Meryl Streep played a striking, white-haired editor in The Devil Wears Prada and, suddenly, gray hair seemed sexy.
Diana Lewis Jewell's Going Gray, Looking Great! is a no-nonsense guide for going gray. She calls it the "modern woman's guide to unfading glory." But as hairdressers, should you be concerned if your clients want to give in to the light side? Not necessarily, says Jewell, who offers suggestions for leading your clients into a whole new color adventure that includes charcoal, pewter, ash, pearl, ice and silver.
The best news is that from care to treatment to special enhancing products and techniques, gray is going to add to and amp up your color offerings. "Gray is a color choice," says color guru Beth Minardi, co-owner of Minardi Salon in Manhattan, who lent her considerable expertise to the book, "but not one woman in a thousand can just go gray naturally and look good while she's doing it."
Minardi has no patience with clients who want to do nothing to help the graying process along, but she offers suggestions to women who are willing to accept a certain level of gray in their hair. "What I will do is weave in more of a client's natural tones, with softer color around the face," she says.
At Minardi Salon, evolving into gray occurs over a period of six to eight appointments, which allows the hair, and the client, time to get used to it. The idea, Minardi says, is to find the level of gray a client is most comfortable with, whether it's a face-framing streak or all over.
Brad Johns, color director at Elizabeth Arden Red Door Salon & Spa in Manhattan, compares making the decision to let the gray come in to going into rehab. "I call it 'grayhab,'" says Johns, who tells his clients to have their hair colored before Christmas, then let it grow in for the next three months. "No one's looking at you after the holidays," he says. "Everyone's fat, bloated and waiting for spring." Then, when clients have about two inches of new growth, he tells them to get a fabulous short haircut and "be ready to face the world."
Diana Lewis Jewell wrote the book on going gray.
Carmine Minardi, Beth's husband and co-owner of Minardi Salon, finds that proper care is the key to achieving a successful gray. "The perception of health is harder to achieve," he says. "You have to work at gray hair. And the women who do—those are the ones you point to and say, 'Wow! She looks fabulous.'"
Since hair without pigment loses much of its ability to reflect light, Carmine recommends some kind of topical shiner, like an oil, a silicone or a leave-in conditioner to add shine to gray hair. He also notes that while there's a "liberating feeling" when women first go gray, once the high wears off, they usually decide that they want their hair to look healthier and shinier. And that's where you come in. With the right care, the right cut and the right coloring techniques—which run the gamut from simple clarifying to highlighting, lowlighting, color weaving and glazing—gray hair can be just as beautiful as any other shade.
Jewell reports that a lot of hairdressers are ordering her book for their salons to share with clients. "It shows that you take an active interest in guiding women through all of the ways to cover gray, let it come in or make it even better," she says. Another plus: It can also help you start a dialogue about the other services you offer, from haircare to skincare. And it will help increase sales of ancillary products, including shampoo and conditioner for color-treated hair, styling products, treatments and color cosmetics—once a woman goes gray she needs to rethink her makeup.
To order copies for your salon, visit goinggraylookinggreat.com. —MARIANNE DOUGHERTY