To gray or not to gray? It’s a question that many of us have wrestled with, especially in recent months with salon services either limited or unavailable.
My friend Brian is a colorist/stylist, and has been my “hair guru” for something like 17 years. (!!!) He’s also a skilled makeup artist who has worked with celebrities for awards show red carpets and other appearances. He kindly agreed to share his expertise and answer some of the most-asked questions about going “au naturel” with our hair color.
(Just FTR, I’m not there yet. When I have more silver in my hair than faded cardboard brown, I’ll consider it. 😉 But in the meantime I love my current color!)
Frequently asked questions
1. If someone is thinking about going gray, what are some considerations they should take into account? Hair texture, styles & cuts, etc?
You’ve been thinking of letting your hair color go natural—go gray or some version of gray, salt and pepper, silver or white. Here are two myths about gray:
- Gray hair happens overnight. Not true. The follicle over time stops producing pigment. New hair grows in white. The follicle also stops producing sebum which adds moisture to the hair and scalp, giving the hair a more coarse and dry feeling.
- Gray hair is more wiry. Also not true. Hair texture stays the same after it loses its color. However, tweezing white hairs can damage the follicle and cause hair to change texture or even damage the follicle causing no growth.
Of Note: Hair doesn’t always go gray or white evenly across the head. Keep this in mind when thinking about letting the color go. We have expectations about what our hair will be like. While the ultimate result may differ from those expectations, we may still be pleased with the outcome.
Styles and cuts I believe can be the same whether you have colored, gray, silver or white hair.
In my experience, layered cuts are more airy and lifting which helps as gravity works to pull things down. I often see bobs or longer hair without layers, particularly no layers around the face which I see dragging down the face and features.
I say, “Brighter and lighter as time goes by.”
2. What are some of the options/processes to let natural color grow out?
Three ways to get to your natural color.
- Grow your hair out, just stop coloring. This is the easiest but not the most graceful approach. One way to do this, is grow about two inches or more without coloring and then cut, you’ll have a cute pixie! How fun!! Now you’re all natural with this short and sassy cut. This may sound scary and it may be, but if you’ve made it this far, you’re probably not spooked by much! LOL
- The next approach is to highlight the hair. This may be a very long appointment with your hair stylist depending on the darkness and length of your hair. Go to your colorist with two inches of new hair growth. The hair is lightened, low-lighted and tones added to match your natural hair color whether it’s salt and pepper, silver or white. This is is a great way to get back to your natural color. This process can be a gradual lightening and change or complete change to your natural color.
- Finally, if your natural new hair growth is more of a solid silver to white tone, I recommend removing all of the color with a color remover and then using a lightener to lighten further. Whether both the Color remover and lightener are used is dependent on the darkness of the colored hair. Two inches of regrowth, again is very helpful. This process may take a long time but it’s worth it. Remember not to be in a rush during this process of change, this may take 6-10 hours to complete.
3. Are there tricks to keeping gray hair looking bright? Do we need to change our haircare products?
Highlights around the face and crown will help grey hair look much brighter and vibrant. Your stylist will probably tone the hair after highlighting. Brassy tones or yellow tones can make your grey or silver hair look dingy. Your colorist may suggest you come in between services just for a toning to brighten or soften the color.
At home use a purple shampoo. Ask me to recommend great shampoos for home use.
4. What about makeup? Do we need to change our makeup colors or emphasis after going gray?
Your makeup may change as your hair color changes. Going gray, silver or white removes pigmentation from the hair. You now may see true and natural tones with the color removed. Your hair color potentially will be cooler. You may feel washed out.
These are my skincare & makeup recommendations:
Care for your skin with great love! Treatments, serums and moisture. Wear a foundation, tinted primer, tinted moisturizer or some kind of base on your skin, you’ll feel and look fresh. Bronzer, which I don’t use much of these days when teaching or applying makeup, is a great way to livening up your skin. If you’re feeling a bit washed out from either your light foundation or your bare skin, lightly apply bronzer. Applying the bronzer after your serums and moisturizer without foundation can be a great option. Use a bronzing and base cosmetic which is dewy or glow-y promoting softened skin texture, enhancing your beauty. Changing your hair color, especially going gray or white is a big change so go gentle on yourself by pampering your skin.
Brows are very important for framing everything. Remember, brows have also lost pigment, so add in color to frame and highlight your eyes. Lips and cheeks need color for livening things up, have fun! I’m always a big fan of both pink and peach tones for both lips and cheeks. If your gray is cool, you may want to choose a more bluish pink tone. If you have a bit of warmth in your hair color you may like peachy tones best. Keep your cheeks and lips fresh, creamy and dewy. Find what works for you. Today we wear masks. In addition to framing eyes and face with your brows, I highly recommend playing up your eyes. Tight-line creamy brown or black eyeliner into your lash line and blend soft neutral matte/satin eye shadows from lashes up to and through the crease. Natural tones can be fairly universal, use of cool or warm tones or use of color may change with your new hair color. Ask me to make specific recommendations for you. Remember mascara after curling your lashes to keep eyes looking open and bright.
I offer virtual makeup, skincare, hair color and beauty consultations.
Brian Haugen is a professional hair stylist/colorist and celebrity, commercial and high-fashion makeup artist whose passion for teaching led to creating Makeover Workshop and Brian+MW Cosmetics. Makeover Workshop offers how-to makeup and skin care technique classes for groups and individuals. Classes are held all around the world virtually and in-person, these fun and very technique driven classes help all people of all ages learn how to select and apply makeup and skincare to make the most of their own personal beauty.
If you have any questions for Brian, please post in comments below.