As your hair’s pigment seemingly evaporates into thin air, you might notice that your favorite makeup and clothing colors no longer look as good on you as they once did. That’s because gray hair, whether salt and pepper, silver or pure white, tends to have a cooler undertone, which changes how your tried-and-true color palette works. The best way to recapture the contrast: Do a little sleuthing. Here, we show you how.
First determine what type of gray you are working with. There are many shades — not 50, per se, but many. You likely fall into one of five general categories — salt and pepper, pewter, champagne, silver, or pure white. Once you’ve pinpointed your category, look at its tones and highlights. As we mentioned, most are cool, but pewter tends to have an ashy green cast, while champagne can have a slightly warm, yellowish tone. Take this into consideration when choosing your clothing and makeup.
You likely know your complexion’s undertone — cool or warm — and that will serve you well in determining your best new color matches. If you don’t know it, here’s a quick primer: Check the veins on the back of your wrist — are they blue or green? Bluish/purplish veins mean your skin has a cool tone, while green veins denote a warm tone. If you can’t figure this out, you’re likely neutral — which means you can wear pretty much whatever you want — but you’ll want to consider the following tips to balance your gray anyway.
Sure, you can stick to a rigid set of rules, like the seasonal color analysis of “I’m a Winter” or “I’m an Autumn,” in which hair, skin, and eye color dictate what you wear. But here’s the thing: That’s not fun — and it can be restrictive. Instead, adopt this overall idea: Because your hair’s pigmentation has softened, choosing makeup and clothing colors that have depth and/or vibrancy introduces color back into your face. But that doesn’t mean you should snap up all of the brightest reds, boldest blues, or hottest pinks; that can become visually overwhelming due to the high contrast between color and noncolor (your hair). Instead, seek colors that are a few shades deeper than these super-bright hues. Dynamic midrange colors and rich jewel tones, like sapphire, turquoise, emerald, ruby, and amethyst, have the right amount of vibrancy and depth to brighten your complexion without overpowering you. Pick what you’re attracted to — typically what has always complemented your skin’s undertones (warm or cool!) — and then dial it down if it’s too bright or up if it’s too bland to balance the gray.
Midrange colors — warm pink, teal, medium gray, soft white, and medium violet — look great when your natural pigmentation is low. Since gray hair tends to be cooler, cool hues like lavender and periwinkle also play up features beautifully — even if you have a naturally warm complexion. Basic black, on the other hand, can appear harsh. If you feel like it’s hard on you, go with navy or charcoal gray. Skip beige, however; it tends to muddy the complexion once hair’s gone gray.
For clothing, concentrating color around the neckline helps brighten the face. When it comes to makeup, focus color on a favorite feature. Here’s the thing: You want to add warmth and definition to balance gray hair, no matter if you’re cool or warm complected. Always give cheeks a touch of peachy or rose-pink blush to introduce warmth; make sure brows are subtly defined with a hue that’s a tad lighter than your hair color was before you went gray; line eyes with brown or navy; and make sure lips get a warm burst of rose, peach, apricot, or red. If you feel really bold, dress your pout in deep magenta or pomegranate pink.
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