5 Tips for Keeping Long Gray Hair Healthy, According to Stylists and Dermatologists
You don't need to cut it short, but you should make some changes, experts say.
If there's one pervasive myth in the beauty industry, it's that you must cut your hair short as you ease into mid-life. This misconception arose for a few reasons. Among them is that maintaining long hair becomes much more difficult once it grays. During that process, the hair's natural oils decrease, making strands drier and more brittle. However, with a few haircare and lifestyle changes, you can keep your hair long for decades after it loses its pigment. Keep reading to hear from hairstylists and dermatologists about the best and most stylish ways to keep long gray hair healthy.
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Choose a shampoo and conditioner for gray hair.
The key to growing long gray hair is keeping it healthy, and the first step is using good shampoo and conditioner.
"Gray hair can become dry and brittle over time, so using shampoos and conditioners that are enriched with moisturizing ingredients can help keep it healthy and looking its best," says Anju Methil, MD, dermatologist and cosmetologist with ClinicSpots.
So, what should you choose? Methil suggests a sulfate-free option. "The chemicals in traditional shampoos can further strip away natural oils." An easy way to cover your bases is to choose a shampoo specifically formulated for gray hair. "They will help maintain the vibrancy of your color while nourishing your strands."
These products might have a violet tint to cancel out unwanted yellow tones or include hydrating ingredients such as oils and butters.
Use moisturizing products.
Because gray hair can become dry, your regular shampoo and conditioner might not cut it in the moisture department.
"Look for deep conditioning masks and leave-in conditioners," says Rebecca Hilton, MD, a dermatologist at J-Beauty. "For added protection and shine, use a weekly hair mask, such as one with argan oil, coconut oil, or shea butter." Combining your haircare routine with your self-care routine is a win-win.
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Take a vitamin.
Healthy gray hair requires more than just a rigorous haircare routine. Your lifestyle choices are also essential.
"Vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant, helps protect the hair from damage and can help support healthy hair growth," says Methil. "Vitamin E is also essential for hair health, as it helps nourish the scalp and promotes circulation to provide oxygen and other nutrients to your follicles. B-complex vitamins are important for maintaining strong hair strands, while zinc helps support healthy oil production in the scalp."
You can get these nutrients from a well-rounded diet or by adding a vitamin to your routine.
Minimize heat damage.
Methil says one of the best haircare tips for keeping long gray hair is to limit heat styling. "High temperatures from blow dryers, straighteners, and curling irons can cause damage to your hair, especially if it's already fragile due to age or genetics. Heat styling can also strip away moisture, leading to breakage and split ends." Instead, Methil suggests air-drying or low-heat tools.
"Finally, invest in a good quality heat protectant spray to prevent damage when styling with heated tools like curling irons or straighteners," Methil says. Experimenting with a few go-to heatless hairstyles, such as a chignon or heatless curls, can also help you turn down the temp.
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Add face-framing layers.
While you may have been able to keep flowing long locks in earlier decades, you might want to add shape to your strands once they're fully gray. According to Cindy Marcus, a professional hairstylist in Las Vegas and editor-in-chief of Latest Hairstyles, face-framing layers are a great option.
"Angles around the face will bring attention to your face and highlight facial features," says Marcus. "If you have wavy or curly hair, adding layers will keep hair bouncy and stop it from looking weighed down."
Your haircut can also aid in other ways. "If forehead wrinkles are a concern, add some long curtain bangs to hide any unwanted lines," Marcus says. Twist your hair into a braid for a chic way to keep it off your face, she advises.
Get regular trims.
Although it might sound counterintuitive, the final step in maintaining long gray hair is getting frequent trims.
"Split ends can cause hair to look dull and unhealthy, so trimming them off every few months helps keep your mane looking fabulous," says Methil. "By regularly trimming the ends you can remove any split ends that have formed, preventing further breakage and maintaining length."
Shiny, healthy-looking strands await after your next trip to the salon.