What Type of Shampoo Is Best for Gray Hair?

Ultra-hydrating and purple shampoos work to remedy dry, brittle hair and brassiness brought on by a lack of melanin.

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Going gray is a natural part of life and if you've chosen to let your salt-and-pepper strands flourish, it's important to know how to protect them. "There is an old tale that gray hair is thicker and wiry, but actually gray hair is thinner because it's lacking some of the girth that melanin provides," says celebrity hairstylist Aviva Perea. Going gray happens for a variety of reasons including genetics, exposure to pollution, and stress, in addition to the very healthy growing-older process. Those factors will cause the follicle to stop creating melanin—the protein responsible for producing color—and the hair grows out sans pigment, Perea explains. The universal process of graying hair can cause strands to feel brittle and dry, but maintaining a proper hair care routine will help keep bad hair days to a minimum. Moisturizing and clarifying shampoos, plus ones that neutralize brassiness, will keep your silver look healthy, shiny, and bright. To help you develop a beauty routine for your strands, we tapped two expert stylists, who share their thoughts on the best shampoos for graying hair.

senior woman washing hair
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Use a moisturizing shampoo.

When hair loses its pigment, it absorbs less moisture, which makes it more brittle, wiry, dry, and consequently, more prone to breakage. "Keeping hair moisturized is key to managing the brittleness that usually comes with the graying process," explains Danielle Taylor, a master stylist at Stylebox Salon. She says that moisturizing shampoos are essential for those going gray, as they increase the pH level of the hair's environment, so that it's less acidic. When conditions are acidic, the cuticle layer surrounding the hair shaft is more likely to remain lifted, which means it holds onto less moisture and becomes brittle. "Since graying hair is already likely to be dry and brittle, a moisturizing shampoo provides an extra buffer," she says. Taylor recommends Klorane's Anti-Yellowing Shampoo with Centaury ($20, amazon.com) or Shea Moisture's Purple Rice Water Strength and Color Care Shampoo ($16.19 walmart.com), which both have extra hydrating compounds.

Purple shampoo helps with brassiness.

According to Perea, "any light-colored hair, including platinum, all blondes, and gray, can benefit from a purple shampoo." This is because brassiness occurs from environmental pollution, product build-up, and hot irons. "Purple shampoo can help neutralize that yellow, keeping gray hair looking shiny, bright, and healthy," she explains. Shu Uemura's Yūbi Blonde Anti Brass Shampoo ($49, shuuemuraartofhair.com) removes unwanted brass tones and gently cleanses while conditioning, thanks to the addition of Japanese white peony. Another product Perea recommends? Pantene's Silver Expressions ($14.99, amazon.com), which reduces dullness by turning ​​gray into beautiful silver. She says to keep one of these options in your shower and alternate washes with a non-purple shampoo.

Avoid cleansers with sulfates.

When searching for a shampoo to protect gray strands, Taylor says to avoid options with sulfates. Although sulfates can remove build-up, excess oils, and product, they can also "strip the hair of its natural oils, like sebum, which is produced at the follicle layer and helps prevent moisture loss," she says. "Since gray hair already has a tougher time retaining moisture, sulfate-free shampoos are best to use."

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