Grey hair: everything you need to know about the chicest hair colour

Scientists have discovered a reason for grey hair, but that's not going to stop me embracing my salt and pepper locks...

grey hair coloured Kim Kardashian
(Image credit: Richard Shotwell/REX/Shutterstock)

Grey hair is funny, it's a bit like wrinkles. Some embrace their laughter lines and crow's feet, some don't and go on the defensive with the best anti-ageing products they can lay our hands on. Those fighting with grey hair, work out how to dye your own hair at home, whilst those welcome the change are happy to leave as is.

Whichever camp you fall into, it's important that you know as much about grey hair as possible. So we sat down with Anabel Kingsley, a celebrated Tricologist, to ask her all about this part of ageing.

Why do we go grey?

'Simply, we go grey when melanin (pigment) cells stop being produced. Grey hair isn’t actually grey – it’s white. It just appears grey as it is interspersed with pigmented hairs. Greying of hair is mostly a consequence of ageing and occurs due to a gradual reduction of the pigment. It can be genetically programmed as early as adolescence but is defined as premature before 20 years of age.'

What is the average age of women going grey?

'People usually notice their first greys in their early 30s. On average, over half of our hair will be white (unpigmented) by our 50s. However, women and men can begin to turn grey as early as 18, while others experience their first white hairs much later in life. Hair turning grey is strongly reliant on genes.'

Do you have to look after grey hair any differently?

'In terms of colouring, grey hair can be tricky to colour as it often does not retain dye very well. To achieve lasting colour, permanent dye is needed, and this should ideally be done in-salon by an experienced technician. In between colouring, it can be useful to apply a temporary colour to the root area at home.

To improve the appearance and condition of grey hairs, I suggest using the best purple shampoo and conditioner that contain optical brighteners. Such products help to counteract any yellow or discoloured tones and make hair look healthier and shinier. I recommend our Pure Silver Shampoo and Conditioner. As hair becomes finer as we get older, grey hair is also often finer and more fragile. To strengthen strands, use a weekly pre-shampoo conditioning treatment, such as Philip Kingsley Elasticizer.'

Can you stop it happening? Or slow it down?

'Stress may influence the greying process - but not directly. Stress can affect vitamin B levels, which may lead to premature greying in those with a predisposition. However, the negative impact that stress can have on the body is more likely to cause hair loss than it is to result in changes to hair colour.'

Maintenance tips for grey hair:

1. Wash your hair every other day to prevent your ends getting too dry.

2. When hair is wet - use a comb and de-tangling spray. Only use a brush on hair when it's completely dry. Hair is at it's most brittle when wet.

3. Leave hair to dry naturally, you can create waves and shape by plaiting or twisting.

4. Your hair is as sensitive as your skin and requires an equal amount of protection from the sun. Try to use products containing a filter or sun protection for hair to lock in colour and prevent fade.

5. Try brightening up your wardrobe and change your makeup to a slightly yellow undertone to keep skin looking fresh with a healthy glow against the grey tones of your hair.

Grey hair dye

Josh Wood Permanent Hair Colour, £10 Boots

grey hair josh wood

The best hair dye to cover greys is probably Josh Wood Colour at-home permanent colour. The man behind Elle Macpherson, Saoirse Ronan, Poppy Delevingne and Kylie Minogue’s hair set out to make covering grey easier and more accessible. And he did it.

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Grey hair shampoo

Redken Color Extend Graydiant Shampoo & Conditioner, from £10.05 Look Fantastic

grey hair

Redken's Graydiant silver shampoo & conditioner were developed specifically with women who are embracing their grey hair in mind. It's part brightening by neutralising yellow tones and giving you more of that icy silver look. And part nourishing with added amino acids that smooth rough texture and make hair more manageable.

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Grey hair is not just for those of us getting older, earlier this year it was the most popular hair colour on Instagram. If you are naturally blonde and really love that silver look, then the best purple shampoo used regularly will take down yellow tones and up the blue tones.

Going grey has never been easier.

Or chicer.

Katie Thomas

Katie Thomas is the Senior Beauty Editor at Marie Claire UK. With over 10 years of experience on women's luxury lifestyle titles, she covers everything from the best beauty looks from the red carpet and stand out trends from the catwalk, to colonic irrigation and to the best mascaras on the market. She started her career on fashion desks across the industry - from The Telegraph to Brides - but found her calling in the Tatler beauty department. From there she moved to Instyle, before joining the Marie Claire digital team in 2018. She’s made it her own personal mission to find the best concealer in the world to cover her tenacious dark circles. She’s obsessed with skincare that makes her skin bouncy and glowy, low-maintenance hair that doesn’t require brushing and a cracking good manicure. Oh and she wears more jewellery than the Queen.