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Transitioning Your Clients to Low Maintenance Gray Blending
By Adrienne Rogers, Product Club Artistic Director

Gray blending is the art of evaluating what is already happening within your client’s natural hair. My approach with this technique is to magnify the qualities that are already beautiful and bring real emphasis to a client’s natural gray hair color. Blending gray hair growth means customizing each color technique to work for you, which will bring the guest’s natural beauty forward and enhance the natural tones that they’ve already got.

Transitioning clients from all-over single-process color to gray blending can be tricky, especially if you’re working with someone who has been regularly covering their grays for years. Contrary to popular belief, low-maintenance gray hair color is a great way to build your client base. Gray blending is a real skill that takes dedication, precision, and patience to master. Knowing how to help clients embrace their natural gray can increase your salon traffic and set you apart from the rest.

Evaluation and Consultation

Evaluation and consultation are very important when deciding your approach to gray blending. First, I looked through the client’s hair and evaluated the decolorization. As you can see in the before picture, my client came in with a fairly subtle, even distribution of natural gray. She also had previous color from gray coverage, and had old lightness on her ends that was turning yellow.

When you’re working with large sections of fully gray hair, there’s often not enough contrast. This causes light to reflect off of the hair and make it appear slightly flat. The contrast is not as bold or dynamic as it could be. In order to correct this, my goal was to magnify the dimensional hair color throughout the back and sides by painting in strategic highs and lows.

Around the front, it’s important to pay attention to the hairline. A bold hairline can add to a client’s look, bringing attention to their face and highlighting their gorgeous features. I chose to make her hair brighter in the front to create an eye-catching face frame. Adding in more dimension with highlights and lowlights breaks up solid sections, increases overall contrast, and makes the hair color more harmonious.

Customize Your Application

When clients speak to me about their hair, I often hear that they are feeling reluctant about embracing their natural grays because of how random and inconsistent their gray is. For example, my client mentioned that her hair was too white on the sides, but had no gray on top. This made her feel like her hair color was uneven and drawing attention where she didn’t want it.

The idea of gray blending is to make it all harmonize and work together, which is why my strategy is always to enhance what is already happening within the hair instead of resisting it. I view natural grays as an asset when it comes to transitioning clients away from single process hair color. Our job as colorists is to read the map of what’s happening within the client’s hair to decide how to achieve their hair goals. My plan for this gray hair transformation was to do a combo of highlights, lowlights, fine babylights, and a few hand painted foilyage sections for optimal dimension.

The Gray Blending Process

I started foiling the back section first to give the highlights here more time to process, since that is where most of her darker hair color was located. Then I did super fine weaves for my babylights to help me be really precise with my placement when foiling. The Pink Ombre Pop-Up Foil was my choice of hair foil for this highlighting technique since the foil sheets easily pop right up and help me work a lot faster. Since I typically use more foil when I’m doing so many fine babylights, I like to save time where I can.

She also had some previously processed hair color on her ends, and it was my goal to get as much of those old yellow tones out as possible. In addition to the babylights, I painted some sections of her hair in a triangular “V” shape and then insulated them in foil. This allowed me to create some pockets of depth throughout the back of her head, and helped to blend in the lowlights that I strategically placed in later.

In my experience, gray blending clients are the type of guests who want to come into the salon two or three times a year. They don’t want to commit to monthly root touch-up appointments, and would rather opt for a low maintenance, lived-in look that seamlessly transitions their natural grow-out. In order to avoid lines of demarcation in the future, I used a diagonal placement for my highlights, babylights, and lowlights. Going in at a slight angle helps the regrowth look more soft and natural, while using a horizontal placement creates more of a bold, ribbon-like effect.

For foil highlights, I always paint the hair with ergo brushes since the bristles help me get the lightener extra close to the scalp. There’s also a comfort grip on the handle, so I can manage the color brush easily without my hand getting tired. Using this brush and an extra-long pintail comb, I did several back-to-back slices around the hairline for a really bold expression of lightness around the face.

Before and After Gray Blending Balayage

When it comes to transitioning your clients from gray coverage to gray blending, being thoughtful with your approach is the key to success. I really recommend using multiple techniques to get the most customized gray blending application for your client. Don’t feel like you have to stick with only doing traditional highlights – I ended up doing highlights, babylights, lowlights, and even painted some foilyage sections.

It’s important to have a plan, but be flexible. My plan changed as I worked throughout the head. Taking the time to address every detail will only help you get a more seamless transition in the end, and clients certainly appreciate the extra attention you pay to their specific hair color concerns. Gray blending is a great way to help your guests embrace their natural grays and feel confident in their hair color!

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