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Pro Secrets to Brighten Gray Hair At Home — How to Make It Soft and Shiny Fast

From purple conditioners to vitamin C, discover how you can say bye-bye to dull and lifeless

There are so many reasons to ditch the dye and embrace grays: from just being tired of the constant maintenance and expense to simply being inspired by someone you know who did it with wonderful results. If you recently took the plunge, you’ve likely noticed that though you no longer have to spend hours coloring your hair, those grays still do tend to lose their luster or turn dingy or yellowish, leaving them in need of some upkeep. Thankfully, there are simple ways to brighten gray hair — all of which are so easy, and none of which will leave you regretting your choice in the first place.

Why does my gray hair look so dull?

“There are multiple reasons behind gray hair appearing dull,” says colorist Mariel Falla, an instructor at Aveda Arts & Sciences Institute in New York City. “Everything from heat styling to sun exposure can cause the pigment lacking hair to lose its shine.”

Other factors include:

  1. The natural aging process: As hair loses its pigmentation with age, it becomes translucent and reflects less light, leading to a dull appearance.
  2. Oil reduction: Sebaceous glands produce natural oils that keep hair moisturized and vibrant. With age, these glands produce less sebum, causing gray hair to dry out and become more prone to looking dull.
  3. Environmental factors: Exposure to pollutants, UV radiation and chemicals in the environment can cause gray hair to develop a yellowish tinge over time. These factors can interact with the hair’s proteins and pigments, leading to discoloration.
  4. Mineral deposits: Minerals present in water, such as calcium, magnesium and iron, can build up on the hair shafts over time causing gray hair to take on a brassy tone.
  5. Smoking: Smoking and exposure to tobacco smoke can contribute to yellowing of gray hair
  6. Hair products: Some shampoos, conditioners and styling products contain ingredients like harsh detergents, silicones and sulfates that can contribute to a yellowing effect.
  7. Heat styling: Excessive use of heat styling tools, such as hairdryers, curling irons, and straighteners, can damage the hair cuticle and lead to a dull appearance.
  8. Medications and health conditions: Thyroid disorders, for example, can influence the production of hair pigments and affect hair quality.

Related: Dull Hair Over 50? Not Anymore! These Easy Tips Add Shine, Strength and Bounce

And as it turns out, there’s a lot of interest in learning how to brighten gray hair — in fact, on TikTok, the search for videos that show how to “lighten natural gray hair” has nearly 174 million views and counting! And answering the call are plenty of beauty influencers who are embracing their grays and proudly showing off the ways they brighten gray hair for a silver strands that shine.

So we scrolled and scrolled and scrolled through TikTok (so you don’t have to) and polled hair pros for the best at-home remedies and products that can brighten gray hair and easily lift yellow tones and dulling discolorations to ensure silver strands look youthful and healthy — no expensive salon visit required.

Read on for the easy, targeted ways that will brighten gray hair fast. 

To erase a yellow tinge: purple hair products

Purple hair treatment that brightens gray hair
Irinashemiakina/Shutterstock

“I recommend applying a purple mask, shampoo or conditioner to rid hair of unwanted brassiness,” says Gina Rivera, hair expert and owner of Phenix Salon Suites. Adding a sheer wash of purple to hair instantly cancels out any unwanted, yellow tinge. This trick works based on color theory: purple and yellow lie opposite one another on the color wheel, so adding one color to the other cancels it out.

50-something TikTok user @Nat.Silverqueen, who landed a modeling career once she decided to embrace her natural gray hair, swears by Moroccan Oil Blonde Perfecting Purple Conditioner (Buy on Amazon, $12) to do just that. She applies it once a week.

See her using it in action below:

Notice that only certain spots seem to get yellow? Follow the advice of gray-haired beauty influencer Vanessa Chamberlin, @SilverLiberation on TikTok, who shares in the video below that she applies a purple treatment only to the areas where it’s needed most.  

@silverliberation

Replying to @user1233256003174 Code – SilvLDN-VANESSACHAMBERLIN-10 @SilvinaLONDON One of my favorite, purple shampoo and conditioners that is the most moisturizing that I found is from Silvina London Silvina is a fellow Silver Sister , who created this beautiful hair, Caroline specifically for us gray hair ladies. Be sure to always wear a hat, especially in the summertime in the sun, use heat, protectant products, when styling hair, try a vinegar, rinse, or baking soda mixture, see Google for many different recipes for this. I prefer to use purple shampoo as a spot treatment, and just certain areas, since purple shampoo can be a little more on the dry it side. Things that can cause yellowing in your gray hair- 1. Heat Styling  2. Pollution, Sunlight, and Environmental Factors.  3. Product Buildup 4. Hard or Well Water  5. Illness, Vitamin Deficiency, and Nutrient Overload. GreysHair #Silverliberation#silvinalondon#purpleshampoohack#hairhealth#FrizzyHair#SaltAndPepperHair#Naturalgreyhair#WhiteHairProblem#silversister #Silversisters#greyhairinfluencer#over50beautytips

♬ vlog, chill out, calm daily life(1370843) – SUNNY HOOD STUDIO

Related: Purple Shampoo Revives Faded Hair Color So It Looks Like You Just Left the Salon: How to Use It for Amazing Results

To remove dulling build-up: clarifying shampoo

Splashing around in the pool gives damaging chemicals like chlorine a chance to settle into gray hair, causing it to become discolored. “This is why, especially in the summer, I can’t stress enough how important it is to use a clarifying shampoo to help remove build-up that can make gray hair look dull and dingy,” says Rivera.

“Use a clarifying treatment once a week,” advises Allison Gandolfo, hairstylist and colorist at the Zahir Ziani Salon in New York City. “You’ll be amazed at how this small change will help remove any pollution build-up that can dull your gray hair.” 

As seen in the video below, TikToker Randi Honeycutt, @randihoneycutt, swears by Odele Clarifying Shampoo (Buy from Odele, $11.99), calling it the most underrated gray hair care product out there. The reason: The shampoo is made with chelation technology that acts like a magnet to pull impurities out of strands to polish silver locks in no time. 

To create your own DIY clarifying treatment at home: Whip up this mildly abrasive baking soda scrub, It will lift out unwanted pollutants.

To do: Combine ¼ cup of baking soda and 1 Tbs. of water. Rub on damp hair for 1 minute. Let sit 10 minutes, then rinse. 

(Click through to learn more about the best shampoos for gray hair that will leave strands looking youthful and bright)

To reverse discoloration: vitamin C shower filter

Adding a vitamin C shower filter to your shower head can help brighten gray hair
ArtmannWitte/Shutterstock

“Since gray hair lacks pigment, it readily soaks up colors and minerals from shower water or product residue that can make strands appear dingy and dull,” says Falla.  Preventing this absorption from happening in the first place is as easy as adding a vitamin C filter (Buy on Amazon, $24) to your shower head.

How it works: The vitamin purifies shower water and ensures damaging compounds that can alter your hue won’t sink into hair, so grays remain beautiful and bright, explains Falla. As an added bonus, vitamin C also keeps hair healthy by mending damage and strengthening strands to hinder breakage and shedding. 

To prevent damage: wearing UV ray protection

“Gray hair is much more prone to oxidation caused by UV exposure, which results in tarnished silvery strands,” says Rivera.

To prevent damage, before venturing out into the sun, apply a spray like Bumble and Bumble Hairdresser Invisible Oil Primer (Buy on Amazon, $31.75) that’s made with UV filters. It creates an invisible barrier over hair so the sun can’t alter gray hair’s hue. And if strands are already damaged from time spent in the sun, reach for a shampoo like Pantene Generation Beauty Silver & Glowing Shampoo (Buy on Amazon, $14.99), which contains mineral oil and vitamin E that work together to deeply hydrate hair and repair damage from the inside-out. 

To soften coarse strands: *this* conditioner

As we age, our hair follicles produce less sebum, which naturally hydrates hair, says Rivera. This also depletes strands of its shine, and that coupled with coarse gray hair can be a recipe for a dull-looking mane. What can help: A weekly conditioner like Philip Kingsley Elasticizer (Buy from Phillip Kingsley, $31), which delivers much-needed moisture to replenish coarse grays so they appear more lustrous.

Or get the same benefits by making a homemade coconut milk and honey hair mask. The fatty acids in coconut milk deeply moisturize strands, while humectants in honey help hair retain moisture and shine.

To do: Mix ½ cup of coconut milk and 2 tablespoons of honey. Massage into damp hair from roots to ends. Let sit 15 minutes, then rinse. 

Heat protectant products

Ways to best you hot tools to help brighten gray hair
Kristen Prahl/Shutterstock

Frequently exposing hair to heat from hot tools like curling irons, flat irons and hair dryers is damaging no matter your hair color, but the harmful after effects can be extra noticeable when you have gray hair. “Excessive heat will burn and scorch your gray hair, turning it yellow,” says Todd Faulk, Senior Cosmetology Educator at Aveda Arts & Sciences Institute in Dallas. He adds that you cannot get this type of burnt yellow out of your hair with a toner or shampoo — the only option to brighten gray hair in this case is to cut it off. Eek.

To avoid it, gray-haired beauty influencer Marsha Maldonado explains in the video below how it’s essential to use a heat protectant spray like Dove Style + Care Smooth Shine Heat Protection Spray (Buy on Amazon, $6) before applying heat to hair. Her key is to make sure that the heat protectant that you use safeguards hair up to the temperature of the tool you’re using (this can be found on the label of most heat protectant sprays). For example, if you are cranking up the heat on your flat iron to 450 degrees, and you’re using a heat protectant that protects up to 350 degrees, you are still leaving your hair exposed to heat damage.

@marshamaldonado

Tips on preventing your grays from turning yellow or brassy. FYI, this works for blondes, people with highlights, lowlights & balayage too! #hairtok #hair #hairtiktok #greyhairtok #greyhairproblem #greyhair #protectyourgrey #greyhairtransition #greyhairtransformation

♬ original sound – Marsha Maldonado

For more tips on how to keep gray hair looking youthful, click through the links below:

Growing Out your Greys? Try These At-Home Grey Hair Blending Tricks the Pros (and Stars) Swear By!

This Gray-Haired Model Has Beauty Industry Tips for Keeping Silver Strands Gorgeous

You Won’t Believe All the Ways You Can Use Root Spray to Make Your Hair Look Thicker — And It Works to Cover Grays Too!

Blue Shampoo: The Before and After Photos That Prove How Well It Beautifies Grays


Lorraine Sullivan has always been curious, and once she realized being a journalist meant she could ask all the questions she wanted AND get answers, she was hooked! As a freelance writer she loves contributing to FIRST for Women magazine, regularly writing features about beauty and fashion fixes, ways to save cash while shopping and tips on how to take the best care of furry pals. After 21 years in New York City, she currently lives in the Heartland, in a house with her three children, spoiled cat Zuzu,and a big backyard where she’s always hanging up birdhouses and trying to cultivate the perfect pollinator garden. She also loves traveling with her family—they’ve visited places like Mexico, China, Australia and plenty of other places in between.Follow her adventures at https://www.instagram.com/rainbowdops


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