How to Be a Silver Fox

Still gorgeous, right? (Photo by Getty Images)You may need to sit down for this one: Gray hair can creep up on a woman no matter if she’s young or old (Case in point: On Thursday, 37-year-old Angelina Jolie made an appearance in London with gray streaks in her tresses). It’s mostly due to biology; hair follicles contain a pigment called melanin and when your body stops producing it, hair turns gray, silver, or white. How early that happens depends on your  genetics (thanks, mom and dad!). “I have gray-haired clients in their early 20s and their 60s,” says Karen Conlon, a colorist at the Ted Gibson Salon. “There’s no reason why a woman can’t look beautiful with gray hair as long as she knows how to wear it.” Here’s how to rock the gray no matter when they show up.

Be confident: “Just like a great outfit, if you wear gray hair with confidence, it’s going to look amazing,” says Rodney Cutler, Redken Brand Ambassador and owner of Cutler/Redken salons. “And if you’re in your 20s or 30s, when gray hair is more unexpected, you can have fun with it; let your roots show, it's no big deal. The ombre movement made it OK to show color in an imperfect way." 

Make it your signature look: When Stacy London, co-host of TLC’s “What Not To Wear” underwent psoriasis treatments at age 11, the process accidentally left her with a permanent gray steak. But instead of covering it up, she embraced it, insisting that no one could dye her hair even during her three years as a spokesperson for Pantene. “It’s her unique trademark; everyone is familiar with her streak and no one is allowed to touch it,” says Conlon who has worked with London. “It works for her because it’s her brand image.” 

Try a bob: While there's no hairstyle that gray hair won’t agree with, a jaw-length bob is a safe, no-fail look, according to Edgar Parra, a stylist at Sally Hershberger. “Women often go gray at the temples or the nape of the neck and a sleek, flat bob will hide both areas,” he says. “However, if you want to flaunt your gray, curling the bob will make it more noticeable because you’ll have these beautiful silver threads woven into the curls.” Ditto for braiding your hair or experimenting with updos and twists.

Use a violet shampoo: Gray hair can turn brassy if the water in your shower is hard, says Parra. If you have hard water (to find out, ask your local city hall), you could install a water softener or buy a violet-toned shampoo. “Using it every week or so will turn a dusty gray hue into a bright silvery-white,” he promises. (His pick: Clairol Professional Shimmer Lights.) For regular maintenance, Cutler suggests washing every other day with gentle low-detergent shampoos. “You don’t want squeaky clean gray hair; it’s better to let it produce natural oils because they help prevent witch-like, fly-away strays.”

Don’t pluck: It may be tempting to reach for the tweezers when you see an errant gray but back away from that medicine cabinet. “Plucking isn’t the answer because not only will the hair grow back more quickly, when it returns, it may be from a different follicle and you develop thinning patches, especially if you pluck often,” says Parra.

Add some color: Since gray hair can make your complexion look washed out, getting a light spray tan, dusting blush on the apples of your cheeks, or swiping on red lipstick can revive your face, says Conlon. "It brightens up the whole area and gives off a youthful glow."

Keep hair conditioned: “The challenge with gray hair is that it tends to be wirey and dull so it has to be well conditioned,” says Cutler. Using oil (try Redken Diamond Oil) will add shine.

Take care of your skin: Having a clear complexion can take years off a person with gray hair, says Conlon. So always wear sunscreen to avoid wrinkles. 

Get a gloss: If your hair is turning but hasn’t quite committed to being fully gray, the in-between stage can be awkward. To make the transition period less obvious, Conlon says asking your colorist to apply a gloss can get rid of any yellowish tinge. “Hair that’s almost gray can sometimes appear yellow before it’s fully turned, but gloss will produce a pretty shade of silver,” she says.

Don't be afraid to commit: If you can't find a solution that you feel comfortable with, Parra says, just go for it. "Dying your entire head a silver-gray can look really beautiful," he says.