If you look up synonyms for gray, you'll find some pretty depressing words, like cheerless, funereal, faded, dull and dismal. No wonder women have always tried to disguise their gray hair.
Lately, however, actresses such as Jamie Lee Curtis, Helen Mirren, Judi Dench, Sharon Stone, Diane Keaton, Kathy Bates and Vanessa Redgrave are proudly rocking glorious heads of gray, silver and white hair.
Then there are the high profile silver foxes: Jon Stewart, Ted Danson, Richard Gere, Harrison Ford, George Clooney and Anderson Cooper. The CNN newsman and talk-show host says that, in his case, his prematurely gray hair gave him "instant gravitas."
And now it's getting really interesting. Some young so-called celebrity "It" girls — including singer Lady Gaga — are actually dying their hair gray for a novel shock effect, while, unintentionally perhaps, helping to change the cultural perception of gray hair.
Even the Times of London took note after gray-haired young models walked the runways in several top designer's collections and young hipsters like Bob Geldof's daughter, Pixie Geldof; Kelly Osbourne, and Gaga began dying their hair gray.
"This is a youth movement," the Times said, "from east London's cool set to models on the Paris catwalks. Growing numbers of women are no longer eschewing the very thought of gray, but embracing a gunmetal mane with pride — and attitude."
Clearly, if ever there was a time to think gray, this is it. So we talked to two Hollywood hair experts, Matthew Shields, who cuts Jane Fonda's hair, and Negin Zand, who colors and highlights the 73-year-old actress's short shaggy do, about ways to do it. Zand's other Baby Boomer celeb clients include Diane Lane, Angelina Jolie, Meg Ryan and Cate Blanchett.
To help her clients ease into it, Zand uses a French technique known as Balayage, a free hand highlighting that allows her to weave in lighter colors among the gray that will disguise it and let a woman go gray in stages. Perhaps some face-framing highlights will suffice at the beginning. As Zand says, "It's all about what the client is comfortable with."
Another option for women trying to go gray: Semi-permanent dyes — a shade lighter than original hair color — disguise the sudden shock of gray. These rinse-type products wash out over three to four weeks. Continuing to do a permanent base color will work as long as you also include highlights on the top of the head and around the face to blend with the gray hairs.
Whether you decide to go gray all at once or continue to color and ease into it, both Shields and Zand advise using a topical shiner, oils and silicone glossers on older hair. There are also many other salon techniques — clarifying shampoos, highlighting, color weaving and glazing — that can make a woman with silver hair just as sexy as any old blond, brunette or redhead. So are you ready to get hip and go for the gray?
Originally published October 2011