If you’re anything like us, deciding to ditch hair dye and go gray is a huge decision. We all want to embrace the aging process, but there’s something bittersweet about saying goodbye to the color you’ve known for decades to welcome a new era of silver strands. And once you’ve made that monumental decision, you’re left with countless maintenance questions. How do I mix my gray hair with my colored hair? Should I adopt a new hair routine? And, more immediately, how do I transition to all-gray hair without having that tricky step between two different colors? To answer that last question, we spoke to hairstylists to get their expert tips on how to go gray easily. Read on to find out all your options for growing out your gray hair.
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If you want to grow out your gray hair, there are three ways to do it, depending on Gregory Patterson, celebrity hairstylist and color and styling expert for Sally Beauty. You can blend your grays using dye, go for a major haircut, or grow your grays out naturally and take the steps in between.
If you choose to just let your gray hair grow out, here’s what you can expect. “Hair typically grows half an inch per month, so you can do the math and figure out how long it will take to grow all your hair,” explains Jessica Walker, hairstylist and salon owner J Walker Salon Group. “You should always get a haircut every four to six weeks to trim the ends.” This will keep hair strong and healthy and minimize the difference between your roots and ends. Every time you go to take a picture, you get closer to being completely gray.
There are several ways to use dye to bleach your hair over time. One method suggested by Walker is to use an ash highlight to blend the difference between the gray roots and your color. “It can be very effective during the transition process,” she says. As your grays grow, you can add fewer and fewer highlights until you don’t need them at all.
Comfortable with rapid change? You can also dye your hair to match your incoming gray roots, says Allyson Carter, hairstylist and editor of Hair Spies. “If you don’t want to go all the way, you can just add lowlights or highlights to help blend in with the grays,” she adds. Whatever you choose, using color during this time will save you from having a hard line between your color and your gray roots.
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If you don’t want to deal with color or a tough growing season, you have one option: a haircut. “Cut out the adult color and start over with your new gray look,” says Patterson. Of course, you may not be able to eliminate all of your grays at once, but you can work with your stylist to come up with a plan to cut them over time in a way that suits your face shape.
Whether you decide to go gray by growing your hair out naturally, coloring it, or cutting it, you’ll want to use a toner throughout the process to ensure an immaculate shade. “Tone control color care will be invaluable in maintaining your unique shade of gray,” says Patterson. “Grey hair can turn green from water and mineral deposits in our shower, or turn yellow from styling and oxidation. Stay on top with shampoos, conditioners, or even shine drops that deposit pigments that you can add directly to your current conditioner of choice.” Your hairstylist will be able to recommend a product for your specific needs.
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Because gray hair tends to be more brittle than naturally pigmented hair, you’ll want to keep it as healthy as possible during the growth period. This will make it look great and might even speed up the middle stages.
For starters, every stylist we spoke to encouraged the use of heat protectants. “Heat protection is important — against the sun’s rays and any heat styling you might do,” says Patterson. “Without it, you risk your locks becoming dull and yellow.” You should use a spray and can also protect your hair from the sun by using accessories like hats and bandanas.
Finally, your gray hair will need more hydration than ever. A moisturizing shampoo and conditioner can do wonders in this area. You can also try a moisturizing hair mask for extra pep. As your gray hair grows, it will be hydrated, healthy, and ready to enter its next color stage.