“In the past we have seen trends dominate fashion, such as the perm era, the highlight decade, balayage, vivid colors, and tonal work,” says Robert Eaton, Wella Professionals technical director. “Now, there is a move towards natural hair enhancement, and gray blending is the new movement in hair color.”
The idea is that by mixing in extra pieces of highlights and balayage, you can offset or accentuate your gray strands for a more natural, lower maintenance look that can carry through the pandemic, no matter how long it ends up being. “With the ongoing restrictions, there’s been a shift in attitude and a need for flexible solutions,” says Eaton. “I have been doing loads of gray-blending techniques on my clients—and I am anticipating doing this again when I’m back in the salon.”
What might have started out of necessity, many are finding they actually prefer the look to the high upkeep, constant touch-ups of the past. “Many women don’t want to go for block coverage anymore, and we’ve embraced they are looking for different ways to mask their grey hair, ” says Eaton.
Like OG balayage, the technique creates light and shade throughout your hair. Sweeping sections of highlights are blended seamlessly in among other strands to break up blocks of color and ensure hair looks multi-dimensional. The difference here is that the tones of the highlights are deliberately chosen to blend away grays or spotlight them.
For instance, ash gray and cool-toned blondes can camouflage grays into a tonal masterpiece that bounces light away from the grays and makes the whole thing look effortlessly deliberate.
Meanwhile, shots of silver and ice blonde can help to illuminate and celebrate natural grays, drawing the attention towards gray streaks rather than hiding them.
Either way, to keep things look natural, the same rules of traditional balayage is applied. Highlights are subtly introduced a few inches from your roots, meaning they’re gloriously low-maintenance and you can grow them out with no repeat salon visits if you prefer. Meanwhile the face-framing strands are brightened to add an illuminating effect, and the ends are left natural.
Whatever your preference, there’s no doubt that grays are becoming a hot topic of conversation. There are more opportunities and tools available than ever to disguise them or enhance them—depending on your preference. And there’s also more visibility around celebrating them too. Pinterest, for example, has seen an 879% surge in the past year around searches for “going gray.” Those that don’t have it, want it, and many that do, are more than happy for their silver strands to shine through.
The Instagram account, Grombre, which is dedicated to the “radical celebration of the natural phenomenon of grey hair,” has seen a renewed impetus, with over 200,000 followers (and counting) and hundreds of posts of women of all different ages and ethnicities sharing photos of their hair in all its natural icy glory.
Check out some more of our favorite examples of gray blending, below. There’s no denying its beauty.
This story originally appeared on Glamour UK.