Celeb Colorists Told Us Their Most Strategic Tips for Healthy and Youthful Hair

Erin Jahns
·13 min read

Originally, this article was going to look quite different. I had intended to ask some of the best colorists in the business—you know, the people who color, foil, and perfect the sparkling strands of all of our favorite stars—to prescribe the "best," or perhaps most strategic, hair colors "to look younger." But as you'll see below, that's not entirely what went down.

The types of beauty-related quandaries people type into their Google search bar inform a hearty chunk of what we research and write about as editors. After all, we're trying to provide you with the interesting and serviceable content you're most curious about. But sometimes, we want to encourage a different narrative—especially when it comes to aging. There is no such thing as a set list of hair colors that will make someone look younger. That's an obsolete, far too prescriptive approach to something as complex as the relationship between haircare and the number of years we've lived on the planet earth. Instead, we hope you'll choose a hair color based on how it makes you feel.

A list detailing the best hair colors to look younger would require hundreds of slides due to the simple fact that each and every one of us has a different skin tone, eye color, hair texture, color preference (I could go on and on), all of which can impact and influence the hair color we want or feel most comfortable with. So I decided to ask our expert panel of colorists different kinds of questions so that this could be less of a listicle and more of an open conversation. Hopefully, you'll glean some helpful insight and feel inspired to pick a hair color (be it gray, white, blue, pink, brown, or blonde) that makes you look as vibrant as you feel—no matter your age. Keep scrolling! Below, some of our favorite celebrity colorists are divulging hair color myths, professional rules of thumb, favorite products, and so much more.

What do you feel are the biggest myths or mistakes when it comes to hair color and aging?

The biggest myth and mistake when it comes to hair color and age is that there should be hard rules. Conventional wisdom wants us to believe that as we get older, we need to stay away from harsh, edgy colors. However, some of my older clients can rock a sleek, chocolate brown look way better than some clients half their age. It all comes down to attitude and how much joie de vivre someone has.

What are your best tips for choosing a flattering hair color that will help someone feel like the best, most youthful version of themself?

If you're looking for beautiful, low-maintenance color, I suggest going warmer than you might think. Warm tones are almost always universally flattering, yet we often spend so much time fighting against them. Veer toward words like honey and gold and caramel. As we start to age, most people have some underlying warmth. When clients attempt to lift this warmth to an unnatural color, the upkeep is constant. Toners fade, and maintenance requires trips to the salon every four weeks or so. Embracing your natural warmth allows for a much softer grow-out. Your natural tones will remain in your hair, and your faux color won't look as jarring when your roots start to show as your hair grows out.

Do you have any expert advice for people with lighter hair who are just starting to go gray?

For naturally blonde clients who are beginning to go gray, I often blend their hair by highlighting and adding some reverse highlights, or lowlights. The effect is much more natural and low-maintenance than a solid, single-process color. The key is to maintain a multidimensional look with various tones mixed in to mimic what the hair would look like if they were not yet gray.

How about people who are looking to embrace the gray or white tones they already have? How can they keep the color and tone as vibrant as possible?

When women (and men) begin to gray, it is usually not the perfect white, cooler-toned shade of gray we often think about. What usually occurs is a mix of salt and pepper and, oftentimes, a yellow or warm-tinged hue of unpigmented hair. I recommend asking your colorist for a clarifying treatment. The brand Malibu C makes a brilliant one that clears the hair of mineral and hard water buildup. Usually, once the hair is thoroughly clarified, it can then accept either lavender or purple shampoo or treatment, or a cool glass to really impart shine.

Malibu C Hard Water Wellness Hair Remedy ($4)

How does the coloring process change as we get older?

The first thing is clients desiring gray coverage are not necessarily “older,” and “older” clients are not necessarily gray. Clients of color, who usually have more depth, tone, and elasticity to their skin, can sometimes look decades younger than their actual age. With that being the case, I would never impart any hard rules on hair color based on age. It is such an individual approach. Clients with paler skin tones, regardless of age, sometimes need to impart more warmth to their hair color to enhance the overall tone of their skin. And older clients with good skin elasticity can oftentimes pull off colors that others may shy away from. The one thing to keep in mind is that hair sometimes ages faster than the rest of us. It loses elasticity and needs extra TLC as we get older.

What's the best strategy for at-home hair color?

Before you color at home, I always recommend consulting your colorist on a plan that can work for you. If cost is a factor, most salons offer complimentary consultations, and it may be helpful to just pop in and get an expert opinion. Even if you don’t plan on immediately using their service, you can usually garner some tips for a direction to go once you're at home.

Can you share a few must-have product picks for aging hair?

DPHue Apple Cider Vinegar Hair Rinse ($15)

My absolute favorite thing to recommend for aging hair is an apple cider vinegar rinse.

Christophe Robin Brightening Shampoo with Chamomile ($34)

I like to combine an ACV rinse in a cup with a gentle clarifying shampoo (like this brightening shampoo from Christophe Robin) and lather for at least five minutes. The shine factor is insane.

Virtue Labs Smooth Shampoo ($38)

I also love Virtue Labs' Smooth Shampoo ($38) and Conditioner ($40), which give aging hair a silky feel that often mimics hair that is decades younger.

Virtue Labs Smooth Conditioner ($40)

Serge Normant Dream Big Instant Volumizing Spray ($25)

As hair ages, it also sometimes thins, and I personally think that the best product line for plumping and volume is Serge Normant’s Dream Big collection. From the shampoo to conditioner to his cult-classic texture spray and mousse, using this line can almost double the thickness and feel of fine, aging hair.

What do you feel are the biggest myths or mistakes when it comes to hair color and aging?

The biggest myth is the existence of "gray hair." The gray we see is actually an illusion made up of the hair that is still pigmented and white hair mixed together. As colorists, that’s why we say up to 50% gray, meaning 50% of the strands on the head are white. I can see how that can be confusing, but this distinction is essential for me to determine if I should use a permanent color or demi-permanent for coverage of the whites.

As far as mistakes, I almost always prefer to use a demi-permanent color (which blends more naturally) versus permanent when I'm working with older clients, and I also prefer to use a method like foiling instead of completely getting rid of white hair by base coloring.

What are your best tips for choosing a flattering hair color that will help someone feel like the best, most youthful version of themself?

Warm up your all-over color using highlights and midlights. Warm, lighter wisps and pops of highlights on a neutral to a neutral-cool base will almost always read the most natural and youthful. (Think of children’s or sun-kissed hair.) Just make sure your highlights are no more than two levels lighter than your base, or if you want lighter highlights for a more contrasted look, ask for midlights to be foiled in as well to connect everything together. This way, your highlights can be up to four levels lighter than your base and still blend seamlessly with a midlight as the color in between. The most natural, beautiful hair colors are multidimensional, with color and tonal variations.

Are there certain hair colors you frequently recommend for older clients? Are there certain colors you steer people away from?

I don’t have specific color recommendations for older clients, as the best color is really dependent on individual skin tone. Just like our hair, we naturally lose pigmentation in our skin, so depending on how much pigment is lost and how cool the skin appears, I like to reflect that in the base color. Too dark and warm or too light and ashy can clash with older clients. I generally try to work with and encourage clients to embrace white hair by blending them in with my foiling techniques.

How about people who are looking to embrace the gray or white tones they already have? How can they keep the color and tone as vibrant as possible?

Use a shampoo specifically intended to enhance gray hair. These formulas usually feature violet pigments to help cool off warm tones. Redken’s Color Extend Graydiant Anti-Yellow Shampoo ($23) and Silver Conditioner ($23) will combat those yellow tones that gray hair can draw attention to.

Redken Color Extend Graydiant Anti-Yellow Shampoo ($23)

Redken Color Extend Graydiant Silver Conditioner ($23)

What's the best strategy for at-home hair color?

Honestly, my solid advice as a pro is to avoid using permanent box colors at home. There are too many uncontrollable outcomes that can ultimately cost a lot more money to color correct in a hair salon later on. Ask your colorist and/or stylist what the best options are for you—blending with foiling techniques, getting a demi-permanent color for blending, or a permanent color for more stubborn coverage.

Can you share a few must-have product picks for aging hair?

Redken Extreme Length Shampoo ($23)

Older clients tend to have more sensitive and/or brittle hair caused by dryness and the structure of the hair getting weaker over time. I love this line because it fortifies hair to be 15 times stronger and helps to lessen breakage up to 75%. It’s exactly what older clients need to keep their hair strong and healthy, especially when they are color treating.

Redken Extreme Length Conditioner ($23)

Redken Oil for All Invisible Multi-Benefit Oil ($34)

This is a perfect anti-frizz formula that locks in moisture all day. I recommend it in between salon visits so my clients can maintain the shine and gloss effect from the salon at home.

Redken Shine Flash Shine Spray ($22)

This glass-like shine spray has a lightweight, nongreasy feel, which makes it another great option for older clients who want to minimize frizz or revive dry ends.

What do you feel are the biggest myths or mistakes when it comes to hair color and aging?

One myth I always challenge is “age-appropriate" hair color. If you are older and love modernity, there is almost always a sophisticated take on "younger" hair trends or looks. It's a colorist's job to find and pinpoint those takes so the client feels relevant and fabulous. Chic and timeless are not mutually exclusive from stylish and contemporary.

As far as mistakes, something that often happens when creating hair color for older clients is over-pigmentation. A hair color that isn’t too inky or hyper-colored will give a much more authentic appearance if you're after a more youthful result.

What are your best tips for choosing a flattering hair color that will help someone feel like the best, most youthful version of themself?

Try looking at photos of yourself as a child. Oftentimes, the hair colors we naturally have in the earlier parts of life naturally compliment and look beautiful throughout our entire lives. Then, we can tweak the tones as needed or add a bit of light into the colors as you age to keep everything fresh and complimentary.

Eye and skin tone are so important—we want to accentuate your features with hair color. If some of those features are evolving with age, the right small adjustments to your hair color can accent vitality in a way that works beautifully for you.

Are there certain hair colors you frequently recommend for older clients? Are there certain colors you steer people away from?

I love to soften hair color shades for older clients. Taking your color a little lighter over time can look more youthful on aging skin. Also, if you are someone who is not afraid of warm tones in your hair, incorporating a touch of warmth can also add life and color back to your face. Unless the goal is to wear your hair naturally gray, I suggest avoiding super-ashy tones later in life.

How about people who are looking to embrace the gray or white tones they already have? How can they keep the color and tone as vibrant as possible?

Sometimes, a few platinum white pieces added to natural gray hair by your colorist can also create a much brighter and more vibrant-looking finish. This is great for transforming dull gray hair into a fresh and intentional shade of silver.

What are a few of your favorite haircare/color products to recommend to older clients?

Kerazon Professional Brazilian Keratin Treatment ($40)

If your gray hair is very wiry or frizzy, a keratin treatment can be a nice option to seal your cuticle, which makes the hair look healthy and youthful.

Davines NouNou Shampoo ($29)

If your hair is very gray, you can expect hair color to fade more easily over time. Shampoos like NouNou from Davines are great for protecting your hair color and slowing down that fading process.

Clairol Age Defy Permanent Hair Color ($9)

This line from Clairol is a perfect at-home color option for gray hair if you can't get to the salon. The color range it provides is amazing and helps keep aging hair smooth, soft, and supremely hydrated.

Sachajuan Silver Shampoo ($29)

This Silver Shampoo from Sachajuan can be used once per week on gray hair to keep the color from looking yellowed or dingy.

Number 4 Fluoro5 Elixer Restore & Repair Oil ($15)

This is a great leave-in serum that nourishes your hair. I think of this as a haircut in a bottle. It keeps your ends sealed, which makes them look less frayed from dehydration.

Up next, The Best Hair Colors for Dark Skin Tones, According to Gabrielle Union's Stylist

This article originally appeared on Who What Wear

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