Restore Faded Glory
"Decreased production of melanin — which gives hair its color — is one of the most visible hair changes as we age," says Thomas. "By age 50, 50 percent of us will be 50 percent gray."
That's a lot of fading. And it comes with side effects: "When melanin is present, it absorbs UV rays," explains Thomas. "In its absence, your hair's protein absorbs them instead, resulting in weaker strands." Melanin also boosts shine; less of one means less of the other.
So if you want to go gray gorgeously, "start with a shine-enhancing shampoo," says colorist Rita Hazan, owner of the New York City salon of the same name. She favors Clairol Shimmer Lights ($9, drugstores); you use it once or twice a week to reduce the yellow and boost the silver: "The look is not only much glossier, but chicer and more youthful, too."
And given gray hair's susceptibility to UV damage, you need to keep yours protected with a hat or UV spray — particularly if you're going to be in the sun. Try Aveda Sun Care Protective Hair Veil ($26). As for those wiry, stand-up grays: "A very light shine spray will help tame them — and obviously help boost shine," says Fazio. Try Garnier Fructis Triple Nutrition Nutrient Spray ($6, drugstores).
Of course, many women opt to cover their gray instead — and if you fall into that camp, choose your color wisely, advises Hazan. "As you age, it's harder to get away with really dramatic colors, which tend to look too severe — and highlight every skin flaw." So skip the black-brown in favor of a chocolatey hue, the platinum blond in favor of a golden blond, and the deep red in favor of auburn. "The warmer tones are the more forgiving ones, especially if you stay within a shade or two of your natural hair color," says Hazan.
Fix the Wiring
No matter how smooth and flowing your locks once were, their texture may be anything but that now. "Researchers in Japan have recently found that hair curvature changes as you age," says Thomas. "There's more of it, but not in a nice, curly way — rather in a wiry, less manageable way." And that newfound texture is also more vulnerable to damage (the tiny kinks leave weak spots along the hair fiber).