I FIRST HEARD THIS IDEA decades ago from a famous colorist, and have come across it regularly ever since: a great option for women with some gray sprinkled through their hair is to use an all-over semi- or demi-permanent color, one or two shades lighter than their natural. Because these products don’t lighten hair, the color won’t show on the darker hair, only on the gray. So apply, say, dark blond to mostly-brownish hair and—presto, instant highlights that last for weeks and weeks. Back then, tired of shelling out hundreds for highlights, I longed for the day I’d develop some grays. Ha.
If “covers just the gray” color works for you, God bless. But despite ubiquitous no-lift claims, i.e., that they will not bleach hair, my disappointing experience trying highlight-color demi-permanents has been that they don’t lighten much—just enough to create a mild root line and a little brass. Worse, the gray hairs remain blithely resistant, taking up little if any color, and losing any that did stick almost immediately. Wha hoppen? Well, true semi-permanent color sits in the surface layer and washes out quickly. But demi-permanent color (which includes many, maybe even most, products labeled as semi-permanent—yes, confusing) opens up the hair shaft, generally with peroxide, so color can penetrate somewhat deeper, lasting weeks. I’ve read repeatedly that the small amount of peroxide is not enough to lift color. Uh-huh.
Grousing recently about this to master colorist Krista Depeyrot of Salon Bisoux, I was absurdly thrilled when she told me about a relatively new product that approximates the desired effect: DiaLight. “It’s an acid-balanced color that L’Oreal Professional reformulated to give no lift but vinyl-like shine,” explains Krista. “It lays on the surface of the hair shaft and sort of tints the gray hair. It won’t look exactly like highlighting, but it’s a bit lighter than the base color, and blends the gray hair in.” Meant for salon use it is, of course, available for direct purchase by those brave or foolhardy enough to self-experiment (which will probably be me at some point). Worst case: It will fade out gradually over four to six weeks anyway. It may not be my holy grail of self-haircolor—I’ll probably be all gray before I discover that—but no lightening, a little color on the gray, a lot of shine all over: it sounds about as close as I can come for now.
— Catherine Clifford
Catherine Clifford is a frequent contributor to MyLittleBird.
Read her last post on The Best Blonding Yet?