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From characters across countless Japanese anime and video games to the Elves in Tolkien’s Middle Earth— George R.R. Martin’s Mother of Dragons to the Malfoys in Harry Potter and countless others in between—we as a culture of the fantasy-obsessed have all come across that beautiful character with silver hair.  Over the years, fantasy hair color that was once just a dream inspired by escapism has become a popular hair color option in reality. And while the internet is saturated with thousands of photos of silver fantasy hair—which so many of us identify with and yearn to have, you have to ask yourself—is it really for me?  Long before being an adult, let alone a Redken Artist, I was obsessed with every silver-haired character I found and desperately wanted the color as my own. Now we live in a time when silver is one of the most fashionable colors to don –whether it’s a festival vibe, real-life cosplay or even your own natural color embraced. But be warned: silver hair is not for the faint of heart—so before you make the decision to take the plunge, here are some points to consider.

  1. One does not simply walk into the salon and get silver hair overnight. While so many of my fellow colorists seem to work literal magic behind the chair, silver hair is arguably the most labor intensive, unpredictable, and therefore expensive hair colors around. You will need to consider that it can take 2-4 visits to get your hair light enough safely—especially if you are looking to keep a long length or are starting with a darker natural color. Also, if you have colored or treated your hair chemically in the past 5 years in any way, you MUST tell your stylist as this will drastically effect what they are able to do for you. Many stylists that will go the mile to give you a fantasy color are doing it out of a passion for their craft. The amount of time and product it takes to achieve the look is rarely profitable to the average colorist even taking into account the price YOU pay as a client. So when you bring that fantasy ‘Instapic’ to them, remember that silver is one of the hardest looks to achieve—even for the most gifted colorists. It is a huge undertaking for you and your colorist, so if you live off of instant gratification, you may want to consider other color options.
  2. Be prepared to INVEST in your new look the same way that you invest time and money into a skincare routine. Make a plan with your colorist, do what they advise, and be patient throughout the process.  If silver hair is what you really want, understand that this isn’t a one off visit but a brand new long-term relationship. Investing in take home products is not an option with silver hair. If you can’t commit to the at home upkeep, then you will end up wasting your time and your colorist’s. REMEMBER: Once you have the hair of your dreams—it is up to you to maintain it.
  3. It is the nature of silver hair to change tone over time. To get and keep silver, you have to eradicate all yellow. Yellow will come back visibly through daily washes, natural oils, swimming in the ocean or pool, working out, and a multitude of other activities. If you can’t dedicate yourself to the home maintenance below, you will have great difficulty with your silver.

First off: Do you wash your hair daily?—If so then silver hair is more than likely not for you. Unless you already have a shower with a purifying shower head, you will be exposing your beautiful silver locks daily to minerals and build up that will change the tone of your hair. Each time your silver is exposed to outside elements, you will see more yellow in the tone. Think of it this way, most semi-permanent vivid hair colors tend to last up to 8 washes. If you wash your hair everyday—you only get 8 days. If you wash it once a week using dry shampoo as an alternative in between—you get 8 weeks. If using dry shampoo and washing your hair less is not your thing, then your silver tone will not have as much longevity and you may need to see your colorist for supplemental toning sessions every 2-3 weeks. Either way—you will still need to invest in hair care products that will revive the silver each time it’s washed. Using Redken’s Color Extend Blondage Shampoo and Conditioner set is one of two amazing options. Color Extend Blondage deposits purple pigment into the hair as you wash it—cancelling out yellow that may have come through. Again, silver is a hair color that can be incredibly challenging. The other option is Redken’s Color Extend Graydient—a purple shampoo that deposits slightly less pigment to avoid over toning your hair along with it’s conditioner which has revolutionary technology adding silver pigment back into the hair while cancelling yellow.

Also: Understand that the visible silver tone will vary from wash to wash and also the type of light you are in. Many of my silver clients notice that using a purple shampoo can change the tone of their silver, making it slightly lavender depending on how long they leave their shampoo on. This is the nature of silver hair in the real world. Many clients prefer a lavender tone to yellow. From a personal perspective, I have had silver hair for over a decade. Some days it looks like platinum; some days it has a lilac tinge to it; some days it seems perfectly chrome and other days it’s just normal blonde. On the road to silver, your hair must be lightened to a level 10 or higher which can leave the hair very porous—sometimes more porous in one spot than another. Using a pigmented shampoo to keep the yellow away will also deposit some degree of purple pigment. Depending on the porosity of your hair, you may see more or less lavender after one wash than another. If you swim in a pool and get your hair wet, the chemicals present—even if only slightly—can alter the tone. To regulate the porosity at home and minimize uneven pigment deposit, Redken’s Extreme Treatments like Anti-Snap Leave-In Treatment, Extreme CAT Protein Reconstructing Hair Treatment Spray, and Extreme Strengthening MEGA Hair Mask are life savers. And while we are on the topic of how your silver hair may vary from day to day, please be advised: Silver hair WILL NOT look the same in every photo you take or in every mirror you see yourself in. Cool light and sunshine are your friends in photography—but low lit indoor areas and other warm light settings will cast a yellow tone on the hair. Understand that your silver will look different from wash to wash and selfie to selfie and that’s just the nature of the game.

So that’s the reality on silver hair. It can be expensive and time consuming for you and your colorist. It requires a very strict maintenance regime. It is unpredictable even when you are doing everything right at home. So if all of these factors make you cringe, it would be a much better idea to invest in a luxury wig—which I might add is what many of the silver-haired beauties found online (and in Westeros) are wearing. If you think however you are up to the challenge and that silver is your soul hair color it is an incredible color to make your own—so don’t let anything stop you. Talk to your stylist and make a plan—just make sure you understand that it is up to you as much as your stylist to make sure you get your time and money’s worth. And don’t give up if it’s not perfect at first! You can figure out the regime that’s right for you. Being a Khaleesi isn’t easy after all—but I think we can all agree it’s so worth it in the end.

Woodward Bartlett