Sooner or later, hair turns gray or white or a combination thereof. Some people go gray prematurely, while others still have much of their original hair color well into their eighties but they are the exception. Some choose to color, some don’t. There are those who despise gray hair while others embrace it.
R.S.S.: I love my gray hair and feel as though each one is a testament to my strength and character. As I aged, my light brown hair became black and the grays were really noticeable as they first appeared around my face. Through the years, the gray has traveled toward the back of my head so I am mostly gray up front with interspersed gray in back. Since I got lucky and it is truly white (not yellow, as some is) I leave it alone and take solace in the fact I’ve earned every damn one of them!
C.G.: I started with a white streak in my twenties and quickly turned gray. I’ve colored my hair forever and it’s easy to just go blonde. I hate gray hair and anyone who think it doesn’t age you is wrong.
Gray hair can be contrary and certainly presents a challenge. It may be wirier and coarser than the rest of your hair. It doesn’t have melanin in it (which is what gives hair and skin its color) and doesn’t absorb light nor does it radiate shine as do pigmented hairs.
Old hair is not as elastic or dense as young hair. When elasticity wanes, the ability to curl the hair also declines. Gray hair may also present a change in wave pattern and texture. Gray hair requires moisturizing.
K.N.C.: Being a stylist for 40 years, of course I color mine, but the fact I’ve told my clientele is God makes your hair lighter so it doesn’t show age in our faces. The lighter you go, the softer the wrinkles. If you’ve ever noticed a dark-haired elderly lady, she has a lot more wrinkles.
Some women opt to go lighter when trying to cover gray hair, others go darker. The one mistake many make, according to Brad Johns, the color director of the Salon and Spa at Saks Fifth Avenue, is monotone hair or one solid color. He thinks this ages a person.
Johns recommends picking a shade that’s one shade lighter than the color you are aiming for because different sections of hair will pick up varying amounts of hue providing the finished look with dimension and not one consistent color.
Johns further recommends tactically placing highlights and lowlights to flatter your face and counteract aging. Color needs to be brightest around the face and on top, darker beneath. Bright colors emphasize warmth in the face and make one appear younger.
When applying highlights, he says cool shades are not youthful, whereas warm and fiery colors are. Go with caramel shades instead of ashy if you are a brunette, copper rather than burgundy if you are a redhead and gold rather than white if a blonde.
J.S.: For the past year my hairdresser has been adding lowlights for more contrast to the highlights.
The Gray/White Streak
Some women and men develop a streak of gray/white hair, which is an unusual and eye-catching look. Musician Bonnie Raitt and Stacy London of What Not to Wear both sport a streak and it looks good.
When a tuft of hair loses its pigment, although the rest of the hair hasn’t, this results in a streak, generally in front at the hairline. This phenomena is called poliosis. If you are coloring the rest of your hair, you or your hairdresser must devise a way to avoid the streak when coloring.
Can Hair Literally Turn Gray Overnight?
Is that possible? Legend has it that French queen Marie Antoinette’s hair turned white overnight in anticipation of her beheading the next day. She was 37 years old.
Stress can hasten a condition called alopecia areata, causing hair to fall out, leading to bald patches. When the hair grows back in it may be white (canities subita.) Hair doesn’t literally change colors due to stress but trauma may cause hair to fall out and come back in white, the result of an auto-immune response where the body’s defense structure turns on itself prompted by various factors, including a terrifying or highly stressful situation.
It is up to you to decide whether you love or hate gray hair and proceed from there. You can do nothing at all and simply go fully gray (or white) overtime or you can head to the hairdresser’s or to the hair coloring product aisle and face off with this challenge, because it is one, no two ways about it.
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