Uprooted by Gray: Distinguished or Extinguished?


You awake one day and witness the encroachment. It’s not as invasive as bed bugs or a foreclosure, but not as pleasant as eating pumpkin pie or selling a novel. And you are left to ponder your roots and ask the tough questions: Do I head the gray way of George Clooney and Jamie Lee Curtis?


Should I stay perpetually in the black like Cher and Dick Clark?


Since I’m only 30, can I rock the gray like Lady Gaga or will commuters my age give up their seats for me on the bus, believing I’m Grandmama Addams? It’s crazy and it’s kooky! The signs of age usually are.


It happens much sooner for those in families where premature gray is mapped in the DNA, and you either embrace your destiny (no chemicals or costly and bothersome salon appointments) or reverse it with highlights, dyes and tints.

Experts argue going gray ages you 5-10 years no matter what. Still, women who get off the bottle and let the salt and pepper season their style can appear chic gray goddesses at any age; and fellas can emerge distinguished silver foxes depending on how they sport the silver.

“A good haircut and keeping healthy makes the difference in the gray looking like you’re letting it go versus showcasing it,” observes Michelle Sandoval, educator and colorist at Di Pietro Todd Salon in San Francisco. “It also needs to be a pristine tone (no yellowing) and you should change make up and clothes from earth tones to cooler tones to make the gray work.”

Sandoval, who says women comprise 95 percent of her sizable clientele, believes gray should go with the anatomy, including skin tone. She finds that the color looks best on olive skinned people.

“I don’t think it looks the greatest on warm skinned people, peachy skinned, red heads, or people who have really warm brown hair, because the warmth in their skin and hair tends to make the gray look yellow and the gray makes their skin looked washed out.”


For those who decide to succumb, Sandoval offers a few tips to tress for success:

  • Big swatches of gray or white work better than just a sprinkle
  • To brighten dingy strands, use a violet-based shampoo about every third washing (i.e. Okara by Renee Furterer)
  • Add lowlights to brighten the gray that is left and to create a bolder, more playful look
    “Jay Leno is a good example of someone who went gray but maintained a bold look,” suggests Sandoval. “He used to be dark with a white stream and now he’s white with a dark streak. And it works. He looks good and his hair makes the same statement. He almost looks like a photo negative.”

    Images: BLMurch; Vanity Fair; Addams Family; Jay Leno;

Luanne Bradley

Luanne Sanders Bradley is the West coast Editor at EcoSalon and currently resides in San Francisco, California.