Greys, Blondes & Bleach

I inherited my head of natural brown hair (uncommon amongst East Asians) from my dad and premature greying from my mum. It wasn’t a disheartening rite of passage spotting my first grey hair when I was still in my early 20s. They were on the underside of my hair, and as the saying goes, out of sight, out of mind.

Now that I’m in my mid-30s, I’m roughly 10% grey. Demi-permanent colour (aka “hair manicure” in Japan) has served me well for years as it softly blends white strands. While I didn’t have to worry about regrowth or damage, I find it high maintenance since I see a complete colour reversal in about a month.

I had a bit of an epiphany around December when I was scrolling through Instagram. Instead of blending to minimise contrast (or covering them up), I wanted to do the opposite. Add in strategic contrast highlights to make those pesky white strands unnoticeable even as the hair grows.

From my Instagram saved collection

I originally wanted high-contrast highlights against a dark base. But thank goodness for Kei who listened to what I wanted (roots that weren’t noticeable when they started to show through) and convinced me to do something better suited for my colouring and style.

Here’s a closeup of my hair a few days BEFORE the appointment. Do excuse the potato quality photo — it’s the only up-close photo I have that shows the natural colour (greys at all) and condition. I should have taken another (better) one. Too late!

BEFORE. Natural colour. Note white strands that are here and there. (You can see them more clearly close to the top of my head in the picture.)

And this is the after. The changes were diminutive, the overall effect was quite uplifting – and I didn’t have the settling-in period of high maintenance colour. It was my hair — greys and all — but better.

AFTER. Salon photo was taken by @ken07kei.

I couldn’t be more pleased with the results. Kei strategically placed ash-blonde foil highlights and babylights (super-fine, floss thin highlights) where greys are. He also added lowlights as close to my natural shade as possible and gave more of a balayage effect. To finish, beige toner was applied all-over to counteract the warmth.

About 2 weeks after colouring. Car selfie in natural daylight.

Cleverly placed highlights and babylights connect the new grey hair coming in and make it seem like the white strands are just part of the highlight. Having a blend of light and dark create a multi-tonal look that helps camouflage any unwanted greys while distracting from new growth. It’s much lower maintenance than a solid colour as it helps sneak grey hairs into my normal colour so regrowth isn’t visible.

I can highly recommend it if you have pesky premature greys and want to freshen up your colour but bored of the frequent trips to the hair salon required for maintenance.

About G. Haruka 54 Articles
G. Haruka is a trilingual trend analyst who specialises in Japan FMCG personal care and beauty products with over 10 years of experience. She also helps non-Japanese speakers navigate the overwhelming world of Japanese cosmetics at RatzillaCosme.
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5 months ago

Are you half Caucasian?

5 months ago
Reply to  G. Haruka

Oh ok, I thought you looked Eurasian in your pictures for some reason. Maybe it’s just the brown hair

4 months ago

Ooh, that’s a pretty colour. Subtle highlights and lowlights really add that dimension to your hair. My sister has naturally brown hair as well, while mine is pretty much black. I discovered my first strand of grey the other month, and it’s not in a discreet area. LOL! I won’t be dying my hair anytime soon, but we’ll see how long I last when the greys come in full.

4 months ago

Your hair looks great! I’d love to get something like this when I visit Tokyo – would you mind sharing the name of this style of haircolor/how Japanese colorists call it? (I searched “hair manicure” and that didn’t seem to narrow it down enough….would it be “blonde hair manicure” or maybe “grey balayage”?) Thank you so much!