Real Simple October 18, 2022

Real Simple


Oyster Gray Is the Perfect (Intentional) Gray Hair Color Trend


This pretty, pearlescent hue is anything but basic.

It wasn’t that long ago that gray hair was something to be avoided, colored, or covered up at all costs. Happily, that’s no longer the case. Embracing the natural silver strands that come with age (and increased wisdom and maturity, we should point out) is all the rage. The same goes for bleaching hair in order to achieve a platinum, icy gray-blonde. Point being, going gray is in, in a big way. There are a variety of different iterations of gray out there, but oyster gray is hands down one of the prettiest we’ve seen. Shiny and shimmery, it mimics the inside shell of, you guessed it, an oyster. Keep reading to learn more about this hot hue, including what to ask your colorist for and how you can maintain the look at home.

What Is Oyster Gray Hair Color?

“This striking shade is pearlescent and combines platinum blonde with a gradation of soft silver tones that look almost holographic,” explains stylist and founder of FEKKAI salons Frédéric Fekkai. “Unlike other gray colors, oyster gray is much more multi-dimensional and a fun way to enhance gray or silver hair. It’s a modern, cool, shimmery look,” he says. 

Who Does It Work Best For?

For starters, it’s a great choice for those who already have natural gray or silver tones in their hair. It will accentuate and highlight these and the iridescence also imparts a nice glow to your skin, says Fekkai. (That’s always a plus if you have mature skin, which can tend to look dull.)  Oyster gray is also a good option for anyone who already has very light blond hair that’s cooler or ashier. Look closely and you’ll see that a lot of the examples of oyster gray color out there also have a subtle violet cast to them; this cool undertone is easiest to achieve and will be most flattering on those who already have cooler, ashier tones in their hair to begin with, explains Lorena M. Valdes, a colorist at Maxine Salon in Chicago. 

If you’re a natural brunette or have dyed your hair dark, however, this probably isn’t the best bet. Your hair color will have to be lifted with bleach more than once. It’s not impossible, but it will be a more challenging process and increases the potential for damage, explains Fekkai. To that point, if you already have chemical damage or your hair is prone to breakage, it’s best to steer clear. The bleaching and lightening required will only end up weakening it further, he cautions.

How Can You Achieve Oyster Gray Hair Color?

If you’re starting off with a base that’s mostly gray to begin with, you can achieve an oyster gray effect simply with a gloss and/or a few highlights if needed. Ask your stylist for a gloss that’s pearlescent and silvery, as it’s that iridescence that gives this color its signature effect and makes the hair look glossy and shiny, Fekkai points out.

Any other base colors will require what’s known as a bleach and tone, says Valdes. Your hair will first be bleached out until it’s platinum blonde, then a toner will be applied in order to create the dimension and impart those silvery, violet tones, she explains. In either case, this is a tricky shade to achieve, so it really does require the assistance of a professional colorist. (It’s definitely not something that you can or should DIY.) And, as is the case with any hair color, bringing reference photos to ensure you and your colorist are on the same page is always a good idea. 

What Are the Best Ways to Maintain Oyster Gray Hair Color at Home?

“A purple shampoo is fantastic for those with oyster gray color,” says Valdes. Not only does it help combat any unwanted warm or yellow tones, it will also deposit a bit of those subtle violet hues that you actually want to maintain, she explains. She recommends using one twice per week. Our pick: Matrix Total Results So Silver Purple Shampoo ($20;

Since bleaching takes a toll on the integrity and strength of your hair, using a deep conditioning mask regularly, about once per week, is also important. It will help keep your hair from becoming brittle due to the bleaching, notes Fekkai. One to try: L’Oréal Paris Elvive Total Repair 5 Damage Erasing Balm ($6; Similarly, minimize how often you use hot tools, as bleached strands are more vulnerable to heat damage, he adds. If you do need to use one, make sure to always prep strands with a heat protectant, like the Kenra Professional Platinum Blow-Dry Spray ($26;, beforehand.