How to colour your grey roots and refresh your hair ends
All hair is the same - said no person, ever. Hence why we’re so set on learning what works best for us. We want to know which products, techniques, tools and tricks will get the best glossy greatness and colour vibrancy out of our own unique hair. And trust us, a bit of personal hair knowledge really can make all the difference.
But here’s something we hadn’t considered before. Whether curly, straight, thick or fine, natural blonde, coloured brunette, redhead or other, the hair at our roots isn’t the same as the lengths. Yep, that’s right, we’re talking about different hair, on the same head.
It makes perfect sense really. Especially for those of us with long hair whose lengths have seen years of weather changes, heat styling, brushing, and the rest. Our roots however? Not so much. And our colouring habits need to reflect that.
First-time hair colourers have less rules to regard. That’s because their hair is only being hit with one, fresh layer of colour. However, hair that’s already seen an at-home colour kit or two is a slightly different story. That’s when Josh Wood recommends packing your at-home colour onto roots first, then only drawing it through lengths for the final 5-10 minutes of the total processing time. It’s a rule that works well for hair that's one colour all over.
But then, what about those with balayage, grown-out highlights, or what Josh calls ‘environmental colour’ - hair that lightens towards the ends, as it would in the sun. For them, pulling a darker ‘root colour’ through the lengths wouldn’t be advised, unless you want to switch from ombre to all-over. But is there a way to preserve lightened ends? And what are we supposed to do when it comes to root-to-tip greys?
To find out, we cover four hair colour scenarios. From grey regrowth, to protecting your balayage, preventing colour buildup and more - let’s find out how to colour roots and refresh lengths, the right way for you (your own unique hair, considered).
1. Dark hair, grey roots
Whether black, brown or even red, when hair leans towards the dark side, touching up grey regrowth can be a straightforward task. If, that is, you’ve got the correct colour, and the right technique. For permanent colour kits, Josh advises you, “Match the colour swatch on the box to your roots, not your ends." As for technique, follow Josh as he guides us through the at-home colour process in this how-to video.
- Thoroughly brush your hair first. “The less tangles, the less messy the process,” says Josh
- Pop on your protective gloves, then apply the barrier cream around your hairline. “Put little dots around your hairline, and then you can massage it in,” advises Josh. “It really helps stop any staining.”
- Cover your shoulders with a dark towel to catch any drips.
- Mix all of A (Your expert colour) into B (Colour activator) “and make sure you give it a really good shake so it mixes in really well,” says Josh.
- To apply the colour, Josh says to “Start really low, just above your ear and work from the hairline towards the back. Then give the product a good rub into the roots,” Repeat and massage in as you go for complete coverage.
- To catch any stubborn greys, “Do little dots all the way along your hairline, and then rub the colour in,” advises Josh.
- “It’s really hard to colour the back of your own hair,” Josh admits, “but one tip is to start at the top of your head, and work backwards, all the way down to the nape of the neck.”
- Try to apply in small sections for an even finish and to make sure all regrowth is coloured.
- Wait 20 minutes for the roots to process, then it’s time to refresh your ends.
- “Take sections of your hair, from the top, and apply the colour through the lengths of your hair. When you feel that you’ve saturated all the ends, leave it for ten minutes, and then shampoo,” Josh advises.
- “The result is brilliantly covered grey hairs at the root, and the shine and tone on the ends is really amazing after the colour refresh,” Josh reveals.
- Finally, “To keep every little bit of colour in there, lock it in using the deep conditioning treatment,” says Josh.
2. Root-to-tip greys
Nothing’s more telling of home-coloured hair than a block-colour finish, says Josh. “Hair has natural tonal differences, with highs and lows throughout” he explains, which is why Josh designed his Shade Shot to mix with the Permanent Colour Kits. To discover your best shade shot, first you need to choose between warm or cool, blonde or brown. Champagne or Chestnut adds warmth, while Icy or Smoky add ‘cool’ ashy blonde or rich dark tones to your colour. With the right combo for you, you can expect a soft, multi-tonal finish that will leave others guessing wondering if your colour is natural.
As for your permanent colour kit choice, for the best grey coverage, Josh recommends choosing a shade close to your natural root colour (that’s the colour between the greys.) "Make sure to never stray more than two shades away from this,” says Josh. “If you’re looking to go drastically lighter or darker than your natural colour I recommend a salon visit for professional advice. You'll also need to consider the regular upkeep required to stay on top of the grey roots coming through." He warns.
3. Highlights & balayage
"If you've got a dark regrowth and blonde ends, the dark regrowth needs some kind of ammonia or hydrogen peroxide to lift it,” Josh explains, “and in my thirty years experience, I haven't seen many great successes of this being achieved at home." For this reason, we suggest bleached blondes leave their root work to the pros.
However, highlighted and balayaged hair can still benefit from a colour refresh at home. Glosses work like a semi-permanent toner to boost the warm or cool tones of your hair. Icy Blonde is skilled at banishing any brassiness, whilst our Champagne Blonde Gloss is great for adding a sun-kissed warmth to hair. The semi permanent colour is housed in a deep conditioning treatment mask, adding hydration and refreshed vibrancy to your hair colour.
As for those roots - if your regrowth is getting hard to handle between salon appointments, there is a way to help blend dark roots with your blonde. The trick is to use a root concealer. With careful application, "the Root Marker can even help create the illusion of highlights," says Josh.
4. Grey roots, balayage lengths
Greys aren’t just a concern for darker hair colours - those growing out highlights or with balayage are also at risk. So what can we do about it? "At home you would ‘root smudge’ to cover the grey hair using a permanent colour, but you must protect the balayage in the ends,” Josh warns. “In the salon, I would generally put a mask through the ends of the hair, to create a bit of a barrier.” This will protect any sections that have been lifted, “So when you’re washing off the permanent colour from the roots it doesn’t dull the ends,” Josh explains. This can easily be done at home with our Everything Mask, or you can apply something like a Gloss to boost or tone the colour at the ends at the same time,” suggests Josh.
To target those greys, take your permanent colour first. “Start along the hairline and the parting so it gives those areas a bit more development time,” Josh advises. Once all your roots are covered “working from the back to front, as it’s generally easier for you to see,” it’s time to apply your gloss. “The gloss will help to nourish and hydrate the ends of your hair, but it’s also a way to protect the ends as the root colour washes through your hair,” says Josh.
“With the gloss, you’re always looking at the lightest piece of hair” that means, even if you’re a brunette, if sections of your hair have been lifted to a blonde level, either the Champagne Blonde (for a warmth) or Icy Blonde Gloss (for a cooler tone) are the ones to choose. “Squeeze the gloss into your hand, and then work it through, focusing on the ends of hair, where the balayage is,” Josh explains. “Let everything process together, and then shampoo and condition as normal.”