You’ve spotted your first gray hairs—now what? Experts explain how to seamlessly transition.
Few things are as startling as spotting your first grays. But while we associate silver strands with older age, on average, women gray from age 25 onward, and top stylists say they’re seeing more women in their 20s and 30s coming in to the salon with gray hair these days.
“I think women are more stressed out than ever, and that’s likely accounting for the younger and younger clients I see with gray hair,” says Lisa Stephenson, creative director for Sassoon Salon NYC Uptown.
In short: More of us than ever are dealing with those first grays at all stages of our lives.
Yet when you have just a few strands of gray, a full head of color correction is too much of a time (and money!) commitment. Fortunately, leading stylists have all kinds of tricks up their sleeves to make emerging grays look stylish and chic. Here are their top tips.
Do NOT Pluck!
Apparently, this is as close to a cardinal sin as one can get. Sure, when it’s just a stray strand or two, grabbing the tweezers can feel super tempting—but experts say you may live to regret the shortcut. “Plucking can damage the hair follicle and the strand may never grow back—and as you age and your hair naturally thins, you’ll need every strand of hair you can get,” warns New York City salon owner and stylist Mark Garrison. “Gray hair is perfectly good hair—it just needs pigment. Never under any circumstances pluck perfectly good hair from your head!” adds Adam Livermore, celebrity colorist and Oribe Hair Care educator. OK, OK, we promise not to pluck!
Play With Your Part Line
For many women, grays often grow in more heavily on one side of the head than the other. “If grays are more prominent on one side, try switching your part to the other side,” says Mike Petrizzi, AgeBeautiful artistic director. A zigzag or diagonal part may also help conceal grays that are growing in more scattered around the head.
Try styling with barrettes and pretty hair jewelry clips (we love the selection on Etsy) to neatly pin gray strands beneath colored locks in a very intentional-looking way, suggests Petrizzi. A simple half-up style clipped at the back of the head without a part can adeptly disguise stray grays growing at the crown that can otherwise stand out like a spotlight.
Get the Right Cut
For clients whose first grays are around the face or on the sides of their head, Stephenson designs hair to disguise the grays. “I cut layers shorter in the back and longer in the front so that hair falls forward,” she explains. A blowout with a brush that accentuates the forward-falling motion can help cement the clever style.
Go For Gloss
“For clients who are beginning to gray and don’t want a huge change, I use gloss to camouflage the grays and make them look like natural highlights,” says Livermore. Gloss (sometimes also referred to as glaze) adds a sheer touch of semipermanent color to strands that washes out in a couple to a few weeks, and also comes with the benefit of adding beautiful glass-like shine to strands.
Turn Grays Into Highlights
If grays are numbering more than just a few, you can paint highlights directly in small sections to turn those wiry strands into a face-brightening effect. “Stick to a highlight shade that’s close to your base color, and it’ll look very natural,” advises Garrison.
Try A Root Concealer
The popular root cover up category that has exploded in recent seasons is chock full of products that work brilliantly on gray strands, too. Livermore is a fan of Roux Tween Time Temporary Hair Color Touch-Up Sticks and Jerome Russell Temporary Color Sprays. Petrizzi says that hair powder and root mascara are excellent temporary solutions for random gray strands that may pop up here and there.
Sweep On A Single-Process
When those few gray strands turn into more than you can handle with tricks, or you’re spending too much time obsessing over concealing them, going with a simple single-process color is an easier route than many women imagine. “Cost and maintenance with single process color are low, and the opaque color erases them completely,” says Livermore. And if it’s literally just a few strands that are gray, there’s no reason you can’t just color those pesky few. “You don’t always have to do your whole head,” says Garrison.
Embrace The Grays!
Attention aging gracefully advocates: Stephenson says that sharp haircuts with confident angles can make gray strands look incredibly chic. “I have a client whose gray grew in a streak on one side of her head, and I made that side longer and the other side shorter so that the gray streak was actually a focal point—and she loved it!” shares Stephenson, who adds that the client even felt her special streak imbued her with a feistier attitude.