Stain Away: How to De-Yellow Grey Hair and Become a Silver, Frizz-Free Fox

Yellow grey hair is the bane of many women's beauty existence. But with the right products and info, you can become a silver fox in a snap.
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Liza Herz
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Yellow grey hair is the bane of many women's beauty existence. But with the right products and info, you can become a silver fox in a snap.
Maye Musk

We spooked reader Victoria with our smoothing-serum recommendations for silver hair. Don't all of these products make grey hair yellow? she wondered. They are all yellow in colour.

Great question, Victoria, and very Beautygeek-ish of you. Welcome to the clan; you're one of us. And rather than reply with a one-word answer, we have to say, well, it's rather complicated.

We hate to be the bearers of bad news, but it's not so much that hair products will yellow grey hair. Other things you come into contact with daily can skew your hue: Hard water leaves discolouring mineral deposits; smoking leaves icky residue on hair; and UV rays can yellow your hair because they leech out the blue. Why do such things happen? Grey hair is porous (the result of pigment that flew the coop), so it easily absorbs seemingly innocuous things.

instant fixes for yellowed hair

Purple or violet tinted shampoos and conditioners instantly brighten dulled silver hair. Cast your mind back to high school art class colour theory: purple neutralizes yellow since they lie opposite one another on the colour wheel.

color-wheel

Because dullness builds up gradually and the following products reverse this process instantly, seeing your blah, yellow grey hair transformed into light-bouncing silvery strands will give you quite the thrill. Promise. Some of our favourites:

John Frieda Sheer Blonde Colour Renew_shampoo and conditioner

  • Pantene Pro-V Silver Expressions Daily Color Enhancing Shampoo and Conditioner ($5.99 each, drugstores, mass retailers)
  • John Frieda Sheer Blonde Colour Renew Tone Correcting Shampoo and Conditioner ($13.99 each, well.ca)
  • Schwarzkopf BC Hairtherapy Color Save Shampoo Silver Shampoo for grey and lightened hair ($15.25, select salons)
  • AG Hair Sterling Silver Toning Shampoo and Conditioner ($16 each, spaboutique.ca)

(One caveat: don't get the shampoo on your white shower curtain. It will be hell to remove the telltale purple drops. Trust.)

To remove debris and neutralize brassiness without depositing pigment, try Joico K-Pak Clarify Chelating Shampoo ($16.75, select salons) but follow up with a great rinse-out conditioner or leave-in conditioner, because it's powerful stuff.

Now (finally!) to Victoria's serum question. (Are you still with us, Victoria?)

Will yellow serums make grey hair yellow, too?

When hair serums appear yellow, it's often the bottle that is tinted, not the product (beauty companies must think that a gentle golden shade is more appealing to us than a clear serum). Based on our speedy a priori test and follow up a posteriori testing, for example, both Shu Uemura Essence Absolue ($69, shuuemura.ca) and Kérastase Elixir Ultime ($54, kerastase.ca) are clear serums in gold bottles.

John Frieda Full Repair Touchup Flyaway Tamer

And of course, our favourite, which we recommend every chance we get, John Frieda Full Repair FlyAway Tamer ($12, drugstores) is clear (and it's hard to find; tweet @JohnFriedaCA for info). Granted Flyaway Tamer is more for on-the-fly Hair Triage (it's easy to use thanks to the oversized mascara-wand applicator), but you should have one as a matter of course in each purse or makeup bag. And in your desk drawer, for Crazy Cat Lady hair banishment. Life-changing.

smoothing-serum alternatives

You're cautious, Victoria and we applaud that. So rather than get you tossed out of drugstores for cracking open serum bottles, might we suggest you choose creamy white leave-in conditioners or finishing creams to smooth unruly hair? They can also be easier to use if you tend to go overboard with serum (a real no-no as one extra drop can take your hair from shiny to greasy instantly). Dove Colour Care contains my favourite silicone -- cyclopentasiloxane -- a proven frizz smoother.

Serums and crèmes sold as colour protectors are also great for grey hair as their added UV filters protect against yellowing.

Giovanni 2chic Ultra Sleek Leave-In Conditioning & Styling Elixir_Live Clean Damage Therapy Split End Cream

  • Pantene Pro-V Beautiful Lengths Strengthen & Smooth Finishing Crème ($5.99, drugstores, mass retailers)
  • Giovanni 2Chic Brazilian Keratin & Argan Oil Ultra-Sleek Leave-In Conditioner & Styling Elixir ($9.99, Loblaws, Whole Foods)
  • Tresemmé Leave-in Split End Conditioning Treatment ($5.99, drugstores, mass retailers)
  • Dove Hair Therapy Damage Solutions Color Care Leave-On Conditioner ($7.99, well.ca)
  • Live Clean Damage Therapy Split End Cream ($9.99, well.ca)

OK. Any questions? Anyone else have favourite recommendations to add, either in the de-yellow category or de-frizzing?

Today's made-in-Canada content includes model Maye Musk, AG Hair and Live Clean. And Liza Herz, too.