to natural colour by up to two shades.

As the name suggests, it will tend to fade away in about 12 washes.

Demi permanent colour will get under the outer cuticle of the hair, but won’t penetrate the hair strand itself. This makes it longer lasting than semi permanent, but it will still wash away over time.

Finally, for ultimate longevity, you’ll need a permanent colour.

This works by opening up the hair cuticle allowing the colour to enter into the hair shaft. When the colour is washed off the cuticle closes and the colour is sealed in.

There can be a small amount of damage to the hair, but colouring can be advantageous for grey hair as it will improve the overall look, feel and texture. 

Colour for grey hair can be applied before you shower, left to develop as you shave, floss and admire your reflection, then showered off.

It will fade over time, but as most guys have shorter hair, you’ll need to keep colouring your hair on a monthly basis to avoid the roots being too noticeable.

In practice this will align nicely with your monthly trip to the barbers.

Which colour to choose? 

To find a natural hair colour, you can look at the undertones of your skin. If you check out the underside of your arm it will have either cool tones or warm tones.

If you are unsure, warm skin has greenish undertones while cool skin has blue or purple.

In choosing a hair colour you should go for the opposite.

A warm hair colour if you have cool skin tones.

Typically, men’s hair has more ash tones than women’s and suits cooler shades.

For coverage, men tend to go for 70% hair colour, whereas women go for 100%.

This is because it looks more natural to have some grey showing around the temples. Although it really comes down to personal preference.

Ok, so which shade?

If you are going for natural and subtle, the colour should only be two shades darker or lighter than your darkest hair colour.

Finding the right shade can be tricky, as every brand will have a slightly different numbering system.

You’ll find that colour systems will range from Jet Black (typically numbered 1 on the chart) to Lightest blond (usually number 10) or some set range in between.

To avoid going too dark. choose a colour that’s a little ( two shades at most) lighter than the darkest hairs on your head. You can always go darker in future.

The tone refers to whether your hair is ash, red, and so on. The numbering system then starts to get a little more erratic across brands. For example, some systems will have a letter after the colour number. Ash Blond could be 9A (cool toned) blond or 9G blond with golden tones. Or 5w which is simply a warm mid brown. If a colour is just says 5 it is probably a cool toned mid brown.

Choosing an ash based colour; such as light ash brown will help you avoid warm orange tones as it develops and fades. These can look obviously fake, especially when the sunlight catches it. 

How do you colour your hair?

This really depends on the type of colour you are going for.

For most permanent dyes, you’ll mix a developer with the colour, then apply to the hair.

Different systems work in different ways. Some can be applied to a comb and combed straight through the hair while others will be mixed in a bowl which you can then apply with a brush.

Every brand will claim their approach is the best, but the reality is there are upsides and downsides to each method so you have to find the one that works best for you.

If you have short hair you don’t need to worry about colour retention as the grey roots will begin to show again in a matter of weeks, so before most Demi permanent hair colours begin to fade.

To keep the colour looking good, plan to re apply around every three to six weeks.
Men with long hair or regular swimmers will find their colour fades as they repeatedly wash it. Again, even with permanent colour, three to six weeks is a likely regimen to keep it looking great.

The fading of hair colour can be exasperated by a number of factors. Swimming, sun exposure, over washing, damaged and porous hair are some of the common ones. Also, poor preparation before dying and washing with very hot water after the colour has developed will also limit lifespan of the result.

It’s also worth thinking about cost. Box dyes are reasonably inexpensive ranging from as little as £5 and north of £20 for some systems. The price difference may not necessarily reflect a difference in the quality of the colour itself, possibly instead representing the complexity of the system, accessories, customisation and in some cases delivery costs.

We are biased of course, but we’d recommend trying the men’s focused boxed dye solutions such as Rusty’s first, before going for a more customised online solution. For the majority of men it will be an effective, high quality system with great results. Also, a lot cheaper in the long run.

For big colour changes or complex colour requirements, the salon would be our recommended approach.  

Wrapping up

So, that’s it from us. Hopefully this has cleared up a few questions you may have had and possibly even inspired you to give hair colouring a go.

Of course we’d love you to try Rusty’s, as it’s a cutting edge, professional quality colour designed specifically for men looking to lose a little grey from their hair.

We’re here to help, so drop us a line with any questions.

Thanks for reading :)