“There’s something about a woman who’s confident enough to pull off gray hair,” says Kyle White, lead colorist at the Oscar Blandi salon and colorist to stars such as Mariah Carey and Naomi Watts. “Gray hair can be striking, sophisticated, and elegant.” So true — there are things you should consider, however, when deciding to go all the way.
“Gray hair is coarse, so it can be difficult to keep it soft,” says D.C.-based dermatologist Dr. Elizabeth Tanzi. Clear glosses and moisture treatment products can help make gray hair shiny, not dull. To keep gray hair from getting dingy and yellow as it is wont to do, White recommends products like Clairol Shimmer Lights, a violet-tinted shampoo that neutralizes brassy tones in gray hair.
What if 50 percent or less of your hair is gray, and you want a full head of gray? While you’re waiting for it to grow in, you can have gray added. White says that the process of coloring hair gray is essentially like adding highlights, so a skilled pro could weave gray into hair to reproduce a graying pattern. A toner would first be put over selected sections, followed by the right amount of silver dyes. But don't expect a bargain; because the process of adding gray is similar to highlighting hair, so is the cost.
As for color, there are many hues of gray, including dark silver, silver, and white. So, depending on what color you want your gray, a colorist can add or remove tint to get you to the ideal shade. (White recommends bringing your colorist a picture of what look you’re going for.) If you've been covering your gray and want to go for full-blown silver, it will take at least three color appointments to weave enough grey into the ends to make a dent in easing the growing-out process of your natural gray roots.
Finally, as you’re basking in your new silvery soigné look — what to do about your eyebrows? Dr. Tanzi advocates keeping them natural. “Often brows stay darker anyway, as part of the natural aging process, so it’s best to leave them,” she says. White says there are options for those who don’t like gray or dark brows. “You might want a softer look,” he says, “not gray or black.” A colorist can put something on your brows to soften the color to something between gray and black, for example. Consider it a neutral slate.
Whichever gray you choose, remember this: Unlike some other signs of aging, gray hair is a look that’s been embraced by the hautest of the haute and the raddest of rock stars. And, that's the black-and-white truth.
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Photographed by Amelia Alpaugh