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How To Go Gray Without Looking Like a Skunk
Follow these steps and enlist the help of your colorist, or check out our DIY tips
While millennials are paying for silvery strands, many in the 40+ crowd are deciding it’s time to embrace the gray-hair trend alongside them. But, after years of covering up, you can’t just go cold turkey on the color. Unlike the quick transformation away from gray (during a one-hour hair appointment, say), the transition back to gray is a months-long process — and you’ll need a plan. These how-to steps will get you started as you go from your cover-it-up-color to the gray gifted by your DNA, even if you want to handle it solo, i.e., without a stylist.
WITH A PRO
Talk with your colorist about what you hope to achieve so they can craft a protocol specific to you. Discuss if you want a gradual event that keeps your hair at its current length or if you’re willing to change up your hairstyle (go short) as part of the process. Beauty industry leader and founder of TRUHAIR Chelsea Scott says that people with lighter colored hair will have an easier time transitioning to gray than people with darker hair.
As with many hair changes — such as growing out a shorter style or getting rid of bangs — transitioning to gray takes time, so plan accordingly. You may not want to be in the middle of your color conversion for an important event. Celebrity stylist Jill Crosby tells the Chicago Tribune, “How quick and easy it is to go natural depends on the length of hair and color. A woman with a short, layered hairstyle could go gray in four to six months, as keeping hair trimmed helps to cut away the old color.”
“The key is to soften the line of demarcation as it grows out and incorporate lightness on the ends, using the touch-up color as a lowlight,” says Holly Pistas, master hair stylist and artistic director for the nationally recognized Chicago-based Gordon Salon. “Then adding highlights to mimic the gray is a great way to soften the process.” Pistas further recommends spacing visits and changing the ratio of colors as the process progresses.
Once the transition has started and you have highlights or silver strands coming through, a certain amount of maintenance is needed to keep them from turning brassy. So choose the right shampoo and conditioner to help you do this. Opt for formulations specifically for blonde or silver hair. You don’t have to wash with them every time, but experts suggest adding them to your routine on a regular basis to keep the brassiness at bay.
FOR THE DIY-ER
If you are a do-it-yourself colorist, you can embrace the gray on your own. You’ll need to make a plan and pick a date based on calendared moments in your future because, like the pro-way, the process will still take months. When I decided to embrace my natural gray (at the ripe old age of 30), I hit the drugstore and I DIM’d it (did it myself). Here’s how:
Go with semipermanent
There are dozens of semipermanent hair-color boxes and brands in literally every shade of the rainbow, so staring at a drugstore shelf can be a little daunting. A good tip is to choose a color that’s lighter than your usual shade — but not too dramatically different. I was a brunette before going gray, so I went with a brown that was about two shades lighter. The color was subtly different from what I was used to, but not noticeably so. And, since semipermanent color fades out after about a dozen washes, every few weeks I adjusted the color with a dye a shade lighter as the previous color grew out.
Hide your roots while your gray grows out
In between trips to the drugstore, as roots grew in and became more obvious, I used pigmented root powders to cover up. Hats are also a great option. CoveyClub Spa Ambassador Anna Moine has a wardrobe full — 25 at last count — and uses them as part of her fashion ensemble when the gray has overtaken: “[It’s an] effective and fashionable approach … Whether you select a fedora, sombrero or baseball cap is your individual choice, but I prefer a milliner’s creation to divert attention.”
For darker haired people for whom root growth is much more obvious, spray-on root covers are a good way to cover the gray as it grows out. Try Bumble and Bumble or TRUHAIR powders.
Depending on your hair type, you may even consider going short to speed up the transition process. Once gray roots have gotten to a length you and your stylist think will work for your hair type and facial structure, consider sporting a nice, short cut, taking off any length that still has color to it.
Contrary to what our mothers and grandmothers may have believed, embracing your gray won’t age you. And, actually, it could even get you some jealous looks or compliments from women half your age!