Javascript is not enabled.

Javascript must be enabled to use this site. Please enable Javascript in your browser and try again.

Skip to content
Content starts here
CLOSE ×
Search
Leaving AARP.org Website

You are now leaving AARP.org and going to a website that is not operated by AARP. A different privacy policy and terms of service will apply.

Women Are Ditching the Dye, Embracing the Gray

Returning to their roots feels ‘honest’ and ‘powerful’

(Left to right) Jamie Lee Curtis, Andie MacDowell and Jane Fonda
(Left to right) Jamie Lee Curtis, Andie MacDowell and Jane Fonda
Leon Bennett/Getty Images; Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images; Todd Owyoung/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

Andie MacDowell set tongues wagging recently when she strutted down the L’Oréal Paris runway rocking a one-shouldered sequin and marabou-trimmed gown with a thigh-high slit. And it wasn’t just the sexy flash of leg that captured the public’s imagination: It was the riot of silver curls that tumbled from the 64-year-old’s head like anti-ageist freedom fighters.

MacDowell isn’t alone in embracing her roots. Actress Sarah Jessica Parker was spotted shooting And Just Like That ... with a little more of her natural gray peeking through her famous mane. (“I can’t spend time getting base color every two weeks. Can’t do it. Nope. Too much,” she told Allure magazine.)

The Wall Street Journal dubbed the stereotype-defying trend for women to go gray at work the new “power move.”

member card

AARP Membership — $12 for your first year when you sign up for Automatic Renewal

Get instant access to members-only products and hundreds of discounts, a free second membership, and a subscription to AARP the Magazine.

Join Now

A color correction

For many women, the pandemic offered an opportunity for a reset. While some took matters into their own hands during lockdown, attempting to color their hair at home themselves, many did what MacDowell did — let nature take its course — and never looked back. (MacDowell was inspired to let her roots grow in during quarantine when her daughters said the silvery regrowth looked “badass.”)

In addition to saving countless hours and thousands of dollars, eschewing biweekly appointments in your colorist’s chair can simplify your daily routine. “When I was coloring my hair, I used to get blowouts all the time because my hair was so dry and damaged from all the color,” says Cindy Weber Cleary, a New Jersey–based fashion consultant (and former fashion director of InStyle). “Now I can just let my hair air-dry. It’s so much healthier that I don’t even need to use hot tools. The texture is softer and silkier than it’s been for years.”

Thinking about kissing your colorist goodbye? We asked the experts for some tips on how to minimize the uncomfortable grow-out phase.

Color Wow Root Cover Up (left) and Kiss Quick Cover Gray Hair Touch Up
(Left to right) Color Wow Root Cover Up; Kiss Quick Cover Gray Hair Touch Up
Amazon; Walmart

1. Allow at least two months of regrowth

There is no getting around the fact that regrowth — which, depending on your level of gray, can look like somebody spray-painted your hairline — is an awkward but necessary step. Hair grows about half an inch per month, so it will take a while for this transition to be complete. To make regrowth less obvious during this phase, spray or dab on a tonal root touch-up product. “I love Color Wow [Root Cover Up; $35, amazon.com] and use it myself,” says NYC colorist Sharon Dorram. “It blends in perfectly and completely covers the gray.” Another option: Kiss Quick Cover Gray Hair Touch Up ($16, walmart.com).

(Left to right) Sarah Jessica Parker; Rita Hazan Root Concealer Touch Up Spray
(Left to right) Sarah Jessica Parker on location in New York City for "And Just Like That..."; Rita Hazan Root Concealer Touch Up Spray
Gotham/GC Images; Dermstore

2. Put your hair up

Weber Cleary, who swears by Rita Hazan Root Concealer Touch Up Spray ($12, dermstore.com), says that when she was growing out her gray, she would pull her hair up into a high ponytail or bun so no one could really see her roots. If you want to wear your hair down, try a messy zigzag part, which will help obscure the regrowth.

Entertainment

AARP Members Only Access to Special Entertainment Content

Access curated AARP entertainment articles, essays, videos, films and more

See more Entertainment offers >

3. Consider “herringbone” highlights

By adding a few warm and cool tones during the grow-out phase, you can camouflage that strong gray demarcation line, says Dorram. This is a great, low-maintenance compromise for people who might not be willing to go fully gray, but don’t want to spend half their lives in a salon chair. “Instead of going every three to four weeks, you can then stretch it to every four to five months,” says Dorram.

(Left to right) Jamie Lee Curtis and Jane Fonda
(Left to right) Jamie Lee Curtis and Jane Fonda
Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images (2)

4. Get frequent haircuts

Of course, the fastest way out of this awkward phase is to get a pixie cut once you have a solid three to four months of regrowth. For inspiration, look no further than Jamie Lee Curtis. If that feels too extreme, consider a slightly longer style like the one worn by Jane Fonda. Whatever length you settle on, get your ends trimmed every five to six weeks to keep hair looking fresh, Dorram advises.

(Left to right) L’Oréal Paris EverPure Shampoo; Aveeno Oat Milk Blend Shampoo; Aveda Shampure Nurturing Shampoo
(Left to right) L’Oréal Paris EverPure Shampoo; Aveeno Oat Milk Blend Shampoo; Aveda Shampure Nurturing Shampoo
Walmart; Target; Aveda

5. Baby your gray

Gray hair can be fragile and dry, so once it has fully grown out, lay off the hot styling tools and switch to a gentle, sulfate-free shampoo like L’Oréal Paris EverPure Shampoo ($8, walmart.com), Aveda Shampure Nurturing Shampoo ($19, amazon.com) or Aveeno Oat Milk Blend Shampoo ($9, target.com). Allowing hair to air-dry will help keep it soft and silky.

membership-card-w-shadow-192x134

AARP Membership — $12 for your first year when you sign up for Automatic Renewal

Get instant access to members-only products and hundreds of discounts, a free second membership, and a subscription to AARP the Magazine.

(Left to right) Clairol Shimmer Lights; Rene Furterer Okara Silver; Redken Color Extend Graydiant Purple Shampoo
(Left to right) Clairol Shimmer Lights; Rene Furterer Okara Silver; Redken Color Extend Graydiant Purple Shampoo
Target; Amazon; Redken

6. Add shine

To give gray strands a sparkling silver finish, dab a tiny bit of argan oil between your palms and gently run them through your hair, advises Dorram, who doesn’t recommend using purple shampoos regularly because they can dry out hair. One exception is if you have white hair that has turned a yellowish hue from chlorine in a pool. In this case, occasionally using a purple shampoo like Clairol Shimmer Lights ($13, target.com), Rene Furterer Okara Silver ($29, amazon.com) or Redken Color Extend Graydiant Purple Shampoo ($28, walmart.com) can help neutralize the brassiness.

(Left to right) Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk Foundation; IT Cosmetics Your Skin But Better Foundation + Skincare; Neutrogena Hydro Boost Hydrating Tint
(Left to right) Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk Foundation; IT Cosmetics Your Skin But Better Foundation + Skincare; Neutrogena Hydro Boost Hydrating Tint
Walmart; Ulta Beauty; Walgreens

7. Tweak your makeup

To get a “lit from within” glow, makeup artist Nick Barose recommends prepping skin with a hydrating primer and moisturizer. Then, in lieu of plastering on a heavy foundation, which can make skin look dull, use a waxy synthetic brush to apply an illuminating foundation like Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk Luminous Foundation ($52, walmart.com). (Barose uses this on clients Kim Cattrall and Rachel Weisz.) “Apply it only where you need it, and then tap it in gently with a damp sponge to get a seamless finish.” Other options: IT Cosmetics Your Skin But Better Foundation + Skincare ($44, ulta.com) and Neutrogena Hydro Boost Hydrating Tint ($11, walgreens.com).

When it comes to lip color, “there are no rules,” says Barose. “Some people love wearing bright colors like fuchsia, red or coral, and that can look striking against gray hair.” One thing to keep in mind: Avoid formulas that are overly matte, which can appear severe. “Look for a creamy formula that reflects light.” For her exuberant strut down the runway in Paris, MacDowell wore L’Oréal Paris Color Riche Lipstick in Saucy Mauve.

Andie MacDowell poses backstage prior to the "Le Defile Walk Your Worth" By L'Oreal Paris Womenswear Spring/Summer 2023 show as part of Paris Fashion Week on Oct. 2, 2022 in Paris, France.
Andie MacDowell poses backstage prior to the "Le Defile Walk Your Worth" By L'Oreal Paris Womenswear Spring/Summer 2023 show as part of Paris Fashion Week on Oct. 2, 2022 in Paris, France.
Francois Durand/Getty Images for L'Oréal Paris

8. Adjust your mindset

As MacDowell frequently noted publicly, embracing your gray is not about letting yourself go. It’s about letting yourself in — and shutting the ageist attitudes of society out. “I’ve never felt more powerful ... more honest ... like I’m not pretending,” she told Vogue. “I’m embracing right where I am.” Weber Cleary agrees: “I have never been the one to lie about my age,” she says. “I feel proud of what I’ve accomplished, and I don’t feel the need to pretend I’m younger. In fact, I hate the whole concept of fighting the process. What’s there to fight about? It happens to all of us, and frankly, you are lucky if you get to age.”