It’s virtually inevitable: At some point you’re going to start seeing gray hairs. But it doesn’t have to be a bad thing.
Handling your new hair color the right way can mean the difference between “Rob’s a silver fox!” and “Rob looks…different.”
Here, we share what women really think about gray hair—what they like, and what they don’t—along with some do’s and don’ts for dyeing it, cutting it, and making it look as sexy and youthful as possible.
1. Women expect guys to go gray as they approach 40 (and sometimes sooner)
There’s no one set age when those first white strands begin to sprout, but “genetics play a big role in how early and how much gray men will get,” says Rachael Thomas, senior colorist for Madison Reed, an online hair color company. “Typically, 30–40 seems to be the age range when most men start to notice their gray.” For that reason, if you’re sporting salt and pepper hair before (or around) age 30, you may feel it makes you look older prematurely.
2. We’re totally cool with you dyeing it
For whatever reason, a lot of guys are afraid to dye their grays. “Many men are nervous that it will look unnatural, or create the dreaded ‘shoe polish’ look,” says Thomas. Other guys are interested in getting rid of grays, but have spent a lifetime getting trims at a bro-focused barber shop and simply feel “a bit uncomfortable visiting a salon to get their color done,” Thomas says.
However you feel, remember: Women dye their hair, too, so we won’t fault you for wanting to keep the color you were born with. In fact, you just might end up with a gorgeous woman in the salon chair next to you—so it can be a win-win to book an appointment with a pro.
3. Don’t go too “dense” or too dark with dye
Speaking of that awkward shoe polish look, here’s the big no-no for dyeing gray hair: “A common mistake is going too dense and dark with the color,” says Thomas. The lighter your hair, the more it tends to soak up color, so those silvery-white strands can get uncannily dark really quickly.
How can you avoid that shoe polish look? “Choose a shade formulation that has natural dimension to it,” says Thomas. “That will give the color a more natural-looking appearance.”
You don’t want a flat, dense, dark-all-over color, so look for (or ask your colorist for) a formula that offers “multiple tones” or “natural highlights.” If you’re dyeing at home, try one shade lighter than your natural color (e.g. medium brown instead of dark brown), and leave the product on for the minimum amount of time for the first go-round to avoid ending up with a helmet-head of dark, unnatural color.
4. Don’t assume you can rock a buzz cut
If you’re going gray and losing some hair, you might be tempted to just buzz it close to your head and be done with it. For some guys, this looks flattering and makes your life easy—but not everyone can pull it off.
If you’re not totally convinced this look will work for you, hold off. “Not all shapes and styles look or feel great on everybody,” cautions Thomas. And if your hair is starting to thin, growing it back could be more problematic than you’d like to admit.
5. A new haircut can fix everything
Whether you’re dealing with grays, hair loss, or both, “a new haircut can make a world of difference,” says Thomas. It pays to find a good stylist who will assess your face shape and lifestyle, and give you a hairstyle that makes the most of what you’ve got.
As a general rule, “Shorter, structured cuts with texture built in are a great way to keep a modern, fresh look without having to color grays,” Thomas says. For those with longer hair, you can also change up your part or comb your hair differently to play around with how much gray you show.