Gray Matters: 4 Tips for the Care and Keeping of Silver Strands
Just Do It!
The easiest way to go gray: Get a shorter cut and just let your hair be, suggests Barbara Lhotan, creative director of Elie Elie salons in Winchester, VA. Alternatively, avoid the two-toned look by covering gray strands with semipermanent color until they're plentiful (six months or more), then going cold turkey on the dye. A semipermanent formula should wash out in four to six weeks, revealing the gray.
See the Future
Childhood photos will help predict your future shade of gray, says Lhotan: Black hair turns steel-gray; redheads and brunettes have more gold undertones mixed with their silver; and childhood blonds tend to go white.
Gray hair is very porous, and soaks up everything you put on it — including the pigment in your shampoo. So skip the shampoo with the green tint in favor of white or clear formulas. Or try a purple-tinted shampoo to tone down brassiness, such as Pantene Pro-V Silver Expressions Shampoo ($6.49, drugstores).
Since gray hair can be coarser and wirier than your pigmented hair, it may need more conditioning to get it under control. A good choice: conditioners meant for curly or coarse hair, which tend to have softening and smoothing ingredients. Periodically, give your strands a deep cleaning to get rid of dulling residues. Try Logics Color DNA System Clarifying Shampoo ($20, logicshair.com for salons).
You Want: Brilliant Brown
At home: To brighten up brown, add cool or warm tones with temporary dye — in case you're not happy with the outcome, suggests celebrity colorist Rita Hazan of the eponymous New York City salon; Clairol Natural Instincts Loving Care ($6, drugstores) washes out in six to 12 shampoos. You'll need more pigmented, permanent dyes to get full gray coverage, but if you select one shade lighter than you think you need, it can make those grays look like highlights — and the overall effect will be less uniform and wig-like. One to try: L'Oréal Paris Excellence-to-Go ($9.49, drugstores), a permanent color that delivers high-shine coverage in 10 minutes.
At the salon: "Brunettes are the most challenging," says Hazan. "Their hair can turn red and brassy with added color but look flat without it." Ask for gold highlights instead of red, and afterward, get a clear gloss treatment to give hair more luster (it's sometimes complimentary when you go in for color). Gloss is like temporary haircolor, only without the pigment, explains Hazan; it fills in the damaged part of the cuticle and enhances shine for up to six weeks.
Color care: The coloring process involves less lightening for brunettes than for blonds, which means brown hair doesn't get as damaged, explains Lesley McBride, a Pantene principle scientist. Brown pigment also repels water, which can dilute dyes — so the color stays put for longer. Since you are still likely to crave extra shine, try following every other shampoo with a lightweight silicone glaze, such as Fekkai Salon Glaze Clear Shine Rinse ($28, Sephora). Between salon visits, hide grays and regrowth with Avon Advance Techniques Grey Root Touch-Up in Brunette ($6, avon.com), a mascara wand with color that lasts until the next shampoo.