How to Care for Gray Hair

Rear view of bare shouldered mature woman with long grey hair
Gary John Norman / Getty Images

More and more men and women are deciding to let their gray hair go for many reasons: they have gorgeous gray coloring, they don't want the hassle and expense of covering up gray or they want to embrace life as it develops, wrinkles, gray hair and all. In this article, we'll show you how to care for your gray hair. 

Why Embrace Your Grays?

There are many reasons to let your hair go natural. Here are 5 reasons to go gray.

  1. It's easier. Eliminating the touch-ups that must happen every 4-6 weeks lest you look unkempt will save you time, hassle and money.
  2. It's cheap. Hair coloring, even if you do it yourself, can be expensive.
  3. It's natural. Letting your hair go is as natural as it gets. Coloring it means adding potential toxins like ammonia to your hair and introducing it into your body.
  4. Gray is gorgeous. There are a bunch of shades of gray and some of it can be absolutely stunning. Why color your hair when you already have gorgeous hair color?
  5. It's an expression of self-confidence. A woman who goes gray exudes confidence and a high self-esteem. Gray hair tells the world, "I am embracing life in all of its forms."

Consider the Rest of Your Look

To pull off gray hair without looking frumpy, you've got to wear the right makeup, pay attention to how you dress and, if you wear glasses, you must pick out frames that are trendy. Otherwise, you'll look anything but stylish, suggests More Magazine and author Charla Krupp in her book, "How Not to Look Old". 

How to Color Gray Hair

What if you don't want gray hair? You can absolutely color your hair without damaging it. While we always recommend you hire a pro to do your color, you can color your hair yourself.

Find out all the best hair color tips for gray hair in Cover Gray Hair: How to Color Your Grays.

How to Brighten Gray Hair

Gray hair can appear dull. To brighten your gray hair, stylists recommend using a purple-tinted shampoo like Clairol Shimmer Lights Shampoo to keep your gray hair looking awesome. 

How to Soften Gray Hair and Make It Shinier

Ever wonder why your gray hair is wiry and sticks up stubbornly while the rest of your hair lies flat? It's because the cuticles of gray hair are rougher than hair that has pigment (color). Gray hair tends to be dry. Keep your gray hair looking shiny with a glossing treatment once a week.

There are a few options:

  1. To get gray hair to behave, you can smooth it out using serums, glosses, products containing silicone and conditioners. Great products include the affordable Pantene Pro-V Smooth Serum and the more expensive, luxe option, Kerastase Oleo-Relax Serum. Look on labels for the word "silicone," which is great for tamping down those stubborn wiry hairs.
  2. You can get a great at-home glossing kit from your drugstore. We recommend John Frieda Luminous Color Glaze. It comes in several shades. 
  3. For you higher-maintenance silver foxes, a professional glossing treatment every 6-8 weeks will give you dramatic results well worth the money. These treatments smooth out wiry hair and enhance your natural color.

Brush Your Hair Nightly

NYC stylist Eva Scrivo recommends brushing gray hair every day to distribute oils from the scalp to the ends. "After about 6 weeks of nightly brushing, We promise that your hair will become smoother, softer, and glossier," Scrivo writes in her book, Eva Scrivo On Beauty

We recommend brushing your hair daily with a decent boar's hair bristle brush.

Remove Product Build-up

Scrivo also recommends removing hair product build-up by shampooing once a week with a clarifying shampoo or mixing apple cider vinegar into your shampoo once a week. Get my apple cider vinegar rinse recipe here.

Protect Your Hair From Discoloration

Gray hair can turn yellow if exposed to too much sun, chlorine or the mineral deposits in your water. To keep this from happening, protect your hair with a hat or scarf when out in the sun for long periods of time. If you swim, rinse hair thoroughly with water so that it doesn't soak up the chlorinated water. Or wear a swim cap. If your tap water contains a lot of deposits, consider getting a filter that attaches to your showerhead.

How to Grow Out Your Natural Gray Hair

If you are growing out hair that's been colored, keep in mind you will likely have to endure a 6-12 month awkward period as your new natural hair grows in. 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.

One option is to add in highlights and lowlights to blend in your gray color. We love balayage for highlights and prefer them over foil highlights. Read more about balayage. And get the scoop on lowlights in my article, Hair Color: What are Lowlights?

Highlighting is not a DIY job. We recommend seeking a professional's help.

Makeup Tips for Women With Gray Hair

Gray hair can make skin appear washed out. To warm up your face, you'll need to wear the right makeup. Here are my favorite makeup tips for women with gray hair:

  1. Add color to your face. Try sweeps of bronzer and pops of blush on your cheeks.
  2. Cover up any unevenness in your skin tone with concealer and foundation. Pay special attention to the dark wells around the eyes.
  3. Play up your eyes. Look for cool colors for eyeshadow shades such as slates, grays and opt for navy eyeliner.  
  4. Never forget lipstick or a colored gloss. For the lips, you can't go wrong with pinks, whether they are light or bright. A bit of gloss can plump up thin lips. A pretty rose or pink will look gorgeous with gray and help bring out your lips.

Read more in makeup tips for older women.

Never Ignore Your Brows

One important part of your face that you should never ignore is your brows. If they've gone gray, you can professionally dye them lighter or darker. Be sure to choose a cool tone for the eyebrow dye. You want to match the tone of your hair.

If you're not into dye-ing brows, use an eyebrow pencil to fill in sparse areas and darken a light brow. For the most natural look, draw in short lines that look like hair. You can then soften your hand-painted brows by layering in a powdered shadow. Aim for the same color as the brow pencil and/or your hair. Keep your brows in place by spraying hairspray on your finger and brushing your finger over your brows. See more on filling in sparse brows.

Wear Glasses? The Right Frames are Key

If you have gray hair and glasses, the right frames are key. Pick the wrong ones and you could add years to your look. Pick the right ones and you can shave years off your look. Black frames are universally flattering.

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