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5 Things you should know about going gray

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Tips for what to do -- and what not to do -- to go gray gracefully (or not at all).

I found my first gray hair a little over a month ago, the same day I turned 34. I wasn’t horrified — to be honest I was kind of excited. I’ve been looking forward to going gray for years, in the hopes that my hair will turn silver all at once and leave me looking like an X-Man.

So I eagerly examined my new silver thread as a harbinger of hair to come. The color is great — light gray, silvery even, exactly the mutant hue of my dreams. The texture, however, is … unfamiliar.

I was shocked by how unruly it is! It doesn’t lay smoothly on my head like all my fine blonde hairs. Instead, it’s both rigid and wavy, kinking where the rest of my hair lies flat. At first I panicked, because nothing in life has prepared me for hair with any texture at all — my hair usually just lies there. What in the world would I do with hair that had — personality?!

I tried to console myself that this particular gray hair was a fluke, that they wouldn’t all look like this, when I found a second gray hair on the other side of my head. A second, texturally identical gray hair. It was like my hair itself was rising up against my mutant hair fantasies, all:

Being a mature 34-year-old, I decided that the thing to do was pull those offending grays out and pretend none of this ever happened. I mean, surely the power of positive thinking will work in my favor and force the next gray hairs that appear on my head to be both the silver color I want and the fine texture I’m used to, right?

Probably not. According to Katie Martin at HealthyWay, gray hair is significantly coarser than pigmented hair, making it both more difficult to color and more susceptible to brittleness and breakage:

“I can tell you that gray hair is very coarse, which makes it resistant to color,” says Ball. “So your stylist has to formulate the color for gray hair and let it process about 10 minutes longer than normal.”…

Additionally, because gray hair is already coarse, try to avoid washing your hair daily, which can strip your hair of natural oils, leaving hair brittle and dry.

Fantastic, right? So not only are my silken, silvery tresses the literal stuff of dreams, when my hair does go fully gray I’ll have to learn how to handle fewer washings in a hot, humid climate–not to mention having double the trouble of covering them up.

Oh, and one more thing: plucking those gray hairs was not the best choice. At. All. In fact, plucking is exactly what Martin’s stylist told her not to do:

When I frantically called my stylist, Emilee Phillips, who is the owner of the organic Green Goddess Hair Salon, she told me very sternly not to pluck it no matter how much I wanted to do so.

“The old wives’ tale that plucking a gray hair will cause two more to sprout in its place isn’t true, but you still shouldn’t pluck a gray hair,” says Phillips. “Just like tweezing your eyebrows, over time, repeated plucking will damage the hair follicle so much that it won’t grow back at all.”

But in addition to not plucking your grays, there are some other tips and tricks for dealing with your new natural hair color that will make it both more manageable and enhance the silvery-mutant hue …

Use special products just for gray hair

There are special silver and violet shampoos that are specifically formulated to eliminate the brassiness in gray strands and lighten the silver.

Choose the right clothing colors

Additionally, wearing vivid jewel-colored clothing (my favorite!) can help offset the cool tone of gray hair and make the overall effect brighter.

Stop washing so much

And in between wash days you can also lean on dry shampoo to absorb some of your hair’s natural (or sweat-induced) oils, visibly reducing the day-old appearance. This is particularly important for those of us who live in warm, humid climates — just be sure to use it sparingly! A little dry shampoo goes a long way.

Don’t say “never” to coloring it

In the end, though, if I’m not feeling the gray hair the way I imagined, coloring might be an option. It may be difficult, but it’s not impossible. And the bonus to coloring gray hair is that colored hair is softer and more manageable — which means that while I might not get the kind of tresses I long for, I can still have hair of any color in a slightly more familiar texture.

But do remember not to give into the temptation to pluck those grays. Whether you embrace the color or not, you’ll want to embrace the hair growing on your head — so don’t damage your hair follicles in a fit of frustration. Instead, take a deep breath and hit up Amazon for some dry and violet shampoo. And if all else fails, call your hairstylist.

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