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BEAUTY

Is this the perfect time to go gray? For this expert, quarantine hair care has a ‘silver lining’

Lorraine Massey started embracing her own silver hair with the publication of her book "Silver Hair: A Handbook"
Lorraine Massey started embracing her own silver hair with the publication of her book "Silver Hair: A Handbook"Roberto Ligresti

Salons are still closed (at least here in Massachusetts). Retailers have reported a run on home hair dye. For many women, business closures and product shortages have forced a truce in their long, expensive struggle against gray hair. For tips on embracing this moment — in all its sterling glory — we reached out to hairstylist extraordinaire Lorraine Massey. Better known as an evangelist/entrepreneur for the curly set (her cult “Curly Girl Handbook” was first published in 2002), Massey has emerged more recently as an advocate for embracing our natural color. She published “Silver Hair: A Handbook” in 2018. We reached her via phone in New York City.

On the quality of your emerging color:

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After a few weeks or months without dark dye, your grays will gradually start to look lighter, Massey said. “So the silver isn’t as glaring. ... That eases the pain a little bit.”

On the temptation to use toner or add highlights:

“Don’t be tempted to put on toner, unless it’s a blue cleanser or blue conditioner,” Massey cautioned. "A lot of the time, toners have silicones attached and will actually make the color not so great.”

While working on her silver hair book, Massey followed (and photographed) several women for a year and a half as they transitioned to natural color. “Some wanted to do highlights or put some lowlights through, and they regretted it because it took them backward,” she said. “So try to just go with it as much as you can.”

On flirting with natural color:

“If you think you’re going to dye again," Massey said, "why don’t you just leave one rogue piece out like a beautiful streak around the front and get used to it. And when your eye starts to adapt to that, you’ll slowly allow your real color to come in.”

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On looking your best for Zoom meetings:

If you’re contending with weeks or months of new growth, Massey recommends styling the hair with a ponytail for video meetings — that draws attention away from the grown-out color. But she’s not sure it’s necessary to fixate on the matter. “We’re not judging right now,” she said. “When I go outside, I see a lot of stripes in the hair. I just say ‘look at that silver lining.’ ”

On dealing with — or ignoring — input from family and friends:

“If you decide to do it, I would actually tell your friends and your family," Massey advised. “Sometimes it’s better to let people know you’re doing this and you want encouragement.”

You might even request they keep opinions to themselves. “A lot of people will say, ‘Oh, my family tells me I look horrible,’ ” Massey said. During her own transition from blond to gray, she remembered her children wondering aloud whether something was wrong — why had she stopped caring for her appearance? “Don’t listen,” Massey stressed. "Especially if it’s something you think you really want to do. … You’ve got to do it with grace and strength and just tell people around you ‘I’m doing this for me.’”

On the association between gray hair and the loss of beauty:

Massey notices many clients wearing edgier clothing and makeup, or holding themselves with more confidence after embracing their natural color. “It doesn’t mean you’ve let yourself go — it’s almost the opposite,” she said. “You’re letting yourself be.”

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Because looking great isn’t a matter of hair color, Massey insisted. "Your spirit is what characterizes you no matter what. You could have gorgeous naturally brown hair with little red flecks of highlights, but if your energy is low, that could make you look older. It’s how you show up.”

Interview was edited and condensed.