Real Simple December 8, 2022

Real Simple


Ask a Beauty Editor: 7 Gray Hair Colors That Make You Look Younger


Disclaimer: This story may give you gray fever.

Ever wanted to pick the brain of a beauty editor? Or get beauty product recommendations from someone who has tried them all? You've come to the right place. In our weekly series, beauty editor Hana Hong answers your biggest skincare, hair care, and makeup questions, all submitted by Real Simple readers. Tune in every Tuesday and submit your own burning beauty questions here for a chance to be featured.

Reader question: I’m trying to go gray but look younger. Can you recommend some gray hair colors that do that?

If your grays are starting to come in, you should find comfort in knowing that people are trying to make their hair gray right now (read: you’re naturally trendy). “Gray hair is for everyone—all ages, hair types, and lengths,” agrees Min Kim, L’Oreal Professionnel Global Ambassador. “From Winnie Harlow to Jane Fonda, you’ll see this color everywhere on the red carpet and in streetwear as people begin to embrace their grays as opposed to covering them.”

It also gives you some opportunity to play around with the gray hue for you—remember that gray doesn’t have to age you (in fact, it shaves years off when done right). “Silver is the light, platinum version of this trend while gray is the “brunette” of the family, i.e. a deeper, smoky result. Your gray tone of choice can be cool or opalescent or pearl, and customized for all skin and hair types,” says Kim.

Whether you’re (reluctantly) trying to transition to gray hair or you’re wanting an intentional, all-over dye job, we put together some of the most stunning gray hair colors to show your stylist.

Charcoal Gray

Starting with the dark horse of the family, charcoal (or gunmetal) gray is the darkest version of this silver trend. Spotted on the likes of Winnie Harlow and Zosia Mamet, Kim notes that it’s ideal for natural brunettes that want to maintain their depth and wear smoky, cool hues.

Winter Platinum

On the other end of the spectrum, this icy hue (think Targaryen) is so blonde that it borders on white. “The bright white is created with an all-over double process application and cool-toned gloss,” says Kim. “Don’t be intimidated by the starkness—anyone can wear this hair color; the silver all-over toner will bring out the flush in anyone's cheeks and make you look younger.” 

Keep in mind that some extra toning maintenance may be needed with this look. “You’ll want to maintain the brightness but cool off any unwanted yellow, leaving a bright, almost-white like snow,” says Lorena M. Valdes, colorist at Maxine Salon in Chicago.

Salt and Pepper

Looking for the perfect gray transition? As the name implies, salt and pepper is a combination of black and gray shades that looks naturally shiny due to some traces of white. Most stylists are familiar with this technique since it’s one of the most popular ways to shift over to an all-over gray. In addition to being less maintenance, the darker base of lowlights will blend with your natural gray and allow for a smoother transition. Added bonus: The shine makes your hair appear healthier.

Oyster Gray

Inspired by the inside of an oyster shell, this pearlescent color trend creates a holographic silver illusion by bringing together platinum blonde and shimmering silver tones. Just note: The glossy sheen is what elevates this color to the next level, which means hair masks and glossing treatments will need to become part of your hair care routine. 

Silver Shadow Root

A solid way to buy time in between appointments, a shadow root is becoming increasingly popular paired with dye jobs. “The silver shadow root is a great way to go-bright platinum blonde since you can ease the grow-out with a darker silver root,” says Kim. And since natural gray hair grows in from the roots, this flipped shade situation makes the gray on your ends look all the more intentional. 

Silver Moon

For all the platinum blondes out there, turns out going overboard with purple shampoo creates a pretty wicked silver hue. Although this color is best left to the professionals (please don’t actually leave purple shampoo on too long), weaving hints of blue and purple throughout bright silver locks is a great way to achieve a cooler-toned look.

Gray Balayage

Gray blending offsets or accentuates gray strands by mixing in extra pieces of highlights and balayage to create a more natural look. Ask your stylist to weave a pattern of colors through fine sections of hair to complement and celebrate natural gray hairs, blending them into the hair color design rather than covering them up entirely.