Do My Colors Change if My Hair Grays?

I’ve had a number of questions lately about how the change in a woman’s hair color through the years affects the range of wardrobe colors that are her mountaintop best. Back in the old 4-Seasons days, we were taught that a woman’s color classification would never change through the course of her life.  “Once a Winter, always a Winter” was the mantra.  But how silly!  Of course things change.  Here’s how …

This entire discussion  assumes the woman in question lets her lighter hair strands show. If she chemically enhances it back to her prior color, then nothing changes much. It’s the color people see that matters for wardrobe selection purposes.  But since over time we simultaneously lose skin and eye pigments, coloring hair too dark eventually starts to look harsh and artificial.

The general progression of change usually looks like this:

  1.  That decrease in pigment makes her overall color pattern softer, therefore softer  wardrobe colors are likely to be more flattering.
  2.  If she has a warm hair color (golden pigment), decreasing pigment reduces the level of warmth so her best fashion colors also become somewhat less warm.
  3. If her hair was originally fairly strong, the reduction in pigment reduces the level of light/dark contrast in her coloring and therefore the degree of light/dark contrast she can successfully wear in prints or in combinations of solids within an outfit.

That decrease in hair pigment shows up in different ways in different hair colors.

Many women with cool, brunette hair colors choose to chemically enhance their color in the early stage of the transition. Eventually a critical mass of  less-pigmented strands  gives her hair a taupe (gray-brown)  appearance and influences her color choices  toward more complex, muted versions of here original best hues.  Some women think of this stage as “drab”, but it can be strikingly elegant and sophisticated if she evolves her wardrobe choices  in the same color direction.

Pam – shown below – was a perfect example of this subtle harmony when we first did her Color Fan a few years ago.  Because she used our color-by-mail procedure I still have her (slightly damaged) photos, and I made a duplicate of her original fan to show you here:

Over a span of years,  as more and more of her original color is replaced with the un-pigmented strands, a woman with this coloring may develop that enviable, bright silver or nearly white hair color and find that the bright, strong, cool colors are once again fabulous on her.  That’s exactly the change that Pam experienced.

So she sent the updated photo on the right for a full re-do of her color information, and the resulting Color Fan looked like this – still cool colors, but more clear and bright than before:

Notice how her neutrals changed from taupes to grays and her metallics shifted from gold/silver mix (not visible in the duplicate of her original fan – sorry) to silver and pewter.  And don’t miss the way that silver color emphasizes the fabulous curl and texture of her hair – a characteristic that she can repeat by wearing physical or visual texture in her clothing and accessories.

Women with warmer hair colors – reddish colors and golden blondes –  tend to like their transitioning coloring better.  The lighter strands blend right in, giving these women beautiful  natural highlights that they seldom opt to cover up.  However they typically gray to a less silvery color, and may eventually opt for a chemical boost to a soft champagne or strawberry blonde color.  Through the entire transition their move to softer and less dramatically warm fashion colors stays relatively consistent.

I recommend for my private color clients that we revisit their Color Fans about every 8-10 years or when they make a drastic change like stopping their hair coloring routine. Usually the result is just a tweak to their recommendations, but occasionally it can be an entire new fan — and justification for a shopping spree. Fortunately we can all look lovely at every stage of that transition!

About Nancy Nix Rice

I help other women feel confident about how they look every day - regardless of their age, budget, lifestyle or the size tag in their pants - so they put wardrobe concerns on the back burner and go share their gifts with the world.


  1. Karen Mercer on August 3, 2018 at 10:41 am

    Loved this article. I agree with this completely. I have silver hair and couldn’t wait until it turn silver since I was in my late twenties. (Just like my mother’s.) I have been wearing cool colors for years. I like black, white and grey, but my go to is shared of purple and turquoise. Thanks.

    • Nancy Nix Rice on August 3, 2018 at 1:57 pm

      Fun to hear from another gal loving her silver! Your color combos sound great.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.