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Transitioning To Gray Hair Gracefully
Mother of Dragons Daenerys Targaryen, Storm from X-Men, world-renowned author Margaret Atwood, and Bon Appétit magazine’s master pastry chef, Claire Saffitz. What do these sensational women have in common, besides being absolute (and sometimes literal) queens?
They are vibrant and vivacious individuals who change the world every day... all while looking stunning in their natural silver locks.
Take a page from these women’s books during quarantine and keep it with you after it’s over. Use your gray strands as a call to greatness (or maybe... gray-tness?). A transition to gray hair can become a daring fashion accent, a whimsical middle finger to old fashioned ideas of youth and vitality, or just a simple statement of confidence—Gray hair? Don’t care!
You have what it takes to join the ranks of world-changing artists and superheroes by making the transition to gray hair. Here’s how to embrace aging, while doing so gracefully.
Why is Gray Hair Different Than Our Natural Colored Hair?
Growing out gray hair gracefully starts with understanding what makes gray hair different. Gray hair is just like your normal hair, just without pigment (or melanin) in the hair shaft. This results in hair that has a different texture1. It can feel courser, drier, and thinner at the same time.
This new texture can open fantastic new style doors in your hair care routine. Gray hair is known to hold style longer than dyed hair2. In fact, gray hair might be the secret ingredient you needed in your look all along.
How Long Does It Take for Gray Hair to Grow Out?
On average, hair grows nearly half an inch every month, so about 6 inches every year3. That’s why some stylists recommend a shorter cut to help expedite the gray transformation—it takes much less time to grow out short hair than long hair. If you love having long hair, you can start with cutting it shoulder length. If you're already comfortable with short hair, then you should try a pixie cut!
How Do I Grow Out Gray Hair Gracefully? Do’s and Don’ts
Whether you started transitioning to gray hair unwillingly due to being in quarantine and your hair stylist being unavailable, or you have been thinking about rocking your natural color for a while, there are as many ways to go gray as there are hairs on your head. As you explore different ways to embrace your natural hair and gray roots, think of this journey as spring cleaning, but for your hair. During your color transition, keep these do’s and don’ts in mind:
Do your research – The foundation of a successful gray transition is understanding your natural hair color and face shape. Different gray hair dye works better with certain hair texture, color and skin tone, and different cuts work for different face shapes. Keep the current season in mind as your summer skin tone will be different than your winter skin tone. Work with your hairstylist to choose dyes and cuts that will complement each other and your face.
Make your choice based on your lifestyle – No matter the style, the best gray look is always a well-maintained one. So find a look that works with your life and habits. If you enjoy your monthly salon appointments, you probably won’t mind starting with gray highlights that require regular maintenance. But if you prefer to go low-maintenance, strategic haircuts can help you transition to gray without regular salon visits.
- Be patient – Growing out gray hair is a learning process. Little by little, you’ll figure out what works and what doesn’t. So long as you're patient and kind to yourself, you’ll achieve winning silver locks.
Don’t pluck out the gray – Resist the urge! Plucking will eventually lead to thinner hair and can damage the follicle. When the hair grows back out of that follicle, it will appear thinner.
- Don’t go overboard with chemical dyes – Gray hair is more fragile than naturally pigmented hair. Harsh dyes and chemicals will weaken the strands and make you more prone to hair loss (no, thank you). Opt for shampoo and conditioner without these ingredients:
Don’t forget to have fun – Your journey to gray hair is an adventure in style, confidence, and beauty. And the more fun you have along the way, the more amazing the experience will be.
10 Cut and Color Methods to Graying Gracefully
Embracing gray hair means enjoying a whole new world of hairstyles. Below are the top ten quarantine and post quarantine methods for growing out gray hair with panache4:
The Silver Pixie Cut – This classic transition involves cutting your hair in a pixie style, which will allow your hair to grow in gray quickly and naturally.
The Au Natural – Also called the “cold turkey” (or, during times of COVID-19, the “Quarantine Quicksilver”), this is a favorite for lovers of low maintenance hair routines. Just let your natural gray hair come in as it will.
Sterling Highlights or Lowlights – Have your stylist weave gray highlights into your hair for more even distribution. If you want to ease into going gray, highlights and lowlights can offer a more subtle option.
The Slow Snip-and-Grow – Some women choose to shorten their hair a bit every two months and gradually grow out their grays. By balancing out the dyed parts of your hair with the gray, the shorter hair will make the gray coverage more encompassing over time.
The Black and White – Play with dramatic contrasts by dying the top and mid-section of your hair white, and the bottom half a stark, dark shade. The effect of dark hair and white hair will be sleek and stylish.
Wintry Balayage – Balayage translates to “sweeping” in French. It’s the practice of hand-painting highlights into hair for a soft and gradual color transition. The discrete glimmer of silver hair will certainly sweep onlookers off their feet.
The Rogue – If you’re a fan of X-Men movies, this might be a must-try hairdo. Dye a face-framing section of your hair a light gray or white. The white streaks will draw the attention of the eye and allow you to naturally grow out the rest of your gray gradually.
Modern Chic – An in-vogue haircut will balance out the effect of the gray, whether you choose to dye your entire head or just add a few highlights and lowlights.
Play with Parts – This one you can do easily at home—take a look in the mirror and play around with your part. A dramatic pull of hair to one side may show off an alluring sprinkling of gray, or right down the middle may give your look an air of 60’s chic.
- Gray for a Day – Experiment with temporary hair color spray, shampoo, or conditioner. Give yourself the freedom to play around and find a graceful gray that makes you feel fabulous.
Whatever hairstyle best fits your personality, just remember we aren't recommending coloring your hair with box dye and disappointing your stylist or colorist once you get to see them again. Your hair stylist already has a broken heart from not getting to see you at the salon, don't break it even more by dyeing your hair with bad permanent hair color products.
Your Style Guide to Going Gray
Gray hair isn’t a look—it’s a lifestyle. For maximum impact of your new look, elevate your look from head to toe.
Caring for Your Silver Locks
The better you protect and care for your graceful gray hair, the healthier, fuller, and shinier it will look. Try these tips for maintaining your silvery mane:
Deep Conditioner – If you choose to dye your hair to speed up the full-gray effect or if you’re growing your hair out au natural, a deep conditioner is a must. Dyed hair and gray hair is naturally dryer, so treat your locks to a deep conditioning treatment once a week to keep them shiny and healthy.
Pick Hue-Enhancing Shampoos – Certain colors in shampoo can brighten gray shades. The best colors for keeping your gray hair shining? Blue or purple shampoo!
- Prevent Sun Damage – Sunlight is the enemy when it comes to keeping your skin youthful and your hair gray. Exposure to the sun can oxidize your silver shine into a brassy-yellow and make it more brittle5. Use a balancing product or a toning mask to keep your hair sterling and a tinted sunscreen to keep your skin glowing and protect it from wrinkles.
So... Should I Let My Hair Go Gray? It’s Up to You!
Transitioning to gray hair is a big choice. But by choosing to embrace your natural gray, you’ve achieved an even more daring feat—finding true beauty in yourself. Choosing gray hair means aging on your own terms and choosing to love and accept yourself at any age. And sometimes, that’s the bravest thing you can do. At ALASTIN, we always want to help women feel their best. If you're looking for more beauty tips during the aging process, check out our In The Glow blog!
- Trüeb, Ralph M. “Pharmacologic Interventions in Aging Hair.” Clinical Interventions in Aging, Dove Medical Press, 2006, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2695167/.
- Freydkin, Donna. “The Complete Guide to Gray Hair and How to Take Care of It.” Allure, 2018, www.allure.com/story/gray-hair-guide-causes-and-care.
- Barrell, Amanda, and Cynthia Cobb. “What to Know about Hair Growth.” Medical News Today, 2019, www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/326764.
- Courtney, Nadine Jolie. “Everything You Need to Know Before You Transition to Gray Hair.” Oprah Magazine, Oprah Magazine, 18 Oct. 2019, www.oprahmag.com/beauty/hair/a28650339/transitioning-gray-hair-color/.
- Monselise, Assaf, et al. “What Ages Hair?” International Journal of Women's Dermatology, Elsevier, 16 Feb. 2017, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5419032/.
Article Reviewed by Wendy Johnson
Vice President, Marketing
Wendy Johnson brings to Alastin Skincare over 22 years of pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and aesthetics industry experience in various sales, training, marketing and thought leader development roles.
After spending 10 years in gastroenterology at Tap Pharmaceuticals and Prometheus Laboratories, with sales and marketing oversight for in-line and pre-launch products, Mrs. Johnson transitioned to an aesthetic career at SkinMedica in 2004. While there, she was responsible for marketing one of the top 2 branded prescription hydroquinones, launching a leading branded low potency steroid, and oversight of the acne franchise line extensions.
In 2010, Wendy joined Merz North America where she developed and managed the Physician Relations department in support of injectable, topical and device business units under Medical Affairs, before transitioning into managing a Regional Aesthetics Marketing team.