Friday, January 10, 2014

Iron [Wo]man

I had to find some gratuitous reason to reference Tony Stark and what better way than to segway to flat irons? My last name is Stark and when I see 20-something boys get wide-eyed and excited at the last name on my card my canned response is, "Iron Man or Winterfell? Which geek outlet is yours?" 9 times out of 10 it's Iron Man and I have no problem make-believing that I am Robert Downey Jr's secret wife. Either that or Jamie Sives (Jory) is destined to serve the Starks, and by extension me, for time eternal. Umm... sorry... my imagination was running away with me.

Focus, Jill, focus! Yes, the main point of this blog post is about hot irons (this also applies to curling irons) and whether they will damage your grey. The fact of the matter is that you need to rethink your approach to styling tools and products. You rethought product to protect your dyed hair and now you have natural, uncoated hair with little to no melanin. This needs to be considered. See? Even Tony is adjusting the temperature settings on his flat iron.

The first thing I would like to point out is stop listening to people tell you you have to stop blow drying your hair, or that you have to accept the curls that drove you to the flat iron in the first place. You have options and choose whatever option works for you. I hate being told that I should embrace my curls. Don't wanna. Ain't gonna. I have control over very little in my life and so I take out these control issues on my hair. 

Point number two is that you're not going to necessarily burn or yellow your hair just because you use a styling tool. I'm going to lay out my much researched information to dissuade this from happening. When I first heard this discussed on Cafe Gray I knew it not to be true. After all, my mom had gray hair for 30 years, blew it dry every other day, and curled it EVERY SINGLE day. Never once was it anything less than brilliant silver and white. 

Mom didn't buy high-end styling tools but I recommend that you get a good styling tool with a heat setting dial. I also recommend that you get a blow dryer with a cool or cold setting. Now a disclaimer is that I am not a hair stylist so this is just my research, what I've learned calling and talking to various stylists, and my own personal experience. So I recommend you take this to your stylist and get his/her opinion as well.

One should never go over 300 degrees F. You might have wiry forest children sticking up but they will soon calm down. Normally they stick up because they are new growth, short, and have no tribe. So they need to be coaxed into a tribe and then they will soon be well-behaved gray hairs. Hair starts to literally melt at any temperature above 420 degrees so you can see what 120 degrees difference makes. Why not over 300? You have very little melanin in your hair now and the high heat can burn it easier. I personally never go over 265-285 and I had coarse, curly hair. Now it's medium textured and curly. 

Styling Products 
Try to buy styling products specifically for grey or platinum hair. A lot of products can create a build-up or even tint your hair and the combination with heat will just seal them in. That is why I NEVER put on any styling product right before I style my hair. I typically put on a serum after washing my hair, sleep and let it air dry, then iron in the morning. I too need to reevaluate my styling products and trash a great majority of them. If you're going to blow dry then put on your styling product and let it air dry for at least 15 minutes before you use the dryer.

Keratin Treatments 
This will probably get me hate mail but here goes. I think your keratin and Brazilian blow out days are over. Remember what I said about hair melting at 420 degrees? Well Keratin and Brazilian blow outs use irons at 450 degrees or higher. It fuses the formaldehyde or aldehyde to your hair and can easily cause permanent damage whether you have colored hair or grey.

Clean Your Iron 
Every week, clean your iron. I use mine twice a week, and I might use it 1-2 times more on the nape of my neck on those mornings where I must have had really rockin' dreams. Take a cotton ball with rubbing alcohol and clean any build up from product. The cleanliness of your styling tool will ensure that it won't be sealing any product on your hair and thus damaging it. 

Heat Test 
This is the most important tip: do a heat test before you use your flat iron. Take a piece of tissue paper and get it damp. Hold it in your iron for 10-20 seconds. If it sizzles and yellows the paper, it can do that to your hair. If the paper comes out white, it won't discolor your hair.

Damage Reverse 
You can't always reverse damage. Sometimes if it's a matter of sealing product buildup on your hair, you can put baking soda and purple shampoo on your hair for 15-30 minutes and it will brighten again. You can substitute baking soda for a vitamin C packet like Emergen-C as well. It might take a few times but always worth a shot. 

This is the anal retentive guide to using styling tools on your silver. Remember, my mom used them every day of her life, and she bought her utensils at drug stores. They weren't costly, they weren't the highest setting, but in her 30 years I never remember her once damaging her hair to the point of being yellowed. But if you're paranoid like me, clean your styling tool and do the damp toilet paper test. And then you have more options if you want a sleek, straight look.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Self Trim (Must Be Supervised)

When you are growing out color the single most annoying thing is looking at those damned dyed ends. I will confess I have been so focused on attaining the glorious ponytail that I have not self-trimmed. The last time I DID self-trim was about three months into my transition when I was desperate to see just one piece of my hair without dye. This went tragically wrong when said piece began to rebel and stick out, making one side of my head look like it had a permanent fascinator. A little styling gel and I soon got it in check but it was touch and go there for a while.

My last haircut was in early August and having seen six months go by without so much as a trim, I wanted to see some results already! Although my last stylist burnt a section of my hair, thus yellowing it, she did manage to give me a kickass haircut. This has made it possible for me to grow out my hair for six months and it still looking styled. I learned that from now on, I will get a cut and blow dry, but not allow any salons to use styling tools on me. They simply don’t know what they’re doing when it comes to grey hair. 

It was the day before my 16-month anniversary and I just went for it. I divided my hair in half and cut at least an inch off the side-swept bangs. I should have had parental supervision when attempting this but alas, I did it anyway. One silver sister said, ‘the difference between a good haircut and a bad one is about two weeks.’ I can live with that.

I have this unfortunate Patty Duke flip going on and that’s really annoying me but I must say I’m still glad I did it. My hair looks sooo much lighter just with some of those ends off. I figure I will go get a trim before I go back to Kansas in March but I need to grow out my cut a bit before doing the walk of shame to the hair salon. Here is my before and after pics. The two before pics show the alarming amount of dye still left. The two after shots show both the cut (indoor lighting) and how much lighter it looks now that there’s a little bit less dye to reflect off. 

It really is all about the lighting. There’s no flash or saturation changes done or any editing, for that matter, on these photos. You’ll notice with grey hair that some people seeing you only indoors will think you’re a blonde. Anyway, I hope those of you getting frustrated with your transition process realise that there are nice surprises along the way. I didn’t think an inch off would make that much of a difference but I’m pleasantly surprised to see my hair lighten with the trim.