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Gray Anatomy

Should men color their gray hair or celebrate it?

DIY vs. professional hair color treatments

When can you do it yourself — and when should you turn to a hair stylist? Off-the-shelf home hair coloring products are fine if you’re using color to blend or cover a little bit of gray, Cannell says. But if you have a lot of gray hair, you’re likely to get a better result going to a salon.

Even professional hair coloring, of course, isn’t forever. When the gray starts to show, you need to reapply color. This may be up to every four weeks if you’re pretty gray to begin with.

Is there a cure for gray hair?

Are colored molecules really the best that science can offer? What about basic research into the “gerontobiology of the hair follicle pigmenting unit”? Can’t scientists do anything to stop us from going gray in the first place?

Someday, perhaps. “The decoding of the human genome has spurred much research into which genes are responsible for hair structure and coloration,” Cannell says. “By learning how the melanocytes are coded to produce pigment, it is conceivable that the process of graying could be halted or delayed.”

Conceivable. But not around the corner. For the foreseeable future, it seems, men’s hair color products now on the market are the only option. At least there are plenty to choose from, as I discovered on a recent visit to the local drug store — from shampoo-in coloring to brush-in gels and in shades from sandy-blonde to natural black. There are even products specifically for coloring sideburns or mustache with easy-to-use applicators.

Of course, there is another color option: graying gracefully. In fact, a growing number of men are doing just that. In a 2002 survey by Florida-based Experian Simmons Research, 5.8% of men reported coloring their hair at home. In 2006, that number had fallen to 4.8%. “Gray hair is a crown of glory,” one proverb says. Maybe the Clintons and Clooneys of the world have convinced more men to wear it proudly.

After puzzling over whether my natural hair color is light-medium brown or ash brown — not to mention whether to choose a cream or a gel — I’ll admit that I began to wonder whether it was worth all the trouble. Then again, if I could look like the guy on the box of Just for Men light-medium brown…

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Reviewed on June 01, 2007

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