Does Gray Hair Color Damage Your Hair? The Answer Is Complicated

Watch out people, because today we are discussing one of my favorite questions to get as a stylist: will dying my hair gray damage it ? Believe it or not, when I was in school, and therefore forced to wear oh-so-sexy black scrubs like all the other cosmetology students, a fellow student recognized the program I was in and cornered me in the bathroom, where she proceeded to grill me about gray hair for half an hour. While I'd never given a consultation in the bathroom before, the advice that I gave her was the same as what I would have said behind the chair, and that is yes, coloring your hair gray could damage it, or it could not. It's more complicated than you think.

Gray hair is part of a recent trend towards extremely cool, ashy hair colors — social media powerhouse Guy Tang recently partnered up with Kenra to release a line of "metallic" hair colors, all of which skew very, very ashy, and a search for "gray hair tutorial" on Youtube pulls over 170,000 results. I agree that gray hair can be beautiful — just look at beauty guru Samantha Ravndahl or Kylie Jenner's gray extensions from a few months back.

Where I see most damage occurring in people who try to take their hair gray isn't due to the shade itself, but due to the fact that hair must be lightened to pale yellow to achieve grey. Lightening your hair at home has the potential to cause major damage due to overlapping of product, using an inappropriately formulated developer (40 volume and bleach do not belong all over your head) or applying bleach to already compromised hair.

Though I highly recommend visiting a salon if you're thinking of going gray, be prepared to lay down some cash and prepare to spend the day with your hairdresser. BuzzFeed covered the process of achieving gray hair in detail, and it not only took 7 hours, but cost upwards of $600 and included a full head of bleach and toner before the grey color could even be applied. Stylists also have access to Olaplex, a relatively new in-salon treatment that repairs damaged hair during color processes, allowing stylists to push your hair further with less damage than you could at home.

That being said, if your hair is in good shape and can be safely lightened to pale yellow, it's entirely possible for you to go gray. Here's some inspiration for all kinds of gray:

1. If You Have Natural Hair

If you wear your hair in braids, it's not only easy to incorporate silver or grey extensions, but super cool when mixed with dark extensions.

2. If You Have Balayage

If your ends are already blonde, ask your stylist if it would be possible to take them gray or silver. They might require only a little more lightening before it's the next stop to Granny Town.

3. If Your Hair Is Dark

if you have dark brown or black hair, you might not be able to achieve the pale tones needed for silver or light gray without causing extreme damage to your hair. A steely blue color like this might be a better option, because even though it would require lightening, it doesn't require as much as silver.

4. If You Want to Keep Your Dark Roots

Stretched roots are having a moment. If you want to rock this trend alongside your gray hair, consider lightening and coloring just the tips of your hair, while keeping your base color neutral.

5. If You're Highlighted All Over

Going gray is actually quite easy if your hair is heavily foiled, because you're already blonde! Ask your hairdresser if toning your hair gray would be a possibility.

6. If You're A Natural Blonde

You are one lucky duck, because if you're naturally blonde, your hair has already done most of the work for you, and I am totally jealous. Rock that silver hair!

7. If You Can't Decide Between Grey and Fashion Color...

Why not do both?

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