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Gray Blending Deserves a Place on Your Menu

The service is discreet, but the secret is out.

WHEN FIRSTMET, the dating app for singles 35 and older, crunched some numbers, it made an interesting discovery: In the three million interactions counted over two weeks, the men’s hair color that got the most attention was—wait for it—silver (29 percent more matches). The second? Gray, at 27 percent more matches. That seems like good news for men of a certain age; not only does society deem guys with graying hair as distinguished, but women fi nd them exceedingly attractive, too. Even so, salons are seeing an uptick in male clients seeking color services.

Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean that today’s savvy silvers and gentlemanly grays are aiming to re-create the hair colors of their 20s. No, these men desire a subtle refresh that shaves years without being too obvious—a far cry from the flat shoe-polish hair dye of yesteryear. And, luckily for them, the perfect hair color service exists to meet their needs: gray blending. 

Why the push for gray-blending services now? To claim it’s motivated by male vanity would be an oversimplification, believes James Helton, Keune Haircosmetics educator and owner of Choppers Hair Design in Bethany, Oklahoma. Helton points to the latest male grooming trends as instigators of a male desire to dye. “The resurgence in traditional barbering for the past couple of years has caused men to pay more attention to their overall grooming,” he says. “So, the return of a very masculine tradition has actually caused the men’s grooming industry—including color services—to up its game.”

The changing job market also has a hand in men’s pursuit of hair color “updates.” “Of the men I perform gray blending on, the biggest reason they give for this service is to appear more youthful— especially in the work force,” says Janelle Eide, American Crew International All-Star. “A younger generation has been flooding the job market and challenging established positions. Men see gray blending services as heightening their competitive edge.”

VIDEO: How To Blend Grays in 10 Minutes

With this surge in demand, adding gray blending to your service menu seems a no-brainer. If you need further proof, think in dollars: You can charge half to equal the price you do for a haircut for gray blending, essentially doubling your service ticket. “For example, if you charge $40 for a haircut, you could charge $20 (at the least) up to $40 for a color, bringing your service ticket total to $60 to $80,” says Eide. “And, no extra time needs to be added in your appointment book for gray blending. It’s the ultimate win for you and your client.”

The key to gray blending is exactly that: blending. Rather than completely covering the gray (the “Wayne Newton” effect, as Helton calls it), this process acts like a demi-permanent dye, subtly camouflaging existing grays to blend in with the client’s remaining natural hair color and fading out gradually so there’s no telltale line of regrowth. The blending still allows grays to peek through—think of it as reducing the salt in his pepper without completely cutting it out. The subtlety aspect appeals to men because the results are understated enough to not be outwardly noticed. “Men want something that helps them look better but that’s not so obvious that people recognize what has been done,” Helton hypothesizes. “When it comes to looking better, many guys will put a lot of extra effort into looking like they never put in any effort at all.”

Another man-friendly factor to gray blending: It’s discreetly performed at the shampoo bowl. “Doing your application at the bowl makes it comfortable for your male guests,” confirms Lucas Doney, international trainer for John Paul Mitchell Systems. “Some men don’t want to be seen with color processing on their head.”

PHOTOS: The Go-to Tools for Discerning Stylists and Barbers

Speed is another big plus. The service takes anywhere from five to 10 minutes, which is attractive to guys as well. “We live in a fast-paced world and a lot of clients, especially men, don’t have much time for getting their hair done. Let’s face it, time is money!” says Ashley Giannetto, Redken education development manager. Besides, most men aren’t used to investing hours in grooming pursuits. “Guys just don’t want to sit in the chair much longer than 30 minutes—they want efficiency,” says Helton. Which—let’s be honest—also works for you as the stylist. “The quick service time increases your service dollars and allows you more appointments in a day—all while helping the client achieve his desired look in a minimal amount of time,” says Eide.

The amount of gray blending you must perform is, of course, related to the client’s individual needs and desires. “Customization is important and will change as your client becomes more gray,” says Rosa Hawkins, Goldwell guest artist and owner of Di Rosa Haircare and Esthetique in Franklin Square, New York. “For a first-time client, I usually start with a five-minute ‘blurring’ of the gray hair, which helps a nervous client feel comfortable. On the next visit, I can increase the amount of processing time and/or add more depth to the formula for more coverage.”

Speaking of those first-time gray-blendees, Doney offers this tip: “Choose an outcome that is one level lighter than you think is best. This allows the guest to ease his way into gray blending as a regular service. Formulas can always be adjusted to fi t the client. And each individual is going to have different natural tones as well as varying percentages of gray.”

Of course, you won’t truly know what degree of blending to do until you talk to your client during the consultation—an absolute must to ensure service success. 

We hate to keep coming back to money, but … there’s a lot to be had! Gray blending is not a one-time occurrence; due to the fact that it’s designed to fade on tone for a more natural appearance, the color requires regular upkeep—which translates to an increase in your bottom line. “If my guest wears a shorter style, then I usually recommend we do his color each time he comes in for a haircut,” says Doney. “For men with longer hairstyles, I suggest coloring every other haircut visit.” In general, gray-blending services should occur every four to 12 weeks depending on the client’s length and desires.

Helton notes that although men can be commitment-phobes, once they’re put on a regimen, they own it. “No one likes to get his car’s oil changed, but if you wait too long you know the car will require more maintenance—so you put it on your schedule,” he explains. “You can play to that mentality. Educate your clients so they understand this service isn’t a big commitment; they can do it every or every other time they visit just by adding fi ve minutes to their appointment.”

And that five minutes can make all the difference for your business. “Gray blending can represent a substantial, extra amount of income for you,” reminds Giannetto. “Plus, men are great clients; once they’re sold, they remain extremely loyal.” Which, if you ask us, is priceless.

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