Is it Time to Go Gray?

When color touch-ups get to be a bit too much on the schedule and budget, many of us wonder when to do it – go gray, that is.

And, more important, how exactly do we transition from our current color to a more, shall we say, natural shade?

“Deciding whether to go gray is a very personal decision,” says Judy Rambert, vice president of education and research at Pivot Point International in Chicago. “It’s all about how you feel about your color when you look in the mirror. When you find yourself admiring various types of gray out there, it may be time.”

Actually, gray hair is in vogue. “We’re seeing much more gray and gray-looking hair,” says Rambert. “We’re even seeing more white blondes and platinum blondes on models.”

The transition to gray is the hardest part of the process and requires commitment and desire. “It will take you a good six months to a year to fully realize color-free hair, about a year if you have long hair,” says Rambert.

And during the transition, you won’t necessarily be at the salon less often. As your hair grows out it will require a professional’s eye to customize your hair color and reduce the contrast of your natural color and remaining color-treated hair.

If you’ve been coloring your hair and decide to go gray, you’ll have a straight line of demarcation. You can break up the line through highlighting – adding lighter tones in strands throughout hair – or low lighting – adding medium and darker tones in hair. Most often this will lead to less frequent color services in the future. You only need to touch up highlights or lowlights every 3 months.

You can also take things lighter with overall color. If you wear your hair short this is easier. You can bring your entire head to a new color close to the depth of your gray and begin the process from there, says Rambert. As the gray grows in, you can enhance the natural shade with a single-color treatment to impart silver tone and shine every 8 weeks or so.

Tips as You Transition to Gray

  • During this transition, it’s best to leave your hair color to the professionals.
  • Adjust your make up. The fairer you are, the more work it requires. You may need to bolden your make up, especially eye brows to offset your lighter hair.
  • Check out gray-enhancing shampoos on the market. These shampoos have a temporary color that leaves a tone. Stay away from blue-based shampoos; go toward violet-based or platinum for gray hair.
  • Consider shine-enhancing sprays to keep your hair looking healthy and shiny.
  • Visit your stylist every 6-7 weeks to keep your haircut looking stylish and ask for styling lessons and finishing product recommendations.


The good news is that going gray is not a permanent decision. If you decide it’s not for you, you can reach for the bottle at any time!

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