Salt and Pepper Highlighting

Colored hair with regrowth
Photo: Shutterstock
Q: I have a client who has dark brown hair (probably around a 4N). She has about an inch of salt & pepper regrowth and she wants to highlight her hair salt & pepper. How can I create salt & pepper highlights over such dark hair? Should I bleach the hair, dry it and then apply a permanent gray color? Please help.
A: This is difficult. First, there is no real way to create a true “salt & pepper” look, since we don’t have a real “permanent gray” hair color available. The best we can accomplish is pale, platinum blonde, which is incredibly tough to do with such dark hair (not to mention being very harsh on the hair).
As I see it, there are a couple of options. You can either do a cover and highlight procedure, where you color the new growth and give her sharply contrasting highlights in a very light color (which will probably need to be done using a finely woven foil technique to give the kind of finely interspersed highlighting she likely wants) and know that you will have to maintain this look indefinitely until she wants another major change.
You will also want to remember – and to explain to her – what this kind of maintenance will entail: the high-lift bleaching and retouching of the lightened hairs and the change in the porosity of that hair. She will have to be especially careful of styling techniques and products to keep from damaging the hair beyond its ability to cope.
Since I gather the client’s ultimate goal is to be able to make use of her hair’s natural color pattern (the natural salt and pepper mix) I would actually advise you to encourage a “long-term view” and approach. I would recommend using a demi-permanent color to blend the natural color (salt and pepper) with the hair’s current “permanent” color, so that the natural color can grow out.
Once enough of the natural color has grown in that you can cut off the permanent color, you can do so if that is what’s desired, otherwise, simply keep on until you’ve replaced the permanent hair color with the natural color covered with demi-permanent dye. Once the natural color has grown out, you can stop the demi-permanent color and let it wash away gradually.
From there, you will be working with a clean slate and can see about getting the maximum look from the natural color with enhancing shampoos and conditioners.
See also:
Foil highlighting
How to color hair
Highlighting and highlights
How to choose natural-looking highlights