How the ‘oyster grey’ hair trend took over Instagram

Written by Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.

What you need to know about the ‘oyster grey’ hair trend on Instagram, and four more post-lockdown grey hair colour ideas worth considering ahead of your next salon appointment.

Grey hair has, for a very long time, been something of an enduring taboo in the world of beauty – primarily because our culture tells us that youth and beauty are mutually exclusive, and any sign of age on a woman is… well, is unacceptable, in some way.

As someone who got her first grey at the tender age of 17, this attitude has always bothered me (and cost me a fortune in box dyes and salon trips in a bid to hide my rapidly-whitening head). So, when I learned that lockdown had birthed a newfound appreciation for white and silver hair, I was over the moon.

Avid beauty fans on Instagram will no doubt have noticed that there’s a plethora of new trending hashtags associated with different grey hair in the mix, from ‘oyster grey’ to ‘grey blending’. 

And, as Zoë Irwin – aka Wella Professionals UK Colour Trend Expert – explains to me, this is because “there are quite a number of things that have increased the popularity of grey hair over the past year.”

“Product technology available now is incredible, it has literally changed the way we can colour hair,” Irwin says. 

“For example the invention of the ‘plexes’ like Wella Professionals’ BlondorPlex or Wellaplex mean you can lighten hair and keep its strength and condition, before using toners that are now available within an incredible array of shades to create colours like oyster grey or mushroom blonde.”

Praising the likes of Rihanna and Chrissy Teigen, both of whom have unveiled grey hairstyles on Instagram, for changing the narrative around the once-maligned colour, Irwin continues: “This is all mixed in with the pandemic. People have been unable to get to the salon – so for the first time instead of seeing 2-3cm of root of their grey hair, which looks unappealing, they have seen it when it starts to grow down over three months.

“It completely transforms the way we view grey hair, because the light hits it in a different way and, actually, you look really good with it.”

Josh Wood, expert colourist and founder of Josh Wood Colour, is just one of the hairdressers championing the trend.

“I love grey, I am grey,” he says. “I’ve always thought of grey as a colour rather than just a natural tone. And grey can be really flattering if the right hue is achieved.

“I have become known over the years for doing big transformations to grey,” Wood adds. “It’s a real way to make a statement.”

With that in mind, then, here are the trending grey hair colours to know about ahead of your next salon appointment.

Oyster grey hair

This bright white-gray colour has been designed to mimic the shimmering silver tones that look like the inside lining of an oyster shell (which means that you may also see it hashtagged as #pearlescenthair).

Wood says: “Thiscolour is easily achievable, but the darker the starting point the more difficult it is to get the exact shade, as darker hair takes more leaching than lighter tones. Also, darker hair tends to fade quicker as the hair in general fades quicker due to more bleaching.”

He advises: “Always ask how much bleaching is needed too to be sure you are aware of how many shades of lift are needed. Also always check what care products will suit the colour that has been created and your hair texture.”

Mushroom blonde hair

As you might have guessed from the name, mushroom blonde hair blends ashy and darker tones to mirror the colours of a mushroom.

Irwin explains: “Hairdressers have delighted in creating new tones in glosses and toners and the popularity of double toning where you take blonde hair and use one toner first of all to neutralise and get a flat base, and then on top of that you then put another toner which takes it into a colour that has not been possible before in the last decade – this is why we are seeing this new grey palette.

“This means that everything from a green grey, purple grey, beige grey, and mushroom grey is now able to be mixed onto bleached and naturally white hair.”

Nordic white hair

Quite possibly the lightest (and brightest) shade of platinum-white hair we’ve ever laid eyes on, the Nordic white hair trend is inspired by the snowy landscapes and silvery hair of Scandinavia.

Irwin says: “Previously people have said that when their hair turns grey naturally, it loses its shine – which it does, as the light is not bouncing off so much. As such, many tend to covet those individuals in their 80s and 90s, where their hair goes pure white and is therefore much shiner.

“The Nordic white trend takes people to a much cleaner grey earlier than they would naturally, but fair warning: it can take on a yellow tone because of the sun, so you need to be prepared to go to the salon for regular maintenance treatments on your hair.”

Charcoal balayage hair

Using a dark smoky grey as a base, and painting on a lighter, brighter grey hair colour, the charcoal balayage is an easy way to achieve a graduated, more natural-looking highlight effect.

Wood says: “Cool colours can suit most skin tones, but darker, deeper, and cooler tones (say, charcoal or slate) particularly suit skin tones with deeper tones, too.”

Irwin adds: “This is about having a grey that works with your aesthetic but is really a massive statement about who you are as a person – you own your grey, and you might have your hairdresser create a statement out of it, be it framing your face with panels of grey, or putting different washes over your grey so it becomes brighter and shinier.”

Grey blending

“Grey blending is working with grey hair, rather than covering it,” explains Irwin. “There are also products I use – for example, Wella Professionals Illumina Colour – that give a sheer result, taking the edge off the grey without hiding it totally.”

She continues: “I use grey blending on people who are starting to see grey hair come through and want to embrace their grey hair – this is a way of going grey gracefully without the dreaded regrowth.

“Grey blending will be the next big trend for the next five years, along with balayage (we will see the two mix together). The way we start to see grey on women in their 40s and 50s – well, the psychology and feeling behind it will be totally different!”

Tempted to try the grey hair trend?

Wood explains that the grey hair trend can make hair look healthier than ever, saying: “Generally when you add tone to grey hair it can make the hair look less dry and frizzy and, in some cases, it looks thicker.

“Adding pigment to the hair even grey tones can be a really good way to compliment the natural grey and make the hair look in better condition.

Irwin advises, though, that you consider the condition of your hair before and after your appointment.  

“If it’s sensitised, it loses colour really quickly because of porosity and can’t hold onto tones, so looking after hair is important,” she says. “If you don’t look after hair you will have more fading.

“The trick is to make grey hair look glossy and lovely and you have to do this through keeping your hair in really good shape.There are salon treatments and colour glosses that can do this, but there are also take-home products, for example Wella Professionals Colour Fresh Mask (RRP £15.70) which I love in Lilac Frost and Pearl Blonde.”

Main image: Getty

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