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How To Care For Gray Hair & Graying Gracefully

How To Care For Gray Hair & Graying Gracefully

A woman with curly gray hair stands with her hands on her hips while smiling

Whether it is due to Covid or a growing awareness of embracing all things natural, more and more women (and men) are choosing to embrace their natural gray curls. 

There are many benefits to letting your silvers shine, including eliminating those annoying touch-ups every 3-5 weeks, saving money (it really adds up), and choosing to avoid those hair chemicals for better health. Besides, silver curls are simply gorgeous and look beautiful on practically everyone! 

Photo credit: Trina Pagano (@silverlocdoc) from therighthairtstyles.com/gray-curly-hair

Whatever the motivation, read on for the best tips on products for graying hair and how to care for your silver strands.

How Do Gray Curly Hair and Pigmented Curly Hair Differ?

  1. Gray hairs Are More Coarse Compared To Pigmented Hair

Gray hair presents more friction and is more fragile. With age, hair loses density, shine, and pigment, and the oil glands in the scalp produce less sebum. The cuticles of gray hair are rougher and drier than pigmented hair. Compared to straight gray hair, gray curly hair can be even dryer or coarser than pigmented hair. 

Remedy: Use Mild Scalp Cleansers

Given that gray hair tends to be a bit drier, it is necessary to add more moisture to your hair care routine. Using a deep conditioner, leave-in, a cream, or your styling products can add that much-needed moisture. However, it is recommended you use moderately conditioning cleansing products because cleansers can be drying on gray hair. Make sure your go-to low or no poo is hydrating and full of antioxidants to keep those silvers looking bright and fresh. 

  1. Gray hair is porous and hydrophilic

Gray hair has been found to have increased cysteic acid residues, decreased cystine, and increased reactivity to reducing and oxidizing agents. This increases gray hair’s ability to absorb moisture, making it more vulnerable to changes in humidity in the surrounding environment.

Remedy: Styling

Once you’ve gone gray, styling hair can become a little more difficult because of the texture changes. To keep gray hair soft and shiny, be sure to keep it moisturized from roots to ends and use a film-forming humectant to seal in the moisture. If you have frizz or flyaways in the crown area, spray an alcohol-free hair spray on a tiny brush or mascara wand and run it over the hair to smoothen.

  1. Gray hair reacts differently with chemical agents

Gray hair is actually not white, but transparent like glass. It generally has higher dye uptake (semi-permanent or permanent) during hair coloring treatments. This is potentially due to the higher level of porosity and surface roughness, which facilitates the penetration of chemicals. In general, grey hair can strongly uptake chemical agents, as well as conditioners.

Remedy: Avoid Build-up

Gray hairs have more space at the cuticles, and because of this, conditioner molecules will penetrate quickly and in higher amounts. If you have finer hair, go easy on heavy conditioners or leave-ins, as too much product can “build-up” very quickly resulting in limp and dull-looking hair. 

  1. Faster growth but lower density

White (non-pigmented) hair is actually thicker than black (pigmented) hair. Although white hair grows faster than black hair, loss of hair density and thinning are often associated with graying hair. 

Remedy: Daily Scalp Massages

Stimulate blood flow and get rid of the dead skin on the scalp with a soft rubber or silicone scalp massager. Massaging for about 10-15 minutes daily can also stimulate sebum production (see #5).

  1. Lower sebum production 

Women in their 40s start to produce less sebum (hair oil), which can contribute to dryness. In fact, sebum production decreases by 50% between the ages of 45 to 60 in the average woman. This means that as women age, they need to carefully monitor the moisture level of their hair and adjust their products and styling methods accordingly.

Remedy: Moisturize-Hydrate

Gray hair tends to be dryer, so using a moisturizing shampoo and conditioner is especially important to keep the curls hydrated and bouncy. Occasionally using coconut oil on gray hair overnight is a good conditioning treatment and helps with detangling. Check out Qhemet Burdock Root Butter Cream.

  1. Gray hairs have less or no melanin 

Melanin has a protective effect against ultraviolet radiation (UVR).  Gray hair lacks this natural protective mechanism making it more sensitive to the sun’s rays, which results in the oxidation of hair proteins. That is why white and gray hair is more likely to oxidize, looking yellow and tarnished.  Sulfates also have this effect on gray hair and can cause frizz, dryness, and yellowing. 

Remedy: Brighten “The Dull, Dingy, and Drab”

Follow the CGM to keep your silver curly hair as healthy and hydrated as possible. Because silver hair is susceptible to yellowing due to ultraviolet radiation, be sure to cover your hair if in bright sunlight for an extended period of time. You can also try adding a blue conditioning toner, for silver, brunette, blonde, or b’lorange toned hair. Purple shampoos may help to cancel out any yellow tones for blonds, keeping your grays on the cool/white side. Note that many purple shampoos contain sulfates and are drying, so be careful choosing one. Another way to get rid of the yellow tinge is to use kaolin white clay. For example, this one from quicksilverhair.com. The clay appears to work by cleansing impurities from the hair shaft.  Prevent yellowing by only using clear or white color products on your hair.

  1. Gray hair is healthier than colored hair

In the society we live in, a youthful appearance is highly priced. Many women color their hair religiously every 2-6 weeks year after year.  But this practice comes with a price as hair dyeing often has adverse effects. In addition to the hair dye staining the scalp, impeding new hair growth, and getting under fingernails, another adverse event is itching. Even worse, there are reports of eye tingling sensations, and rashes after years of dying hair. Not to mention those chemicals going down the drain and into the environment. Say goodbye to all of this when you embrace your silvers!  This is a great discussion to have with your stylist. Talk to them about your plan to go silver and how you can transition smoothly and naturally into the next phase of beautiful, healthy hair.  And check out this product line specifically designed for gray hair: https://maison276.com/

For the Complete Guide to Shampoos, Conditioners and Toning Drops for Popping Silvers, go to the SHOP page.

Check out these posts as well How to Care for Gray Hair and the free Ultimate Guide to Temporary Colors for Gray Curly Hair.

Scientific and Other Resources We Find Useful: 

  1. Hair greying is associated with active hair growth. Choi, Hye In, et al. British Journal of Dermatology 165.6 (2011): 1183-1189.
  2. Shades of grey: To dye or not to dye one’s hair in later life. Clarke, Laura Hurd, and Alexandra Korotchenko. Aging and Society 30.6 (2010): 1011.
  3. Human hair greying is linked to a specific depletion of hair follicle melanocytes affecting both the bulb and the outer root sheath. Commo, S., O. Gaillard, and B. A. Bernard. British Journal of Dermatology 150.3 (2004): 435-443.
  4. The Psychology of Gray Hair. Huang, Sixia, and Panteleimon Rompolas. Developmental cell 52.5 (2020): 548-549.
  5. A survey of the awareness, knowledge and behavior of hair dye use in a Korean population with gray hair. Kim, Jung Eun, Hee Dam Jung, and Hoon Kang. Annals of dermatology 24.3 (2012): 274.
  6. Hair through the female life cycle. Messenger, A. G. British Journal of Dermatology 165 (2011): 2-6.
  7. Types of hair dye and their mechanisms of action. Da França, Simone Aparecida, et al. Cosmetics 2.2: 110-126 (2015) 
  8. Pharmacologic interventions in aging hair. Trüeb, Ralph M. Clinical Interventions in Aging 1.2 (2006): 121-129 
  9. Oxidative Stress in Ageing of Hair. Trüeb, Ralph M., Int. J. Trichology (2009): 1(1): 6–14.
  10. Effects of solar radiation on hair and photoprotection. Dario, Michelli F., André R. Baby, and Maria Valéria R. Velasco. Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology B: Biology 153 (2015): 240-246.
  11. Crowned in Silver magazine: https://www.crownedinsilver.com/ 
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