No single hair color has experienced a glow-up quite the way gray has. Like dirty blonde hair, it's has become a go-to neutral shade for many women. Gray hair color is usually worn ashy and looks best on women with cool undertones to their skin. Whether gray ombre, gray purple, or gray platinum hair is the best shade of gray hair color for you, you're sure to find the perfect look with the help of a pro (and the best shampoo for gray hair, too!).
Notably, silver and gray hair can be high maintenance because it lasts just a few weeks and grows out quickly. That’s why so many women love gray balayage, which utilizes hand-painted highlights to achieve a more natural (we’re using that word loosely) look. Instead of growing out with a visible line of demarcation, this beautifully applied gray will leave you with ombre ends.
We spoke with Lasha Keller, Matrix brand ambassador and stylist, about everything you need to know before calling your stylist. She thinks the color has become so popular because it’s almost like playing a character for many women. Gray couldn’t be more different from dark brown hair or ash blonde.
“I think that most young women are attracted to the silver or gray tones because it something completely different from their natural hair color...It’s very trendy and sexy,” Keller says.
Hair is the most dramatic accessory you own, so why not play around with it? Below, we break down the process, maintenance, and products needed to achieve gray hair color.
Getting Gray Hair Color: The First Steps
To begin, let’s be clear: gray is not as easy to achieve or maintain as, say, a chocolate brown shade. If you’re committed to the color, however, it can be the most exciting statement you’ve ever made. Your journey to silvery locks will begin with a consultation appointment, during which your stylist will inquire about your budget, the inspiration for your color, and what kinds of products you use. All of this is crucial information, allowing the pro to find a shade that will fit your best.
When it comes to finding the right shade, Keller admits to having a little help.
Whenever I’m doing a consultation with a client, whether they are asking for gray or even a level six brown, I always pick up the Matrix swatch book first...I hold the color that they’re looking for right next to their eyes so that they can see what that color will look like on their skin tone and with their eye color. It really helps to give them a much clearer vision as to whether that color is meant for them or not.
Once you’ve decided on a shade, any bright color starts with having your hair lightened. While the color lifting process will alway cause some damage, your stylist will work to leave you with hair that looks and feels beautiful.
“When working towards a gray balayage, the process really depends on where you begin,” Keller explains. “Sometimes it can happen in one sitting and sometimes it may take several applications—as in a corrective situation—to ensure that the hair is healthy throughout the process.”
Once your hair is lightened in hand-painted sections, it’s time for color. This is where your professional’s creative eye really comes into play. Keller tends to lean toward silvery shades for her clients, noting that when the color begins fading it’s easy to try a different fantasy shade.
“After the gray color fades out, [the client] could come back in and get rose gold or a vibrant copper,” she explains. “Even though they are not coming in every eight weeks for a foil, I’m still making sure that my client comes back in and we’re giving them the proper maintenance for their color.”
Not interested in changing shades? Try a gloss, instead!
Caring For Gray Hair Color
Like all the best things in life, gray hair color requires time and attention to remain beautiful. Keller’s developed a killer care routine for clients who wear the shadowy color. With cool shades, your number one concern should be keeping yellow tones at a distance.
“If you have a really nice light gray balayage, my suggestion for my clients is always to pick up Matrix So Silver Shampoo and Color Obsessed Conditioner,” she says. “If their hair is a darker gray, then I would suggest Matrix Brass Off Shampoo and Conditioner. Brass Off has more blue pigment in it than So Silver, so that it will help keep more gold or deeper yellow tones from coming back through the hair.”
Unlike traditional allover color, balayage hair means a much longer break between appointments. A skilled stylist should be able to create a touch-up schedule for you, so you’ll never let that gray fade away completely.
If you’re ready to make gray a part of your life, scroll down. Our favorite gray hair color looks will make you want to head to the salon right now.
Looking for inspiration? Here’s proof gray hair color will never go out of style.
If you’re taking the plunge into neutral hair for the first time, we’d like to suggest you start with a bright silver. Although the shade may seem best suited for little old ladies, it’s versatile and youthful. Both in care and execution, silver hair is surprisingly similar to light blonde. You’ll even use the same purple shampoo.
Truly, there are very few hair colors we find as unique and mesmerizing as dark silver. Unlike the often-repeated shades of blonde and brunette, this is a color that will set you apart. With its bluish or violet undertones, you’ll find yourself wanting to wear it through all four seasons.
Here’s the extra perk of such a dark color: If you’re a natural brunette who isn’t afraid of visible roots, you can make this shade last a very long time.
Feeling a little aquatic? Blue silver is the way to go, particularly if you don’t identify as a pastel hair color person. The interesting part of this color is the variety. You can choose to meld your silver with an aqua or true blue, but you can also ask your stylist for navy balayage. It all depends on how much maintenance you’re willing to do and how bold you’d like the style to look!
We stand by an allover light blue with very bright silver undertones. It’s striking without being over-the-top—just the way we prefer our hair.
Here’s another technique designed just for the girls who can’t be bothered to revisit the salon every six weeks. If you’re interested in the possibilities of gray hair but hope to keep your natural or dyed brunette around the face, opt for a gray ombre with dark roots.
For a hair color upgrade that’s a little out of your comfort zone, ask your stylist to place silver pieces around your face.
Committing to a new hair color is an intimidating process, particularly if you’ve never dyed your locks. Rest assured, there’s an easy way to go about it. We recommend transitioning into your new shade slowly, with the help of partial-coverage techniques like highlights.
Whether your natural shade is dark or light, highlights will create more depth while brightening the entire head. We particularly love the way silver highlights look on blondes since they add icy flair to the shade.
Feeling like your hair color has totally gone flat? Don’t get stuck with lifeless strands. Instead, ask your hairstylist to add dark gray lowlights to your ‘do.
Just the way contouring carves out hollows beneath your cheeks and creates the illusion of a sharper jawline, lowlights add visual depth to your hair. In other words, you just faked your way to a thicker (and more stylish) mane.
Gray Hair With Blonde Ends
This isn’t your grandma’s gray hair. While the trend may have started with uniformly silver and gray hair, we’ve since found that mixing gray with blonde makes the shade appear far more youthful. Instead of looking like you’re on the way to collect your pension payment, seem like you attend festivals every day by adding blonde ends.
Pro tip: For this look, platinum is your go-to shade of blonde. The cooler, the better.
We’re already obsessed with purple hair, so a combination of gray and ultra violet was an absolute no-brainer. We love all combinations of these two shades, but the most popular is undoubtedly a purple-tinted gray all over the head.
If that’s not the right fit for you, try a gray to purple ombre or balayage. We even recommend including a few notes of deep purple in the mix, just to give the hair added texture.
Like its namesake flower, lilac the hair color hovers somewhere between purple, pink, and gray, with an emphasis on muted beauty. This shade can work for warm and cool skin tones, and is extremely beautiful on all textures. In other words...this is the perfect hair color.
As lovely as the shade looks in spring and summer, we find it’s at its best in winter. The contrast between the delicate beauty of the color and thick, cold-weather sweaters is truly wonderful.
Holographic Gray Hair
Here’s a shade specially designed for you, blonde beauties. Holographic hair, which has only recently come into popularity, uses many shades of pink, blue, and purple to achieve a mesmerizing 3D effect.
Instead of trying this technique on purely platinum hair, ask your stylist to layer down gray as part of your new hairdo. The shadowy take on holographic hair is much more office appropriate.
Gray To Pink Ombre
We will never get over pale pink hair. It’s feminine while remaining edgy, the perfect unexpected shade to dye your mane. The only thing better than a cotton candy cloud is one that balances the pink with a little gray.
For this look, make sure you’re requesting a beige-like gray instead of a darker shade.
So, you’re not a girl who ever wants to wear pink in her hair? That’s totally fine. Instead, try a moodier color paired with dark tones. Trust us! Gray teal is the dreamy, blue-influenced shade you’ve been dreaming about.
As with many shades of blue, you have the opportunity to choose vibrancy and undertone here. We’d start with a very dark teal, so as to enjoy the color as long as possible.
Black Hair With Gray Balayage
Drama queens, this is your time to shine. Instead of taking gray anywhere subtle, pair it with jet black hair for a gorgeous look that most people won’t be bold enough to try.
We love this look on pale, cool skin tones. It’s striking, dark, and totally memorable.
Who says you can only wear one shade of gray at a time? We love this gradient look, particularly on long hair.
Shades Of Gray
To mimic one of the natural ways hair goes gray, try a deep gray base with lighter silver highlights. The bright pieces can flatter you complexion—particularly when they’re placed around your face. Use a gray-enhancing care system like Redken Color Extend Graydient Shampoo and Conditioner to help ensure those silver pieces remain brass-free.
Is anything more eye-catching than a luminous pearlescent shade? We think not. Keep in mind that although this shade is beautiful, it’s not for the faint of heart. Bright silver is an ideal choice if you’re already accustomed to the care routine that comes with platinum blonde.
If pearlescent hair isn’t enough of a statement for you, try this silvery gray shade that borders on white hair. For fall or winter, it presents a striking new take on seasonal hair color.
Neutral Blue Gray
Going gray doesn’t mean eschewing color altogether. Those who feel bold can experiment with muted accents of smoky hair colors like this neutral blue. Just don’t be surprised when strangers start asking for your colorist’s name.
If the rainbow hair color trend appeals to you but you don’t have the energy to go full neon, try a grayscale version of the trend instead. This gorgeous blend of pinks and blues.
Gray And Lavender
Purple and gray may not seem like an obvious duo, but we’re enchanted by the way both pastel shades look together. In this particular look, extra lavender accents add depth to the color.
Grayish Blue And Brown
Is subtle more your vibe than, say, disco pink? Try this beautifully natural-looking combination of chocolate brown with a blue-gray balayage. Instead of letting your hair color rule your look, you’ll feel like an amped up version of yourself.
Gray And Rose
Do you love to incorporate a little romance novel drama into your everyday life? You’ll love this gray balayage over rosy roots. The look is practically made for a heroine in a gothic novel.
Silver And Charcoal
Movies and television may not be in black and white anymore, but that doesn’t mean the silver screen has lost its charm. To channel the film stars of yore, give this silver and charcoal look a try. Ask your colorist for bright silver balayage over a very dark gray base, then watch the magic happen.
Gray And Steel Blue
Powder blue has ruled the colorful hair world for some time, but it’s a gray-inspired steely hue that really gets our beauty-loving hearts beating faster.
Gray And Violet
As a general rule, well-blended colors are our favorites. This mix of cool violet and gray creates such drama that we like it best on blunt, short cuts. When you have a powerhouse color like this, length isn’t mandatory.
Silver And Slate
Celebrity stylists often talk about their passion for using carefully placed highlights and lowlights to contour the face, bringing out the cheekbones and narrowing the face. This dramatic color look proves hair contouring can work with just about any combination of shades.
Silver And Baby Blue
Intrigued by denim hair? You should be. This washed-out combination of silver and blue is the perfect fantasy look for spring and summer.
Gray And Turquoise
Halle-blue-jah! This gray and turquoise blend has us believing there’s still more life in pastel blue. This shade will look particularly beautiful in festival-inspired braids and updos.
Silver And Honey
Not all gray balayage is about moody shades. We’re totally in love with this silver and honey blonde look for warmer days ahead.
Time to try gray hair color for yourself! Use our salon locator to book an appointment with a pro near you.