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Gray tresses have a chic new shine

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Gray matters.

In the world of baby boomer beauty, gray or silver hair is no longer frumpy. Plenty of celebs and world-famous names are letting their hair color remain au naturel. Former President Bill Clinton is the epitome of a silver fox. Actor Harrison Ford shows gray streaks in his hair and beard, while actor Ted Danson boasts a silver mane.

Then there's actress Meryl Streep, who shows off a chic silver coif as the devilish Miranda Priestly in "The Devil Wears Prada." So does country singer Emmylou Harris. And the current ad for Revlon's Vital Radiance --- a cosmetics line targeted for women over 50 --- features several models boasting gray-streaked hair.

For some boomers, it's convenient to go gray.

"It's wash, dry and go," said Atlantan Ellen Holland of her short salt-and-pepper cut. She's carrying on a family tradition, since neither her mother nor her grandmother dyed her hair.

"I just never think about dyeing my hair," said Holland, who's had gray since she was 35. Referring to the color, she joked, "It matches my face!"

Although gray hair usually crops up on older people, it can happen at almost any age. Witness gray-haired American Idol winner Taylor Hicks, 28, and silver-haired CNN anchorman Anderson Cooper, 39. Gray happens when hair follicles produce less melanin, the substance that creates hair color.

While many color their gray hair, others feel gray is a color choice.

"For either sex, it has to do with your attitude --- not just about 'going gray' and not just about 'getting older,' " said Diana Lewis Jewell, author of "Going Gray, Looking Great!" (Fireside Books/Simon & Schuster, $16). "It's about seeing gray as a color --- an infinite variety of colors, to be precise --- that can be every bit as flattering and exciting as 'bottle colors.' Think of shades like ash, pewter, charcoal, silver, pearl, snow and ice."

Keeping gray hair looking chic requires a bit of know-how and upkeep.

"When you have silver or gray hair, you must have a great haircut," said Garren, an internationally known stylist and owner of a salon in New York's Sherry-Netherland hotel. "I think it looks better short and cropped. Never wear it long and hippie-like. That's too old-fashioned." For those who like it longer, he suggests one length, with layers at the top.

Women with gray hair who want to add highlights or brighten the color should go to a salon for a professional application or rinse treatment, Garren said.

Gregg Lewandowski, a colorist for Clairol Professional, offers these tips for gray hair:

> Condition, condition, condition. Gray hair tends to be dry, so this is key.

> Shampoo with a purple-hued shampoo specifically designed to keep gray hair looking bright and radiant. It also eliminates the yellow cast that gray hair sometimes takes on. He recommends Shimmer Lights by Clairol Professional, but many companies make gray-friendly shampoos and rinses.

> Always rinse your hair immediately after getting out of the pool. (This prevents gray from turning a greenish shade.)

> Wear a hat to protect hair from the sun, which dries out gray hair very easily.

Author Jewell is a former blonde who is now a gray-hair convert. "When my agent approached me about doing this book," she said, "my famous last words to her were, 'OK, but don't expect me to go gray, because I won't.' " After interviewing women who were proud of their gray hair --- and who looked great --- she relented.

"I started letting my hair [color] grow in, little by little," said Jewell.

"Now that it's in, I feel it's the 'ultimate blond.' "

Copyright 2006 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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