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5 Tips for Making Gray Hair Shiny

Some women confidently wear their gray hair like a badge of honor and we’re here for it. If you’re game to flaunt the gray but are looking to ditch your frosty strands’ dullness for a healthy shine, keep reading. Ahead, colorist Jeremy Tardo from West Hollywood’s Salon Benjamin shares his tips for embracing gray hair and improving its texture to prevent the unwanted “granny gray.”

Amanda Shuttleworth rocks her grey hair in a way that looks effortless and cool | Photo by Jackson Davis @snap_jacks

Debunking the Gray Myth

Interestingly enough, there is really no such thing as natural gray hair. If we pull out any individual gray hair and examine it, the hair is actually white. It lacks all pigment. When the follicles of our hair begin to produce less pigment, the result is what we see as gray hair. Gray hair is essentially an optical illusion created by white (unpigmented) hairs sitting next to hairs that still have pigment in them. This is why someone can appear more gray haired earlier in life and white haired later. The less remaining pigmented hairs we have left, the whiter our hair will look.

I often describe white or gray hair like a crisp white shirt that never quite stays crisp and white. Normal washing in water, air pollution, literally everything seems to show up on the shirt causing it to become more dingy and yellowed over time. Gray hair is like this.

Use a Clarifying Shampoo

To keep the gray hair more bright and shiny, I suggest switching your favorite hair cleanser for a clarifying shampoo like Living Proof Triple Detox Shampoo once a week. This will remove impurities and surface build up from your gray hair which will result in a nicer tone. Follow the clarifying shampoo with a violet based shampoo and/or conditioner like Sachajuan’s Silver Shampoo. The violet will counteract any dull, yellow hues in your white hair.

Add a Serum and Follow These Steps

Shiny hair happens when light reflects off of it. Light can reflect off of dark more easily than it can off of light. When the hair becomes more gray or white, we can use styling tools and products to help seal the cuticle of the hair down, allowing eye catching light to bounce off of the hair.

For extra shine in your gray hair, try a clear serum such as Restore & Repair Oil from Number 4. On gray hair, always use a clear, colorless oil or serum over one that is amber-colored. This will give shine without affecting the tone of your gray.

  1. Apply a light amount of the serum to your damp hair along with your usual thermal protection spray. (I like Phytokeratine Heat-Protecting Repair Spray from Phytologie)
  2. Then dry and style your hair to your liking. If your hair is not naturally smooth in texture, hot tools like Dyson Supersonic Hair Dyer and Dyson Airwrap Styler will make your home hairstyling MUCH easier.
  3. Once your hair is dry, add a touch more of the oil to the edges of your hair for a polished finish.

Taming Textured Grays

Since pigmentation softens hair, when our hair becomes gray, it can often feel more coarse or wiry than the textures we are accustomed to. I sometimes recommend mild keratin treatments to my silver-haired clients who struggle with rebellious texture in their hair. These treatments can last 3-4 months and will soften the coarseness significantly while adding beautiful shine to the gray. Best of all, the efforts spent on softening/smoothing the hair at home will be greatly diminished.

Best Hairsprays, If You Must 

Most hairsprays are quite dry which can give a matte finish to the hair. If you love the styling performance of your hairspray, but want a healthier looking effect, I’d suggest lifting your hair up in sections and applying the spray to the hair that’s near the scalp. Keeping the spray underneath the more visible top section of hair provides the hold and support to your style without dulling out its sheen. I love all of the R+Co hairsprays. R+Co Outer Space Hairspray is a bit more flexible while R+Co Vicious Strong Hold Hairspray is what its name suggests, but still workable. Even though these are dry sprays, they leave your hair texture looking healthy.

Avoid Granny Gray

A cool way that I like to prevent what I call “granny gray” on someone who embraces their grays is by mixing a few platinum colored pieces into their hair. Adding these intentional white bits brightens the tone of the silver hair slightly and makes granny gray look more like a chic Miranda Priestly vibe. 

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