As a woman of 45 with gray hair, I have discovered that my hair still needs a helping hand to get it looking its best, as white hair can look dull and is susceptible to yellowing and dryness.
Thankfully, there are some easy ways to enhance the color and make gray hair soft and shiny. After all, if you choose to let your grays come through, you might as well give them the ‘wow’ factor. Here’s how.
Why Gray Hair Needs Special Maintenance
Unless you turn gray prematurely, the process of graying is both natural and inevitable. In fact, gray hair is also a transitional state for our hair before it turns completely white. It is a mixture of pigmented hair and white hair with no pigment in the strands that gives the overall appearance of gray.
While more and more women are embracing their graying hair, gentle care is needed to keep the white strands bright and free from yellow hues. Also, while the extreme coarse texture of gray hair is just a myth, gray hair can really feel coarser due to the reduction of oil gland production. This is a natural occurrence as we age, which is why products that compensate for this can really help make gray hair look good.
8 Tried and Tested Gray Hair Tips
We live in a world where there are solutions to most of our challenges and gray hair is no exception. If you are still not sure what to do with gray hair, following these tips will make you notice the difference sooner than you might expect:
1. Double Cleanse with Shampoo
Choose shampoos for dryer hair types. Make sure you shampoo your hair twice and concentrate on the roots, not the ends, of your hair. The first cleanse will ensure your scalp is completely clean and the second will remove any build-up left on the hair. As you rinse, the suds will gently cleanse the rest of your hair.
I started double cleansing last year with fantastic results. I like to make sure my products are clear or white as I don’t like to risk discoloration. This moisture-balancing shampoo by Philip Kingsley will be a great help to your hair.
2. Use a Conditioner for Your Hair Type, not Your Hair Color
Use a conditioner that is for your hair type and texture. If you have fine hair then don’t go too heavy on the conditioner, whereas if your hair is thick and naturally more coarse, then go for products that are heavier.
The only difference between what I did before I went gray compared to now my hair is gray is that I now moisturize twice and leave the second conditioner on for 5 minutes before rinsing.
I apply conditioner to the mid to ends of my hair and use a wide-tooth comb to remove any knots. I then rinse and apply a second application of conditioner and leave for 5 minutes before rinsing.
As per shampoo, I like to keep my products white to avoid discoloration. Again, it’s hard to beat Philip Kinglsey’s Moisture Balancing Combination Conditioner for finer hair. If your hair is thick and coarse or very dry, then go for Philip Kingsley Moisture Extreme Enriching Conditioner, which will help keep dryer hair types soft and shiny and help to replenish your hair’s moisture levels.
3. Apply Leave-In Conditioner to the Ends
Applying a leave-in conditioner to your ends will make a difference to your gray hair’s moisture levels and give it more shine. I was worried that leaving ‘leave in’ conditioner in my hair would make me feel like I have a product build-up; however, all I felt was just a softer and silkier gray hair.
Once I tried it, I kept on creating a silky soft finish to my hair after it dries. There are some fantastic products out there, but the Kerastase Citaplasm is the best in my opinion, due to its soft purple color that counteracts any yellowing. It also doubles as a heat protector. This is the hardest working gray hair product I own and is a must for those with gray hair.
4. Never Forget to Heat Protect
If you heat style your hair, heat can dry out your hair, making it dull and coarse. Besides a leave-in conditioner, you need to use a heat protector to minimize the damage.
There are many on the market, but Wella Thermal Protect is brilliant. Again, because it has a slight purple color, which is perfect for gray hair types and the spray bottle makes it easy to distribute through the layers of your hair.
5. Approach Heat Styling with Caution
To keep your salt and pepper hair shiny and moisturized, keep heat to a minimum. Try and use heat on a medium setting to avoid burning, which will result in discoloration and split ends or worse.
I occasionally use straightening irons on a lower heat level, but never more often than once a week. I also leave my hair with a natural wave from time to time to give it a break from styling.
The other way I style my white hair is by letting it dry naturally and then using curling tongs, again on a medium setting. Thankfully, my favorite brand of hot styling tools, Cloud Nine, allows this. This gives me lovely bouncy waves until the next shampoo.
I often have to stretch out my hair between wash days with braids and other hairstyles. Here are the hairstyles for transitioning to gray hair or for when your silver hair is completely grown out.
6. Prevent Yellow Staining on Gray Hair
If you have more white strands than dark, then you are very likely to experience yellowing and discoloration. It’s inevitable, particularly if you live in a hard water area, swim in chlorinated water, or work in a polluted environment.
If you fall into any of these categories, then using a purple shampoo every other wash can counteract any yellowing and/or loss of color and help you keep gray hair white. The L’Oreal Colour Correct Anti- Brassiness Shampoo is one of the best I have tried, and it’s cheap.
There are also some great gentle toning shampoos or gray hair rinses on the market that can help. One of my favorites is Bold Uniq’s Toning Shampoo. Whatever brand you choose, stay away from any blue toners, as the mix can cause hair strands to go green.
If you’re not sure, go for products that are targeted for gray hair. Sometimes, you can be left with a purple tinge, which never lasts more than a few washes. If this happens, reduce the amount of time you leave the product in your hair the next time. Everyone’s hair has different levels of porosity, so start off leaving it in for the minimum time and working up if necessary.
7. Use a Nurturing Mask
Irrespective of whether your hair is salt and pepper, white hair, or gray, make sure that you do a hair mask after using blue shampoos. Unfortunately, they have a tendency to dry out your locks, so follow up with a mask if possible to enhance the condition of your hair.
Again, use a mask that is suitable for your hair type, not color. My all-time favorite is Kerastase Masquintense. They have one for fine hair and one for thick hair.
8. Set the Scene
Now you have the information you need to take care of your gray hair. However, you will be surprised to see how smart make-up and clothes can really make your hair color pop.
It is all too easy to get stuck in a rut as we get older, especially when it comes to what we wear, our make-up, and color. Deciding to embrace your natural hair color can be the perfect opportunity to try new ways to style up your look. There are plenty of inspirational influencers and blogs and my own Instagram page, @silver_styling, is full of hair, make-up, and styling tips to get you started. Here is a makeup tutorial to help get you inspired with your makeup.
I know many women who have gone through a complete transformation as a result of a choice to ditch the dye and embrace their graying hair. After all, it’s just another hair color.
Mind that hair is part of our bodies, so we can’t get away with mentioning the need for good hygiene, a healthy and well-balanced diet, and plenty of water – up to 2 liters every day. This will help keep your new hair growth in tip-top condition. If you also implement the above tips, you will have gray locks that will get noticed and will have you proud of your silver strands.