I got an email recently from Kristen, who wrote:
So, I'm 32 going on 20. I have had gray hair my whole life but in the last 5 years it has been rapidly taking over my head! I'm ok with it. My mom would be fully gray, if not for befriending clairol many many years ago. I'm far too lazy and cheap to dye my hair. Also, I just figure this is what I was given, so I'm going with it. I'm contacting you because I'm hoping you might be able to help me. I'm sure you know, but finding info about gray hair care for a person under the age of 50 is pretty difficult. I know the texture changes but I just don't know how to care for it. If you have any pointers, I would be incredibly grateful!
I've actually been meaning to write a post on this for a while, because it really is such a journey, and there isn't much out there for younger women with natural hair. It's been so rare in recent decades that even most stylists don't have a clue.
Personally, it took me a while to figure it out. And the kicker, of course, is that no one around you realizes you just don't know how to care for your hair yet, they just think you're crazy and your hair looks bad. OK, people probably still think I'm crazy, but my hair looks better these days.
And it certainly looks better for not letting anyone chop it off!
The secret to gray hair is this: MOISTURE MOISTURE MOISTURE. And styling products.
As someone with fine, wavy hair, I spent my youth on volumizing hair products. I also used as few products as possible, so as not to weigh my hair down. And I lived in Florida, so moisture wasn't ever an issue.
Grow out your gray, and suddenly you have an entirely different situation. (Note, I've no idea about thick gray hair, or straight gray hair, but I suspect that the moisture issue is universal.)
These days I use moisturizing shampoo and conditioner. Don't be afraid if you have fine hair and it says it's for medium thick hair. Then, I spray on and comb through a leave-in conditioner, and if at all possible I air dry my hair, sometimes running a shine product through it when it's almost dry.
I usually style my hair with a curling iron, see pic above. Before I use the iron, I spray on a heat protector, and after I have curled it all, I use the most important thing, a smoothing cream. I rub it on my hands, and then lightly run my fingers through my hair, underside first so it doesn't go on too heavy on top.
Then, hairspray for fine hair, and I use a touch of sculpting gel on my part to try to minimize flyaways. Which there's only so much you can do about those, but when they're gray they're more noticeable, so I do what I can.
You can see me talk about using the gel to tame flyaways in this video book review I did of "Going Gray" by Anne Kreamer, which is an awesome book that I highly recommend. By the way, I'm still using that same tub of sculpting jelly from 4 years ago! When you just use a touch a day, it lasts a really long time.
I also use a purple shampoo and a moisturizing treatment at least once a month. I find the purple shampoos, which keep your grays nice and cool, to be fairly drying, so I always pair this with a deep moisturizing treatment.
So that seems like a lot of products when I write it down. Seriously, the fact that my hair could now withstand, and in fact needs, what's basically an onslaught of products was a huge revelation for me.
Beyond products, regular hair cuts are SUPER important. You don't spend money on dye, but you also can't go a year without a hair cut. I go every 4 months now; that seems to be the sweet spot. You've got to keep gray hair healthy and trimmed, no matter what the length. A trim makes a huge difference in manageability, and if your hair is ever looking raggedy or driving you crazy with tangles and flyaways, the first thing you should think about is, when did you last get it cut.
And finally, my last piece of advice is ROCK IT. I don't get as many compliments on my hair or my looks as I did before I went gray, and certainly some people hate it, and I've had some negative consequences and experiences. But a few times a year someone crosses a room or makes a point in conversation to tell me my hair rocks. Over the years, these people have been young and old, male and female.
If I'm meeting someone new, they're never confused which woman is me. I'll often say, I'll be the only woman under fifty with gray hair. Or I'll call it "cinnamon and sugar." I'm a special snowflake in an urban sea of black clothes and brightly dyed hair. It suits me just fine.
- Moisture, and don't be afraid to layer on the hair products.
- Regular hair cuts.
- Rock it.
It's also *really* helpful to seek out opportunities to see pictures of all sorts of women with all sorts of gray hair. It will help you pick a cut, and if necessary, help you convince your stylist that gray hair doesn't mean you can't have a more youthful look.
Good luck! And if you have any more gray hair care advice, I'd love to hear it in the comments. Rock and joy.
Linky Goodness and great gray hair resources: