It’s taken a while for me to feel like I have the upper hand with my curls. I’ve gone from a coily crop to a relaxed shoulder-length mane and back again. Now, in my fourth decade, I feel like I’m in finally charge of my natural texture. TBH, my hair has never looked better. But there’s also been a new lesson to excel at: how to care for grey curls.
"A common complaint from curly clients is that grey hairs don’t match the rest of their hair texture. Greys are frizzy, dry, and wiry," says Elisha Gotha, a SheaMoisture ambassador, textured hairstylist and owner of The Curl Lounge in Toronto.
This is my issue. While my greys are nestled within my hairline, the strands randomly poke out of my Afro. Plus, they’re situated front and centre making it a challenge to achieve curl uniformity where I’d like it most.
To help, Gotha suggests a semi-permanent colour. I’m intrigued to learn it’s not necessarily about covering up greys, but about curl management. "Colouring grey makes hair less wiry," she says. (Grey hair follicles lack sebum production which contributes to a dehydrated, unruly texture.) "The dye molecules fill the hair shaft, making it feel more conditioned and easier to manage."
Semi-permanent, she adds, means no bleach (bleach lightens strands), so it’s less damaging. "It deposits pigment into the strands… so your hair ends up looking shinier and feeling healthier," says Gotha, noting the colour can last three to four weeks. A friend of mine with a halo of 4c curls recently tried this and says her rich brown curls have transitioned effortlessly.
As a former veteran of relaxer, a current hair-colour virgin, and someone who is happily going grey, I’m hesitant about trying any chemical treatments — and that’s OK, says Gotha. Another option, she says, is a professional glossing treatment (most salons offer this treatment, which doesn't add colour, only shine). The demi-permanent results last six to eight weeks. “The treatment opens the cuticle of the hair, allowing it to accept moisture that will give your hair more definition and smoothness."
In the meantime, my at-home care routine has been revamped to include purple shampoo once a week to minimize the brassiness that is inevitable with greys. (The sun and water can turn hair yellow-ish.) A purple sulfate-free formula is Gotha's preference (sulfates are drying, no good for curls). Being diligent about the colour of my styling products will also help to boost overall radiance, she says. “Greys can easily pick up a yellow tint from products, like styling cream. Stick to ones that are white or clear only,."
Whether coloured or grey, Gotha lists hydration as the number one priority for all types of curls, so I've been deep conditioning as much as possible. Now that I’m scoring an A+ in shine and softness, I’ve learned to see my greys in a whole new, and even more wonderful, light.