Beauty Editor’s tips on transitioning to natural gray hair31.05.2022
Do you ever wish to get the advice of a beauty editor or a stylist? You can also get product recommendations from someone who’s tried everything. This is the place for you. Hana Hong answers all your questions about skincare, hair care and makeup. All questions were submitted by readers.
Reader questions: Which step-by-step method is best to go grey?
A silver-laden look is becoming more popular as more women decide to go gray. Gray hair is not something you can do overnight. It begins with one or two pigment-deprived hairs, or worse, the dreaded demarcation line (i.e. only gray roots in certain areas of your head). This makes it difficult to embrace the natural process.
Let’s first dispel a common misconception about gray hair. Gray hair doesn’t “turn”; once a hair follicle produces it, the color is set. This means that hair strands will never change in color, unless you color them. However, gray hair can be grown because our hair follicles naturally produce less pigment as they age. This is something you should not do, however.
Also, gray hair growth is not an easy process. You can dye your rest of hair gray. However, this comes with its own problems. Lorraine Massey, creator and owner of Curly Girl Method, CurlyWorld founder, CurlyWorld author, Curly Girl: The Handbook, and Silver Hair: The Handbook, says that silver hair will show up sooner than you thought. This means that you need to color more often. It can become a time-consuming and unsustainable expense, which is not sustainable if your hair is healthy. Healthy hair is often more damaging than the color.
There is an alternative, and that is to go gray naturally. Here are some tips and tricks to help you transition to gray hair.
Use hair concealers
You may notice a demarcation line when your hair starts to turn gray. Massey says that it is usually this first line of demarcation which bothers people. Massey calls it “escape roots”. It will look like the phases of a moon when you start to see the gray light. The new moon’s first phase looks like a landing pad. Camouflage is the ultimate goal of this initial growth phase.
Hair concealers such as Hair Toppik Hair Building Fibres (from $8. Toppik.com) can be blended with your existing hair strands to give the appearance of even hair color. It can also help with hair thinning. There’s also a DIY option. “I recommend finding an eyeshadow that matches your skin tone and mixing it up with your favorite nonsilicone gel hair gel.” Massey says you can use it to temporarily cover a demarcation mark when your hair is damp. You can also wear wraps, hats, and head scarves to disguise the demarcation line temporarily.
Do not succumb to the urge of dyeing. Instead, opt for strategic lowlights
Next is the waxing crescent phase, where gray is visible but not more than half of your hair. It’s tempting to bleach it all off at this stage, but don’t! Massey says that permanent color can cause hair to fall out and create a vicious cycle of color. “This was my greatest regret, and that of many women, when I was growing the silver. In-between color was a mistake that many regretted. It only prolonged the inevitable and made the hair and the color look worse.”
You can opt for semi-permanent lowlights instead. They are less damaging and deposit color, lasting approximately 30 washes. The darker base of lowlights is less maintenance and will blend well with your natural grey, allowing for a smoother transition. For some inspiration on transitional hairstyles, you might try the salt-and-pepper look. This is a mixture of gray and black shades that makes your hair naturally shiny and has traces of white.
For frequent trimmings, go to the salon
Next, let your hair grow. Massey says that once your hair is long enough, you can trim off any remaining color using a pixie cut. Then you can transition to gray the same way. Remember that your desired length (e.g., bob vs. ponytail) will affect how fast you can transition to grey. Ask your stylist for a suitable cutting schedule to ensure you are not overwhelmed by the timeframe. If you want to speed up the process, it is important to maintain smaller, regular trims, especially if your hair has been damaged or dyed previously.
Get rid of unwanted tones
After you have successfully completed the highlighting/cutting process, you will want to keep your gray hair. You may notice that your hair can become brassy and oxidized from sun exposure, just like platinum or any other cooler shade. Massey suggests that you avoid products containing silicones and sulfates. “Sulfates can dry the hair cuticles, and silicone sticks to hair, making silver hair look more yellow.”
You can counteract brass by using balancing products or toners once a week. CurlyWorld with or without Hue is my favorite product. Massey says that it can be helpful during the transition phase, when you have two different colors on your hair–the new silver and old dyed. “It will soften clashing tones.”