Choosing grey is sexy and inspiring, no matter your age
The hair colour du jour is grey – preferably a silky silver. It was once startling among middle-aged celebrities; think Jamie Lee Curtis’s debut more than 10 years ago. Today, platinum hair is practically celebrated among those in pop culture, from trendsetters like Rihanna to the real deal, namely powerful stars, like Helen Mirren, John Slattery and Canadian model Maye Musk, who embrace the bold, eye-catching look. For those who choose to flaunt their natural hue, it’s a strong statement: Aging isn’t something to hide, but celebrate in all its sexiness.
Carlene Higgins, founding editor of Beholdr, a website on style for women over 35, points out how grey has become increasingly mainstream: Instagram posts of stunning grey-haired women by Princess Diana’s famous hairstylist, Sam McKnight; Sarah Harris, a Vogue UK editor with cool grey hair, who stars in a Redken campaign; and more relatable women documenting their journeys, such as Alex Fulton, an interior designer based in New Zealand, who shares her experiences on Instagram. “Inclusivity is definitely trending in marketing right now. However, the hope is that self-acceptance, such as going grey, represents a shift in attitudes rather than a fleeting fantasy,” says Higgins.
While feeling empowered to embrace your natural beauty may drive your decision to take the leap, here are a few key considerations to mull over before shedding your existing colour.
Change more than hair colour
“Going grey is a good thing to explore, but it’s about timing and colouring,” says Vancouver image strategist Patti Morrison. People who fall into a blue or cool skin tone camp (you tend to wear black, navy, white and jewel tones) will look gorgeous in grey hair, she says. But if you fall into a yellow or warm skin tone group (you tend to wear cream, brown, beiges, yellows and orange), you’re going to have to make some changes to your wardrobe and make-up to make grey hair work for you, according to Morrison. “I’ll work with those clients to add more black as a base into their wardrobe and encourage them to visit a make-up store to play around making peachy make-up more pink.”
“Inclusivity is definitely trending in marketing right now. However, the hope is that self-acceptance, such as going grey, represents a shift in attitudes rather than a fleeting fantasy.”
‒Carlene Higgins, founding editor of Beholdr
Embracing the transition
For many, going grey is about ending the battle with dyeing their hair and reclaiming time, not to mention money.
“The vast majority of women who come into the salon wanting grey are sick and tired of colouring their hair all the time,” says Raphael Ness, master colourist and co-founder of Toronto’s Colour Lab. But if you’ve been dyeing your hair brown or black or red, colouring it grey to hide roots as it grows out isn’t the best strategy. “It’s not impossible,” he explains, “but by the time I bleach out the layers of red to get it to chicken yellow in order to tone it grey, your hair will break off in a brush. I break hearts every day in the salon with this news.”
“As someone who has had dark hair for most of my life, I would say going blonde first might be a good baby step toward going all the way grey,” says Higgins. “With blonde hair there’s less contrast, so it’s easier to blend, and it’s a way of mentally preparing yourself for a lighter look overall. Then you can tiptoe more and more into ashier shades, highlights and eventually, all grey, only if you like.”
“It’s easier for men to go grey because their hair tends to be shorter,” admits Ness, who does have a trick for managing the transition. Using a semi-permanent hair colour instead of permanent will help mask roots as they come in, while allowing you to let the natural grey show when you’re ready.
Pulling off the look
Are you ready? Attitudes are shifting, and going grey is part of a larger movement to lead a more authentic life. Why fight it when you can rock it?
All the experts agree that going grey necessitates the right cut. “A fabulous haircut is so important, as well as using product to style it,” says Morrison.
“The reality is that silver hair is quite neutral, so contrast works really well with that sort of face framing,” says Higgins. For women, wearing warm lip glosses will help on days you don’t feel like making a big statement, while on days when you do, go for a vibrant lipstick like coral or a rich burgundy. “Likewise with clothing, rich pastels and solid colours such as navy or even army green are going to flatter your look best. But if you are more into black-and-white basics, try graphic prints, such as stripes, when you want to liven up your look.”
Most importantly, she says, “Anyone can go grey at any age these days; it’s really about owning it. And remember, if you wear your new look for awhile and just don’t feel like yourself, you can always dye it back. It’s just hair, and it’s your choice.”
Care for grey hair
As your hair turns grey, you’ll notice a different texture, tending more toward thick and wiry. That’s partly because the scalp produces less oil as we age. However, there’s plenty you can do to make your hair look and feel its best. There’s an entire category of products designed to enhance and hydrate grey and white hair.
- Use a hydrating shampoo and conditioner designed for dry hair.
- Look for something that fights frizz.
- Grey can take on a yellowish cast, so keep it vibrant with a silver-specific shampoo.
- Consider a leave-in conditioner to smooth wayward strands.
- Avoid styling products containing alcohol, as it tends to dry.
- Apply a deep conditioner at least once a week.
Going grey is largely linked to genetics. As for blaming stress, sorry – there is no scientific proof. Occasionally, premature greying can be triggered by an underlying medical condition, such as a thyroid issue, anemia, vitamin B12 deficiency or vitiligo, which causes skin and hair to lose pigment cells. But chances are, if you’re 55 and you have grey hair, you’ve earned it.
Grey hair is a combination of normally pigmented hair alongside white hair. Individual strands turn white when follicles stop producing melanin, the pigmentation cells responsible for hair colour.
Originally published in Issue 01 of YouAreUNLTD Magazine.