Stylists Reveal Their Best Care Tips for Gorgeous Gray Hair
You’ve plucked them, hidden them, and battled them. But there’s another way: Rock those strong, silvery strands with confidence.
It's no secret we're into trendy hair colors, such as icy blonde and pumpkin spice, but we're also all about embracing your natural locks. For most of us, as we get older, our tresses start to turn gray. Although there's nothing wrong with coloring your hair, we love the idea of showing off your silvery strands. (And we're not the only ones: There's an entire social media movement dedicated to going gray gracefully.)
Gray hair is often coarser and dryer than what you're used to, so you'll probably need a new arsenal of products to treat your tresses properly. We spoke with the pros to learn the best way to go gray, and how to care for your new 'do.
Going Gray Gracefully
The segue from dyeing away your natural gray to embracing it can be a slow evolution or an overnight coup. It's up to you.
1. Grow Out Your Roots
If you want to go slow, try by simply growing out your gray. Too off-set your roots, make sure your ends are in tip-top shape. "I'll have my clients come in for trims a little bit more regularly," says James Corbett, celebrity colorist and owner of James Corbett Studio in New York City. Hair grows about 6 inches per year, so this process is for the super patient.
Trae Bodge, a smart-shopping expert behind the blog, True Trae, loves her natural gray and says to trust the growing out process." I know it's hard, but if you are starting to go gray, don't cover it immediately," she explains. "We jump to fix it so quickly that we don't even allow ourselves to see how it might look. Years later, we find we've spent so much money to color it then get stuck with an awful growing-out period. Give your gray a chance; it might look awesome."
2. Get Silvery Highlights
Ask your colorist to weave in an increasing number of silver-gray highlights each time you get highlights. This can take you to gray in six months to a year and is less damaging than lightening all the color-treated hair at once, Corbett says.
3. Chop It Off
"A pixie is the quickest way to get rid of any old, color-treated hair while giving yourself a statement style," says stylist-colorist Kali Ferrara of The Salon Project in New York City.
Soften and Style
Gray, silver, and white hair appear when follicles quit producing melanin, the pigment that gives hair its color. As grays come in, the scalp's oil production often takes a dive too, making these fine strands seem coarse or wiry. (A quality, affordable cleanser for gray is OGX Pracaxi Recovery Oil Shampoo, $6.99, CVS..) To improve dryness, load up on moisture with conditioning cleansers and treatments, and oil-rich styling products, Corbett says. Better Not Younger Hair Redemption Restorative Butter Masque, $35, Sephora, will deep condition your tresses. Ferrara likes to apply a heat-activated styling cream to damp hair before blow-drying. "This softens the grays and smooths the cuticles, which helps resolve those texture differences," she says.
Bodge says she personally loves SheaMoisture Black Castor Oil Strengthen & Restore Blow Dry Créme, $9.99, Target, for her hair. "Even more than the color, the definition of my curls is crucial. I have a lot of hair and use a lot of product," she notes.
Brighten and Whiten
White hair, as striking as it is, has the unfortunate tendency to yellow. "Sun, heat-styling tools, pollution, cigarette smoke: a lot of external factors can give your gray or white hair a yellow cast," Ferrara says. But you can keep it bright and shiny with a color-correcting treatment. "Purple is the shade directly across from yellow on the color wheel," Corbett says. "So, a shampoo or gloss with purple tones will neutralize the yellow in your hair." To keep your color looking its best, try Matrix Total Results So Silver Shampoo, $14, Ulta.
These products deposit a temporary sheer layer of purple pigment that camouflages the yellow. Purple hair treatments are beneficial even if there's still some pepper with your salt because it tones down brassy yellow and orange across your whole head. But reach for these products only once a week or on an as-needed basis. "You don't need to use it every time you shampoo and leave it on for only a few seconds," Corbett says.
Another way to keep your white looking bright? Add a filter to your showerhead, especially if you live in a hard-water area. (We recommend the Brita In-Line Shower Filtration System, $19.97, The Home Depot.) "Mineral deposits can make white hair look rusty or even green," Ferrara says. "We have old pipes, and there's always a reddish tinge around our bathtub. Just imagine that on your hair." Yuck.
Up Your Style Game
Going gray can feel like unchartered territory: exciting, liberating, and a little scary. If you're concerned that gray hair will make you look older than you feel, know that your haircut, makeup, and accessories can keep your overall look vibrant and youthful. "When you choose gray hair, make sure that you still have a look," says Corbett, who recommends getting a stylish haircut, like a polished bob, face-framing curls, or something with structure. "You want to avoid styles that look scraggly or unkempt," he says.
And when you're feeling washed out, applying concealer, blush, and lipstick will make you feel pulled together. "Contrast your gray hair with a pop of vibrant color like bright lips," Corbett adds. A universally flattering hue is Lancôme L'Absolu Rouge Ruy Creame in Hot Pink Ruby, $32, Lancôme USA. Bodge says her daily routine is the key for her to look and feel great. "l love a gua sha facial massager to wake up my skin followed by a great concealer and a lip stain for color that will stay." You can buy a gua sha smoothing and lifting tool for $28 at Sephora.