While gray hair can be beautiful, it can be difficult to style and manage. Finding a truly flattering cut can also be a challenge. Before giving up and reaching for a coloring kit, however, take some time to understand your hair and how it is changing. With a little care, inspiration and imagination, you can have hair you love that brings out the best in your appearance.
A strand of hair turns gray from the inside as hydrogen peroxide produced by the body builds up in the hair follicle with age. This process, known as oxidative stress, has only recently been linked to the graying of hair. Hydrogen peroxide in the hair follicle halts the production of melanin, the pigment that colors the hair, so new hairs grow out white. As this occurs more over time, hair color takes on a gray, and eventually white, appearance.
Individual gray hairs are thick and tend to have a wiry, coarse, even frizzy texture that is difficult to control and style. Adapting to this new texture can mean a using new hair care regimen.
Gray hair should be cared for as dry hair. Use a moisturizing shampoo and a regular deep conditioning treatment. If this is not enough to improve the texture, try a leave-in conditioner or a special glazing treatment from a salon. If your hair tends to develop a yellowish cast, occasionally use a color-enhancing shampoo made especially for gray hair.
Depending on your original hair color and how you have worn your hair in the past, you may need a new style to accommodate the coarser texture and lighter color of your gray hair. Go for a contemporary look and clean, soft lines, and avoid razor cuts, which can cause the ends to fray. Stay away from blunt bangs and straight hair hanging down on the sides of the face.
You may find hairstyles you have worn in the past no longer flatter you as your hair has changed. Don’t be shy about trying a different style — you now may be able to carry off a look you never thought possible in the past.
Many classic cuts will still work with gray hair, but may need a little twist. Because it lacks color, gray hair can create the perfect frame for the face, but it takes extra care to get the look right. Volume and layers are a must — gray can look flat, lifeless and even harsh if worn straight and flat.
If you want a new style and need a little inspiration, you don’t have to look far for examples of women who have made gray a part of their signature look. Helen Mirren’s striking chin-length bob is perfect for her fine, straight hair with soft layers and volume at the crown. Judi Dench sports an ultra-short pixie, perfect for thick, straight hair with a tendency to be coarse in texture. But gray doesn’t automatically mean short. Diane Keaton turns heads with a shining gray shoulder-length shattered blunt cut, which can work with either straight or wavy hair. And don’t despair if you want to keep your lovely long hair — think Emmylou Harris with her glorious past-the-shoulder waves.