Today I thought I’d let you in on the big secret about going gray, or as I prefer to call it, pigmentally challenged.
Hair colour is made from melenin, yes, the same stuff you get in skin which gives you a tan in summer, your skin and your hair being made of the same thing, but I’ll leave that for another post.
Melanin comes in two types, Eumelanin and Pheomelanin. Eumelanin conatins the lighter colours such as copper and gold whereas Pheomelanin contains the darker red and brown/black pigments. So where do these colours come from?
In the hair follicle are the cells which produce the keratin that your hair is made from and other cells called Melanocytes that produce the colour.
It’s when these cells stop producing colour that “gray” hair starts to appear. This can happen for a number of reasons, age, genetics (thanks Mum!), a sudden shock or physical trauma such as your wife hitting you with a rolling pin. When the Melanocytes stop producing melanin, you actually get a lack of colour, not gray, though some people get a bit of dark melanin still being produced which is what gives that dark/steely gray look.
When the change finally comes it can also change the texture of the hair from fine to course and even make it curly, or even worse, like frizzy steel wool. This change of texture also means that you may have to change the colour you put in your hair and even the way it is applied.
Because gray hair lacks natural pigment, or what we call an undertone, a natural pigment may need to be put back in depending on the percentage of gray hair you have. This is why it’s a good idea to get a hairdresser to colour your hair once you go gray as they know how to mix tones together to get the desired colour and it’s even harder when colouring mens’ hair. An important thing to remember is that the darker you colour your hair, the more visible the regrowth will be. Different colour companies will give a very different result on gray hair as they have different strengths of pigment and levels of ammonia which is what opens the hair cuticle to allow the colour to penetrate into the hair, and that is why some people end up with a translucent effect on their gray hair. A clever Hairdresser will know how to get around this so it pays to get a good colourist, but a good quality colour product will give a better result than budget ones.
Just as important as a good colourist is a good shampoo and conditioner. Certain supermarket ranges, which I won’t name, can cause your hair to be more resistant to taking the colour as they coat the hair in a plastic like silicone, or strip the colour out too quickly, so always be guided by your colourist to get the most of your hair colour.