At some point in our lives, many of us will experience that natural transition to gray hair. While some women may choose to color their hair, others go the route of embracing their natural hue. The latter can be a truly liberating decision and allows you to explore a brand new color. If you're looking to make the switch to your natural gray color, "start doing highlights only and stop doing single process bases," recommends celebrity colorist Nikki Lee.
Meet the Expert
In our opinion, gray is just as beautiful and complex as any other shade, and a natural gray simply can't be replicated with dye (though we do love the look of platinum or silver hair as well). To find out all there is to know about this trending color, we tapped hair and color professionals Lee and Denis De Souza for their expert advice. Whether you want to liven up your natural gray, emphasize some subtle streaks, or experiment with the shade artificially, we've rounded up our favorite celebrities who rock gray hairstyles—complete with pro tips on styling the looks—to inspire you.
Stacy London has proudly sported her classic gray streak since she was a child. The fact that gray often comes in streaky is something that you can totally work into your style—almost like highlights. Whether it's natural or added with dyes, the subtle touch of color (or lack thereof) can work to frame your face and enhance your everyday look.
Kim Kardashian West
Leave it to KKW to bring us not one, but two hair trends with her gorgeous gray color and wet-look. By styling her hair wet, she livens up and modernizes her monochrome mane with edginess, youthfulness, and shine. Her dark roots add the perfect dose of grunge.
Gray hair on a close crop is another beautiful look, especially when it's accompanied by natural texture. While this look on Cynthia Erivo is enhanced with platinum dye, a naturally full-gray short cut would look just as stunning.
When it comes to maintaining platinum hues, the golden rule is to shampoo less often than you normally would.
Give your gray strands added body and volume with a little help from a curling wand. To bring out and enhance hair's shine, work an oil from the mid-lengths to ends.
For blondes, going gray can be a more subtle endeavor. 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, as noted here on actress Blythe Danner.
Jamie Lee Curtis
Jamie Lee Curtis wears her gray pixie like a glove. It's low-maintenance meets sophisticated—with a side of edge. 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. As Garnier colorist Millie Morales suggests, you can cut your hair short or if you're looking to keep some length, she also suggests slowly cutting off as much of the previously colored hair as possible so the new growth blends in more quickly.
Cicely Tyson's blunt bob replete with glistening grays is stunning—not to mention, it even matches her dazzling outfit. Interestingly, when you go gray, your eyebrows can, too, which can make them look a little thin. However, here, Tyson's brows are on point. To get her look, you can either dye your brows to match your former base color or go a bit darker than your hair. The alternative is to use an eyebrow gel, like Hourglass's Arch Brow Volumizing Fiber Gel ($28), to fill in sparse areas and darken a light brow.
Brit model Iskra Lawrence dyed her blonde mane a shade of stunning silver-gray for a campaign. The silver mauve color comes courtesy of L'Oréal Colorista Semi-Permanent Color ($11).
"Rihanna added gray highlights that blend in with her natural color, letting her have a taste of the gray without going full-on," says De Souza. "To achieve the silver ribbons all over her hair, I would use a natural level 4. Her colorist likely highlighted her with bleach and toned her with a fashion teal tone. It gives you a taste without going for it completely."
The long bob is a flattering look for gray hair, which lends it dimension. In fact, shoulder-length cuts are probably the most flattering hairstyle in general. Here, "Diane Keaton isn’t afraid to wear her gray locks long. Her hair is shiny and looks perfect with her fun style," says De Souza.
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.
Helen Hunt's dirty ash blonde hair is the perfect base color for transitioning to gray as there isn't a stark contrast if you're trying to subtly introduce the silver.
To keep gray hair (dyed or natural) from turning yellow—an effect of exposure to the sun, hard water, and other environmental factors—wash hair twice a week for 10 minutes using a color-correcting violet shampoo. This will neutralize the yellow.
Quite a classy look, it's hard to beat a sleek bob with gray hair. "Helen Mirren looks soft and youthful with this beautiful shade of beigey gray and swoop bangs with her short bob," says De Souza. If your hair is naturally straight, a bob like Mirren's is definitely a look to consider.
Unlike warm colors (think: like reds, browns, and blondes), gray is a cool color, meaning it can wash out your skin tone. To compensate, consider getting highlights or lowlights along the sides of your face to help make your features pop and to give your hair dimension. Balayage is often preferred over foil highlights for gray, especially if you want a subtle, natural look.
Amandla Stenberg wears gray well on her textured strands. To replicate her style, try using Amika High Tide Deep Wave Hair Crimper ($120), which works on hair of all types and textures. Her deep side-part serves to elongate and balance her facial features.
No, you're not experiencing déjà vu, this is Tia Mowry, not her twin, Tamera. Both sisters are embracing their natural grays and we are inspired. This pixie highlights both contrasts in texture and color. Slicked-back sides complement curly length up top while gray strands speckled among dark tresses emphasize natural highlights.
"Cara Delevingne gives us a modern twist to this traditional bob done by my talented partner at Mare Salon, Mara Roszak," says De Souza. He adds, "For Cara, I would start at a level 6/7 to achieve this look. Cara was bleached all the way from roots to ends and toned with a silver toner to cut through any brassy tones. Love her and her rad style."
Jane Fonda's cool-toned silver hair transformation is fresh and modern at any age. Her bangs add extra impact to her otherwise sophisticated pixie.
If you're coloring your own hair, consider using a paintbrush or professional brush to apply color rather than a nozzle which isn't going to have the same force or breadth.
"Judi Dench is just so awesome, she truly rocks this short and piecey hair and super short bang that frame her face beautifully," says De Souza.
Gray hairs can sometimes grow in with a wiry texture. But using a color shampoo or rinsing hair with apple cider vinegar once a week can help to keep product build-up at a minimum and strengthen weakened strands.
Salma Hayek ditches the dye and instead embraces her natural grays. She posted this insta selfie with the caption, "#proud of my white hair. Orgullosa de mis canas. #hair." Not only has she proven to us that going gray is beautiful, but also, that doing so should no longer be considered taboo.
Lady Gaga's white-gray hair with retro waves evokes old Hollywood glamour. If your skin's undertones fall under the olive, yellow, or orange category, consider opting for more neutral gray hair colors rather than white or silver tones.