I want to dye my hair lighter to mask my greys. What do I ask for at a salon?

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I really need your advice. I have naturally very dark hair which I started to get greys in my early 20s, so I have been using shop bought hair dye to hide the greys for 15 years. I have only ever used the darkest brown hair dye as it is the closest to my natural colour.

I want to dye my hair lighter to try to mask the greys for longer periods and I feel a lighter colour would be nice in the summer. I have never had my hair dyed at a salon and I want to be confident that I know what will work and what to ask for to get the best results.

I think the colour I would like is a light brown with lighter highlights. When I last saw my hairdresser she said my hair was in good condition. I would really appreciate your help as it’s such a big change for me and I want to get it right.

Thank you,

Angie, East Sussex

Hi Angie,

This is something we deal with in our Brighton salon all the time and there are some simple ways to disguise the grey whilst maintaining a lovely rich base. You can have a dark tint, close to your natural colour, and then run highlights through to disguise the greys, or change to a lighter shade, still with the highlights, to brighten it up for the summer.

If the colour you have now is darker than the one you want, I'd recommend gently stripping the hair with effasor and then choosing a nice chestnut brown for the all-over colour, with a toner to make the highlights really rich. With hair that's had repeated colouring or been stripped, we usually recommend L'Oreal's INOA as it's an oil-based colour and kinder to the hair than traditional colours, as well as being really long-lasting.

Alice Gazagnes, Senior Stylist & Colourist, Simon Webster Hair, Brighton 

Hi Angie,

The only way to go forward is to visit a good salon that has a specialist colourist or specialises in hair colour. Although you seem to have been successful in the past with covering your grey/white hair, it will have left colour residues in your hair from you colouring at home.

It is essential to tell your new colourist which make and colour of hair dye you have been using. The reason the colourist needs to know this is so that the new colour will not oxidise with the old home colour you have used.

If your hair is in good condition, as you have stated, then it should not be a problem for a good colourist to strip some of your colour out and use a permanent dye with your desired lighter brown colour, adding highlights would look great and will definitely help camouflage the white hair for longer.

The new colour will need regular attention and you will need to use good conditioners after to keep your hair in top condition, ask your colourist which is the best shampoo to buy so that your new colour does not fade. Lifted hair colours can fade unless you use gentle none stripping shampoos which stop fading.

I cannot stress enough, that you need to pay attention of the shampoos and conditioners you use at home during salon visits. The wrong choice of shampoo or conditioner could strip your new colour.

After having the new colour applied at your hairdressers, do not wash or wet your hair for at least 48 hours. This gives the new colour time to penetrate into the hair. If your hair is in good condition the new colour molecules will stay in your hair without falling out and cause colour fading.

The Key to good hair colours is due to using the very best haircare products. That is why celebrities’ hair always looks so good. Try ‘Alterna’ they are expensive but well worth it. http://www.alternahaircare.com.

Angie, be kind to your hair, love it and enjoy the new you,

Pierre Alexandre of Pierre Alexandre, Manchester

As you have been using a permanent darkest brown colour for 15 years I am guessing your hair is extremely dark. To go lighter will be quite a big job and I am doubtful that you will achieve the colour you want in one appointment.

What will need to happen is firstly the colour will need to be lifted and lightened and then the new base shade applied. Then if the hair will lighten further highlights can be applied.

The main worry I would have is that your hair is stained with the dyes you having been using (cuticle stain). This happens when colour is applied over and over. It is then unable to be removed or take on anymore colour. I would be inclined to have a in-depth consultation with a senior colourist who enjoys corrective work and make sure you have a couple of strand tests done to see if its possible.

John Clark, Head of Colour at Brooks+Brooks, London 

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