Hair turns white because of the loss of the pigment melanin. “Gray hair” is actually a mixture of colored and white hair. White hair on women, whether premature or the result of passing years, can be stunningly attractive, flattering and memorable. While some women rush to use hair dye at the first sign of graying hair, others embrace their new look, finding that it can make a dramatic statement. To make the most of nature’s own hair-color choice, however, it is necessary to rethink your overall palette of makeup colors.

Try a Consultation

Many department stores offer makeup consultants who can evaluate your look and make suggestions for changes, if warranted. When going for such a consultation, wear your customary makeup, including foundation, eye makeup, lipstick and blush. Be aware, of course, that a professional consultant will encourage you to purchase the products he or she is selling.

Do It Yourself

If a professional consultation is not of interest to you, experiment on your own. Try a lighter shade of foundation for starters, with either a warmer, “pinker,” tone or a cooler, more “bluish” shade. Stay away from the yellowish tones that might have been flattering when your hair was darker. “Soft” is the look you are going for now.

Lighten Up

Go easy on the eye makeup. You may want to discard eyeliner altogether and substitute a soft gray powder eye shadow to line the upper lids. Apply the eye shadow in a narrow line along the lid near the eyelashes; then smudge the shadow lightly with a clean applicator. Ditch any eye shadow in blue or other colors. Try brown or dark blue mascara instead of black, which may appear too harsh. Apply several coats if your eyelashes are thin, but avoid false eyelashes.

Your lipstick also should be toned down. Bright lips can be appropriate with certain wardrobe colors or for festive occasions, but in general, keep your lips to a soft pinkish, beige or light plum tone. If you use a lip liner, be sure it is in the same tone as your lipstick.

Lighten up on blusher, or eliminate it altogether. Blusher that is too dark or bright will contrast too noticeably with your white hair and can also accentuate lines and wrinkles. Try for an overall porcelain look.

Help White Hair Stay White

White hair too often turns yellowish because of swimming pool chlorination, shampooing in hard water, air pollution and cigarette smoke, overuse of heated styling tools and too much exposure to the sun. As much as possible, avoid those factors and keep your hair clean. Use a clarifying shampoo or a special shampoo containing blue or lavender pigment. The latter should be used sparingly to avoid the “blue-haired lady” cliché.