I’ve Been Professionally Covering Up Men’s Grey Hair for More Than a Decade

Some men want to look younger; others are just trying to get a job.

49 ive been professionally dying grey hair

Kristina Reed has been cutting and colouring men’s hair for more than 13 years. Her clients range from men in their 30s to men in their late 70s, all of whom are trying to cover up their grey hairs for one reason or another.

My first job out of school was at a place for men who demand more than a corner barbershop or quick service salon can provide, but don’t want the female-oriented experience most professional salons offer.

We offer two different services for men who want to colour their hair. The first is a permanent or custom colour, meaning we colour the hair all black or all brown. I don’t have many clients that request the permanent colour service, however. Because when the hair grows back, you get what hairstylists call “the line of demarcation” — a distinct line where the grey starts and the colour ends.

Far more popular is our semi-permanent grey blend. It covers anywhere from 50 to 75 percent of the grey hair and takes about 30 minutes on average — 20 minutes to apply the colour and 10 minutes to shampoo and style. The grey blend looks much more natural, though it does fade out in four to six weeks.

For most of my clients, once they start doing the grey blend, they keep doing it. It takes them back to how they envision their hair should look, but it’s a subtle difference. The change is just enough for them to notice, but not enough for, say, a coworker to notice. I’ve actually had a few clients tell me that it wasn’t enough and thought I could’ve added more colour.

I’m very cognisant of the insecurities some men feel when they come in to get their hair coloured, which means that sometimes I’ll consult with them a little longer. If I sense that they’re sheepish toward the idea I’ll tell them to wait, or I’ll advise them to try the blend, since it’ll fade over time.

The ideal head of hair is already 50 to 60 percent grey. Then it’s similar to a woman colouring their hair in that if you keep doing it, no one really notices. Alternatively, if a guy has a full head of white hair, a lot of colouring will naturally bring out a red or strawberry blonde in their hair colour. So if they’re used to a muted brown, the end result may not come out looking the way they thought it would.

The majority of my clients start colouring their hair because they want to feel and look better, not because their significant other wants them to colour their hair. In fact, it’s sad, but I’ve had a handful of men come in because a headhunter had instructed them to do so: They’re told that it would improve their chances of finding a job if they grow out their hair and get it coloured. I consulted with one guy who pretty much told me that he had been out of work for several months and was at the end of his rope. He was full of white hair, and I didn’t want to do it because it was far from the ideal situation. In the end, we didn’t end up colouring his hair, but he did decide to grow it out and I helped him style it.

I’ve also had a few clients come in for damage control. They tell me they can’t go to work looking the way they do — it’s similar to teenage girls who see the colour on the box and try to do it themselves. Sometimes their hair is so black or brown that we have to trim it in order to pull out as much colour as we can.

Ironically, it’s just women who work at my salon. It just happened that way — men simply don’t apply. We like to joke that all the oestrogen from the women here balances out the testosterone from our clients. It doesn’t matter who works here though, I think men deserve to have a place of their own — reminiscent of the old-time barber shop, but one that also provides the highest level of grooming available.