By Sophie Tanner
With hair salons closed for months, women all over the world have taken the opportunity to stop dyeing their hair and embrace their natural gray roots. For some women who’ve been hiding their grey hairs for years, this has been a hugely empowering experience. After all, our hair is a strong part of our identity and, in accepting our natural hair as it is, we are accepting ourselves, just as we are. Aside from breaking the endless circle of dyeing and root touch-ups, we’ve realised that grey hair isn’t just normal - it’s beautiful!
What causes gray hair?
Your hair follicles have pigment cells that make melanin, a chemical that gives your hair its colour. These cells decrease as you age, meaning new hair grows gray or white. Contrary to the myth, stress doesn’t directly make you go gray, though it can cause a condition that makes you shed your hair. Your genes generally dictate how early and quickly this happens; if your parents started going gray in their 30s then the chances are you will too. On average, people start going gray between their mid-30s and mid-40s, though some can go gray 10 or more years earlier than this. Yes, gray hair is part of ageing but, if you learn to view ageing as a privilege, then it shouldn’t be a problem!
How to grow out gray hair
Growing out grey hair is not a fast process but luckily there are several ways to transition from dyed to naturally gray hair:
Cut your hair really short and regrow it fully gray
This is a bold move but we’re here for it, you may as well jump right in!
Go cold turkey
Let your grey hair grow out as it is, without interference. There will probably be quite a pronounced demarcation line but try to adopt a ‘so what?’ attitude and embrace your crazy mix of shades. Some like to call this particular look ‘calico’ after the cats with tri-coloured coats. If you’re having a really bad hair day then you can always use colourful headbands and scarves to hide the line, or strategically pin your hair back with bobby pins.
Ask a hair colorist to blend your grays
The fact that gray often grows in as streaks is something that you can totally work into your style, adding a touch of colour to even it out. Consult your colorist on which of these techniques will work best:
Highlights - classic highlights are applied from root to tip, breaking up grey regrowth with a few lighter pieces, while giving the hair movement and dimension. Use cooler colours, like ash or icy blonde, which are closer in tone to those natural silver, white and grey strands.
Lowlights - like highlights, lowlights can also be used to blend in grey hair. They’re good for covering grays in brown or red hair. Tactically place them over grey strands to add richness and depth, using a demi-permanent colour that’s a few shades darker than your base color. This will add depth and dimension to your overall look.
Balayage - this freehand hair colouring technique gives a more blended look, with no regrowth lines. Using bespoke colour, balayage can create a multi-tonal finish that compliments your features and doesn’t require as much upkeep as traditional colour. Placing some brighter pieces through the parting or temples is the go-to trick for people with a low volume of grey hair that they want to lightly blend.
Demi-permanent colour - switch from a permanent color to a less opaque demi color, which can make your gray strands mimic highlights and blend in better with the rest of your hair. Demi-permanent creates a “diffused” finish, meaning a softer transition between your current color and your growth.
How to look after gray hair
You'll notice your gray hair has a thicker, coarser density, possibly with a slightly different texture. Gray hairs are typically drier, more fragile and more porous because we produce less sebum as we age, which is the natural oil our scalps produce. The good news is that when you stop dyeing your hair, it will gain body and the overall quality will become softer and healthier. Natural gray hair will glisten in a way that processed hair doesn’t.
The best way to look after naturally gray hair is to use a specialised shampoo and conditioner which is formulated to smooth and moisturise wiry strands. Often these products are purple in colour, giving your silvers a vibrant tone and preventing them from yellowing. Also, use a regular moisture treatment and hair oil to help boost shine and soften the texture of coarse strands.
When blow-drying and styling gray hair, be wary of too much heat as it can yellow your hair. Turn down the heat and use a heat-protectant styling product. Also, as your gray hair lacks pigment, it is more affected by external factors like UV light and sun damage so spritz on a UV protectant during the summer.
The best haircuts for gray hair
Natural gray hair can look really sophisticated when cut well. Work with your stylist to find a shape that flatters your hair texture and features. There is no wrong way to wear gray hair, the key thing is to have regular cuts and keep it in good condition. Here are a few of our favourite cuts for gray hair:
A short bob with bangs - gray bangs work really well and this cute style will keep you looking fresh and perky.
A long bob - this classic, sleek style is worn all one length in a blunt cut just above the collar bone, get it trimmed regularly to keep the hair looking healthy.
A pixie cut - a short, modern style with clean edges and stacked layers can add texture and show off the colour depth of gray hair.
Long layers - lend gray hair some real dimension with long swinging locks, plus you can tie it back in a glamorous chignon or french braid.
Join the silver revolution!
The gray hair revolution is growing ever stronger and you can be a proud part of it. It’s high time we shook off the stigma and let our true colours shine. Take photos of your progress and share them far and wide, inspiring other women to embrace their own natural beauty. Become a gray hair champion on Instagram, there are loads of brilliant accounts that will make you realise how many silver sisters you’ve got out there! For starters, check out: @grombre @silversistersinternational and @embrace.the.grey
For more expert hair care hacks and inspiration please visit All Things Hair.