Growing Out Gray Hair: 5 Things To Know From Colorists
Graying hair is a natural part of life. For some it starts early, with sprinkles of silver dusting the head. For others, later and in full force. And more and more, women are skipping the cover-ups and coloring appointments and embracing the gray hair. Letting the silver strands grow in in all their glory.
If you've never made a habit of dyeing your hair, this is a simple process really: Let the gray come in! The problem arises when you've been coloring your hair previously and now want to make the transition. See, if your grays have filled in enough, simply stopping coloring appointments means your hair grows out with a harsh line—your new growth of silver on one side, and your color on the other.
To avoid this harsh line, there are some things you can do. Here, we spoke to colorists about a few tips:
Create a long-term plan, ideally with a specialist.
Let's just say this up top: Transitioning to gray is going to be a process, and a long one. "To avoid jeopardizing the health of the hair, you need a long-term plan," says celebrity colorist Abby Haliti. "This may take a few salon visits, but it is so worth it when you have the results you desired in the end and didn't risk the health of your hair."
And if you can, try to find a colorist who has done work in transitioning to gray. Sure, you may have your go-to person, but if they've never done it before, you may consider a consultation with someone else. "To transition to gray hair, the details matter, so I would definitely recommend seeking out a trained professional to help you through the process," she says. "A color expert who cares about the health of the hair will be sure to inform the client that growing out your natural hair color is not a quick process." To find one, simply call around to salons and ask if they have a colorist who has done it before—it may take some time, but getting the right person can make all the difference.
If you're one to opt for single-process color, it's time to try highlights. Why? This creates dimension in the hair and starts the lightening process. Gray hair and chocolate brown hair is a much starker difference than gray and honey highlights.
"During a transformation, my expert advice is to eliminate the harsh demarcation line caused by artificial color," says Haliti. "Balayage is a more gentle highlighting technique, so it's much simpler to slowly embrace the natural gray hair that begins to come along. Yes, this will partially come along during the transformation."
Tend to the highlights with color-safe products.
If you've never done highlights before, you'll need to change your color-safe product routine. Artificially dyed lighter strands require a more thorough upkeep as they tend to oxidize quicker (read: turn orange, brassy, or yellow). So while you're in your transitory phase, you'll want to make sure you're using purple shampoos or conditioners to keep this at bay.
Try a glaze to help blur the grow-out line.
"A glaze is basically a semipermanent color that coats the hair shaft with shine and lasts up to a few washes," says celebrity colorist and Redken brand ambassador Matt Rez. As the pigment sits atop the shaft and can be made with light-reflective nutrients, they are often used as a way to add luster to otherwise dull hair—or in this case, as a way to help blur any harsh line between your new growth and previous dye. But because it only sits atop the strand, it washes out with a few shampoos—making this a good option if you want a temporary pick-me-up prior to an event or some such.
Get a haircut.
This is simple logistics, really. If you have long hair, it will take longer for the grow-out to reach the ends, thereby prolonging the process. No, you don't have to chop your hair into a pixie to get rid of all the hair dye (unless you want to; then, by all means), but it'd be smart to take off some length.
Not to mention, with new hair color (aka your grays) usually comes a need for a new style. New color elements create new dimensions, movements, and textures; therefore, your new cut should reflect this. It doesn't have to be a dramatic change, but your stylist might feel the need to change up layers, add a few face-framing elements, or the like.
Switching over to gray is a lovely decision if you decide to go that route. The transition over to gray? Well, that just might take some time. But with patience and a little help from experts, you'll be able to seamlessly grow out your silver strands.
Alexandra Engler is the beauty director at mindbodygreen and host of the beauty podcast Clean Beauty School. Previously, she's held beauty roles at Harper's Bazaar, Marie Claire, SELF, and Cosmopolitan; her byline has appeared in Esquire, Sports Illustrated, and Allure.com. In her current role, she covers all the latest trends in the clean and natural beauty space, as well as lifestyle topics, such as travel. She received her journalism degree from Marquette University, graduating first in the department. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.