1. Gray Area
To dye or not to dye—that seems to be the new question. Though more than 60 percent of women color their hair, according to a 2012 Clairol survey, local stylists are starting to see an uptick in women who are embracing their silver strands.
“I’ve had many of my clients for over 25 years, and this is the first time I’m seeing some of them just go with their gorgeous gray hair,” says George Ozturk of George at the Four Seasons Salon, who attributes the trend to women wanting hair with less fuss. “When done right, it’s so elegant and chic, but you have to start with a full head of gray.” In other words, if you’re going to skip dye, it’s best to wait until you’re fully gray.
Keep it short and straight, because long white hair can age a person and smooth locks reflect light and prevent hair from looking dull. A few highlights around the face add shine and perfect the color.
2. Less Is More
Not ready to go gray—or to stay your natural shade—but also not interested in touching up color every four or five weeks? You’re not alone.
“Color is about being low-maintenance right now,” says stylist Timo Nguyen of George at the Four Seasons Salon. Here are four color techniques that require less upkeep.
Forget foils—balayage highlights, like the ones here on Sarah Jessica Parker, are painted on by hand in a sweeping motion (hence the French word for “sweeping”) that deposits the lightest color at the roots and the heaviest at the ends. The chunky, sun-kissed effect lasts up to three months without touchups, says Nguyen.
Blending color from dark to light—say, dark brown roots and honey-blond ends, à la Drew Barrymore—with no harsh transition allows for up to four months of carefree color, says Nuri Yurt of Toka Salon & Day Spa. The technique usually employs highlights that start at the middle of the hair and run to the ends, and it’s best for long hair, so it doesn’t look as if your roots are growing in.
An easy fall transition from all-out summer blond, “brond” is a fusion of brown and blond—think model Gisele Bündchen and actress Jennifer Aniston. For blondes, it’s a way to blend in highlights or return to their natural level, says Nguyen. For brunettes, it’s a way to go lighter without looking as though hair has been dyed.
Covering gray once meant getting rid of every strand—at a high cost and time commitment. Today, Diane Keaton and others blend gray with highlights that turn them blond or with lowlights that return color to its natural level. Yurt also likes demi-permanent formulas that blend 50 percent of grays and shampoo out gradually, leaving no demarcation as hair grows out.
3. Think Inside the Box
According to a recent survey by Mintel Group, a market-research firm, 38 percent of women colored their hair at home in the past year. For most, it’s a question of saving time as well as money—think $8 instead of $80 or more.
Another reason: New formulas and technologies provide simpler-than-ever solutions to getting a mane worth dying for, including mousses that are less messy than liquid dye.
Say you just want to stretch out salon visits. Here’s a new breed of touchup tools that are virtually goof-proof:
Revlon Root Erase by ColorSilk ($4.49 at CVS) and L’Oréal Root Rescue ($6.99 at drugstores). An applicator deposits color directly onto hair instead of dragging it through the strands—and potentially pushing it into hair that doesn’t need it.
Rita Hazan Root Concealer ($24 at sephora.com) and Oscar Blandi Pronto Colore Root Touch Up and Highlighting Pen ($23 at ulta.com). Perfect for home-color commitment-phobes, these tools let you color in your roots and grays with temporary color that lasts only until your next shampoo.