If you want a stunning example of someone who owns every strand of her silver hair, look no further than Jamie Lee Curtis and her foxy pixie cut. Let’s be clear: I’m no Jamie Lee Curtis. My dark chestnut hair has always been one of my preening points of pride. It’s glossy and thick, wavy and lustrous, and until now, seemingly impervious to age. But now that I’m in my 40s, more and more of it is streaked with gray.
My husband died of brain cancer in 2012, and after seeing him disintegrate physically and mentally, I treasure (nearly) every minute that I’m alive, and revel in the wrinkles and laugh lines. To me, they’re proof of a life fully lived. I have no desire to zap them into oblivion. But unlike Curtis, I often succumb to the siren song of the salon, religiously coloring my hair every six weeks. It doesn’t help that we live in a culture that despite some progressive changes, nevertheless worships youth and the non-silvery strands associated with it.
But times, they are a-changing and increasingly, women of all ages are owning their newly silver shade. I’ve seen shags and lobs, pixies, and beach waves — all of them untouched by dyes and glosses.
Change Your Mindset Before Changing Your Hair
“What we once shunned we are now embracing. I think gray hair can be refined, unique, and of the moment all at once. Having gray hair is no longer a sign of defeat but rather an accomplishment. Who wouldn’t like to look like Helen Mirren?” says Marris Ambrose, color director at the Julien Farel Restore Salon and Spa.
If you’re ready to go gray, says Frédéric Fekkai SoHo colorist Jax Williard, just know that it takes time. “People assume I can just color them all gray, but it does not work like that — we have no way of giving you your gray hair — that comes from growing it out. We can definitely help you grow it out easier so that in the process you still feel good.” You literally have to stop coloring it, and let your natural shade shine through from the roots on down.
Don’t Be Afraid to Try Something New
Of course, if you’re going gray, your first call should be to a salon pro. “A good haircut is essential. Gray hair is typically dry and wiry, so precision-shaping paired with deep hydration will save the day,” Ambrose emphasizes.
It’s time to get experimental: As with any hue, some shades work with your complexion and coloring, and some don’t. Grays are no different, explains Williard, adding, “I will sometimes switch women to a more translucent color so that more of their grays can come through slowly.” Wearing gray hair can absolutely be flattering for most women, especially if they have the right tone of gray. They can start by just rocking a few pieces in the front to see if it will work for their skin tone and look.
There is, however, one shade that works for most people, says Hairstory colorist Julia Elena. “As long as the gray has a purple undertone to it, it can work for everyone. If you use a gray with a blue undertone it can sometimes bring out the bring out the greenish-yellow tint in people’s skin, especially under the eyes. Purple has warmer undertones so it is a bit more universally flattering and brings out more of a healthy pink glow in someone’s skin,” she explains.
Let’s say you love your gray, but you want to give it a kick. Something special, something different. “In terms of color, there are many options, depending on the amount of gray present and the look you’re going for,” explains Ambrose. “[You can] paint some white streaks around the face for a stronger statement — sometimes smoky low lights add some pop.”
Whatever You Do, Commit to It
No matter which way you go, do it with your entire heart and soul. “I think we’re culturally at a point where we’re just saying ‘fuck it.’ Women are realizing that they don’t have to cover something up that they would have [previously] felt pressure to cover,” says Elena. “In the past, getting wrinkles or gray hair was considered a bad thing, and I think people are less concerned with the “signs of aging” than they used to be.”
Hair is such an intensely, searingly personal thing, and yet often the first feature that people notice about you. So go forth, dear reader, and embrace it, rock it, be proud of your grays.
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