The smart way to embrace shades of slate and silver


Tips for gorgeous hair, whatever your age

Why is it that however many new grey hairs sprout from our hairlines, we never seem to be any the wiser about how to manage them? As a beauty editor I, possibly more than most, can adopt some level of agency over how I age, choosing whether it should be under the watchful eye of Mother Nature or that of the latest doctor on Harley Street. But when it comes to going grey, I will admit a touch of bewilderme­nt. Confronted in my early 40s with my first silver streaks – and knowing that by the age of 50, one in two women have half a head of grey hair – I find myself wondering how easy it is to age gracefully…

One friend, exhausted by the constant maintenanc­e involved in covering up her roots, tells me she is tempted to go fully grey but can’t quite take the plunge, as her children collapse in tears every time she threatens to ditch her hair dye. The problem, according to behavioura­l psychologi­st Professor Carolyn Mair, is that ‘we live in a youth-obsessed society where the norm is to eliminate any sign of ageing’. So, she explains, ‘Not taking advantage of the many opportunit­ies to maintain a youthful appearance is considered to mean not taking care of ourselves.’

Yet I have always considered looking after my truest self to be the real barometer of beauty, which surely means prioritisi­ng self-esteem over anti-ageing. Perhaps if I could find the confidence to go grey on my own terms, I might be able to find a happy space between taking a healthy moral standpoint on ageing and looking my best, like Gwyneth Paltrow, comfortabl­e with her visible grey roots at the Golden Globes earlier this year. And sitting one floor below Red’s office in our central London publishing house I have my own poster girl in Catherine Hayward, the fashion director of

Esquire – she has elected to sport a fashionabl­e streak of grey since her early 30s.

‘I just seemed to go with the flow of what my hair wanted to do, going lighter at the front and dark at the back,’

Hayward tells me. ‘It was like Debbie Harry’s style, and just a little bit rock ’n’ roll. While I hated the frizz, I didn’t mind the whitening. In the past year or so, I’ve noticed others who feel the same – I’m constantly stopped in the street by women asking me how I achieved the look.’

The answer, apparently, is through a lot of trial and error. ‘The challenge with greying hair is its texture.

I get through tubs of conditione­rs and masks that I sleep in, and I’ve had a weekly blow-dry for four years now.’

Indeed, with greying hair comes a total rethink of our bathroom shelves. As hair loses its melanin granules, it can begin to change shape and become deprived of its elastic properties. ‘It’s a myth that grey hair is more coarse – in fact, it’s finer, though its texture does shift,’ explains Dr Joseph Cincotta of Federici Brands. ‘At the same time, production from oil glands on the scalp slows, leading to drier-feeling hair,’ Dry locks, unable to reflect light, can lack shine, so a greater focus on smoothing and glossing treatments is needed. Dr Cincotta recommends selecting formulas suited to fragile or coloured hair, as well as shampoos designed to rinse away minerals found in tap water that can discolour whitening tresses.

Then comes the question of how to maintain a shifting spectrum of shades – monitoring and blending your salt-and-pepper roots until your full head of hair decides it’s going to go entirely grey (as a blonde, I know all too well that this process can take years). Hayward spent over a decade painstakin­gly finger painting her roots, save for her signature streak – a weekly habit she decided to abandon last year, though ‘not before finding a wonderful stylist called Marley Xavier at Josh Wood who finally understood how to manage the grow-out properly’, she tells me. Xavier, a master colourist usually found backstage at Miu Miu and Marc Jacobs, calls it his ‘lip-glossing’ for hair, weaving in darker strands at the roots, blurring out the tide mark between your new grey growth and the dye job you want to leave behind.

My own colourist, the wonderful Adam Reed, tells me making the transition to a full grey look is becoming far more achievable, in part because of a cultural shift, but also because beauty companies have developed some excellent products to ease the process. ‘Colour is so incredible now that it needn’t take weeks or months of growing out your hair, dyed or otherwise,’ he says. ‘I can enhance your natural shade, and just warm up the greys and blend them in so you don’t see roots or regrowth. No part of it has to be about covering up greys – I can create a softness to grey hair that looks so feminine.’

But no amount of good products or stylists can make the decision for us: in Hayward’s words, ‘You have to make the leap yourself.’ Likewise, while I can’t single-handedly persuade the world that a woman with grey hair is just as much a silver fox as her male counterpar­t, I can choose to show it off myself – and hopefully pass it on with gusto. As Mair says, ‘Not being young doesn’t mean we’re not youthful.’

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