Valerie Patton, Chair Elect of the California Chapter of the Society of Cosmetic Chemists and a working cosmetic chemist specializing in hair care and hair color, spoke with Cosmetics Design about the chemistry and the fashion of dying gray hair.
Colorists use conventional methods to achieve artificial gray colors. “After bleaching, a high-level color with a low dye content is applied to the hair,” Patton explained. “The color applied is extremely subtle but applies a silver or lavender look to hair. This can be achieved through oxidative or direct dyes.”
This trend is going strong among consumers: “For all the color's blahness, it’s seeing an unexpected rise in popularity among the Millennial Instagram set. Gray has found a resurgence as a shade that is both natural and supernatural,” wrote Tanya Basu in her Atlantic article on gray hair.
“Sometimes the color is referred to as ‘silver,’ along with ‘Arctic’ or ‘icy,’ for understandable reasons. Gray connotes dull, elderly, and boring, but silver is magical, sophisticated, and chic,” Basu continued.
Shiny and new
The icy, silver shades have an appeal all their own. “The artificial gray is more of a matte look; there is not a lot of shine. By giving the hair a brilliancy about it, the effect of a true platinum or rose gold will be a nice transition from the artificial gray,” Patton told Cosmetics Design.
Consumers of all ages are ready for this look. It’s a fresh way for younger people to signal a counterculture affinity. But “what's interesting about the trend of dying hair gray is that it's not just for hipsters or young folks coloring their hair this way. Professionals are wearing their hair like this as well,” noted Patton.
Aging consumers interested in younger looking hair generally opt for products intended to strengthen, regrow, or reverse the graying process. Now, metallics are an embellishment for those going gray gracefully. “Coloring hair is the world's oldest anti-aging ingredient. I think more and more fashion shades are appealing to consumers with naturally gray hair. They spice up what would be considered a natural hair color,” Patton added.
Hair care market opportunities
Product formulators and marketers focused on care not coloring can find opportunities in the trend too. “Hair care brands can continue to create products that are designed for color protection. The goal is to keep as much of the dye in the hair as possible,” Patton suggested.
“For naturally gray haired shoppers, I think it's important for hair care brands to understand the physiological changes that exist in gray or graying hair and create products that allow the consumer to manage that,” she told Cosmetics Design.