5 Ways to Make Gray Hair Soft and Shiny, According to Stylists
Switching up your routine is necessary if you're going for glossy grays.
Deciding to go gray is an empowering experience. So long, expensive salon colorings, root touch-up kits, and dye-induced damage. In their place, you've got gorgeous natural locks and a streamlined maintenance schedule. But if you think you can simply revert to your previous haircare regimen, think again. Gray hair requires its own unique routine to keep it healthy, soft, and shiny. Need help putting that strategy together? Here, hairstylists tell us their favorite pro tips for achieving glossy gray strands. Your best—and most natural–hair color awaits.
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Use a moisturizing shampoo and conditioner.
Gray hair requires a different shampoo and conditioner regimen than fully pigmented strands. While you may have once chosen products based on your hair's unique needs—for example, volume or anti-frizz—you'll likely want to switch to something that can add moisture.
"Gray hair tends to lose its ability to stay hydrated as the hair follicle produces less sebum as we age, resulting in dryer, more coarse feeling texture," says Gregory Patterson, celebrity hairstylist and DIY expert for Sally Beauty. Because of that, "moisturizing and softening shampoos and conditioners are always recommended."
And a color-correcting shampoo.
Hair goes gray when it's lost its pigment. And when it loses pigment, it's easy for it to become discolored. "Think of a white T-shirt: the more you wear it, the less crisp and clean it becomes," says Brandie Devillier, platform educator at the Aveda Arts & Sciences Institute. "The same thing happens to our gray hair—pollution, hard water, and even too much sun can cause it to become lackluster." To reverse that, use a color-correcting shampoo a few times a week.
The best one to look for is purple. Because it's the opposite of yellow on the color wheel, it can "help to keep gray hair from yellowing and enable white hair to remain white and vibrant," says Cindy Marcus, a professional hairstylist in Las Vegas and editor-in-chief of Latest Hairstyles. A purple conditioner can also aid this process; be sure to follow the directions on the bottle.
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Nurture your scalp.
A healthy scalp means healthy tresses. "Hair grows from the hair follicle out, so nurturing your scalp and roots is just as important as the hair that you see," says Patterson. One of his favorite types of products is a scalp scrub. "This helps your skin cells turn over and helps to keep your scalp skin loose (we want this!)," he says. "I love the ion Healthy Scalp Scrub—it's a perfect balance of exfoliation and hydration."
His other favorite type of product is scalp oil. "As we age, we produce less sebum, or oil, which is where hair gets protection and hydration naturally," he explains. "So, as we lose it we have to replace it for hair to maintain its 'youthful' glow and texture." He suggests The Mane Choice Multivitamin Scalp Nourishing Growth Oil. Massage a few drops into your scalp each day. In the morning, use a natural bristle brush to move the product through your mid-lengths and the ends of the hair to mimic the natural protection of scalp sebum, he suggests.
Add a gloss.
A hair gloss is a hush-hush pro secret for achieving salon-fresh strands. "Think of this as the clear top coat to your manicure or the lip gloss to your lipstick," says Patterson. "It adds an extra dose of pop." Fortunately, you can apply a gloss at home, too. Patterson notes there's minimal room for error because it's clear. The ion Color Brilliance Clear "00" Demi-permanent Creme Hair Color is one of his favorites for DIYers.
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Wash less often.
Gray hair tends to be drier and more brittle than fully pigmented strands, and a frequent wash schedule can exacerbate the issue. "Our hair needs the natural oils our scalp produces … to look shiny and healthy," says Marcus. "Washing too much can strip your hair of these essential oils."
Most people with gray hair can get away with washing their hair once or twice a week; if your hair is thin or fine, Marcus advises washing it at most every other day.