There are three certainties in life: death, taxes and grey hair. But going grey isn’t the end of the world – and it’s certainly not the end of having a good-looking head of hair. Whether you’ve got a dash of salt ‘n’ pepper or gone full silver fox, there are limitless grey hairstyles that you can turn to.
The beauty of grey hair lies in the fact that, visually, it’s high shine and high contrast. This means it looks great long and short, with precisely coiffed, wet-look styles and messier, natural hairstyles alike. It also needs some TLC, though. Here’s why grey hair happens in the first place, how to look after it, and the best hairstyles to showcase that beautiful head of grey.
What Causes Grey Hair?
It’s perhaps the most obvious sign of ageing, and getting those first grey hairs is likely to have you contemplating your own mortality in the mirror, pulling out rogue greys furiously, and crying, “Why, God? Why?” But there’s no divine intervention at work here. It’s usually down to the ticking of the biological clock.
“Hair begins to turn grey when the melanocytes that produce the melanin – which give the hair its colour – begin to deplete and become ineffective,” says Eva Proudman, consultant trichologist at UK Hair Consultants. “This is largely due to the ageing process but can be genetically related too.”
But “grey” is a misnomer. “The term grey is slightly misleading as the hair is white,” says Proudman. “It looks grey as a result of being mixed in with normally pigmented hair and this is what gives us that wonderful array of grey hair tones.”
How Does Going Grey Change Your Hair?
You’ve probably heard lots about how your hair changes more than just its colour when it starts greying. But there’s a lot of conflicting information out there. Does the hair get coarser or softer when it starts to grey? And does it get thinner as well?
“Grey hair can change in texture,” says Proudman. “It is usually finer, but may feel coarse due to a lack of the natural sebum that keeps our hair moisturised. Sebum production also decreases as we age.
“Sometimes the hair may develop a curl or kink. It varies and there isn’t one hard and fast rule. Research into how the structure of grey hair changes is ongoing and inconclusive. What does seem to happen is that the underlying structure of the hair changes as the melanocytes become inactive.”
That can have an effect on how you approach styling it. “Grey hair can indeed be coarser and more stubborn to cut,” says Sait Koca from the Adam Grooming Atelier. “However, the barber’s approach is largely dictated by the customer’s original hair type – thick, fine, straight, wavy and so on.
“Another important factor to take into account when deciding on the cut and style for the customer is their lifestyle. Not everyone has the same amount of time to dedicate to their at-home grooming routine.”
How To Style Grey Hair
The specific style you choose will depend on “hair length, thickness, level of greyness you’re rocking, and – as Sait Koca suggests – lifestyle. But there are some universal styling tips that are as wisened as a full head of glorious grey.
“If you’re short on time we would recommend keeping it very short,” says Koca. “That way you’ll look well-groomed with minimal effort. If you’re able to put in some time to blow-dry and style it, long grey hair can be a great look.”
If you’re concerned it’s starting to thin, you can add layers to keep the style looking bouncy and fuller, just as you would with naturally coloured hair.
“You just need to make sure that the texture is added in the right way,” says Joe Mills from London barbers Joe & Co. “Avoid thinning scissors, they aren’t going to help. Styling-wise, just use a decent conditioner to add the moisture after shampooing, and use a product like a texture spray with a “hairdryer to add the volume and movement.”
The Best Grey Hairstyles For Men
If you’re still unsure about how to style it, here are some recommendations for each type of greying hair.
Short Grey Hairstyles
If you’ve gone salt ‘n’ pepper all over, you look towards George Clooney, as you would with all style issues relating to the mature gentleman. He proves that short hairstyles in grey look razor sharp. “Ideally you need to add some texture,” says Mills. “So I would recommend a shorter textured crop, which will work very well with your colouring. A couple of inches all over with a lot of texture should be what you ask for. If it’s cropped with scissors it will be softer and will grow out really well.”
Go-to styles: High fade, French crop, side parting, buzz cut
Medium Length Grey Hairstyles
If you’re going grey around the back and sides, it’s tempting to just chop down those areas, but embracing the grey and growing it can look great. “If you cut it too short around the back and sides, it will look unbalanced,” says Joe Mills. “I’d recommend growing it out a little and keeping it classic – a decent scissor cut with some length on the top. You want a couple of inches around the back and side left and four to five inches on top, so you style it back from your face.”
If you’re grey all over, medium-length hairstyles like a quiff or slick-back can take on a little extra drama.
Go-to styles: Pompadour, slicked back, quiff
Long Grey Hairstyles
You know that old saying. If you’ve got it – a big mane of grey, that is – flaunt it. “If you’re blessed with a full head of long hair, we would recommend keeping it long,” says Sait Koca. “Grow it out and work with the grey locks,” says Joe Mills from Joe & Co. “Soft and long but not scruffy. You want to keep as much length as possible and ask your barber to add some texture. The longer the hair, the more love it will need – a lot of moisturising conditioner and, most likely, a purple shampoo.
Go-to styles: Slicked back, soft shoulder-length hair
Curly Grey Hairstyles
Curly hair is nature’s own style, so take advantage by going au naturel with a softer scissor cut style. Grey hairs can be extra curly or wiry so with the right styling, your hair could be even more dramatic. “You want something soft and natural to work with the curl,” says Mills. “I would keep the length on top and bring in the back and sides, so it sits well. How much length you keep is down to your hair type and face shape.
Go-to styles: Curly fade, mid-length quiff
The Best Shampoos For Grey Hair
There are shelves full of shampoos and conditioners all claiming to give your hair colour some extra shine. But what about when you start greying? Are there shampoos and conditioners dedicated to brightening up the silver fox? Or products designed to deal with its coarser texture?
“If your grey hair has a slight yellow tone then definitely use a shampoo or conditioner that has some purple tone to it, as this will clean up the colour,” says Joe Mills. “Using a conditioner with every shampoo will really help to keep it looking its best.”
Eva Proudman agrees on purple shampoos but also recommends protection from the sun. “Grey hair is more susceptible to UV damage from the sun so invest in a good SPF to add protection,” she says. “And washing every other day is really important as grey hair shows the dirt more quickly than any other hair colour.”