The Big Bird in the room – my silver hair turned yellow from heat damage

Ever had the demon barber dream – where you’re strapped to a salon chair and your hair is smeared with ‘Medium Brown’ box dye?

Well, I sleepwalked into the hellfire hairdresser nightmare. My delicate silvers clamped in a ‘Prisoner Cell Block H’ steam press, operated my a maniacal Queen Bea, as I cheer: “Please, Miss. Can I have some more?”

There’s unsightly yellow hair where shining silver once resided.

My crowning glory has been cremated by a sadistic rogue stylist who wielded hair straighteners as if she were in a lightsaber battle.

And the worst part? It’s my fault. For being careless, distracted, polite. Actually, the worst part is that I tipped her for the privilege.

A canary is trapped in a silver cage and I need it to fly. The only escape route involves a pair of scissors and a pixie cut, but I’ve been there, done that, during my 20 month transition, and I don’t want to go backwards.

Neither do I wish to stare at yellow ends again when I have finally removed the stain of hair dye.

You can view ‘Anna’s Silver Hair Transition’ trilogy box set here and here and here

There’s also a ‘Month by Month’ bonus 2-disc here and here

The back story

It began on a Tuesday. After five months since my last cut, of waiting and watching and planning, it was time to snip away those remaining pesky dyed ends.

Time to take to social media with my big announcement – that I was all natural. Maybe take an ad out in a newspaper, like any proud parent.

Precious silver – my hair on the morning of the salon visit

Instead, I post on social media to announce that after months of patiently waiting to be completely silver, I now have hair the same colour as Boris Johnson’s.

On the day before that fateful Tuesday, I discover my trusty barber has left, with no forwarding address.

My mother suggests I go to her hairdresser.

My mother’s stylist, the owner, is not available to do the cut herself.

Red flag #1 She asks if I mind who cuts my hair. My answer is “no.”

Red flag #2 A stylist emerges, with hair bleached and ironed to within an inch of its life.

Red flag #3 She shakily snips my hair with the skill of a toddler cutting out a paper doll chain with garden shears, and I am scared to blink for fear of a wayward blade.

At some point I become distracted. I zone out as she clips up sections of my hair.

I’m miles away as she starts aggressively ironing my silvers with the fattest straighteners on the planet. Think Jennifer Beales brandishing a welding torch in ‘Flashdance’.

It might also be some form of muscle (follicle) memory. My hair has spent large chunks of its life being straightened in salons. It is remembering this as the norm.

Maybe it’s the steam billowing from my head; the stylist ironing the same strip repeatedly, with the vice-like hold of Miss Trunchbull gripping a riding crop; or the stench of burning hair filling the salon, but I come crashing back to reality.



Now, I should have said: “Stop!’ with the authority of the examiner smacking a copy of  the ‘Highway Code’ onto the dashboard during my fifth driving test.

Instead, I feebly enquire: “What temperature are they on please?” Quietly adding:  “You have to be really careful with silver hair or it turns yellow.”

She seems surprised by this revelation. I’d hate to see her let loose with a bottle of bleach, if she sees no danger in my current situation.

At this point, the owner looks over and pipes up: “Try not to go over the hair too much, and maybe turn the straighteners down to 190!”

Blimey. If 190 is considered as low, then what are they on now? They’re hotter than Demi Moore’s kiln in ‘Ghost’

“I have mine at 160,” I squeak pathetically as she moves to press the other side. No hair protectant used at all.

I sit grinning like a prize chump, glued to my seat, when all I really want to do is leap out of it and wrestle her to the ground like Leonardo Dicaprio and the bear in ‘The Revenant’.

I keep thinking she’ll stop, and that she knows what she’s doing. Doesn’t she? But she seems to know as much of fine, silver hair as I do about quadratic equations.

What I wanted to say

Point 1: “I seldom use hair straighteners. When I do, all Health & Safety Executive guidelines are adhered to and the equipment is operated by a responsible adult.”

Point 2: “The straighteners are PAT tested and regulated at 160 degrees – just enough to lightly toast a pikelet, but not enough to chargrill a steak.”

Point 3: “My hair is not TEFLON coated, so I apply an expensive Curly Girl approved heat protectant, because I do not wish to unleash Curly Girl’s disapproval.

Point 4: “I iron the hair just once, preferably on a strand by strand basis, timed with an Omega stopwatch.”

Point 5: “I have fine, sensitive, silver hair which is in a high risk category for contracting Yellow Hair Syndrome, for which, the only cure is surgical removal of the strands.

“Please stop. Now. You barbarian!”

A coward you are, Anna

Still, I sit. My inner dialogue says: “She’ll stop” (she doesn’t). “She knows what she’s doing” (she doesn’t) “Speak up!” (I don’t). I just sit and watch 20 months of silver destroyed in minutes.

I assess the damage in the mirror, but it’s hard to tell with strip lighting, as everything looks yellow. Most of all, my belly.

“Thanks, it’s great,” I lie, smiling, and handing her a tip. I want to run, but I haven’t sprinted since lockdown, when there was a rumour of a midnight delivery of toilet roll at Lidl.

Outside, in the harsh light of day, my teenage son tells me my hair is green/yellow.

Hell-o Yellow

I seek sanctuary in the budget toiletries shop ‘Savers’ to confirm if this is true. In front of the mirror, I cannot determine whether my hair is indeed yellow, or if it’s the unforgiving strip lights again. I leave with an armful of purple shampoo.

Anna Banana

By the time I arrive home from town and the cinema (where I spend the entire ‘Black Adam’ film thinking about ‘Yellow Anna’) the light is fading.

I wash my hair in Head & Shoulders, bicarbonate of soda, purple shampoo AND purple conditioner in a bid to liberate the lemon.

My head looks like an ice cream cone. With banana syrup, where the yellow streaks are having a riot.

It’s not looking hopeful when I go to bed.

Mrs Whippy

The dawn light confirms my fears. Parts of my lovely silver hair are now littered with yellow.

The camera does not capture the full extent of the yellow

I trawl through images on my phone, gazing longingly and lovingly at the pre salon pictures of my unspoilt virgin silver hair and lament its loss.

It was all silvery white, and now it’s dirty, like Dan Aykroyd’s Father Christmas beard in the film ‘Trading Places’. Nobody wants piss in the snow.

I can spy the yellow, emerging through the silver. The opposite of when silver would poke through my brown orange hair one week after dyeing.

Those inconvenient grey interlopers were easily quashed with a Nice & Easy root touch up. These yellows will not be so easy to evict. The irony being that I now want my silvers to appear, after years of hostile resentment.

Post Traumatic Singe Disorder

I take to social media, as I know my silver sisters will share my pain. They empathise and post suggestions on how I might rectify the problem.

“Could it be old dye?” a poster asks. No, as it spans the length of my hair and wasn’t there before.

One well-meaning poster says putting up with colour is a small price to pay for silver.

I explain that while I agree, I’ve already gone through the slow process of growing out the grey and enduring stale colour. Putting up with this additional shade and with no reward, grates. Giving birth to twins was easier.

Another poster declares that one go on the straighteners won’t cause such discolouration. Unlike my yellows, she is soon corrected by the group’s elders.

Anna’s Marvellous Medicine

Reader, I’ve tried these suggested remedies: apple cider vinegar, white vinegar, Sarson’s vinegar, purple shampoo, purple conditioner, purple hair mask, Head & Shoulders, baking soda, bicarbonate of soda, ketchup.

I could have opened a small grocery shop with the range of products on display. Yet, none were fruitful. Not even the lemon juice.

Some suggest using a toner, but I’m nervous as before this hair crisis I’d only dabbled in purple shampoo.

My hair had required very little, other than a simple routine of: ACV rinse, shampoo, conditioner, cowash, protein treatment, deep conditioner, hair mask, curl cream, leave in conditioner, mousse and gel.

Many posters are surprised that heat tools can do this. Sharing this cautionary tale with others is the one good thing – along with some blog material – to emerge from this saga. I am Grandma Walton imparting her wisdom to the younglings.

I am no hair guru. I can’t even cut a fringe without it looking like a staircase. My sons and husband spent lockdown looking like Eleven from ‘Stranger Things’.

In this informative blog post ‘QuickSilverHair’ blogger Joli Campbell explores the causes of why silver hair can turn yellow and the solutions (in some cases). My yellow may not be salvageable without scissors, but yours might.

If they dare touch a hair on your head I’ll fight to the last breath

It’s not fair. I have been fiercely protective of my silver hair. Meticulous. Territorial.

I wear a 1950s floral swimming cap to protect it in the water. I own a Joan Collins wide rimmed hat to shield it from the sun. I have a shower head with a hard water filter. I use heat tools sparingly, and always with protectant. I sometimes rinse in Evian if I’m feeling decadent. I clarify regularly and use clear products. I’ve been a smug bore about it too.

My silvers rewarded my efforts by being good little girls.

I nurtured those babies. I weaned them on a diet of organic, vegan hair food. I kept them safe as they grew.

Then I entrusted them to a stranger who branded my first born. And now there’s tears before bedtime. Mine.

The first rule of Silver Club

The first rule of Silver Club is that everybody talks about the rules – from the perils of sunshine to the curse of chlorine.

Do not, under any circumstances, admit you: “use a bit of heat” or that you took a stroll in the sun without a straw boater.

You will be removed from the group and sentenced to joining an inferior group, where they even accept Jack Martin fans who blend their hair to speed transition. Worse, those who use filters.

Yellows – the new batch

Rule-breaking has consequences. In the film ‘Gremlins’ Billy’s father brings the two tone haired Gizmo home and recites the rules of Mogwai ownership, which have similarities with the rules of Mograi Hair ownership.

Rule #1 – First of all, keep her out of the light, she hates bright light, especially sunlight, it’ll kill her. This is true, my silver, Greymo, cannot handle direct sunlight.

Rule #2 – Second, don’t give her any water, not even to drink. My Greymo requires purified water. Holy water is even better. Expose it to unfiltered, hard water, then yellow will multiply.

Rule #3 – The most important rule, the rule you can never forget, no matter how much she cries, no matter how much she begs, never use heat tools before or after midnight.

If you do, and if you fail to use heat protectant, you will end up with ‘Yellow Stripe’ the Gremlin. If you let that sadistic trouble maker loose, then Gremlin yellows will soon be running amok in your hair.

All this talk of ‘Gremlins’ sends me down a Phoebe Cates rabbit hole. How I idolised her shiny, sleek hair in ‘Lace’ the 1984 miniseries. Please let her be visibly grey now. A silver Lili. Not yet…

“I like it,” my well wishing mother says when she sees the yellow. Finally, her daughter is blonde. Now if I could just get some fillers, I would be perfect.

In a world that aspires to be blonde, this should be celebrated. But this former brunette, who has had more hair colours than Madonna, already tried blonde once – with disastrous consequences. It was less ‘Blonde Ambition’ and more ‘Yellow. Can’t be arsed.’

So now it’s more waiting. Or go for that Meg Ryan/Drew Barrymore choppy look circa 1994.

I spy with my little eye, something beginning with ‘Y’

I’m obsessed with the yellow. Taking pictures, showing my husband the offending strands, and examining it forensically in multiple light settings, from the attic skylight to the car sunroof.

I feel dingy. Less confident and proud. It’s discouraging to go from light silver to this. It’s regressive to go from some faded dye on the ends to yellow root to tip in some places. I feel cheated. Once again trying to hide my yellows as I did my greys.

When life gives you lemons make gin

My family stage an intervention. “We’re worried about you. The world is falling apart and you’re obsessed with straighteners and a bit of microscopic yellow?”

“Alexa, play ‘Haidresser on Fire’ song,” I order. It’s a tongue-in-cheek track about vanity, the beauty industry and the trauma of not being able to secure a hairdressing appointment. Morrissey understands. As do my readers.

One month on and I’m counting down the days to my next haircut as if it were Christmas. My present? More yellow hairs on the salon floor.

The lengthy process continues, but I hope my experience will save you from this yellow blot on the hairscape.

19 responses to “The Big Bird in the room – my silver hair turned yellow from heat damage”

  1. Oh dear what a shame after all your hard work. On the upside the bloggi very funny
    Good luck with getting the yellow out x

  2. I share your struggles. Even with the yellowing, you hair looks lovely. I’ve tried adding hydrogen peroxide to shampoo with some yellow lightening results.

  3. I adore this post. Last September, the same thing happened to me when I went for a blowout for my daughter’s wedding. Now I’m finishing up growout part deux. Keracolor clenditioner in platinum, put on dry hair and left for 45 minutes or so every few weeks has been my only salvation.

    • Thank you for your kind comments. I’m sorry to hear this happened to you too and that you’re also having a second growout! I will have to check that out, although I think I’m going to go for cutting it out. Let me know how you get on!

  4. I love your writing style! I’m sorry this happened to you. I too am reluctant to stop a stylist from doing something I don’t want. Why is that? We are paying a lot for their services. We should be the boss.
    Dare I say it doesn’t look as bad as you think it does? But then I’m still waiting for that beautiful light silver of your natural hair. I’m not sure I’d cut it. I like your length. Would the curls mask it somewhat? Anyway, you have beautiful hair and will again. ❤️

    • Thank you for your kind words. I know, it’s ridiculous that I’m a grown woman who could not advocate for herself. The waves do mask it, as they masked my demarcation more in growout. I am still thinking about it, but really appreciate your comments. Good luck with your journey too x

  5. The hair still looks lovely. Your new palette is on point. I, too, was a dark brunette and discovered I had a severe hair dye allergy. My stylist added hilights/lowlights carefully applied to avoid touching my scalp to help the transition. So now it’s silvery white and I’ve gone from warm tones to clearer jewel tones on the face…Looking forward to your blog on women’s pocket discrimination – I often buy mens shorts & work vests because they have better, deeper and more pockets. And I have my tailor put pockets into my dresses for $10 a pop.

  6. I have had the same situation with hairdressers… started a long time ago… I have thick natural curly hair. I have learned to ask if they can cut curly hair… I have heard all the answers and resentment for asking. I no longer care… harsh I know. I have had white hairs coming in since my 20’s. Now that I’m 57 I’ve taken the “I don’t care what people think” stand and letting all this over dyed, heat damaged hair do it’s own thing. My hairdresser talked me out of it 2 years ago. I regret listening to her. So now I’m off to find another hairdresser (I moved) who will accept what I want and yes I’ll ask once again “do you have experience in cutting curly hair?” Our hair is always and will always be a battle but it’s our battle to be in charge of. Your is is beautiful!

  7. This post is hilarious! Yes a yellow tragedy but oh my your recounting had me in tears. You are not alone in inexplicably allowing a stylist to mess up your hair while you watch.
    I also had a yellow tragedy happen to my bright white locks. More than once! For me the combo of heat and styling product is deadly.
    Two things were successful:
    Try the Color Wow Dream Filter. It’s worked for me most every time. Here’s the UK web site:
    The one time it didn’t work I found a hair color expert, met with her and asked if she could remove the yellow and get my hair back to white. It did work! And the color she applied so perfectly blended that the new growth did not show as a different color.
    Good luck. Keep posting!

    • Thank you so much for reading and commenting. I’m glad that my readers enjoy my ramblings and theatrics!
      Sorry to hear you’ve been a victim too – but pleased you solved it and can laugh about it now!
      Thanks for the information too. I will check that out.

  8. Your writing is fabulous & I LOVE your curls… I have only just recently noticed my silvers “dulling” in colour. I had no idea until recently that heat does so much damage as I’ve been using heat pretty much my whole adult life and no stylist has ever told me this before. Need to learn to love my untamed new to me frizz/curls (still trying to figure out how to properly care for curly hair) – hopefully my shiny silvers will return with some pampering and care. I’m sorry you had to go through this, good luck with your adventure.

    • Thank you so much for reading/replying. I have stopped using any heat since, although you could use a diffuser on cool? My waves were frizzy, but I started curly girl and I have finally learnt how to make the most of them. A couple of my early blogs look at this. Thank you for your kind words x

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