Expert-Approved Tips for Achieving Soft, Natural Gray Hair by Dyeing It
The gray hair that comes with age is a sign of a life well-lived—and some women embrace it with open arms. And while many prefer to let time take its course, peppering pigmented strands with silver as the years pass, others want to reach the final result stat. Doing so, however, requires a significant color service and dedicated maintenance routine, say our experts. But if you're excited about achieving a soft, natural gray via dye, know that it absolutely can be done. Ahead, two hair professionals explain how to walk out of the salon with a healthy head of silver hair.
You need some natural growth to get started.
This way, your colorist—who should be a "highly qualified professional who has done this type of coloring in the past," notes Matrix brand ambassador Kara Williams—will have a sense of the natural "variation in the normal growth pattern," notes Matrix's artist director Nick Stenson, adding that this will require a bit of patience. "Enduring about six to eight weeks of growth will allow your expert to detail your new color by matching your natural dimension, which means everything will grow out easier."
The color service can be intense—and time consuming.
"The transitional process of going gray is not for the faint of heart or partially committed," continues Stenson. "Depending on the length, depth, and health of your hair, it's possible that this transformation could take several appointments." During these sessions, your hair will be stripped of any artificial color to a "light blonde, with no warmth or brassiness remaining," says Williams, who recommends this service only to those with strong, resilient hair; next come "extensive toning sessions, reparative treatments, and usually a cut to remove any overly-damaged ends," Stenson adds.
Dyeing hair gray isn't a single process.
Since going silver via the salon is technically a corrective service, explains Williams, it likely won't be a single-process job. "Depending on the desired look, this may involve highlights, lowlights, double processes, or multiple techniques to achieve," she adds.
Your silver strands will require a lot of maintenance.
Stenson only recommends "this in-depth service to those who are truly ready to take on the journey and invest in and commit to the at-home products and treatments needed to keep it looking great," he explains. Be prepared to schedule regular salon visits every four to six weeks to tone the gray—a necessary, nonnegotiable step, says Williams. "Using great maintenance products at home like Matrix Total Results So Silver Shampoo ($12.75, amazon.com) and Conditioner ($12.75, amazon.com) will help to keep your gray nice and bright between visits," she shares.
Be prepared to cut your hair short.
"Choosing the shortest cut that you still feel great in before this service is very helpful in embracing this look," notes Stenson. "I love strong, short cuts or a great bob because they're just so stylish with a natural gray. Short hair will also help you avoid damage and is easier to care for." Williams agrees, and advises treating your new silver strands as a "fashion color:" "Embrace youthful haircuts and steer clear of older, classic styles. These might have been beautiful when your hair had color, but can age you quickly when your hair is gray. Don't be afraid to push the envelope and try something new."
The dye route is not for everyone.
And it's also not your only option if you want to embrace the full-gray look. "While choosing the immediate process is best for some, another option is to switch to less aggressive colors with no ammonia and allow for a slow, soft transition as your hair grows out," says Stenson. "If guests want to make a drastic statement, I say go for it. However, if you want to take on the transition gracefully and draw less attention to the change, the slow, transitional approach is the best method."