By Fiona Ingham, House of Color consultant

‘Silver vixens’ has slipped into the language, describing the phenomenon of high profile women choosing to embrace their silver hair. ‘Going Gray’, Anne Kreamer’s 2006 book, noted the start of a trend where more women felt increasingly able to decide not to color gray or already fully silver hair. About time too!

Maybe times now really are a-changing, with role models such as Helen Mirren, Judy Dench, Emmylou Harris, Annie Lennox, Theresa May, Joan Baez and Condoleeza Rice embracing this trend of making the most of gray hair.  Meryl Streep looked stunning with white hair in ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ and I certainly know several far younger women looking wonderful with natural white hair. We are definitely seeing more women of all ages with silver hair.

silver hair

In her autobiography, the model Daphne Selfe describes her amazement at the increase in work offered after her hair went gray. Vogue, amongst other fashion publications, now have more fabulous models with hair ranging from iron grey to pure white and it’s noticeable that many young women are choosing to make their hair gray. If you’re looking for advice on using dye to get silver hair, you might find this article useful: Silver Hair 101. But be aware, it’s a high maintenance shade if it’s not your natural one! Lucky you if it is!

A Color Analysis class introduces the idea that cool skin tones – Winters and Summers – however pale or dark the skin, can go silver beautifully. A school friend of mine who now knows she is a Summer, let her hair go gray from the age of seventeen, so has spent a lifetime explaining that her envied platinum locks are natural!

If cool skinned women choose to color their graying hair, it does require expertise to avoid the introduction of too much warmth – orange or yellow – because this may wash out the coloring, whereas ash brown or ash blonde tones can work well.

Keeping the hair extremely dark looks great with certain colorings as we age, but sometimes the look starts to become rather harsh. Silver around the face, contrasted with dark at the back can be a successful option for a dramatic look. Hair mascaras to touch up gray roots are well worth investigating if color is being added, to help with the problem of a white parting between color applications.

Over twenty years ago I had my colors analysed and was surprised to discover that I had warm skin tones and was a soft Autumn. Later, when greyness raised its unwelcome head, I followed the excellent advice from my Color Analysis session, which was to add color, in my case a warm blonde.

Eventually when my hair changed from having a sprinkling of silver strands amongst the gold, to gray, then to white I found that expensive, time consuming highlights started to be invisible or look harsh and the Balayage technique was unsuitable for my short pixie cut. Inexpensive wash in – wash out rinses at first gave a nice hint of gold until they began to irritate my scalp.

So unlike many warm based women who successfully choose to continue to add color, I decided enough was definitely enough, that I would ‘do a Lagarde’, save time and money on hair dye, and go au naturel! I’m enjoying it!

Silver Hair

I’m increasingly aware from my own experience and working with clients that going white gracefully is about paying even more attention to a flattering, regular cut. Hair might have thinned or the texture changed so it can be an excellent time to review length and possibly consider a new style.

It can pay dividends to consider new ways to wear gray hair. The brilliant specialist products around make a huge difference to texture, volume and sheen, so are well worth checking out.

Changing our make up to suit silver hair

The makeup worn will also need a review. For example my warm toned peach blusher now needs to be more strongly applied and a bronzer is invaluable to add good color. When we have less natural color in our hair we may need more color in our faces if we want to avoid that washed out look!

Contrast in our coloring, whatever that may be, makes us to look good and contrast tends to diminish as we grow older, so a vibrant lipstick suited to our individual skintones can be our greatest ally. This suggestion often comes as a huge surprise to clients who expect that a paler shade of lipstick will work better as they age or their hair goes grey.

A whiter shade of pale on the lips, be it pink or peach is best left to the young or maybe enjoyed at a sixties themed party! A warning! Do beware of that allegedly one size fits all, soft brownish pink, almost invisible lipstick (often given as a free sample!) which in my experience is the default choice of the British woman unsure about what truly suits them!

If you feel you look drab with silver hair it’s often just a matter of revamping the total image. How best to work our style, colors and the trends which work for us does change over time, so a wardrobe review and detox can work wonders!  

If your choice is to go gorgeously gray, you have the most wonderful opportunity to have fun, project your individuality, find new ways to wear your gray hair and enjoy what works best for you in the current fashion climate.

How women with silver hair can look gorgeous – checklist

  • Natural silver hair can look stunning, especially if you work with your skin tone and understand what color season you are for clothing and makeup. That way you can experiment with different colors of clothing knowing they will suit you. For more on this, check out our article on color analysis
  • Any style of silver and gray hairstyles can work: long hair, medium length, shoulder length, trendy short grey hairstyles, curly hair or wavy layers etc. Just be sure to prioritize a good beautiful hairstyle, that works for you and accommodates your hair texture, through discussions with your hair stylist.
  • Don’t be afraid to experiment with makeup to give you a fresh look. As our hair loses color we may want to add some more to our faces! A bright red lipstick may not have been your favorite in the past, but it might be the perfect choice to liven your face up a bit now. 
  • Avoid brassy tones on your silver locks by using a purple shampoo from time to time. They can really brighten up your natural hair colour.
  • Silver and grey hair can be dryer in texture and it pays to replenish some of its lost natural oil through hair masks, for example. You may need to care for it more than in the past, but at least you won’t be dyeing those grey roots ever 6-8 weeks!
  • Look for inspiration from other older women or your favorite celebrities who’ve embraced their natural gray color in recent years: Jane Fonda, Andie MacDowell, Helen Mirren and Stacy London have all made headlines for their gorgeous gray locks.

Listen to silver-haired model Rachel Peru on the Magnificent Midlife Podcast

**Check out these recommended hair products

Fiona Ingham has been a House of Colour Star Consultant since 1991, helping people identify which colours and styles of clothing flatter their individuality. Fiona’s sessions are informative, enjoyable and fun. Her philosophy is – whatever your gender, colouring, age, shape or budget, finding your personal colour and style, and developing your personal brand, will save money and time, and make you look and feel great. She’s recently become a style writer for Turkish Airlines Skylife magazine. For information about Colour Analysis and Personal style sessions contact fiona.ingham@house of colour.co.uk.

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