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Inside: Color Lounge answers all your salon transitions to gray hair questions!
If you’re thinking about going gray from dyed hair, one of the first questions your friends will ask you is, “why don’t you just go to the salon and have them dye your hair silver?”
It sounds like a delightfully easy solution, right?
But going gray at the salon isn’t as simple as that.
It works really well for some women, while others end up with severely damaged hair (or hair loss).
As a brunette, I was afraid of possible damage, so I grew out my hair color cold turkey. That route is definitely not for everyone, and one of my goals on this blog is to present you with ALL your options for going gray.
In order to better understand the salon transition, I went straight to the experts: Sai Hernandez & Grace Ilasco from the Color Lounge in Burbank, California.
They’ve been transitioning women to gray hair with great success since 2014. In fact, they are the salon that did my friend Michelle’s beautiful salon transition!
Our full video interview is below, but make sure to keep scrolling to read the interview, PLUS see photos of their amazing transformations!
Below is a transcript of our conversation. It has been edited and paraphrased for clarity. All photos are courtesy of Color Lounge and may not be shared or reproduced.
An Introduction to Color Lounge
Tell us about your salon, when you started and how long you’ve been doing gray hair transitions.
Grace: We opened The Color Lounge in 2014 and we’ve been doing gray transitions a little longer. We started to get a word-of-mouth following for gray transitions.
A lot of our clients’ friends or family members were not supportive, but we always welcomed their transitions because we support whatever the client wants.
That’s refreshing to hear because a lot of us have had bad experiences with salons that aren’t supportive (of going gray).
Do you think salons across the country might have become more open to the idea of gray hair since more women went gray during the pandemic?
Grace: I do think it’s more accepted now because young people like it. And the going gray community…there’s more support and groups.
Especially with [the pandemic], a lot of people couldn’t color their hair, so there were definitely a lot of grow outs. People …couldn’t get a hold of their hairdresser, so they needed to go low maintenance.
Which process do you use at your salon to help people transition? Can you give us an idea of the cost and how long it takes?
Sai: Consultation is crucial. We can determine after we have a really thorough consultation because we can’t just say it’s going to be this much and your hair’s going to come up like this.
I’ve done consultations where I have to tell the clients, “I don’t think you should do the transition. You should just grow it out.”
Not everybody can go gray in one day. It’s pretty harsh. I mean anyone could go through this transition, but will not get optimal results.
I dyed my hair for 25 years and by the time I stopped, it was very damaged. I was doing a mixture of salon dye and at-home dye (which was a little harsher).
Sai: It’s not just the color that’s damaging your hair: shampooing and brushing your hair can damage your hair.
Grace: There are a lot of things that could damage your hair. Let’s say bleach, especially if you’re doing blonde could damage your hair, how often you shampoo your hair, if you’re using heat styling tools…
I think it’s great you’re doing this big consultation with people and they have a better idea of what it’s going to take. I’m sure some people’s hair probably does better with these processes than others’.
Grace: All of our clients have a mandatory 60-minute consultation with us, even our regular clients. Hair color is a science.
So a lot of times we have to educate our clients who want to go gray because instead of blaming us for why their hair went a certain way, they’re going to journey with us.
Sai: There are other options: you can grow it out gracefully, you can do lowlights, you can start changing color. When people want it done, they want it done overnight. [But] your hair is not magic.
If an ideal client comes in and they’ve got healthy hair, what would be the average length of time it would take to do this?
Grace: Even the simplest hair takes a long time because you’ve got to slow cook it. You want it to be healthy. We have to watch it and look at every foil and make sure everything is healthy.
I’ll just say it takes all day.
I wouldn’t recommend anybody to expect to get this done in one shot, because you’re putting pressure on your hair and on us.
If we don’t get to that result on that day, it’s okay, you can always come back.
Once the person is completely transitioned to silver hair, how do they eventually go to their own natural gray? Do they just start growing out what you’ve done?
Sai: If the lightening process was a success, and if their hair is not turning yellow or anything like that, then they can just grow it out.
Grace: I would say that even after you transition, there’s still some maintenance involved. The grayest gray you’re going to have is your own.
We’re only here to help you transition because the healthiest hair is what’s going to be the best gray. One thing I always tell my clients when they’re having a consultation with me…there’s a lot of people that say they don’t want to be blonde.
Well, in order to be gray…
Sai: You have to be blonde [first].
How Much Does It Cost?
Sai: People are interested in the cost, but the cost is going to vary depending on how many treatments you have. Also, we’re in Los Angeles compared to Iowa… it’s going to be pretty different.
Grace: Let’s say you’re going to do a full highlight and you’re going to do that multiple times. It’s still going to add up. You put time and money into it.
Sai: Let’s say you’re growing out and you have all dark. We can let you know, go find a stylist that can do highlights. Then you understand, if I go to this salon it’s going to run about $2000 if I do it this way.
I always tell people you can grow it out…
Grace: Or you can cut it off.
Sai: If you pick going gray in one day, you’re going to be looking at starting at this and you may not end up with what you’re looking for due to your hair.
Answering Reader Questions
My readers had a LOT of questions for Grace & Sai, and they were gracious enough to provide answers to all of their questions:
Color Removal + Color Depositing Toners
One reader wants to know, is there anything she can do at home to help remove some of her box dye color to make the grow-out easier?
Sai: I wish, but from the bottom of my heart, no. You cannot do this at home. You can only grow it out. At this point, braid it, put a hat, put a scarf, whatever.
If someone wants to do any upkeep at home if they’ve already had a gray hair transition somewhere else, are there any toners that they could use at home?
Sai: Toner is when you want to cancel out something. Let’s say your hair is orange. By using blue shampoo, you’re trying to tone out the orange.
So purple shampoo is the toner that you use to try to get rid of the [yellow].
Grace: So it’s actually like a deposit of color.
Lowlights & Highlights
What is lowlighting? I’ve never totally understood lowlights and highlights. And I want to ask about getting lowlights and not having them turn brassy.
Sai: I offer this to my clients that have darker hair, meaning less white, darker, or even 50/50. You do a lowlight that matches their natural color and break up the line with lowlights.
It won’t turn orange because it’s about the formulation.
One lady wants to know could she have gray lowlights added to give her natural gray more contrast and make it interesting?
Sai: I wouldn’t call it a gray lowlight, because to achieve gray you need to be blonde and she’s already white. You deposit a darker color and it will look gray. It’s called gray reduction.
Grace: I have some clients that want a fashionable gray, a thicker lowlight to bring out depth and make it edgier. You don’t have to follow the natural [pattern].
I thank the young people who started making gray hair fashionable because I think that helped. People are like, “Wait a second, if they can do it, then why don’t I let my hair be gray?”!
Dealing with Salons
I created a salon directory that helps people to recommend salons that have been supportive of them going gray. Is there any way to approach the transition with a stylist who might seem not supportive?
Grace: I would hate for my stylist to not support what I want. I would be honest and say I would love for you to go through this transition with me. And you might gain other clients going through the process since there are a lot of us in the growing gray community.
I would ask the stylist if it’s something they’re comfortable with because it could be a scary thing if it’s not their thing. So it might turn into a disaster instead of being a good thing.
A lady wrote that she had a gray hair transition at a salon and is trying to keep it shiny at home. Any recommendations for how to keep your hair shiny?
Sai: We need to see what’s her hair texture, what color it is and how often she shampoos because that’s going to take away shine.
- Do you condition your hair properly?
- Do you play with your hair?
- How do you sleep?
- Do you brush your hair all the time?
- Are you taking medication? That’s one of the top reasons why your hair goes dull because of medication, or certain vitamins.
Grace: Sometimes if you overdo purple shampoo, you can make the hair look dull.
One lady who wrote in has very frizzy gray hair and wants to get a keratin treatment, but she heard that keratin treatments were bad for gray hair because they can turn it yellow. Is that true?
Sai: The reason keratin seems to make hair yellow is the heat opens up the hair by shampooing, raising the pH and blow-drying it with the highest heat.
Underneath the white hair, there is protein, you open it up a little bit and your white hair becomes yellow with any heat, period.
Grace: If it’s a problem that she’s frizzier and that’s more important to her, I think she could either just do purple shampoo, conditioner, or do a toner two weeks after the treatment.
So besides keratin treatments, what else can people do if their hair’s coming in frizzy or coarse and they want to make it silky or smooth or shiny?
Sai: You can always start with a good shampoo and conditioning regimen: pick the right conditioner, and know how to shampoo. You need to stroke the shampoo down just at the scalp.
If you go crazy the shampoo will make big bubbles and you’ll get frizzy hair.
If you have really frizzy hair, put heavy conditioner on. Stroke it down everywhere. If you rinse all of the conditioner off, you’re left with just water and it’s going to dry out your hair.
Grace: I think with people with curly, coarse, frizzy hair the most important thing is they are willing to do something about it. We get a lot of clients that want magic to happen.
You have to put in the work: the right products for your hair type, the right way to do things, the right haircut. Maybe you have to join a group…
Sai: Curly hair group.
And speaking of all this, are there any product lines that you recommend?
Grace: Our favorite purple shampoo and conditioner is the Malibu C line clarifying treatment.
We offer the Kevin Murphy lines for some shampoos and styling products on our website.
Sai: Pick your top three shampoos and rotate them. Don’t just stick to one because then your hair gets accustomed to that and then it doesn’t [work as well].
That’s good to know, because of the blog, I’m constantly testing products.
Grace: What’s your favorite?
I don’t use purple shampoo very often, but one of my favorites so far was Pantene Silver Expressions because it didn’t leave my hair dry.
I’m also using a really good shampoo that was created by a gray hair blogger. It’s called By The Way Your Hair Looks Fabulous, Daily Moisturizing Shampoo.
Color Lounge Contact Info
If you are thinking of transitioning to gray hair via salon methods, I highly recommend that you book a consultation with Sai & Grace!
Feel free to call, text, or fill out the intake form on their website.
113 N. Naomi St.
Burbank, CA 91505