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No single hair color has experienced a glow up quite the way grey has. The sultry color can run icy or warm, depending on the complexion and skin tone of the wearer. Like dirty blonde hair, grey has become a go-to neutral shade for many women.
Notably, grey comes with its own maintenance routine. That’s why so many women love grey balayage, which utilizes hand-painted highlights to achieve a more natural (we’re using that word loosely) look. Instead of growing out with a visible line of demarcation, this beautifully applied grey will leave you with ombre ends.
We spoke with Lasha Keller, Matrix brand ambassador and stylist, about everything you need to know before calling your stylist. She thinks the color has become so popular because it’s almost like playing a character for many women. Grey couldn’t be more different than nut brown or pale blonde.
“I think that most young women are attracted to the silver or grey tones because it something completely different from their natural hair color...It’s very trendy and sexy,” Keller says.
Hair is the most dramatic accessory you own, so why not play around with it? Below, we break down the process, maintenance, and products needed to achieve grey balayage hair.
To begin, let’s be clear: Grey is not as easy to achieve or maintain as, say, a chocolate brown shade. If you’re committed to the color, however, it can be the most exciting statement you’ve ever made. Your journey to silvery locks will begin with a consultation appointment, during which your stylist will enquire about your budget, the inspiration for your color, and what kinds of products you use. All of this is crucial information, allowing the pro to find a shade that will fit your best.
When it comes to finding the right shade, Keller admits to having a little help.
Whenever I’m doing a consultation with a client, whether they are asking for gray or even a level 6 brown, I always pick up the Matrix swatch book first...I hold the color that they’re looking for right next to their eyes so that they can see what that color will look like on their skin tone and with their eye color. It really helps to give them a much clearer vision as to whether that color is meant for them or not.
Once you’ve decided on a shade, any bright color starts with having your hair lightened. While the color lifting process will alway cause some damage, your stylist will work to minimize the damage and leave you with hair that looks and feels beautiful. Keller uses Matrix Bond Ultim8, an in-salon bond protecting system, on her clients.
“When working towards a grey balayage, the process really depends on where you begin,” Keller explains. “Sometimes it can happen in one sitting and sometimes it may take several applications—as in a corrective situation—to ensure that the hair is healthy throughout the process.”
Once your hair is lightened in hand-painted sections, it’s time for color. This is where your professional’s creative eye really comes into play. Keller tends to lean toward silvery shades for her clients, noting that when the color begins fading it’s easy to try a different fantasy shade.
“After the grey color fades out, [the client] could come back in and get rose gold or a vibrant copper,” she explains. “Even though they are not coming in every eight weeks for a foil, I’m still making sure that my client comes back in and we’re giving them the proper maintenance for their color.”
Not interested in changing shades? Try a gloss, instead!
Like all the best things in life, grey balayage requires time and attention to remain beautiful. Keller’s developed a killer care routine for clients who wear the shadowy color. With cool shades, your number one concern should be keeping yellow tones at a distance.
“If you have a really nice light grey balayage, my suggestion for my clients is always to pick up Matrix So Silver Shampoo and Color Obsessed Conditioner,” she says. “If their hair is a darker grey, than I would suggest Matrix Brass Off Shampoo and Conditioner. Brass Off has more blue pigment in it than So Silver, so that it will help keep more gold or deeper yellow tones from coming back through the hair.”
Unlike traditional allover color, balayage hair means a much longer break between appointments. A skilled stylist should be able to create a touch up schedule for you, so you’ll never let that grey fade away completely.
If you’re ready to make grey a part of your life, scroll down. Our favorite grey balayage hair looks will make you want to head to the salon right now.
Purple and grey may not seem like an obvious duo, but we’re enchanted by the way both pastel shades look together. In this particular look, extra violet accents add depth to the color.
Is subtle more your vibe than, say, disco pink? Try this beautifully natural-looking combination of chocolate brown with a blue-grey balayage. Instead of letting your hair color rule your look, you’ll feel like an amped up version of yourself.
Do you love to incorporate a little romance novel drama into your everyday life? You’ll love this grey balayage over rosy roots. The look is practically made for a heroine in a gothic novel.
Movies and television may not be in black and white anymore, but that doesn’t mean the silver screen has lost its charm. To channel the film stars of yore, give this silver and charcoal look a try. Ask your colorist for bright silver balayage over a very dark grey base, then watch the magic happen.
Powder blue has ruled the colorful hair world for some time, but it’s a grey-inspired hue that really gets our beauty-loving hearts beating faster.
As a general rule, well-blended colors are our favorites. This mix of cool violet and grey creates such drama that we like it best on blunt, short cuts. When you have a powerhouse color like this, length isn’t mandatory.
Celebrity stylists often talk about their passion for using carefully placed highlights and lowlights to contour the face, bringing out the cheekbones and narrowing the face. This dramatic color look proves hair contouring can work with just about any combination of shades.
Intrigued by denim hair? You should be. This washed-out combination of silver and blue is the perfect fantasy look for spring and summer.
Halle-blue-jah! This grey and turquoise blend has us believing there’s still more life in pastel blue. This shade will look particularly beautiful in festival-inspired braids and updos.
Not all grey balayage is about moody shades. We’re totally in love with this silver and honey look for warmer days ahead.
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