Along with the multitude of changes our body goes through as we age, the transition to natural gray hair can feel the most nerve-wracking—leaving many of us struggling to embrace the inevitable silver strands. Perhaps you’ve decided against dyes or your usual routine is just no longer cutting it and you’re looking for the best way to care for your changing strands. Whatever your motivation, you can use our guide; we’ve enlisted two hair-care experts to help share their top tips.
For starters, it might be helpful to understand how natural gray hair differs. “With age, hair loses density, shine, and pigment, and the oil glands in the scalp produce less sebum,” says Ph.D. scientist, certified hair practitioner, and biotech/pharmaceutical patent attorney Dr. Gaby Longsworth. On the color of gray hair, Longsworth emphasizes that it’s not white, but transparent like glass because it has lost its melanin, a natural protectant against ultraviolet radiation. “Gray hair lacks this natural protective mechanism making it more sensitive to the sun’s rays, which results in the oxidation of hair proteins,” she notes. “That is why white and gray hair is more likely to oxidize, looking yellow and tarnished.”
That said, the reduction of sebum production can result in hair that feels coarse, wiry, and dry—especially for curly texture, according to Longsworth. Thus, Nina Rubel, creative director and head of color at Rob Peetoom Salon in Williamsburg, explains that one may have to alter their styling and maintenance routines accordingly. Read on to discover the essential steps to make sure your natural grays are as healthy as ever.
Remove buildup with a clarifying shampoo
“To keep gray hair healthy, only use gentle clarifying shampoos and avoid sulfates which are especially drying for gray and curly hair,” says Longsworth. “Using a charcoal,