Whether thanks to our recent lower-maintenance lifestyles or in an effort to save time and money, gray hair is having a moment.
“We’ve been conditioned to believe that silver strands mean you’re old,” says Lorraine Massey, hairstylist and author of Silver Hair: A Handbook. “But with proper care and upkeep, gray hair can be chic, modern and empowering!” No matter where you fall on the embracing-grays scale, from starting the process to full-on gray, these tips ensure you and your hair (whatever the color) look as youthful as can be!
If you want to mask grays …
So you’ve decided to take the plunge but want to cover gray roots and stray silvers as they begin to peek through? These temporary fixes will help you keep them undercover — dye-free.
- TO CONCEAL STRAY SILVERS: While it might seem as though temporary color is the quickest way to mask grays in the short-term, dye has a hard time adhering to the coarse and compact composition of gray strands. What can help: a hair “makeup” infused with argan oil, like Mineral Fusion Gray Root Concealer (Buy at Amazon, $13). The oil’s fatty acids soften hair’s cuticle so color pigments can better absorb and cling to strands, while its dual-ended brush and wand allows for targeted application onto strays or errant grays along the temples and hairline. Simply sweep onto grays, let dry for 2 minutes, then brush through to evenly distribute. Best of all, it rinses out easily with shampoo.
- TO ‘FILL IN’ A GRAYING PART: If you have thin, straight hair, simply avoiding a straight part line can hide the newly silver strip along your roots, says Massey. Just crisscross the part by moving small sections of hair from one side to the other along the part line. For textured or curly hair, grab a few bobby pins close to the color of your dyed hair, then weave them through your roots, grabbing strands of hair from each side of your part (like you’re sewing a seam together). The “seams” and the pins hide roots!
- TO OUTSMART GRAYS ALL TOGETHER: Not ready to part with your less-than-natural hue, but don’t want to keep coloring your hair? Darkenyl (a potent blend of plant antioxidants and amino acids) may help. Applied topically, the compound has been shown to reactivate the cells responsible for pigment production within hair follicles, restoring color and preventing new grays from growing. One study found that used nightly, gray hair production decreased by 56 percent in four months. For best results, apply a dime-size amount onto a dry, clean scalp before bed. Find it in: The Inkey List Amino Acid Anti-Gray Scalp Treatment (Buy at TheInkeyList.com, $15)
If you want to blend existing grays…
You’re growing those grays in, and now they’re noticeable. Colorist Mike Petrizzi of Chris Chase salon in New York City shares his tricks to a seamless transition between hues
- TO MERGE STRAYS: Infusing hair with a combination of highlights and lowlights provides a kaleidoscope of colors that subtly fuses grays with the rest of hair — no matter what color you had before. To do: Paint 1″ sections of hair with a permanent dye two shades darker than the color you’re growing out. Let process for 30 minutes, then wash and blow-dry. Next, use a highlighting kit that will lift hair two to three shades lighter and paint onto various ½“sections of hair throughout. Wrap with foil and let process for 45 minutes; rinse.
- TO NIX A HARSH LINE: As grays grow in we end up with a pesky horizontal line of demarcation (where grays meet color). Creating a “root shadow” using demi-permanent hair dye can help. “It stains dye-resistant grays with a wash of color that gradually fades into the rest of hair for a softer grow-out period,” says Petrizzi. To do: Apply a dye one to two shades darker than your current color to roots, then use a clean toothbrush to bring it down to (and blend with) the demarcation line. Cover with a shower cap and let sit 30 minutes; rinse.
If you’re already gray…
You may notice your now-pigment-free strands are rough, dry and prone to yellowing. Here, easy ways to soften hair, restore luster and help those silvers shine bright!
- TO BANISH BRASS: Grays tend to oxidize quickly, causing hair to take on a yellow or orange tinge. Neutralize it with a shampoo made especially for gray hair, paired with a purple-tinted conditioner like Pantene Silver Expressions Purple Conditioner (Buy at Amazon, $11). Its violet pigments instantly cancel out brassy, discolored tones. Even better? The conditioner’s vitamin E (it moisturizes hair) and biotin (it fortifies hair to thwart breakage) treat the coarse gray strands at the same time, so they’re soft, healthy, full and lustrous. Use once a week in place of regular conditioner (overuse can leave hair with a purple cast).
- TO BRIGHTEN COLOR: Since white hues lack pigment, they easily pick up colors in the environment that make them look dull and “dirty.” Petrizzi’s fix? Saturate dry hair with a clear “top coat” like AGEBeautiful Ultra Bond Hyper Lift Creme Color+Clear (Buy at SallyBeauty.com, $7.49), checking hair every 10 minutes until the desired shade is reached. “The ammonium hydroxide acts like a bleach, without the hairdamaging effects, to brighten and whiten dingy hair.” Plus, silk amino acids in the formula seal hair’s cuticle, reflecting more light onto locks to boost shine.
This story originally appeared in our print magazine.