A Hairstylist’s Insights on Going Gray


“Nothing is permanent, so explore every option and enjoy the journey.” This quote from Shawn Paul Gustafson, stylist and owner of Cleveland Heights–based Shawn Paul Salon, pretty much sums up his positive take on going gray. But making the decision to stop coloring your hair and let your silver shine can be rather daunting for many women. Here, Gustafson offers insights and advice on the process from his experience behind the chair.


The transition from colored hair to becoming a silver-haired goddess is as individual as the guest we are servicing.


What counsel do you offer clients who are considering letting their hair go its natural gray?
We begin our consultation by discovering our guest’s overall goals. Once we navigate the why, we work on the how. I personally like to speak of gray hair by referring to it as silver. Doesn’t silver sound so much more exotic and desirable?

If you color your gray, what advice do you offer for transitioning to going gray?
The transition from colored hair to becoming a silver-haired goddess is as individual as the guest we are servicing. First, we establish how much of their naturally pigmented hair is left versus the incoming silver. The lighter the natural hair color is, the more graceful and less arduous the grow-out process becomes. It’s the guests that still have naturally dark hair folded into the mix that face the most challenges. Lighter shades, such as blondes, show less of a line of demarcation; whereas a brunette’s hair is much more likely to show contrast.

What about transitioning with demi-permanent?
Demi-permanent dyes naturally fade away over time, so they are a solid solution for someone who isn’t quite ready to do the dramatic chop-off. However, I am always a fan of the big chop. There is a profound beauty within the instant gratification of chopping off the colored hair. Our guests often feel immense empowerment from the decision to cut it all off. Then, a strategically cut pixie can do wonders on almost any face shape.

Is gray hair a different texture? What might people notice who grow gray hair longer or who stop coloring gray?
Aging hair often lends itself to being more coarse or wiry. Color can help tame the unruly silvers, but realistically the best solution is a well-appointed styling aid. Accepting the new textures can be difficult, but your stylist should be able to help guide you through the process and help you create amazing styles. Looking your best and feeling confident should never be compromised during your transition.

What about shampoo for naturally gray hair? Is using blue shampoo a real thing?
Aged hair can easily absorb external factors that alter its color, like minerals in the water or smoking. A quality blue/violet shampoo will minimize unwanted yellow and dingy tones while enhancing your silver undertones. If you see unwanted blue/violet tones in your hair, just cut back a bit and alternate your shampoos. Use something moisture based as your secondary shampoo.

Are your clients who go naturally gray usually happy?
Most of my guests that abandon the shackles of monthly color appointments truly seem liberated by their decision. However, some of them have reported feeling “invisible” to society. This is a much bigger issue that deserves its own discussion; but my job is to help those guests regain empowerment from their decision or help them rejoin the world of hair coloring. One never knows until they try though; so I highly recommend seeking out the advice of your stylist, friends and family and then giving it a go. You might just find that your inner silver-haired goddess is ready to make her debut!


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