Deciding to go gray comes with a certain sense of relief. Sure, you can't experiment with color anymore, but you can say goodbye to expensive trips to the salon, root touch-ups, and bleached, brittle strands. However, gray hair has its own set of idiosyncrasies. It tends to be thinner, coarser, and drier than colored hair—and could even turn yellow if not cared for properly. Fortunately, these things can be avoided if you know what to do. Here, hair stylists tell us the five haircare mistakes you should avoid when you have gray hair—as well as the alternatives that will take your locks from blah to brilliant.
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You go too long between trims.
Getting a haircut can seem like just another chore on a never-ending to-do list. But when you have gray hair, it's essential. "You should not go longer than eight to 10 weeks, at the most, in between haircuts," says Cindy Marcus, a professional hairstylist in Las Vegas and editor-in-chief of Latest Hairstyles. "Getting your hair trimmed regularly will help keep the ends looking healthy, which will result in an overall healthy hairstyle." If you skip your trims, split ends could run amuck and cause your strands to break or look dry and frizzy.
You wash too often.
If you're sudsing up your gray hair every day of the week, you may want to reconsider. "The most common hair care mistake that can damage gray hair is over-washing it," says Lauren Udoh, hair creative director of Wig Reports. "This is bad because it can strip the scalp of its natural oils, which are essential for keeping hair healthy and protected." Instead, Udoh suggests washing it two to three times a week using a gentle shampoo and conditioner (more on that in a sec). After each wash, use a leave-in conditioner or oil to help keep your hair hydrated, she adds.
You use blue shampoo.
The type of shampoo you use matters, too. According to our panel of experts, the biggest mistake people with gray hair make is choosing a blue shampoo over a purple- or violet-toned one. "When using blue-toned shampoo, the gray hair is very porous and will grab the blue tone which will turn gray or white hair blue," says Marcus. "Using a purple shampoo will keep gray hair from yellowing and allow white hair to remain a vibrant bright white."
After you've selected a purple- or violet-toned shampoo, choose a conditioner that matches your hair texture. "For example, to keep coarse, frizzy hair tame, I would suggest a hydrating conditioner and for fullness in fine hair a volumizing conditioner," says Marcus.
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You never use a detox shampoo.
Detox shampoos cleanse even more deeply than regular shampoos, washing away stubborn product buildup, oils, and dirt. And, according to Cody Renegar, an L.A.-based celebrity hairstylist whose clients include Gwyneth Paltrow and Marie Osmond, using one once or twice a week is imperative for gray hair. "Use a product like something from Aveda's Brilliant Hair Care Line that will fill porous holes, make your hair less wiry, and add to the smoothness and flow," Renegar says. Apply the shampoo as usual and let it sit for five minutes. Then, shampoo and condition using your usual products. Renegar notes you can create a DIY detox by adding a little bit of baking soda to your regular shampoo.
You style too often.
As with many hair types, over-styling can damage gray hair. "Gray hair has a tendency to be on the coarse, wiry side and over-styling can enhance the frizzy look," says Marcus. "One way to fix this is to embrace curls if you are lucky enough to have curly hair, add some curl cream, and let the hair air dry." If you must style it using hot tools, limit yourself to a few times a week. With healthy, non-damaged strands, you'll have a sleek style you can wear for days.
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