If you’re thinking about the best way to go about a gray hair transition, you’re not alone, my friend. We would have to look far and wide to find someone over the age of 50 (and in most cases, much younger) who did not have one gray hair on their head.
Why does this happen? Well, it is a natural part of the aging process. As we get older a number of changes occur in our body, including our skin and hair.
The gray hair appears when cells stop producing pigment, and is one of several noticeable changes to our hair:
- our hair can become more brittle, losing some elasticity
- it can become drier, as our oil glands shrink over time
- hair thins as we age, and sometimes the smaller hair follicles produce fine, tiny hairs that can’t even be seen
There are other factors that affect our hair turning gray, such as vitamin deficiencies, genetics, certain types of stress, chemical hair dyes, and more.
So we have some factors affecting the color of our hair, for sure. Bottom line? Deciding when, and how, and if, to go gray gracefully, is a decision that each us makes on a personal basis. There is no right or wrong answer.
My mom is 93 years old as I write this post, and she still prefers to color her hair and hide the gray. She’s awesome! And yes, the hair, makeup, nails, and jewelry are always in place.
I took a route to go gray that includes much of what you’ll learn here about a smooth gray hair transition, with the exception that I had my existing hair color professionally removed and went gray quickly. It worked very well for me and I will never go back to coloring my hair.
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Gray Hair Transition Tips
Like any significant decision, a smooth transition to natural gray hair takes some planning. Sure, you could just let it happen and hope for the best, but for most of us that just wouldn’t cut it.
Gray hair can change the way our skin looks. I went from warm, dark auburn hair to a mix of gray, white, and dark brown with just a hint of ginger, plus a streak of white around my face. That caused my skin tone to look different so I adjusted the makeup a little bit. My choice in clothing colors has also undergone a bit of a transformation, with more choices in cool colors than warm…purple, dusty pink, shades of gray.
See what I mean? So, here are some tips to help you plan your smooth gray hair transition.
1 | Work with a professional
Before you do anything, consult with your hair stylist. They are trained and skilled and can give you honest, accurate, and timely advice. With all due respect to your friends and relatives, stick with the advice of a professional on this project.
We all have unique hair, hair color, skin tones, and personalities. All of those unique qualities factor into what is best for transitioning to our natural gray hair.
Hopefully, your stylist will do what mine did: spend 20 to 30 minutes on a consultation to find out what I was thinking, what I wanted (at least, what I thought I wanted), and then provide her recommendation on the best plan to follow to achieve my goal.
2 | A cut and style to introduce the process
Give yourself the gift of a fresh hair cut and style as you begin your gray hair transition. It is going to be a process, a number of months for sure, so start off with something that will make you feel good, attractive, and stylish.
And no, you don’t have to cut all of your hair off to make the transition to gray go faster! You can if you want to and if it feels right to you. But that is not the answer for everyone.
You might consider having regular trims done instead of a more drastic change to your hairstyle. This will keep the overall look the same, but close the gap between your natural gray and existing hair color more quickly.
Your stylist may have some ideas for a hair cut based on how your natural gray roots appear, whether or not you’ve colored your hair in the past, and if you’re going to have some highlights or lowlights done to help in the transitioning process. More on that in the next tip.
3 | Highlights and lowlights to blend existing color with new growth
If it works in the budget, utilizing the expertise of your hairstylist to blend the new natural gray growth with your existing hair color can do wonders during the transition process.
You may have some highlighting or lowlighting done, toner and/or gloss applied, or a combination of applications.
Be prepared to spend a few hours in the salon and part with a fair chunk of change. My stylist gave me a rough estimate during my consultation that proved to be quite accurate when it came time to do the real thing.
She also had me wait about 6 weeks after the consultation to let more of my natural hair grow in. So, be prepared for your stylist to tell you that they want to see up to 2 inches of natural growth before they work on your hair.
The image above is my hair style and color after my stylist finished the entire process of removing the color, then adding the highlights/lowlights, then cutting and styling my hair.
If you can do it I highly recommend a similar process to blend in your new and existing hair color. It is worth the money.
Your stylist may recommend that you periodically have a toner or gloss applied to keep the brassiness out of your hair.
Sometimes, what we want to do and what our budget allows us to do are two different things. If you can’t swing the cost of highlights/lowlights, consider a temporary root touch-up while your hair grows out. Some products can last for up to 6 weeks.
You’re not applying permanent color to your roots, so still working toward the goal of a smooth gray hair transition. And, if you can keep your hair trimmed regularly , you’ll get to the point where the natural hair will become predominant and you’ll no longer need the temporary root touch ups.
Here are some suggested temporary root touch-ups:
4 | Use the right hair products
It is always important to care for your hair, but even more so when transitioning it to its natural color.
I was hit-or-miss with conditioner until I made the decision to go natural and gray. Now, I always, always use a conditioner when I wash my hair.
The interesting thing about gray hair is that the strands are usually thicker and coarser than hair with pigment, and can feel a bit more voluminous. That coarseness (and the little stray short hairs that want to stick straight up from your head) needs to be conditioned and cared for.
There are a number of shampoo and conditioners that are made specifically for gray hair. Your stylist may recommend that you use a purple shampoo periodically to help tame the brassiness and yellow tones.
I’ve gathered a few suggestions here. My choice is the L’Oreal product shown below. I use it every other or every third wash, and it keeps my hair looking good.
Be wary of chlorinated water, too, as it can make your hair dull and give it a green tinge. Saltwater can make it look brassy. If possible, put some conditioner on your damp hair before swimming, use a pretty swim cap, or keep your lovely locks out of the water. 🏊♀️
5 | Be patient…be patient…be patient
If you’re going to let your natural hair grow in, it’s a process that will take time. Months. Maybe a year or more.
Do your very best to NOT go back to an all-over hair color. That is going back to square one.
Work with your stylist to come up with a plan that will help the gray hair transition go as smoothly as possible, with an attractive interim look.
It’s the next phase of your life so embrace it, enjoy it, and show your natural, beautiful self to the world!