How to go grey gracefully without looking old (2023)

First Andie MacDowell showed off her grey hair in the Netflix blockbuster Maid, then Cynthia Nixon rocked silver-hued locks in the Sex and The City spin-off And Just Like That. And when comedienne Dawn French took to Instagram to show off her platinum look, we wondered why she hadn’t done it sooner.

Ditching the dye and embracing the real you can be liberating.

Because – let’s face it – colouring our hair is a faff, it’s time-consuming and it’s expensive – so why not embrace what Mother Nature intended instead?

Of course, like anything in life, the celebrities have it a bit easier than us and their ‘grey reveals’ have been carefully orchestrated events assisted by the best names in the beauty business.

So, while we dream of quitting the colour and quickly making way for ‘just stepped out of the salon’ luscious silvery locks, the reality can be months (if not years) of a messy salt and pepper patchwork or the challenge of unsightly badger stripe roots.

And let’s not forget our make-up – such a dramatic hair colour change requires a complete rethink unless you want to look older than you actually are (not us!) – but how do you even begin to change up a look that you’ve been happily doing for at least 20 years?

Fear not, we’re here to help with a step-by-step guide. Adam Reed, celebrity hairdresser to stars including Madonna and Diane Kruger, and Olivia Colman, Emma Watson and Kylie’s make-up artist Caroline Barnes have everything you need to get for gorgeous grey hair, and the perfect make up to match.

Step one: How to grow your grey

How to go grey gracefully without looking old (1)

The only way is grey: Celebs who have embraced their natural colour include Meryl Streep (left) and Diane Keaton (right)

If you’ve decided you want to stop concealing your greys and embrace what nature gave you, how you approach things depends on how grey you already are, how quickly your hair grows and the length of your hair.

(Video) Grey Hair Does NOT Make You Look Old

Start by looking at your roots. If you have a strong patch of greys growing through, like a badger stripe, then your grey will grow in a block colour.

Have a short style that you get cut regularly? Lucky you! stop dying now and in a few weeks your grey will have grown down and your old colour will be cut away.

If you have longer hair then you will go through a slightly awkward two-tone stage that you can either choose to embrace or blend in (keep reading to find out about blending).

However, if your grey is coming through in patches rather than a universal block, it can be a tricky stage that calls for a different approach.

‘I find lots of clients change their mind about going grey if they have this mid ‘salt and pepper’ stage where your hair has a sprinkling of grey strands here and your old colour in between. You’re almost in no-man’s land – you’re not grey enough but you’re not your old colour either,’ says Adam.

‘If this is you, I recommend a gradual approach and “blending” your greys in with your existing colour. This will make it look almost like your hair is highlighted as you’ll have dark and light colours in your hair but blended perfectly together.’

And there are a few ways to do this. ‘The professional option is a toner – a semi-permanent colour that is put all over the hair, normally at the basin, that blends your grey roots into your old colour making your greys look less obvious. The toner – a similar shade to your existing colour – will fade after about six weeks, so you just keep having toner applied to your hair every time you’re at the salon until you get to the point where you have more greys than your old colour, when you can stop using it.’

There are DIY options too. ‘Root sprays, blending brushes and colour touch ups are great,’ says Adam. ‘You have to use them more frequently. Modern formulations mean they won’t rub off on your pillows or fade away halfway through the day, but some wash out at every wash, some will stay in for a couple of washes.

‘Choose a shade that either matches your existing colour to cover up the greys while you let them grow underneath. Or choose a lighter shade to blend the roots in. Again, keep going until you get to a point where your grey is dominant and then stop using anything.’

Adam recommends:

How to go grey gracefully without looking old (2)

L’Oréal Professional Hair Touch Up, £8.45 – this spray uses make-up pigments to deliver colour and comes in six shades. It dries immediately and only comes out when washing your hair.

Josh Wood Blending Brush, £19 – available in three shades, this genius brush paints colour on to blend your grey roots in to the rest of your hair and gradually fades after washing, usually lasting up to three washes.


Step two: Looking after your silver

How to go grey gracefully without looking old (3)

Short and chic: Cynthia Nixon (left) and Jamie Lee Curtis (right) both look fabulous with short grey hair

Once you have a fabulous head of grey, showing it some love will guarantee it continues to shimmer.

‘Silver shampoos – that are purple in colour but formulated for silver and grey hair – used every other wash are a must because they act like an at-home toner, neutralising any yellow tones that can appear on dyed grey hair and keeping naturally grey hair looking glossy,’ advises Adam.

It could be time to rethink your conditioner too. ‘There is a misconception that grey hair is wirier and coarser,’ says Adam. ‘Hair texture changes as it ages because it loses elasticity and becomes less silky and more brittle, which may coincide with turning grey but not necessarily, so your grey hair may be the same texture your usual hair colour has always been.

‘However, if your texture has changed it’s all about adding as much moisture as possible. Switch your regular conditioner to an intensive conditioning mask and use that with every wash, applying it just as you would a regular conditioner, as your hair will drink up the extra moisture.’

Finally, it’s time to add some lustre to your locks. ‘Grey hair doesn’t reflect light as well as darker shades do, which means it can look dull and flat. Using a hair oil on a daily basis will give the hair much-needed hydration and keep the surface of the hair smooth, which makes it look shiny.’

And don’t worry, it’s not going to make your hair greasy. You only need a few drops for all your hair and it gets absorbed immediately rather than lingering on the surface. Rub a couple of drops into your hands and lightly apply from root to tip on towel-dried hair before blow-drying or you can even apply on dry, styled hair.

Adam recommends:

How to go grey gracefully without looking old (4)

L’Oréal Professionnel Silver Shampoo, £10.76 and Conditioner, £11.96 – a purple-hued shampoo and conditioner duo that will brighten your grey and keep it the exact tone you want it.

(Video) Woman fed up hiding her grey hairs – goes for new look with stylist and is totally unrecognisable

L’Oréal Paris Elvive Hydra Hyaluronic 72H Moisture Wrapping Mask, £7.99 – a lightweight but highly moisturising conditioning mask that won’t weigh your hair down.

Arkive The Good Habit Hybrid Oil, £14 – packed with hydrating baobab oil, this gives hair shine without leaving it greasy. It also has the most amazing scent that lingers on the hair like perfume.

Step three: Finding the best hairstyle for you

How to go grey gracefully without looking old (5)

Going grey: Dawn French and Jane Fonda both rock a more natural 'do

To show off your grey hair, you need a style to suit. ‘I always recommend keeping some length to show off the different tones within your grey because grey isn’t one flat colour. There will be some slight variations in it to create lighter and darker sections and if it’s super short you won’t be able to see the different tones as well,’ explains Adam.

‘While more and more women are embracing grey hair, there is still stigma around it being ageing. In fact, the old saying that you can’t have long hair when you get older is pure rubbish – long grey hair adds that element of youth and looks absolutely beautiful. So don’t feel you have to go short just because you’re older.’

Step four: Must-have make up to match

‘You should always re-evaluate your make-up with any big hair change,’ says celebrity make-up artist Caroline Barnes. ‘You need colours that complement your skin tone and your new hair shade. I’m talking about what you’re putting on your eyes, lips and cheeks. Your foundation stays exactly the same.

‘Grey hair is a wonderful palette to play with but there are some key dos and don’ts to make sure your make-up is defining and framing your face and not making you look sallow and washed out.’


Our expert’s guide to what to buy

How to go grey gracefully without looking old (7)

Steer clear of bronzer.With your new hair colour, bronzer can end up washing you out because you’ll look pale in some places and tanned in others. Instead, mix a few drops of James Read Gradual Tan H2O Tan Drops Face, £18, into your regular moisturiser, which will give your whole complexion a warmer glow.

We love: James Read H2O tan drops face, £18,

Blusher is a must. Colour on your cheeks will break up the colour of your hair against your skin and make the whites of your eyes and your teeth look brighter and healthier. Whether you use a powder or cream blusher is personal preference but this one is a great shade that works with grey hair. Blend it into the apples of your cheeks with either your fingers or a brush.

We love: Daniel Sandler watercolour liquid blush, £16.50,

Choose a cool lipstick. Now that your hair is grey your make-up needs to have cool undertones to it – anything too warm, too nude or too brown will wash you out. Cool colours have a blue base to them.

Don’t know how to spot a cool colour from a warm one? Hold the product up to something blue (a jumper, bag – anything will do!), then hold it against something orange or brown. If it seems to match the blue better, it’s a cool colour. In general, true reds and true pinks are cool and a great place to start. Oranges and corals have brown in them so avoid.

When it comes to lip colour, go really bright.Grey hair and a bright lipstick is a great look. True reds and pinks are fabulous cool colours that work really well with your new hair shade (think Helen Mirren!)

We love: NARS Lipstick in Schiap, £23,

Reassess your brows. If you have been previously using brown brow products, or any colour that’s quite warm, you need a cool grey one to tie in with your new hair shade. My absolute favourite is Max Factor Brow Revival in Grey, £9.99. Simply brush it through your brows. The colour will make your brows look more defined and the brush will get them into a great shape.

We love: Max Factor brow revival eyebrow gel, £9.99,

Grey on the eyes.Switch your regular black liner, which will look quite harsh against your lighter hair, for a grey one instead. Laura Mercier Longwear Eye Pencil in Slate, £22, is the most wonderful creamy, kohl eyeliner that will frame your eyes and enhance the grey tones in your hair. Apply however you like to wear your eyeliner – framing your eyes top and bottom, just on the top, to create cat-eye flicks. Whatever you like best.

We love: Laura Mercier longwear eye pencil, £22,

(Video) What I Wish I Knew Before Going Grey


What is a good age to go grey? ›

Typically, white people start going gray in their mid-30s, Asians in their late 30s, and African-Americans in their mid-40s. Half of all people have a significant amount of gray hair by the time they turn 50.

When should you stop coloring your hair and go grey? ›

How Do You Know When It's Time to Discontinue Hair Coloring for Clients?
  1. Their Hair Begins to Feel Dry or Brittle.
  2. Gray Hair Returns in Less than Two Weeks.
  3. Their Scalp Becomes Irritated or Itchy.
  4. They've Dyed Their Hair Until It's Nearly White.
1 Jul 2021

How do I know if grey hair will suit me? ›

How do I know if silver grey hair will suit me? First of all, consider your skin tone. Silver grey hair will look best on olive and fair skin with yellow undertones. If you have a pink tone, your skin may appear red and irritated with a cool grey hue.

How do you transition from dyed hair to natural grey? ›

There are three main ways of transitioning to gray hair from dyed hair: the cold turkey method (letting the dye grow out or cutting it out), the salon transition (having a stylist blend your dyed hair to match your natural gray), or the dye-strip technique (a combination of various methods).

Should I dye my hair or go grey? ›

As a general rule, Mike Liang, advanced colorist at Julien Farel Restore Salon & Spa in New York suggests going gray when you reach 80 percent non-pigmented or white hair. If your hair starts to feel increasingly dry, brittle, or damaged or you experience scalp irritation, it might be time to ditch the dye.


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