The answer is probably suck it up and learn to deal
July 23, 2014 6:59 AM   Subscribe

I am graying, and I love it. But the new texture of my hair is making me crazy. Is there anything I can do about it?

It seems like I went from a stripe of gray hair to more than half of my hair going gray in the last year. I look forward to being a silver fox like my dad and my grandmother, but the texture is AWFUL. I've already looked at this previous question.

Can anyone suggest anything to deal with changing hair? I'm going to try to grow it out (I can hear my mom laughing at me as I type that), because the texture is such that it stands up on its own when I have it short. I will not be dyeing it. Any suggestions of books, shampoos, clear henna or treatments? I am super low maintenance with my hair (currently have a mohawk. Plan to grow a bob maybe? I have no idea, but it has been very short for the last 5 years).

I am at a loss. Help me hive mind!
posted by bibliogrrl to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (32 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
I had thin, straight hair my whole life and now that I'm about 50% gray, I LOVE the body my hair has.

You have to experiment around a bit. For shampoo and daily conditioner I like Garnier Sleek and Shine. Dirt cheap and it leaves my hair soft and smooth, while promoting the body and wave that I now have. I use the leave in conditioner too. It's no big deal, squeeze and rub in. Done.

It's been really humid here, so to prevent fizzies, I've been using Aveda's Anti-Humectant.

There are clear-coat hennas, but I don't think they'll give you the texture you want. I'm wearing my hair at about earlobe level with it very short in the back. It's just perfect for what I can deal with in the summer.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:06 AM on July 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

No one in my family really goes gray, so I may be talking out my ass here, but if the texture problem is related to coarseness and dryness, I wonder if you might have luck with products for natural black hair?

Things like hair butters and deep oil moisturizers and the like. I have some patches of very coarse hair, and working some 100% cocoa butter in them from time to time works wonders.
posted by phunniemee at 7:12 AM on July 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

You could try a no 'poo method. Following on phunnimee's suggestion of using products for natural black hair, this article from says that an apple cider rinse can help smooth out cuticles.
posted by carrioncomfort at 7:28 AM on July 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

I don't know what effect it will have on your hair, but coconut oil has the rare quality of being able to actually penetrate the hair cuticle, rather than just sit on top of it. It has done all kinds of good things for my hair.
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 7:52 AM on July 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

thegreatfleecircus: how do you use the coconut oil? Like, specifically?
posted by workerant at 7:58 AM on July 23, 2014

One other thing: my hair has gone very white, but since I already bleach it to within an inch of its life, I don't notice the severely-altered texture of the white hair. I know you don't want to dye it, but in case bleaching/toning it is somehow desirable, I find that it solves a lot of the texture problems. And it seems to work especially well for short (in my case, mohawk-ish) hair.
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 7:59 AM on July 23, 2014

Best answer: I have short hair and am now more salt than pepper; I shampoo only once a week or ten days or so, and use a teeny bit of coconut oil every so often to get my hair to behave, which it mostly does. It will still stand up right after I get it cut, but all of it stands up, not just the white hairs.

(workerant - I warm a veryveryvery small amount on my fingertips and then lightly comb them through my hair and then kind of pat everything into place. By small amount, I mean less than pea-sized.)
posted by rtha at 8:09 AM on July 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Would you consider switching to a shampoo bar? I use this (from a company local to me) and my short hair has never behaved better. I have a not-insignificant number of white hairs and they seem pretty happy too; the bar doesn't strip out the natural oils in the hair but also doesn't leave me greasy, even when I only shampoo every other day.
posted by SeedStitch at 8:20 AM on July 23, 2014

Alterna Anti-Aging Caviar Shampoo and Conditioner are extremely expensive, but have taken care of my texture issues.
posted by rpfields at 8:22 AM on July 23, 2014

Can you tell us what you have tried?

A few years ago I stopped dying my hair because I thought I had reached silver fox status. Turned out I'm just boring grey-ish, so I started dying my hair again. I'd always hated conditioners, but I used the one that came with the kit and I couldn't believe how much better the texture was. Now I use a variety of conditioners (I switch between a volumizing kind and non-sulfate kind that doesn't strip the color) so I'm wondering if you've tried ordinary conditioner.
posted by Room 641-A at 8:26 AM on July 23, 2014

Grey hair is thicker, drier & coarser than "normal" hair. I have curly hair that is easily 50% grey and I colour it like mad so all my hair is dry & coarse.

I started using the squish to condish methods for my hair & not only has it bought my curls into line my grey hair is softer & behaves better than it did before. It can take a few goes to get the hang of how to do it as pretty much all the instructions I found online are vague. Since I've been using it all my hair has been softer and feels less straw like.

I use a fancy conditioner but my husband liked my results so tried it on his hair with his cheap suave conditioner and also got great results.
posted by wwax at 8:28 AM on July 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

My hair is probably mostly gray now. I keep it very short and wash it only once a week (although I scrub it well every time I shower). My stylist says the texture is softer and it's healthier than when I washed it more frequently, and I have to concur. I would recommend going low-poo, as they say, and see how that goes.
posted by suelac at 8:38 AM on July 23, 2014

Response by poster: What I do: I wash and condition using Trader Joe's Tea Tree shampoo and conditioner (sulfate free and inexpensive). I use Beautiful Curls Fortifying hair Lotion, a holdover from when my hair was longer, but it keeps my non-gray hair soft. I use a hair paste from my salon when I need more control, but for the life of me I can't remember what it's called.

I only wash my hair a couple of times a week, I'll wet it between washes if it's getting out of hand.

I do not blow dry or use any heat styling, due to laziness and a life long fear of curling irons. I do not dye or color treat my hair.

Once it hits mid-September and the temperature goes/stays below 70, I wear hand knit stocking hats near constantly, I plan on using that to my hair growing out advantage this winter. Maybe.
posted by bibliogrrl at 8:56 AM on July 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Also also, I tend to use the curly girl methods - I condition like crazy (when I wash) and I gently dry with a microfiber towel.
posted by bibliogrrl at 8:58 AM on July 23, 2014

I have incredibly coarse hair normally and my greys - which I also love! yay! - are somehow even more coarse and sproingy than the rest of my hair.

I use Fekkai conditioner and it's expensive but it really works. No mousse or any products containing alcohol. You might look at products for curly hair. I like pink oil sometimes, too, especially when my hair starts to dread up.

This macadamia nut conditioning treatment mask is the bees knees and smells DELICIOUS. It really smooths out my hair. I've seen little trial packs at Ulta for about $4 if you want to test it first.

One thing I have not had luck with? Argan oil. Most oils make my hair sticky and sad. The pink oil I only use on the back of my hair, which mysteriously turns into tangled dreadlocks if I am not vigilant.
posted by sockermom at 9:04 AM on July 23, 2014

Best answer: The tea tree oil might be a little harsh, idk? I've never found it to have any kind of softening effect, even though it is an oil, it always leaves my hair a little crinkly feeling. I would try something with avocado or argan oil, if not a shampoo/conditioner set then maybe a leave-in hair mask or something for weekly use. (basically something where you would leave it in for a few hours and then wash normally)
posted by elizardbits at 9:10 AM on July 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'm happy to be the first to recommend using an Elumen clear color lock.

It's a clear glaze that covers and protects your hair and makes it very, very soft. No color change, just softer and shinier hair.

(And I think that TJ's tea tree shampoo is probably WAY too harsh.)
posted by kinetic at 9:34 AM on July 23, 2014 [3 favorites]

I put coconut oil on straight, about once a week, and let it sit for about an hour. I rub it into my scalp as well. I nuke it a tiny bit if it's cold and solidified. Sometimes I squirt in some tea tree (for itchy, not moisture), argan oil, or jojoba if I have it around. If it starts to run down onto my forehead/into my eyes I have probably put too much in and it is time to shampoo as normal.

It makes my processed hair a lot more manageable and nice looking. There are greys under my crispy hair and it all kind of works together now. My SO, who is in silver fox mode, started mooching "hair treatments" off me because he is itchy, and who doesn't like a head rub? His hair is behaving better as well. A little "heavier "without being limp, and less wiry/crazy looking in the mornings and easier to style. Less breakage, too, which prevents that crazy fuzzy "baby hair" halo that people sometimes get when they go grey and have longer hair.
posted by Lardmitten at 9:36 AM on July 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

I had wavy 40% gray hair (half shaved, half bobbed) before I caved in and colored it. The texture was dry and coarse. My hair sucked up whatever moisture it could get. The Kevin Murphy Young Again line (the wash and the rinse) made my hair SO MUCH BETTER. It's extremely hydrating. I still use it, even though I colored my hair.

It's pricey, but a little goes a long way. The wash lasts a 2-3 months and the rinse lasts me 6+ months (washing my hair twice a week, short hair). worth it if you can swing it. You could see if they have sample sizes; I've seen them before. I get mine at a salon.

I really love Kevin Murphy, and the Young Again line is outstanding. It's formulated specifically for dry/brittle/gray hair; it changes the texture. Probably my favorite shampoo and conditioner EVER, and I've used a lot of different ones, drug store and upscale.

I also love Moroccanoil. You can get small bottles of that to try out; I got the 0.8 oz for $10 at a local beauty store, and bought the big bottle later. It lasts forever, I use a couple of pumps each time.

This was my full hair routine when I was gray: Young Again Wash and Rinse, let it air dry, and put in Moroccanoil when it's damp. I used Kevin Murphy Maxi Wash once a month to exfoliate my hair and get rid of any build up. My hair was really happy.
posted by hotelechozulu at 9:39 AM on July 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Tea tree oil shampoo & conditioner tend to be really drying. I would definitely switch that out -- I tried to use them for a while and my hair turned into straw.

I also just tried coconut oil as a styling oil -- rubbed a bit on my hands, ran my hands through my hair -- and while it ended up looking too greasy in my hair that way, the next day I washed my hair with my normal shampoo and conditioner and it was soooo soft. So you could try using the coconut oil as a treatment before washing, too.
posted by jaguar at 9:45 AM on July 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

I like Elsen Oils products, particularly the Coconut & Avocado Oil. A little goes a long way. Application a la rtha's method.
posted by gudrun at 9:46 AM on July 23, 2014

I have short hair that's going white, not gray. Conditioning first, then shampooing, makes my hair softer.
posted by Carol Anne at 9:49 AM on July 23, 2014

You'll be amazed at what a pricy shampoo and conditioner will do for your hair. I like Bumble & Bumble's gentle shampoo and super rich conditioner.
posted by woodvine at 11:06 AM on July 23, 2014

My hair has been slooooowly going gray for 20 years. I have naturally curly hair, but the gray hair that comes in is thicker, and straight. So when I step out of the shower, I have brown curly hair with little gray/white hairs sticking out in all directions like a porcupine.

To solve this, I use a hair mask once a week to soften the gray. The mask doesn't need to be labelled super heavy or especially hydrating. It adds quite a bit of hydration and coats the hair cuticle to soften and prevent damage. I use the mask and leave it in a minimum of 7-10 minutes before I wash it out. So I put some in on the weekend when I know I'm not going to need to jump in and out of the shower.

The mask is essentially a heavy conditioning treatment. Shampoo first. Then use the mask instead of conditioner. Shampooing after conditioning strips out some of the conditioner, and can be counterproductive. Rub it thoroughly into your hair then let sit. Rinse out after 5-10 minutes. (Or whatever it specifies on the packaging.) The nice thing about working with a mask is you don't have to be concerned about oils if you have oily scalp. You can apply off the scalp without worrying that it will travel and be absorbed into the skin.

Tigi has a couple of decent masks in their Bed Head line. There are others.
posted by zarq at 11:16 AM on July 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Workerant: I just grab a handful of coconut oil and massage it into my hair and tie a plastic shopping bag around it. I leave it on as long as possible, sometimes overnight, and then shampoo it out. Sometimes I'll heat things up with my hairdryer. Also, during the winter I will just rub a little bit between my hands and then distribute it through my hair starting at the ends, to reduce dryness and frizziness. I've also heard of people using it as a regular pre-shampoo treatment, and as a way to protect hair when bleaching it, etc.
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 11:29 AM on July 23, 2014

Best answer: I wash and condition using Trader Joe's Tea Tree shampoo and conditioner

Well, there's your problem. I'm sure that stuff is good for somebody, but it's drying as hell.
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:27 PM on July 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If you decide to switch from the Trader Joe's Tea Tree shampoo/conditioner you are using, I recommend the Trader Joe's Nourish Spa shampoo and conditioner.
posted by insectosaurus at 3:27 PM on July 23, 2014

Best answer: Goodness, I could've written the same question. I've been going with washing-- with the same products, mind you-- only every 3-5 days, air drying, and applying heat/product the first day. It's helping a little bit. My hair was already fairly wavy. Haven't played around with the curly girl products yet; have tried sea salt hair spray to play up the waviness.
posted by RainyJay at 4:01 PM on July 23, 2014

"Contrary to popular belief, grey hair is not coarser – it is usually finer, as everyone’s hair gets finer with age. The reason why grey hair seems coarser is because oil glands produce less sebum when you’re older, which results in drier and more roughly-textured hair. This can also be due to the fact that most people chemically process and colour their hair more as they get older.

Philip Kingsley Trichologist, Glenn Lyons: "The hair tends to become finer as we age, so more styling aids are used to create body and volume. These can further dry out the hair if used incorrectly. However, reversing this damage can be achieved by using scalp and hair masks. They should be used on a weekly basis to start with and then twice a month. We advise our clients to knead the scalp for 30 seconds before shampooing, and then apply the mask, massaging it in for 5 minutes. It’s also advantageous to use a protective styling aid when blow-drying. Your hair may also ‘feel’ coarser if you pull out your first few grey hairs. This is because constant pulling-out of hair can distort your follicles, resulting in more crinkly hair."

posted by leotrotsky at 7:04 AM on July 24, 2014

Best answer: Yes! Half the problem is likely the tea tree shampoo. Tea tree is very drying. Source: I used to shampoo with the trader Joe's Tea tree shampoo and conditioner exclusively because I loved the smell and my long hair was very dry. My stylist was horrified when I mentioned I was using it for every wash. Just switching to another product was a huge improvement.
posted by mirabelle at 7:59 AM on July 24, 2014

Response by poster: OK FINE, I'll quit using my beloved (and cheap) shampoo and switch to something less drying. I'll try the TJ Nourish (thanks insectosaurus!) and see what happens.

I'll also try the coconut oil sparingly.

I'll also report back!
posted by bibliogrrl at 3:44 PM on July 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: FYI - I never ended up messing with the coconut oil. I switched to a much gentler shampoo, and my hair is happy. Live and learn.
posted by bibliogrrl at 12:24 PM on August 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

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