Mirror, Mirror: Gettin' their gray on

Stylist John Ollek of Suede Salon and Spa admires Jack Mondel's white hair so much that he says he's not sure he would color it even if Mondel asked him to.
Stylist John Ollek of Suede Salon and Spa admires Jack Mondel's white hair so much that he says he's not sure he would color it even if Mondel asked him to.
Posted: January 09, 2014

It wasn't long ago that beauty salons offered one solution for gray tresses: Cover. It. Up.

But after 10 years of watching salt-and-pepper celebs work their naturally silver highlights - think Helen Mirren, Morgan Freeman, and George Clooney - salons are helping smoky-haired clients blend, blend, blend.

"Look at his hair, it's beautiful," said stylist John Ollek as he trimmed Jack Mondel's thick, white mane into a Blake Carrington-esque do at Suede Salon and Spa in the Promenade in Marlton. "Even if he wanted me to color it, I'm not sure I would. It's just too gorgeous."

Mondel laughs: "Years ago, I did the Grecian Formula thing, and my hair just started falling out. It just wasn't for me."

I'm sure it helped that 2013 was the year that even young people embraced a stormy-streaked mane, thanks to some experimentation by the entertainment industry's gutsiest fashionistas, Rihanna and Lady Gaga.

But whatever the reason, salon owners are confirming: As we enter a new year of beauty, style, and self-acceptance, graying tresses - once a sign of surrender - can look powerful.

"I started going gray when I was in my 40s," said Judy Simkin of Cinnaminson, who is 71. "Now, I get all of these compliments. And it's more than my cut. It's my gray."

All of this goodwill toward gray is shifting the perspective of the beauty industry, said Terri Holley, founder of Revolution Gray, a Maryland-based embrace-your-gray website ( www.goinggrayblog.com).

In other words, as more people accept the growing onslaught of silver, the market has no choice but to "help women stand up against the standard of beauty in this nation," Holley said. "The messaging is, 'What a courageous move.' It's a form of empowerment marketing."

That can be easier on our egos as well as our pocketbooks. Getting your hair colored, after all, is expensive to maintain in our still cash-strapped economy (about $60 every six weeks). Not to mention that, as more people go green, they are shying away from unnecessary chemical processes.

Still, letting your hair go gray can be a bold move.

So, what do you do when you want to just stop coloring cold turkey and let it grow in willy-nilly? As a woman who had her hair relaxed throughout her mid-20s, I know how hard a transition it can be: When two hair textures or colors merge, the result is messy for a bit.

There are some shampoos and conditioners, from drugstore-friendly Pantene to salon-only Lakme, that moisturize (gray tends to be drier and brittle) and brighten (gray can get yellow).

Even cut-and-go salons such as Hair Cuttery are offering a variety of blending services designed to highlight already-there gray.

Some treatments are permanent and use chemical highlights and lowlights, while others are semipermanent and fade after a dozen or so washes.

"In order for clients to embrace their gray, we sometimes have to enhance it," said Ali Hoffberg, artistic leader for Ratner Company, parent company for Hair Cuttery and Bubbles Salon.

André Richard Baldini, owner of Center City's André Richard Salon, specializes in gray blending. He said women who like to wear their hair long should lighten the rest of their hair and keep it trimmed and moisturized so they don't run the risk of looking haggard. Even adding a little wave can give the hair more fullness.

Shorter hair is appealing when silvery, he said, and the darker streaks give women an edgy look.

"I had one client come in once and said she wanted her hair to look like silver streaks in a starry night," Baldini said.

"I gave her that starry-night look, and then she moved away and started a whole new life," Baldini said. "Her gray didn't signify an ending, but a beginning."


ewellington@phillynews.com

215-854-2704

@ewellingtonphl

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