If you've been following my blog for a while, you'll probably know that I'm allergic to hair dye, or more specifically, to PPD, the active ingredient in hair dye. I don't want to waffle on and on about the ins and outs of hair dye allergy in this post (although if you're interested in that, I waffled on and on about it here!) Instead, I want to share a recent experience with you - one that could be helpful to anyone who's looking to disguise grey hairs, especially if you happen to be allergic to dye, like me.
So what do you do when you have grey hairs but can't colour over them? Well, as a matter of fact, for anyone with greys, it's always going to be more effective to get highlights rather than trying to dye them. As a hairdresser once explained to me, grey hairs are funny little buggers, completely different in texture to pigmented hair, and even strong, permanent dyes have a tendency to wash out of them within just a few weeks. Of course you can keep re-dyeing them if you want to, but it's high maintenance.
Highlights, on the other hand, create depth and dimension within the hair, and as soon as you get that mix of shades, the greys just seem to blend away. With nothing to wash out of them, you're basically sorted until the roots grow through. You can lighten hair with bleach - a completely different chemical process to dyeing and one which I am happily not allergic to. So for a good few years now, I've used bleach only highlights to disguise my grey hairs.
At first, this was fine, but there were always a few little niggles at the back of my mind. For one thing, most people who have highlights don't have them with just bleach, and there are very good reasons for that. Bleach will lift your natural colour, but not usually to a shade you want to be. With "normal" non-allergic clients, hairdressers use toners or dyes over the top of bleach to achieve the desired shade, and some won't even want to touch your hair if they have to work with bleach alone. I was very fortunate that I found a talented and experienced colourist who would, and that bleach - at least in his expert hands - seemed to lift my hair to quite a nice shade without the help of toners or other colourants. However, not having any sort of choice over your own hair colour is still not ideal.
The second problem, which is potentially a lot worse, is what happens if things start getting a bit too blond? Most people can just add some lowlights or even dye the whole lot back to their natural colour, but if you have a PPD allergy, you can't do this. My first colourist, Shane, understood this issue, and was always careful to give me just enough highlights to disguise my greys. This is what my hair used to look like when he was in charge of my colour, and I was always very happy with it.
Then Shane left. Left the salon, left town, left the bloody country. Walked out of my life and abandoned me to deal with my hair issues on my own.
Damn you Shane!
My next colourist, unfortunately, was not in the same league. She freaked out about not being able to use toners on me, and decided that the only way to keep my hair from being brassy (a common complaint when you lift with bleach alone) was to make it as light as possible. She did this by leaving the bleach on a lot longer than Shane had done, and was also not very careful about only doing my roots. I, stupidly perhaps, did nothing to stop her, and I ended up looking like this.
Now I'm aware that a lot of people might actually prefer this colour. It's cooler toned than what I had before, which is always infinitely more fashionable. I, however, hated it. I felt it looked harsh on me, and I really missed my warm, caramel tones. It was also a lot more damaging to my hair, impossible to manage, and the worst thing was it got blonder and more damaged with every appointment, because she just wasn't careful enough with where she was putting the bleach. Also, just look at those roots!
I was now in my nightmare situation, with hair that was too light, and unable to do anything about it.
But then, I heard about Goldwell Elumen. (Just to be clear, I heard about it from my own research and paid for my appointment with my own money - this is not a sponsored post.) Elumen is a kind of dye that colours hair physically instead of chemically (don't ask me how this works, but it does! If you're interested, you can read all about Goldwell Elumen and the science behind it here.) Because it uses different technology, there's no nasty active PPD contained within it, and as a patch test confirmed, I'm not allergic to it! Yay!
Goldwell Elumen is usually used to create rainbow colours, so if you're into mermaid/unicorn hair, it's well worth checking out. However, they also have a range of regular shades, including warm honey blondes. I found a salon near me that worked with it, and explained my situation to my new colourist, Lauren. She chose two shades - one to act as a low light to break up the excessive lightness throughout my hair, and the other slightly lighter to use as a toner on the rest. The finished result looked like this, and I couldn't be happier with it.
While Goldwell Elumen is apparently not the best at covering greys, it holds on to bleached hair beautifully, so it's perfect for me to use as a toner. A completely unexpected bonus is that my hair is also a lot softer and shinier after using this, and it seems to be lasting really well too.
I'm definitely going to keep on using Goldwell Elumen, and would recommend that anyone who's allergic to PPD or is just looking for a gentler hair colourant gives it a try.
Do you colour your hair? What's your preferred brand?