Fifty shades of gray? Yes, and these days those shades are being spotted on 20- and 30-somethings.
While women of a certain age are spending a small fortune to keep their hair from turning gray, a growing number of young women, spurred on by A-listers such as Rihanna, Lady Gaga and Alexa Chung, are spending their cold hard cash to have their locks dyed gray.
“Social media has really blown this out of the water as a trend,” says hairdresser Fallon Taylor at Baton Rouge’s Avallon Salon & Spa. “Those that get it really like it.”
One of Taylor’s clients who has embraced the gray trend is Brooke Roussel, a 30-something X-ray technician at Woman’s Hospital. She started going gray at 14 and began coloring her hair to hide her grandma tresses.
“I’ve known Brooke since middle school,” says Taylor. “One day she texted me and said that since she was more than half gray all over, and since going gray was such a big trend, why didn’t we do her hair silver?”
Their first effort wasn’t exactly the look they were going for, so Taylor switched products and found success.
“I like it!” says Roussel. “When I first told my friends I was going to do this, they were like, ‘No, you’re going to look old!’ But when they saw it they were all like, ‘Oooh, you look so good!’ I get a lot of compliments at work, from housekeeping to the nurses.”
Taylor and Roussel also say the success of going gray depends on how your hair is styled.
“You need a little edge to your haircut to pull this off so you don’t look old,” says Taylor. “We tried all kinds of cuts and style before settling on the pixie.”
“My hair was shoulder length before I got it all chopped off,” says Roussel. “It’s cool because, depending on what I wear, my hair color kind of changes. It picks up the hue of my clothes.”
While Roussel was previously able to color her hair at home, for some, going gray requires professional attention.
“There’s a little more science to it,” explains Taylor. “It’s pretty much a two-step process. You have to lift the natural color to make sure you get an even color all over. Gray is a translucent color and it really shows any flaws.”
“Pre-bleaching gives you a white canvas,” says Patrick Blanchard, a color specialist at Via Veneto Salon. “You can make the hair any color you want — silver, lavender or rose. They’re very delicate colors and fade gradually with shampooing.”
It’s also a big commitment.
“Once you lighten the natural hair to that degree, you can tint it back to its natural color, but you’ll never be able to grow it out to that natural color,” says Blanchard of the double process that costs more that $100.
“For dark hair especially, you have to lift the color,” adds Taylor.
Julie Zitzmann, of Chalmette, has never been afraid to play with hair color. The 29-year-old esthetician’s hair has been green, yellow, pink and red.
“I have no emotional attachment to my hair,” she says. “I even shaved my head for a fundraiser for the St. Baldricks Foundation.”
Due with her first child in November, Zitzmann finds her hair very thick these days.
“My mom was always pushing me to do something more normal,” she says, laughing about her hair experiments. “Going gray was my loophole. It’s a natural color, but not natural for someone my age.”
Because she had experience playing with color, Zitzmann colored her own hair gray.
“It was a lot easier than I expected,” she says of the single process she used.
“The hardest part was getting the red out. Right now, it’s sort of a faded platinum blonde and I’ll just retone it with a pale ash toner.”
She also likes a little of her natural roots showing.
“It gives my hair more depth,” she says, “and I think it looks prettier than having the gray all the way to the roots.”
More shocking than looking in the mirror and seeing herself gray, though, was her mom’s reaction.
“She actually thought it was pretty,” she says.