How Do I Care for Naturally Gray Hair?

Nicole Etolen

The best way to care for your naturally gray hair depends on several factors. Most of these factors apply to caring for hair of any color, including whether it is coarse or fine, or dry or oily. It also depends on whether you choose to dye your hair or let it stay gray. Caring for naturally gray hair also depends on age, as older people tend to have slower new hair growth, leading to shorter diameter of hair on the scalp.

Using a shampoo designed to prevent yellowing can help care for naturally gray hair.
Using a shampoo designed to prevent yellowing can help care for naturally gray hair.

The idea that hair turns gray because of stress alone is a myth; medical professionals think changes in hair color are largely related to genetics and other health-related factors. Hair turns gray naturally for several reasons, primarily because the cells that make the pigment that gives hair its color stop producing it, or because hydrogen peroxide naturally produced in the body builds up in the hair. This is a common part of aging, typically occurring starting in the mid-30s. Some people, however, can start to go gray in their 20s, and occasionally even earlier.

Gray hair is usually coarser than younger, colored hair.
Gray hair is usually coarser than younger, colored hair.

While naturally gray hair can be any texture, it typically tends to be coarser than it was before turning gray. It also produces fewer of its own natural oils, which means you will need to condition it more frequently. Use a rinse-out conditioner every time you wash your hair, and a leave-in conditioner at least once a week. Using products designed for gray hair may help lock in moisture and prevent hair from drying out.

Coloring your naturally gray hair can be a bit more difficult than coloring non-gray hair, because the hair shaft doesn’t absorb color solutions as easily. If you only have a few strands of gray here and there, just about any type of hair color is fine. Gray hairs will be slightly lighter and typically will look like highlights. If the majority of your hair is gray, however, you may need to use hair color specially formulated for gray hair. For best results, try to stay within two shades of your natural color. If you want a more dramatic change, use temporary hair colors until you are sure you like it.

One concern when caring for naturally gray hair to keep it from developing yellow tones. This can occur for a number of reasons, including medications, foods, environmental factors, and overuse of hair care products. Using a shampoo designed to prevent yellowing can help. Many products contain blue or purple dyes to counteract the yellow. Just be careful not to overdo it, because your hair will end up looking blue.

Whether you choose to conceal your naturally gray hair for as long as possible or embrace it as your new look, proper care can help keep your hair healthier and more lustrous. Finding the best regimen can take time, and your hairstylist can help you pick out the best products. Once you discover a regimen that works, caring for your gray hair will become as easy as caring for your pre-gray hair was.

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