You may have ditched the dye, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have any more decisions left to make about your hair. Now that you’ve chosen to go gray, why not change up the way you frame your face as well? A new cut is one of the most popular ways women choose to revamp their looks and lifestyles.

Color is also a major consideration when you go gray in terms of makeup and clothing. A color analysis, according our resident makeover expert Kate Leser, can help you decide how to stock your closet and what palette of supplies to maintain in your makeup bag. But if you don’t want or don’t have access to a professional color analyst, there are ways to self-evaluate your personal color choices. Just read on to find out what Kate suggests you do the next time you’re at the mall.

What kinds of factors should women consider when choosing a hairstyle and haircut? Are there any trends that you would heavily advise against? Any evergreen styles that work for everyone?

One haircut for all is not recommended. A good, flattering haircut is based on several factors: your face shape, hair characteristics, your lifestyle, and how much time you are willing to invest in maintenance.

Face shape: angled or contoured. An angled haircut will flatter and enhance an angled face. A soft, rounded haircut would be right for a more contoured face. (This is just the surface of a face shape analysis.)

Hair characteristics:
Texture: fine, medium, or coarse
Formation: wavy, straight, or curly
Amount: sparse, medium, or thick
(Carmine Minardi, Minardi Salon)

Lifestyle: Conservative vs. fashion forward vs. natural.

Maintenance: How much time do you have each day to style your hair? Do you like to use hair tools (straighteners, blow dryers, curling iron, etc.)? Or do you prefer wash and go?

What qualities should a woman look for when searching for a hairstylist?

The stylist should understand and accept your needs/wants above all else. What do YOU want in a hair cut? i.e. easy maintenance, to look sassy, not too short, to look fashion-forward, no bangs, etc. She/he should respect your decision to go gray and be willing to do anything to help you through your transition period. The stylist should have the experience with your type of hair, whether it’s coarse and thick or thin and limp. She/he should know how to enhance whatever head of hair you bring them. The stylist has to understand the significance of face shapes and how it relates to a flattering cut. Don’t let her/him talk you into a cut just because it’s the latest trend—unless it works for your texture, face shape, and lifestyle.

Are there any essential hair care tools that going-gray women ought to own? For example, what type of combs/brushes are best for gray hair? Are there any particular brands of shampoo, conditioner, etc. that you recommend?

There is a gamut of products one can use for gray. Knowing your hair (i.e. coarse and dry or limp and fine) is key, so if you don’t know, talk to your hairstylist about what products would work best for your particular hair. There are hydrating pomades, texturizing balms and glosses, styling lotions packed with vitamins and minerals to protect your hair from too much blow-drying and brightening shampoos and conditioners… the list is long!

Do you have any makeup color advice for women currently in the transitioning phase of going gray?

Looking at yourself in terms of value really helps. Think of yourself in a black-and-white photo. Are your eyes dark, medium or light in value? What about your skin? What about your hair?

Take me for instance: I had dark brown hair (dark value), light skin, and medium in value eyes. One dark, one medium, and one light is what we call a contrasting value. Now that my hair is medium to light in terms of value, I no longer have contrasting value to my overall look. I am considered a “True.” Long story short , my makeup should now be medium in tones, not too bright or dark but not too light either. Like Mama Bear—my porridge should be just right & my bed just right. How I wear my colors should also be medium in value.

Another example of someone who is contrasting is a woman with dark eyes, medium hair, and light skin. When she grays, her hair value is now light, but her eyes are still dark so she will remain contrasting in value. She will still need to maintain darker or brighter makeup to balance her overall look.

Red is a nice color for gray hair ladies. I am a Summer (color analysis results) who had red-purples in her palette but not a true red. Now that I’m gray, my new palette has a true red. I am thrilled! It looks good now but didn’t look as good with my brown hair.

Another makeup tip is not to wear heavy makeup and black makeup (eyeliner, mascara) because it can look too harsh. It can even give the illusion that your face is washed out. No one wants to look washed out and faded! There are many wonderful colors a woman can choose from to enhance her eyes, which are the gateway to her soul. Depending on a woman’s eye color, I recommend a pencil that either complements her eye color or is similar to her eye color, i.e. violet is very pretty for a green-eyed woman (green is opposite purple on the scientific color wheel). I typically recommend a stone-gray color for light blue or blue-gray eyes. Brown eyes can wear a blue, green, or purple eye liner.

Can you elaborate on how color valuation works? I really like the idea of looking at a black-and-white photo of oneself to evaluate what colors to wear. Is this something that could be formulaic?

Actually, your color values (as seen in a black-and-white photo) are not related to the actual colors you wear but HOW you wear your colors, i.e. if you have contrasting values (light vs. dark), then your best color combinations would be to wear something light with something dark, or if you’re only wearing one color, it should be bright to harmonize with your own natural light and dark values. If you have gray hair, light eyes, and light skin, your color combinations would be light colors worn with light or medium colors. Of course, I’d recommend you find out what your best colors are and then combine those colors to align with your values (skin, hair, and eyes).

When it comes to color for makeup, clothes, and accessories, what hues should women with gray hair lean toward? Warmer, cooler, bright, pastels, neutral?

It all depends on whether you are warm or cool. Gray hair doesn’t mean you are now cool or vice versa. Whether you are warm or cool, colors that you choose in makeup, clothes, and accessories need to be in the same family as you. i.e. Winter, Spring, Summer or Autumn. Just because you are gray doesn’t mean you “can’t” wear a certain color. However, the intensity or brightness of a color may be different if you are now gray. For instance, my color palette is still a Summer palette, but it’s softer, and some of the hues are more grayed.

You mentioned some great examples previously (and used yourself as a Summer as one example). How do women dress for their seasons and natural skin tones?

The easiest method is to have a color analysis performed. It takes all of the guesswork out of what colors to wear. Plus, if your color analyst is trained in color theory, she/he can tell you your intensifiers which are three of your very best colors to wear. An intensifier is the complement (on the color wheel) to your hair, skin, and eyes, hence your three best colors. My hair and skin complements are in the blue-green family, and my eye complement is a nice, light lemon yellow.

If you don’t want a color analysis done, than take the time to go a store and pull out a color, for example—yellow, from the racks. Compare the different yellows by putting them at shoulder height to see which colors makes your skin look luminant, not sallow. A yellow that brightens your face, evens out the skin tone, etc. would be a good yellow for you. Take a closer look at that yellow and ask yourself, is that more of a pure yellow or a gold yellow? Examine it to determine if it’s more warm (gold yellow) or is it a cool yellow (true, pure yellow)? This can also be done with other colors like red and green, i.e. blue red (cool) versus an orange-red (warm red).

Is there anything else readers should know about hairstyles, cuts, and colors that haven’t been covered already?

Keep your cut modern and fun. Know that you can change your hairstyle and still have fun with it as it transitions. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different styles. And if you feel your hairstylist is not listening to your needs, then move on. It’s okay to try another stylist.

Embrace your look. Going gray gives you the freedom to make some much-needed changes to your life. We all seem to get “stuck” now and then, so this is your excuse to try different styles in clothes, makeup, and hair. Have fun! Accessories are a great way of making your style your own. They can also be used to enhance and brighten your face if you’re afraid to step outside the box by wearing a color like yellow. Make your statement every day with a piece of jewelry. That’s where creativity and fun can happen. No one will notice that you’re in a hair transitioning mode.

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Join our growing community of women who are breaking down aging stereotypes and
creating a fresh perspective toward embracing life after 50.