The recent trend to dye your hair silver is still popular – but thousands of women who have gray hair feel that they can’t embrace it and fret over their color much that they are touching up their roots almost every week. But it doesn’t have to be that way says Lorraine Massey, author of Silver Hair: A Handbook.
As a hairdresser she knows that people tend to panic when they start to see more gray strands starting to show at their roots. But instead of seeing gray hair as a bad thing, she’s encouraging everyone to ditch the expensive coloring appointments and celebrate those silver hairs. “Think about it: silver is a precious metal. It’s a treasure, just like your real hair color!” she explains.
Why does our hair go gray?
By the age of 30 most women will have at least a few gray hairs and on average by 50 most will be 50% gray. Hair looks gray when normally pigmented hairs are mixed with white hairs. Hair turns white when the cells responsible for color stop being produced by our body. In most cases the age you go gray is genetic – if your parents went white early then it’s likely that you will follow suit. But stress, nutrition and other factors can also make a difference.
How to let go and go gray
If you have never dyed your hair before you are at an advantage as you won’t have a harsh line from the dye. Over time your new color will gently come through. If you are a fan of highlights or coloring, then you can still go cold turkey. “The most obvious method [to go gray] is to just stop coloring and allow the silver to edge its way out,” says Lorraine. “Doing this requires a dye-free vision of yourself, a big dose of determination and a lot of patience.”
Depending how long or wavy your hair is the process could take years. But as it grows longer it will look more deliberate rather than a careless forgetfulness to get your roots touched up. If you have curly hair, it’s worth allowing the curls to expand to their natural full shape at the roots rather than straightening them as this will soften the color contrast.
This method of going gray can be more obvious if you have dark hair but Lorraine urges that it’s important to remember you are on a journey and not throw in the towel if you can help it. “Be positive about your decision to go all silver,” she advises. “Keep your vision of your future hair as you let go of the hue that may not be serving you anymore.”
It’s also worth remembering that although the first couple of months can seem hard and make you feel exposed, gradually the color of the rest of your hair will start to fade, as you won’t be adding to the build-up, and the so the root-ends line will soften.
In the meantime, it can be helpful to make sure you don’t have a blunt parting as this will make it more obvious. Also think about using wash out products like sprays, mascaras and colored dry shampoo to mask the line until it softens.
Using highlights to help you go gray
It’s tricky to avoid a harsh regrowth line if you’re going from dark all-over dye to gray, so lightening your hair with highlights can help you achieve that middle ground – the gray is less obvious, and you can gradually decrease the highlights as more of your natural color comes through.
You can also use a shade closer to the color you currently choose but use a foil process with several hues so again a harsh line is avoided. If you repeat this process around every eight weeks, after a few times you should find the line of regrowth is eased and softer.
Change your cut as you change your color
You may well find that your current haircut just doesn’t work with gray hair. It could be you need something a bit more cutting edge to make sure you still look youthful with a color that is commonly associated with aging. “Having a contemporary style also helps to keep your hair looking good while growing in your gray,” Josh Wood, Redken’s global creative color director says. Take the tip from pixie cut gray lady Jamie Lee Curtis, who stated: “My stylist keeps my cut edgy and contemporary—otherwise I can go Bea Arthur very quickly.”
And it could also help speed up the going gray process. “The shorter you go the more any existing color you are using will be cut out, thus exposing more of the natural color and gray,” he adds. So, if the length you have left to go out seems insurmountable maybe it’s time to make friends with the scissors.
Choose a specialist shampoo for gray hairGray comes in many shades and can sometimes look a little yellow or brassy. Counteract this with a purple or blue tinted shampoo and conditioner so the silver tone shines through. Gray hair also brings with it a change in texture, it tends to be drier and courser in texture. Make sure your hair treatments are nourishing and moisturizing. The change in texture may make you more prone to frizz than usual so look out for styling aids to calm and smooth too.