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9 Colorist-Approved Tricks for Going Gray Gracefully

If monthly visits to the salon no longer seem worth the effort—or the price tag, an easy solution that's increasingly chic is to go gray! Use these celeb-stylist secrets to finesse the transition.

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Stick with it

Many good things can happen when going gray, but for most people, is a year-long process that certainly won’t happen overnight. “If you are ready to commit to growing out your gray, know that patience is key,” says Lauren E. Hack, celebrity colorist and co-founder of LAUREN+VANESSA Hair and Beauty in New York City. “It will be a shock to the eye and maybe some emotions will arise too, but focus on the end result and keep in mind the reason you have chosen to make this decision.” So don’t freak out and grab a bottle of die prematurely, because there are ways to make the transition easier.

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Add highlights

It might sound counterintuitive, but hair experts recommend actually adding color subtly to make the transition to growing out your natural hair and going gray more seamless. “When you first decide you’re nearly ready to go natural, a step in the right direction would be to start going lighter, that way the roots grow in a little more gracefully,” Kali Ferrara, senior colorist at Roy Teeluck Salon in New York City, says. “This can done easily by a skilled colorist with a lighter base color in conjunction with highlights.” Steer clear of warmer colors like reds and strawberry blondes, however, as Ferrara warns these hues could backfire and show even more contrast with your roots—and make sure you’re not making these nine other hair color mistakes.

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Go slightly darker

As an alternative to highlights, Hack suggests adding lowlights to to match your natural hair color. “This makes the grow out seem less extreme and the maintenance is much less—maybe every 10 to 12 weeks.” And, if you’re really daring, you can opt to have your colorist double process your hair to tone it towards platinum or gray and let the rest grow out. It’s important to note, however, that you’ll still likely wind up needing more than one or two appointments at the salon to achieve your desired result. Here’s how to protect color-treated hair.

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Chop it off

If you don’t feel like adding new color to your hair and are desperate for less upkeep, Ferrara recommends growing your roots as long as you possibly can and then getting a short haircut to cut off all of the leftover color. In the growing-it-out phase, you can hide your roots with a headband, hat, or chic scarf. “While this can be a dramatic change, it can also be just the new look you may be looking for!” she says. “Think of your natural hair color as a new adventure, a new, liberated you.” Here’s how a short chop was the makeover one woman didn’t know she needed.

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Wait it out

Once you’ve achieved your ideal color, you can stretch out your next trip to the salon a little longer. Head back when you start seeing one or two solid inches of gray at the root. In the meantime, Ferrara suggests hiding your roots with a touch-up spray like Oribe’s Airbrush Root Touch-Up Spray. During your next appointment with your colorist, he or she will be able to thread in a demi-permanent base color and highlight color without a single process color. “This way some of your natural gray is showing along with the dimensional highs and lows that will ultimately blend into the body of the rest of your color on your lengths,” Ferrara explains. “This process will have to take place about every three to four months until the solid single process color has been cut off.”

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Use quality at-home products

The texture of gray hair is quite different than the hair of your youth. George Papanikolas, celebrity hair stylist and Matrix Artistic Director explains that it’s typically more coarse, frizzy, and dehydrated. To combat this, he recommends arming your strands with moisturizing products that will keep it silky and shiny. His go-to: the entire Biolage R.A.W. line. “It is free of sulfates and silicones, so it’s gentle, but has powerful, natural ingredients that keep the strands super hydrating.” He recommends Biolage R.A.W. Re-Hydrate Mask. You’ll also want to add purple shampoo to your hair regimen, which fights brassiness and keeps the hair color nice and bright. Stephanie Brown, colorist at Nunzio Saviano Salon in New York City, recommends Shimmer Lights by Clairol. “It’s inexpensive and it works!”

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Opt for an in-salon treatment

Some salon treatments, such as keratin and hydrating masks, are often stronger than the kind you’ll get at home. Mara Kadish, colorist at Warren-Tricomi Salon in New York City, recommends giving the hair a nice shiny coat of gloss, something you can do either in a salon or at home weekly. “A gloss will help maintain a finished, more polished look as gray hair can tend to look and feel more frizzy and less sleek,” she says.

Another must-try treatment is Olaplex, which Kadish describes as “filler for your hair.” “It rebuilds bonds that have been broken down in the hair, making the hair strong, more plump (hence the reference to filler), and shiny!” she says. ” It’s seriously like a magic wand for your hair.”

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Try out different hairstyles

Whether you are trying to cover up the gray or embrace it, Kadish suggests playing with different styles outside of the boundaries of your everyday look—i.e. ponytail, a different part, or worn brushed back to “hide” the roots. “Changing it up creates different looks that make growing out the gray look really cool and intentional,” she says. “Keep changing and trying out different styles as it continues to grow out.”

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Own your decision

All the hairstylists we interviewed agree that the key to pulling off a new ‘do of any kind is confidence. “Beauty comes from within and everything else is icing on the cake,” says Kadish. “If you are growing out your gray, embrace that decision and know that gray is beautiful and can be very chic and stylish.” Whether you’re going gray, blonde, brunette, or somewhere in the middle, you’ll still want to avoid the hairstyle mistakes that age you.