As many of us get older, we find ourselves having to deal with those pesky gray hairs and, unfortunately, there is no way to prevent them! I call my gray hair “metallic blonde,” but that doesn’t really make it any better. Sure, you can always use color to cover your gray hair, but that color will fade, and the hair will grow back. You may also wonder what causes gray hair and if there is a way to slow down the graying process.

What Causes Gray Hair
What Causes Gray Hair. Photo © Tim Merton | Getty Images.

It’s important to know that whether you develop gray hair is all in the genes — just like your eye color or skin tone. You have no real control over whether (and when) your hair will turn gray. Some men develop gray hair at a very early age, while some grow old with a full head of naturally colored hair.

We really have no control over whether we go gray, but some factors such as extreme stress, disease, poor diet, or trauma can cause the hair to turn gray (although nothing will cause it to turn grey suddenly — it has to grow out that way). Your kids or your spouse, by the way, do not cause you to go grey, although many people think they do — that’s just one of the many men’s hair myths.

So, what is gray hair exactly? How do I describe this without getting too dull and technical? Let’s see… Every hair contains pigment cells (called melanin) which give the hair its color. The color of the hair depends on how much (and what type) of melanin gets deposited on the cortex of the hair (the hair shaft) by the melanocytes.

Still with me? Well, as we age, the melanocytes get lazy and stop injecting melanin into the hair. Remember, melanin is that beautiful substance that gives hair its color, so the less of it there is, the less color the hair has.

Some people believe that the hair actually turns grey over time, but that’s a hair myth.

The hair is not actually turning gray, but as the melanin goes away, the hair becomes somewhat transparent. The hair is actually turning clear, but as light hits it, it takes on a silver appearance.

As I mentioned above, there is indeed no way to stop your hair from turning gray (or even slowing it down). Once those melanocytes get tired and stop doing their job, there is really no way to restart the process. Fortunately, modern science gives us the opportunity to cover our gray hair by using hair color. There are several “at-home” varieties which work reasonably well, but I still recommend seeking a professional for natural-looking results. Most people assume women color their hair — it’s a very common practice, so if it doesn’t look one hundred percent natural, it’s not a big deal for most women. Men, on the other hand, typically don’t want people to know they are coloring their hair, so a very natural-looking result is desired. Before attempting any in-home color service read all directions carefully.

Today, fortunately, there are many quick and relatively inexpensive options available for men in the salon (or many upscale barbershops), but you should first consider your options first. My favorite is Redken for Men Color Camo. This service only takes about 10 to 15 minutes and should cost you about $25. The stylist can custom blend this color to match your own hair as closely as possible. The thing I like about this (and the similar American Crew Precision Blend) is that they don’t completely cover the gray (they just tone it down a lot) and the color fades in about six weeks, so you avoid the gray roots. Of course, if you keep your hair very short, you’ll deal with some grow-out issues.

So, the bottom line is that gray hair is caused by genetics and there is really nothing that can be done about it, other than coloring it or cutting it off. I will argue that working with your natural hair is the best option. A well-executed haircut and fit, healthy body will do more to keep you looking young than covering the grey. Take a look at Anderson Cooper or other stylish men with gray hair for inspiration. Don’t stress over what you can’t change and work on the things you can!

How to Cut and Style Men’s Gray Hair

Watch the video if you want to learn how to cut & style men’s gray hair?

How to Go Gray the Right Way

So, you looked in the mirror, and you’re seeing a tab bit more gray hair than you are comfortable with. Don’t panic. This happens to probably most of us at some point. But, what are you going to do about it? Reach for the box of Just for Men or let nature take its course. Whatever you decide, we’ve got the info to help keep that head of hair looking great.

How to Go Gray the Right Way
George Clooney – Neilson Barnard/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

The Cut

When you start seeing significant amounts of gray in your hair, and you decide not to camouflage it with color, it’s time to consider your haircut.

Not many guys can pull off the casual, long head of gray hair like Richard Gere. It’s time to start thinking more along the lines of George Clooney (who always looks amazing) or Anderson Cooper. I believe the grayer the hair, the shorter you should go.

Start with a close-cropped haircut that’s just about a quarter-inch long on the sides and just an inch or two on top — like Clooney.

For something even more low-maintenance, go for a short Ivy League haircut like Mr. Cooper. The shorter haircut will help you look younger and give you a more groomed look with gray hair than a longer, shaggy style.

The Shampoo and Conditioner

When your hair starts to turn gray, it can become dull and yellow due to impurities in water and styling product buildup. You’ll want to choose a shampoo specifically for gray hair (American Crew Gray Shampoo is a great one) to help minimize the yellow tones. Most gray shampoos have a slight violet hue which contrasts the yellow and helps brighten the hair. We’ve all heard the term “blue hairs” when referring to older people. This is because they have been overusing shampoo for gray hair.

Whichever you choose, follow the directions completely and the only shampoo with the product as often as directed. If you start to see a bluish or violet tint in your hair, reduce the use of the shampoo.

Gray hair happens when the hair loses pigment. The hair is not gray at all — it actually becomes transparent but looks gray because of how the light hits it.

Unfortunately, when hair loses pigment, it also loses moisture, so the daily use of a conditioner is essential to keep gray hair soft and manageable. I love Jack Black Nourishing Hair and Scalp Conditioner for this purpose.

The Color

I almost always recommend against coloring the hair — in my opinion, it is best to let nature take its course and also work with what you’ve got. Chemical services are almost always bad for the hair and scalp. But, if you must color your gray hair, I recommend going to a professional stylist who can create a custom color formula and give you a more natural look. Most stylists can apply color at the shampoo sink so that you won’t be sitting in the middle of the salon with goop in your hair — you’ll walk out, and nobody will even know you’ve had it done.

If you do decide to color your gray at home, go for a natural-looking semi-permanent color that is a tone lighter than your natural hair color. Follow the directions thoroughly and never leave the product on your hair longer than the recommended time. Semi-permanent color is designed to blend away some (not all) of the gray to give you a more natural look. Avoid choosing a color that is as dark (or darker) than your natural to avoid ending up looking like you’ve dyed your hair with shoe polish. You’ve seen that guy — he’s sixty and has a head of jet black hair. Don’t be that guy because everyone will know you’ve dyed your hair.

You might want to keep in mind that, if you do decide to color your hair, you’ll need to have it frequently maintained so your gray roots wouldn’t start showing — that looks terrible and is a sure sign to everyone that you’re dying your hair.

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