Gray Matters

When it comes to graying hair, should you cover it up or wear it out?

AS WITH DIETARY AND SKIN CARE ISSUES, BILLIONS OF DOLLARS ARE SPENT ANNUALLY ON COMBATING GRAY HAIR, ONE OF THE unwanted signs of aging. Graying has been attributed to the loss of pigment-forming melanocytes from aging hair follicles, as well as impaired DNA repair, loss of telomerase and decreased stem cell production.

More recent research published in the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) Journal found that the gray is caused by a build up of hydrogen peroxide made by hair cells, that blocks the normal synthesis of melanin, hair’s natural pigment, and bleaches hair from the inside out. So, should it stay or should it go?


As a result of the new findings, Rise-N-Shine offers the vitamin supplement Go Away Gray, with the notion that simply taking two pill capsules a day will keep gray at bay. The supplements are formulated with catalase, an enzyme produced by the body that depletes with age. The catalase helps breaks down the hydrogen made by the body, and the company says results can be seen in six to eight weeks. The company also offers an anti-gray shampoo and conditioner containing catalase, at Laka Spa on Ward Avenue ( carries the Japanese brand Love and Beauty, with shampoos and conditioners that tackle pigment depletion with B vitamins and tyrosine, an amino acid that helps stimulate melanin production.


At Megumi Organic Salon (, Lisa Nematjanova has been using natural plant dyes, henna and indigo, sometimes with a bit of lemon and hibiscus, to color hair without the strong chemicals that gave her allergic reactions when working at other salons. She opened her salon to help those seeking to cover gray without abrasive chemicals or use of petroleumor non-carbon-based products.

Mixed with indigo, henna coats the hair shafts with a warm, transparent brown color that fades out naturally over time. Another plus, the natural color is also non-toxic when washed out into our water supply.


Another solution is to simply surrender to the gray. For men, a touch of gray is a distinguishing characteristic, and carefully placed silver highlights or a whole head of gray can allow a man or woman to stand out in a crowd. With stars like George Clooney, Eric Dane and Richard Gere, they’re taking away the stigma of gray. It also helps that young people are embracing the trend of going silver gray to up their style quotient.

“They want what they don’t have,” says Thi Nguyen, creative director of the progressive W Salon (

Dark and light gray, silver and pewter tones can be striking and beautiful on those with pink, olive or dark complexions, he said, but a consultation with a beauty expert is necessary to determine whether it is right for you. The wrong color or wrong skin tone can make a person look tired and washed out.

He said it’s easier for those with light hair to achieve the all-around gray look.

For dark-haired Asians, blending in soft highlights one or two shades lighter than your natural hair can minimize contrast and clean up a messy salt-and-pepper look. The highlights fade out naturally over time. Once highlights are in place, avoid too much sun that can cause color to fade more quickly.

At Salon Blanc (, they offer an 80/20 solution to sporting gray hair in style. “Nowadays, men don’t really color their hair 100 percent,” says proprietor Alan Vuong. “We actually stain the hair 20 percent out of that 100-percent gray—it provides the most natural look,” Additionally, the partial-color job only takes about 5 to10 minutes at the shampoo station so men don’t have to spend too much time getting their coifs colored.

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