How to do gray hair right: 10 tips for going gray beautifully

September 1, 2015 at 12:00 am in Fashion & Beauty by VN Editors

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What does gray hair mean to you?

To award-winning beauty and style editor Lois Joy Johnson, “Gray hair is a silvery Rolls Royce or smoky Bentley gleaming with class. It’s silver Elsa Peretti jewelry shining in the cases at Tiffany & Co.”

Across the Vibrant Nation community, many members agree. We know that, done right, gray hair is anything but dowdy. Rather, it’s a flattering and stylish expression of a woman’s beauty and experience after 50. But we also know that going gray stylishly can be tricky. The key, Lois Joy Johnson says, is to to go gray with the same strategic approach and maintenance as any other color.

If you decide to stop dyeing your hair, use these ten tips from Lois and other members of the Vibrant Nation community to go gray beautifully.

How to do gray hair right: 13 tips

  1. Do prepare for a long transition.
    According to Lois Joy Johnson, “It usually takes anywhere from four to eight months to go from coloring your hair to a natural state of gray; a year to a year and a half if you have longer hair.” If you do decide to go gray, be prepared to be patient.”
  1. Work with your colorist through the stages to silver.
    “The key to the transition,” says Lois Joy Johnson, “is to not retouch until you have enough root showing. You may need to skip a month if you’ve been on an every four to six week coloring schedule. Have your colorist step down your coloring procedure as naturally as possible by adding lowlights. Don’t retouch your base color at all but keep getting frequent trims at the ends.Vibrant Nation blogger Jaki – found a gradual approach helpful as well:

    • I started out dirty blond with a few grays tucked in but mostly unseen.
    • Then I went streaked blond to blend in the gray when it was more abundant.
    • As the gray increased, I went to the salon and had my hair backlit. I had at least four colors going in my hair at the same time. But it worked, it looked very natural and all the while the gray was growing.
    • When my temples went white, I took the leap and stopped dyeing altogether. That was 15 years ago. I forgot to mark it on the calendar, but if I had only known it would be the day my courage began, I would have marked it!
  1. Trim strategically.
    A lot of women get to a certain length of re-growth and then cut their hair to speed up the process. This allows you to slowly ease into gray without a lot of drama or obvious lines of color demarcation where the old and the new meet.
  2. Highlight along the way.
    VN member nellie says, “My hair dresser suggested growing out the color as much as I could stand, then having highlights put in and getting as short of a cut as I could tolerate. It took about a year to completely rid myself of the colored hair. I have never looked back! I get lots and lots of compliments – at least twice a week, from both men and women!”
  3. Invest in a great haircut.
    Once you’ve made your transition to gray, invest in the services of a talented stylist to make sure your haircut flatters your face. As VN blogger Tamara2 says, “The right haircut can make all the difference between looking sharp and looking frumpy!”
  4. Condition to keep your hair soft.
    Some women fear that that as their hair turns gray, it will become coarse in texture. This is not necessarily the case, but why take chances? VN blogger Jaki – keeps her hair soft by using a high quality conditioner at home. She also recommends a deep conditioning treatment either at home or at the salon every few months.To fight dryness, VN member Carol Scooter has cut back on frequency of shampoos. Instead, she brushes her gray hair more often. Result: “The natural oils have come along and made it smooth, shiny, and full of body!”
  5. Protect your silver from tarnishing: Use the right shampoo.
    VN blogger Jaki – believes the secret to fresh-looking gray is “a blue shampoo that keeps the gray silvery and protects from the brassiness that sun can cause.” Here are the shampoos recommended by silver-haired members of Vibrant Nation:

    • VN member Kathy Sommers loves Matrix Essentials Solutionist So Silver. “I had lots of problems with yellowing for my very thick, long white/silver hair. Then my daughter found this great shampoo where she is a stylist. Now I love my hair!”
    • Deanie says, “I use ShiKai Color Reflect Shampoo for platinum. So far it’s the best thing I’ve found.”
    • VN member Lark says, “Pantene makes a shampoo and conditioner I like called Silver Expressions. They make my hair very shiny.”
    1. VN blogger Tamara loves Aveda’s Blue Malva shampoo and conditioner. “Smells wonderful, leaves my gray hair soft and smooth and shiny.” VN blogger Jaki – likes Blue Malva as well. Jaki also recommends Clairol Shimmer Lights. “These shampoos are especially made for gray or white hair.”
    2. Mary McDowell likes Prosante Lightweight Conditioner, available from Shaklee distributors.
    3. cnelson2007 says, “Jhirmack’s silver brightening shampoo works for me. I don’t end up with blue hair and it takes out the yellow.”
    4. Maggie Rose likes Abba Pure Moisture shampoo. “It’s wonderful, and has not yellowed my hair at all.”
    5. VN member lisaforman avoids “products that contain sodium laurel sulfate or its derivatives, which have been linked to Alzheimer’s.” Instead, she looks for shampoos and conditioners at organic, healthy food stores. She likes brands like Kiss My Face or Nature’s Gate. “I have long gray hair and these natural products are perfect for keeping it smooth, shiny, and elegant.”

When using shampoos for gray hair, VN member LissaB cautions, “Graduate your way up to the ‘leave in’ time suggested by the label. A couple of years ago, I left in a new shampoo as directed and left the shower with distinctly amethyst-hued hair. It only lasted a couple of days, but still!” Blogger Jaki – agrees: “Leave the shampoo on for just one minute or so – not too long or you end up looking like a blue haired granny. (Not that there is anything wrong with that!)”

  1. Consider sunscreen for your hair.
    Another way to protect silvery hair from tarnishing: sunscreen. Jaki – recommends using a sunscreen specially formulated for hair called Miss Oops Block Your Locks.
  2. Resist the urge to match your brows to your hair.
    Lois Joy Johnson, author of the new Vibrant Nation Beauty Guide Great Hair After 50, advises: “Don’t do gray brows even if your hair is gray. Most women need the definition and eye-framing shape that distinctive brows offer.” Lois’ suggestion: A tinted brow gel. “It’s the best way to blend in gray brows and groom wiry coarse hairs for a fresher, more open eye.” Lois loves Anastasia Beverly Hills Tinted Brow Gel, available in a range of colors: caramel, brunette, espresso, and granite.VN blogger Jaki – loves being a “silver fox,” but like Lois, she agrees that, “I just need to have a facial expression – and penciled-in brows make me shudder.” So, Jaki gets her brows dyed. “I resisted dyeing my brows for a long time, then did it once and was hooked. It only costs $10. Just get it done when you get your hair trimmed every 6-8 weeks.”
  3. Find the best styling products for gray hair.
    Here are some of the styling products that silver-haired members of Vibrant Nation recommend:

    • VN member Mary McDowell keeps her styling routine simple (“Just shampoo, conditioner, hair spray and sometimes a gel – I do not have any yellowing in my hair.”) She loves “Dep Sport Endurance Styling Gel 11 from Walgreens and Walmart.”
    • Mary also likes Prosante Hair Spray, by Shaklee.
    • VN member Maggie Rose uses Bumble & Bumble Grooming Creme “applied when my hair is wet, and then again a little bit after it’s dry.”
  4. Dress for silver success.
    VN member RJane finds that gray hair gives her ultimate flexibility in terms of wardrobe choices: “Having white hair is like being a blank canvas, I can wear so many bright, vibrant colors that all seem to go well with my hair.”But you may find that your new look can be even further enhanced with the right clothes. Since going gray, Jaki – has created whole new wardrobe in gray tones that flatter her new haircolor. Her silver-fox wardrobe tips:

    • Gray hair tends to look great with gray and also blue clothes. (This rule of thumb may depend on eye color.)
    • Short skirts and high fashion combine well with gray hair. “When you are gray and keep on top of the styles and/or boldly display your own style, it makes for a very interesting look. I think people see you and go ‘She may be older, but wow, she sure looks great.’ Now that’s my favorite message to send!”

    For career women and job hunters, gray hair can be an asset as well. Lois Joy Johnson, author of author of the VN Beauty Guide, Great Hair After 50, says, “Keep the look contemporary and pulled together, and gray hair can be fashionable and project experience and confidence even in corporate or government settings. Look at Ann Livermore, vice president of Hewlett Packard’s Technology Solutions Group, or Kathleen Sebelius, our Health & Human Services Secretary.”

  1. Update your makeup.
    According to Lois Joy Johnson, “Going gray may require warming up your makeup to compensate for the cooler frame against your skin. A peachy pink or golden peach blush is all you need.
  2. Embrace your gray.
    The right attitude goes a long way towards selling your new look, so learn to love your gray. Jaki – says, “I think natural hair color can help women look better. Yes, gray hair may signal a “certain age,” but I think there is nothing more beautiful than an older woman, gray at the temples, wrinkled and maybe even a little bent – but clearly confident and comfortable in her own skin. Have you ever noticed the radiance in the eyes of such a woman shining under her platinum crown?”VN member Deaone says, “It’s what you do with your gray or silver hair that counts. Make the best of it. Be honest with yourself about the changes in your hair – and then embrace the opportunity to create a new hair style that you never had before. Go for it!”

Please share your own tip on going gray stylishly by leaving a comment below.


Updated 9-1-15