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Choosing Flattering Wardrobe Colors As You Go Gray

Happy Tuesday, ladies. I’m curious to explore how our best colors and seasonal palettes change if we decide to let our hair go gray/silver/white. Not every woman wants to have a specific set of colors because they find it limiting. I get that, but just as many women find it easier to have a palette that saves them time and also gives them confidence that they’re wearing their most flattering colors. Today I’m interviewing a personal color expert about your most flattering wardrobe colors as you go gray.

different color palettes for gray hair

There are as many types of seasonal color analysis as flavors of tea! They use varying criteria to determine what looks best on you but the end goal should be to give you a palette of colors that are in harmony with your personal coloring.

colleen abrie color expert

I met Colleen Abrie, CDI while training to become an Image Consultant myself. She’s an amazingly talented color expert and head-to-toe personal stylist with over 40 years of experience as a color and makeup expert, image consultant, and salon professional.

She has graciously created several examples of customized palettes to illustrate what they could look like for the women pictured here with gray hair. These are time-consuming and by no means complete, so I was grateful Colleen would create a few and not all seasons are presented. There are no cookie-cutter seasonal palettes here. Each person gets a totally customized palette which also includes related whites and patterns. These palettes will not work for you and are not intended to because they are all customized to the woman attached.

crystal spring color palette
COLOR PALETTE BY COLLEEN ABRIE

Can my season change as I get older?

As we age, our skin tone changes and our eye color softens and gets more muted. Along with hair color, this gradual evolution changes what looks best on you, but your color season remains the same. Your color season begins with who you are from the inside out – not the outside in. Color analysis is not just about the color of your skin, hair, or eyes, it includes your personal essence.

Personal Essence

Energetic Presence is understood by observing a woman’s personal energy in combination with her personality. What is she telling me without saying anything? Is she quick, measured, or languid? Is her gaze piercing, soft, or playful? Imagine looking at two women, one a tap-dancer, the other a ballerina. Their energetic presence will be miles apart and those differences would be reflected in their colors.

Can warm-toned seasons go gray effectively?

All color seasons have a place for grey hair. Warm and neutral skin tones can wear grey hair beautifully like any other season. When you’ve gone grey, it’s crucial to wear your best colors in apparel, accessories, and makeup. If you aren’t wearing your best colors, you set yourself up to feel invisible or risk being overwhelmed by what you’re wearing.

PEWTER AUTUMN COLOR PALETTE
COLOR PALETTE BY COLLEEN ABRIE

Do I need more contrast in my makeup and clothing when my hair goes gray?

Grey hair requires a daily makeup routine to look fresh and alive, especially on light and medium skin tones. Not wearing your best colors or light makeup might have you feeling like you’re disappearing, not relevant, looking tired, or adding years to your age. Your style personality will dictate if your best makeup includes bold lips and eyeliner or a softer, lighter application. Either way, your BEST colors and makeup products should be your #1 priority for looking fresh and youthful.

Wearing brighter, bolder colors can boost your mood and make you feel alive. But bolder colors don’t look better on you unless they’re your colors. Too bold or too bright can overwhelm your appearance which puts you in the back seat.

What’s the most flattering way to wear gray hair?

Most gray hair looks best either medium (on top of the shoulders or above), short, or super short (pixie-ish). This is true for “most” women, but there are always exceptions. If you aren’t an over-50 French model in size 4 jeans, long hair can be tough to pull off.iridescent summer color palette

COLOR PALETTE BY COLLEEN ABRIE

What’s the best way to deal with gray or white eyebrows?

  • Keep your brows trimmed because they tend to get a bit wirey as they go grey.
  • Keep them shaped. Women think that because the hairs are light, they don’t need to shape them. But light hairs in the wrong places grab lotions, powder, eye makeup and can create a closed-in look.
  • If you can’t tint them at home or in the hair salon, I recommend using water-resistant brow makeup.
  • Have a good magnifying mirror so you can see them!
  • Go to a professional and have them maintained.

What at-home products Do you recommend to keep gray hair from going brassy?

First and foremost- avoid the sun unless wearing a hat! Sun, hot styling tools, chlorine from spas and pools, heavily mineralized water sources (like a well) and even some medications can dull or yellow, grey hair. Violet shampoos and conditioners are the easiest ways to brighten. There are treatments available from salon hair color brands that have FINALLY recognized the greying client and are offering beautiful results in shades
of silver, grey, or charcoal.

How do you ensure your Virtual Color Analysis are accurate?

Virtual color analysis is 100% possible depending on the accuracy of the photos you provide.

  • I want to see photos of your face/neck/chest, a close-up of your eye color, and a close-up of your hair color, and even the palm of your hand, that are taken in natural light.
  • I also want to see photos of what you looked like in your 20’s or 30’s, and at age 16. This tells me a lot!
  • We have a Zoom call so I can get a feel for your personality, how you express yourself in conversation, your voice quality, the cadence of your speech, and your body type. The Zoom call is also for show and tell for some of your favorite things. What types of things do you love? Anything you want to share, not just fashion.

All these elements build a story about you and set the stage for color selection and your seasonal type.

If you can’t invest in a color analysis and makeup update right now, find colors that bring out your skin tones and eyes. Try on pieces from your closet in good natural light (not direct sun) and snap a few selfies. When judging your photos, look beyond your favorites, or the sentimentality of the pieces you’re wearing. Which pieces make your eyes & skin glow? Which pieces overwhelm you in color or pattern?

Selfies are a great place to start but ultimately to be 100% uniquely and gloriously grey, get your colors and makeup updated.

You can contact Colleen’s and learn about her services on her website here. Or call here at 408.772.3358.

Her services are for all women, professional or retired who want to look their very best.

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54 Comments

  1. Thank you for this article Jennifer. This reminded me I need a refresh on my makeup as I head to Italy for a 6 week visit.
    Re Jewelry. Is it best to stick with Silver vs Gold? I am fair skinned with blue eyes. Shoulder length hair and a petite frame.
    Thank you.
    Deb Costa

  2. This is an awesome post. I’m a warm undertone and currently 50% Grey with more around the face. I use to dye my hair with red tones so when I stopped I was assuming I was becoming more cool toned but I was wrong so went back to warmer tones, without the yellows.

    1. Exactly what I would expect! I think the women who think their undertone has changed were misdiagnosed in the first place.

  3. It is great advice to choose clothing that flatters our eyes. It will get compliments. I like to give the men in my life clothing that does just that. Swoon-worthy blue eyes in the perfect azure shirt!

    1. We’ve got to be ready. I’m surprised I was. If I’d had a better colorist I might never have tried it but I didn’t and was never happy with the color she came up with.

  4. A Color-Me-Beautiful consultant typed me as a winter in the 1980’s.
    I had dark brown hair & eyebrows, slightly olive skin tone, & dark brown
    eyes. I started using a dark brown hair dye in middle age to cover some
    grey, then a medium brown as the years went by and my skin tone faded.
    In 2020, I stopped dyeing my hair while I was isolating at home, and my
    hair grew out a nice light silver color. My eyebrows and eyes are still
    brown. Recently a color consultant and a makeup expert
    told me that my skintone is neutral, although one thought it was slightly
    warm and the other thought it was slightly cool. Cool color clothes still
    look the best on me, but I’ve been confused about contrast and color
    intensity / saturation. Your post on contrast helped a lot, and I’m
    guessing that I’ve changed from higher contrast to medium contrast as
    I’ve aged. Do I need to move toward less intense but still cool colors?
    For example, dark grey now looks better on me than black and it used to be
    the opposite. I am experimenting with some colors the recent color
    consultant put in my personal palette that I thought worked on me, but
    some really dull ones she included make me look washed out.

    1. I’m not a color expert in any way but it does sound like your contrast has lessened. I think neutral complexions are often mislabeled do I’m not surprised to hear you’ve now been discovered to be neutral. I’m finding clearer colors more flattering as I go grayer so perhaps that’s what’s happening to you.

  5. LOVE this post; I feel like it was written for me! Hope you’ll continue exploring this topic in future posts

    1. I am very interested in this color analysis, but have attempted to sign up through her website and cannot get connected. I tried to sign up for her emails as well, and the connection button just spins but won’t send.

      1. Hi Gail, I checked with Colleen and she recommended you call or text her at 408.772.3358

  6. I’m still able to use a semi-permanent hair colour on my brunette hair. Am worried that I will look much older, or heaven forbid my age which is 68 if I let the greys show. Grey hair is probably easier to adapt to if you were a blond originally as it would suit you and not look too different. It is tedious continually having to colour my hair as it doesn’t last the 6 weeks anymore.

      1. I agree with you, Jennifer. It takes quite a while other people to notice the grays, and the contrast is less to begin with.

  7. Interesting but not as helpful as your earlier post. One thing that I think is worth noting — perhaps because it’s my situation — is that none of these colorists address white hair, especially premature white hair. I was totally white in my early 30s. Most people don’t really look at your face, and when they see a mass of white hair, they think ‘old.’ Coloring made all the difference for me. Over the past year, I’ve let my hair grow out and it’s white again, but neither the amount of hair nor the texture is the same as when I was in my 30s. My skin, too, has changed some. Anyway, I just wish that there was more differentiation between gray and white ….

  8. This is an excellent post. I have got to reread it when I have time to really indulge. This is a great tool for anyone considering going gray, including those of us who have been gray for a long time!

  9. I am very interested in color and how certain colors either look great or awful on me. I have found out what works best for me by paying attention to the compliments I do or do not get from my friends (and strangers too!). As my hair has transitioned to silvery white, the compliments have changed as well. Now I invariably get positive compliments whenever I wear all shades of blue, peachy reds, and, strangely enough, magenta. All of these colors were absent from my wardrobe when I was younger.

  10. I find these posts on color and contrast very interesting and helpful. I’ve had white hair for 13 years now and still find it challenging to choose colors that work best with my dark brown eyes and medium skin tone. My hair tells me to one one thing and my skin tone tells me something different! Thank you, Jennifer, for including these. Gives me new ideas to experiment with.

  11. I’m not ready to go gray, although over the years I’ve lightened up on my hair color which has definitely changed the colors in my wardrobe.

    I think this analysis would work for all women. I especially like that Colleen includes the personality of the woman and glimpses into our younger self. Very interesting approach!!!

  12. I did like this blog subject.
    I don’t have gray hair as yet, but looking forward to it in the future.
    I like the selfie idea to see what make me look good. It is easy to get lazy with our favorite outfit or not taking care of our hair.
    When the pandemic started, I decided to do my best to look good (presentable) in stead of falling into the “who cares” trap.
    I feel better about myself and that attitude gives me a boost in the right direction.

  13. Thank you Jennifer so interesting and useful ! I have had grey hair for about five years now but l am still experimenting with colors. Happy week:)

  14. EXCELLENT POST!!!! I have just decided to go gray/white. My hair is short and colored lt brown. I am in consultation with my stylist. I have had some hair loss and am hoping that if I let it go natural my hair will grow back in. Thanks for the encouragement.

  15. I am 72 years old. My eyes are brown and hair is medium brown. I have been told that because of the redness in my face which is due to rosacea, that I would look washed out with going grey. Your opinion?

    1. I believe all women can go gray. Your most flattering colors will change but that’s the fun of learning. My opinion is we can look washed out gray or not gray depending on how we style our clothes and makeup.

    2. I have the same problem with skin colour and am medium brown too. Think I would look older if I went grey.

  16. I’m convinced I will be die not knowing my “color season” but I’m still strangely fascinated by color analysis. I finally decided that it’s not the color but the intensity that makes certain colors work. I can’t wear dark or pastel near my face. This is going to be interesting.
    On those photos in my twenties or earlier….hmmmm. They are all black and white. I’m 79.😀

  17. Thanks for this post. I learn something from each post on color. I’ve decided the soft summer palette fits me best, but I also think I can wear some of the soft autumn colors. Ideally I would be able to create my own palette, combining my favorite colors from both. Thanks Jennifer.

  18. You presented 3 seasonal palette options but no white-haired light-eyed winter palette by this professional. Any chance of your showing that option? I love to see what others recommend. And like others, I find that muted versions of some colors I loved but could not wear before are now wonderful.

    Thank you.

  19. Another great informative post. This is the kind of analysis that I believe is the best since it is not all a cookie cutter, one of four, seasons but rather a personal, made for each person’s individual colouring. The person doing the analysis must have that artists eye that we don’t all possess and can see the subtle differences. Thanks for this Jennifer, I really like these deep dives into the subject.

  20. Jennifer,
    Like you, I am in the process of going white/silver. Very timely for me as I have been experimenting with new colors of makeup and clothing. I appreciate all your research and recommendations. Great posts!

  21. Very interesting information. I’m going to try on different colors and see what happens. I have no idea what season I am anymore. Would love to know.

  22. Another interesting article Jennifer. Thank you for doing these. I’m looking forward to playing with colours.

  23. Hi Jennifer. This was an interesting post, but I wonder what happened to Winter? You show suggestions for the other three seasons, but nothing for Winter. I’d really love to see some ideas for this season.

    1. These palettes are just examples and not intended to work for anyone but the face attached. They take hours and hours to customize. Every woman has a unique palette. There would be a different palette for each woman who is a spring for example.

      1. Winter was not ignored. These are samples, not to use any ones use but the women who are shown.

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