Wash that gray out of your hair? More of you are saying "No way!" According to L'Oréal, nearly half of women over age 40 are no longer hitting the bottle. Besides being profoundly liberating (no more pesky roots!), going gray makes a statement of supreme confidence: This is who I am, and I'm proud of my natural beauty. It can also look pretty darn fabulous: Think Meryl Streep's chic silver cut in “The Devil Wears Prada,” Jamie Lee Curtis' stylish silver pixie, or Emmylou Harris' stunning salt-and-pepper mane.
Still, if you want to give gray a try, you'll need to know how to avoid the awkward growing-in stage that occurs when you stop dyeing your hair; the mere thought of clashing incoming and outgoing tones keeps many women from returning to their roots. But fear not; this step-by-step guide will help you look terrific every minute of the way to gray.
Step 1: Go gradually
Wait until your roots are at least 60% silver before giving up your dye job, so your new hue will look symmetrical and natural as it grows in, suggests colorist Jennifer J., owner of Juan Juan Salons in Beverly Hills, Calif. But don't give up color altogether just yet. "The contrast in texture and tone as your hair grows can look unkempt," she notes. During this phase, which can last up to a year, get a do-it-yourself highlighting kit or ask your colorist to weave in a few fine highlights or lowlights (darker streaks) to add dimension and blend in roots.
Step 2: Consider a new cut
Cropping your hair above your collarbone during the in-between period will lessen the contrast between silver and pigmented strands. Layers can also help camouflage multiple hues. "A choppy cut looks youthful and helps hide your roots," says Jonathan Gale, a colorist at the John Frieda Salon in Los Angeles. When your gray has grown out, don't regress to a matronly
'"For gray to look glamorous and chic, your cut should be contemporary," says Mark DeVincenzo, creative director at the Frédéric Fekkai Salon in New York City. To enhance silver strands, which absorb light, making your mane look dull, style hair straight (use a flatiron or a dryer and a round brush) to promote shine. Once your hair is completely white, talk to your stylist about adopting an above-the-shoulder, layered style that provides movement and softly frames your face.
Step 3: Pick silver-specific products
When hair turns gray, the protective cuticle thins out, which can make strands coarse and prone to breakage. Keep tresses soft and healthy by doing the following:
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- Choose a moisturizing shampoo to soften and smooth hair and make it appear more lustrous.
- Wash hair with a formula geared for gray once a week to counteract yellowing caused by sun, pollutants, hard water and smoke. But don't overdo it: Many of these products contain a blue tint that can cause a purplish cast.
- Apply a clear gloss or glaze monthly to coat the cuticle and boost shine.
- Opt for gels and mousses that are clear: The dyes in colored stylers can tarnish gray hair.
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5 tips for sterling silver
1. Maximize manageability: Used weekly, Clairol Nice 'n Easy ColorSeal Conditioning Gloss ($4; drugstores) has safflower oil to control coarse strands.
2. Restore softness: Non-color-depositing Pantene Pro-V Silver Expressions Conditioner in Sterling to Snow ($6; drugstores) smoothes hair without tinting it blue.
3. Beat brassiness: The chamomile-derived azulene in Phyto Phytargent Whitening Shampoo ($24; beauty.com) helps remove yellowing residue.
4. Boost shine: The luminosity-enhancing silica and rice bran oil in Aveda Brilliant Emollient Finishing Gloss ($23; aveda.com) take tresses from dull to dazzling.
5. Decrease dryness: Daily washing and styling can dry out hair; by absorbing excess oils, Bumble & Bumble Hair Powder in White ($19; bumbleandbumble.com for salon locator) lets you skip a day or two (spray powder directly onto scalp and brush out excess).