At some point in our lives, many of us experience that natural transition into gray hair. While some women may choose to color their hair, others choose to embrace their natural hair. The latter can be a truly liberating decision, and allows you to explore a brand new hair color. In our opinion, gray is just as beautiful and complex as any other hair color, and a natural gray can't simply be replicated with dye. If you're at the stage where you're thinking about going natural, we want to share some inspiration from women of all ages. Whether you want to liven up your natural gray or emphasize some subtle streaks, let's explore some stunning gray-haired looks and tips.
Going Naturally Gray, Young
Gray hairs always seem to pop up when you least expect them, and it can truly happen at any stage in your life. Some women are genetically predisposed to graying, and will see the beginning of the transition at a very young age. British Vogue deputy editor Sarah Harris, pictured here, told the blog Into the Gloss that her hair started turning silver in her late teens. Her mother had also gone silver early, and dyed her hair for years before she gave up and enjoyed it's natural hue.
Harris leaves her hair natural, and, in fact, gets tons of compliments on it. She tells Into the Gloss, "So often I have young girls come up to me in the street and they’re like, 'Who’s your hairdresser? What dye do you use?' I’m like, 'What dye?!' And not many people believe me—unless it’s a hairdresser who’s like, 'Yeah, you can’t get that color out of a bottle.'"
Natural Gray Streak
Stacy London was a co-host on the show What Not to Wear, which specialized in women finding clothing and beauty routines that helped them feel self confident. While London was known on the show for her chic style and quick wit, her trademark gray stripe always stole the show. London has sported her classic gray streak since she was a child, and chose to embrace it, rather than dyeing it to match her dark locks.
It's a fabulous touch of color (or lack thereof) to frame the face, and add a little originality to your daily look. Many women notice that their gray comes in streaky as well, which is something that you can totally work into your style—almost like highlights. Whether it's natural or added with dyes, there is something fascinating, and a little playful, about a gray streak.
When you go gray, you might notice that more attention is brought to your eyebrows. They may go gray as well, which can make them look a little thin. One option you have is to dye your brows to match your former base color or go just a bit darker than your hair. The alternative is to use an eyebrow gel, like Hourglass's Arch Brow ($28), to fill in sparse areas and darken a light brow. For the most natural look, use an eyebrow pencil like the one from Anastasia Beverly Hills ($23) as well, to draw in short lines that look like hair.
Gray Highlights Around the Face
Hints of gray can be very flattering, something that Gloria Steinham effortlessly illustrates. While she may color the rest of her hair brown, she chooses to leave some natural gray streaks, a classy nod to her actual hair color.
This look is a fantastic example of "face-framing," a hair coloring technique that highlights the strands around your face. In most cases, this is done with blonde or light brown shades, so we're delighted to see how simply elegant it looks in gray. Steinem is already a feminist icon, who would have thought she'd be our hair icon, too?
Quite a classy look, it's hard to beat a sleek bob with gray hair. If your hair is naturally straight, a bob like Linda Fargo's is definitely a look to consider.
With gray hair, you will probably want to choose makeup that adds warmth to your face. You can do this with sweeps of bronzer, pops of blush on your cheeks, and by smudging your eyes with a little bit of brown eyeliner. Don't forget lipstick or a colored gloss, either. A pretty rose or pink will look gorgeous with gray, and help bring out your lips.
Short cuts are very popular amongst older women, and there are so many variations that can perfectly fit your personality. Whether it's a sporty cut or a softer pixie with waves and curls, there are plenty of styles that look fabulous.
As your grays grow in, you will notice that the hair sometimes has a wiry texture. You should be brushing your hair every night for several minutes. Regular brushing is important, as it helps distribute the oils from the scalp to the rest of the hair while keeping your scalp healthy. Using a clarifying shampoo once a month, or rinsing hair with apple cider vinegar once a week or so, helps to keep product build-up to a minimum.
Keeping Color Intact
This is simply a gorgeous hair color. The contrast of the light gray and black hair, along with the plum-colored tint, creates a rich and versatile look.
One problem that many women with gray hair experience (dyed or natural) is that it can yellow from the sun, hard water, and other environmental factors. To keep this from happening, it's best to neutralize the yellow. You can do this by washing your hair twice a week with a color-correcting violet shampoo like R+Co's Sunset Boulevard ($29). Make sure you keep the shampoo on your hair long enough, sometimes it can take as long as 10 minutes.
Long Silky Hair
Long, silvery gray hair, when worn right, can be some of the most striking hair you will encounter. It imparts a certain elegance, but can be fun and youthful at the same time.
If you've been covering your gray, the trick is deciding when to go natural. Keep in mind that you will likely have to endure a period of six to 12 months that might look a little funky as your new natural hair grows in (but don't fear the changes! Have fun and make them your own). You can cut your hair short or slowly cut off as much of the previously colored hair as possible so the new growth blends in more quickly.
Sophisticated Short Cuts
Salt and pepper hair on short cuts is another beautiful look, especially when it's accompanied by natural curls. Many African American women who wear their hair super-short experience this transitional color as they go from dyed to natural, but we think this not-quite-gray color looks stunning on it's own.
This in-between stage can take patience, of course, but working with your stylist and appreciating each phase in the process can help you look and feel great throughout.
Highlights and Lowlights
Unlike warm colors like reds, browns, and blondes, gray is a cool color, so it can wash out your skin tone. To compensate, consider getting highlights or lowlights along the sides of your face to help make your face pop and to give your hair dimension. Balayage is often preferred over foil highlights for gray, especially if you want a subtle, natural look.
Many women who are almost all-gray choose to color their hair blonde or get blonde highlights. Blonde blends in better with the all-gray growth as the crown and roots grow in.
Most colorists use permanent hair color to color gray hair, because offers much better coverage than semi-permanent dyes. If you are coloring your own hair, consider using a paintbrush or professional hair brush to apply hair color. It's important to use a brush—a nozzle isn't going to have the same force or breadth.
The long bob is another fabulous look for gray hair. It's classic and has a sophisticated style that works on many women. You can give it more dimension with a little color. For this look, ask your colorist to add a few different shades to your natural hair. Traditional foil highlights will add gorgeous streaks, and you can also have them paint in highlights and lowlights to give the illusion of more volume. It's a great trick for straight, thin hair.
How to Keep Your Even Gray Color
When you decide to cover your gray hair, you will need to get it touched up regularly, so maintenance can be an issue. How long you can go between dye jobs depends on how gray your hair is.
If you're 100 percent gray, it's best to color your hair every three to four weeks. If you're 50 percent gray, you can make it about five weeks at a time. Generally, roots will need to be touched up every eight weeks, or when otherwise needed.