Coloured Hair or Silver?

I wrote this back in The Emmas Are True Springs Part 2.

Besides covering grey, I cannot think of a time when chemistry improves base hair colour from what Nature gives us. That is the colour we had at 25, before we darkened with maturity. It is the most believable, flattering, low maintenance colour we can wear.

I don’t agree with the first sentence, or how I said it. I am thankful that it was pointed out to me. I still agree with the second sentence, having not been given better evidence to the contrary. Like this entire website, I await and welcome all evidence to the contrary of anything I write to help me find truth. Maybe that why Winters are so often colour analysts, because we’re so convinced about our own judgments. Not necessarily a good thing but very willing to change my mind.

Photo: Nuavar
Photo: Nuavar


Kate* saw two issues with my words:

1. Improvement? Says who?

2. 25? Why 25?


For some women, the result of a colour analysis doesn’t come as a big surprise. It didn’t for Kate. She had figured it out herself and just needed to join the ends on her entire palette by understanding what all of her colours and her colouring have in common. As all women with their natural hair colour, the road to wearing her colours and bringing the whole picture together will be shorter and easier.

When hair colour needs adjusting, as it did for me, the road gets longer. There’s this crazy thing going on where your brain can’t believe what your eyes just saw, you’re pretty sure you look like a clown in the makeup, being a Winter, you’re ignoring what everybody around you says, you know You best, and after all, your colourist is a colour expert, it can’t be, it can’t be, and yet, there is your phone in your hand with your finger dialing the hair salon before you’re out of the colour analyst’s driveway.

Your colourist fits you in, miraculously gets the colour right the first time, but you can’t see that either yet, you’re questioning the whole deal now. Your husband is trying to help, he sees your Feng Shui is in a mess, but he can’t remember the words Feng Shui, he knows it’s not Shih Tzu because he said that one time and you laughed at him for days, so he tries again, Don’t let your hair screw up your Shit Zing, you look gorgeous to me., and you want to drive your fingers into his eyes and rip off his nose. Useless, he’s just useless.

You ask your friends even though you know there’s an element of performing for each other, which as a Winter, you resist, but such are life and compliments. They’re swept up in making you feel better, I could go on for pages because this does go on for months, do you send your analyst an email? will she be pissed? she might as well be because you sure are, so you see, it’s easier to start off with easy hair.

Meeting a Soft Summer who recognizes the perfection and specialness of her inherently dusty hair colour is always such a pleasure. This hair is as special as Bright Season hair in being misunderstood, under-appreciated, and difficult to get right from a bottle. Without that dusty quality in the hair, the harmony of the whole image is elusive. Kate’s hair had a few silver strands. Not only were they hard to see, once you did notice them, they absolutely added to the perfection of her own colouring, as if she’d reached a higher level of her colours, not just Lavender Smoke, but Lavender Silver Smoke.

Photo: lock-e
Photo: lock-e


Kate said to me,

It feels like everything you say flows organically/logically from the Sci/Art system, except these conclusions about grey/silver hair, and that your best base colour is when you were 25. I know you state in different ways that our nature-given colouring is never less than perfect, the genetic paint box is the same for skin, hair and eyes. That makes total sense to me but seems to be contradicted by a statement that the hair colour we had at 25 is the most perfect? How can that be? The genetic coding that determines our paint box also determines our hair silvering pattern/tone/rate, and as well, the softening of our skin colour as we age, no? So, provided our hair and we are healthy, and the colour is not artificially affected by chlorine/sun/ hot iron damage etc, would not our current natural hair colour at whatever age, truly be our most perfect hair colour for us? I think it is the casual/automatic assumption that covering grey is an improvement, as a fact, that is the most problematic for me. If we could see how young many people are when get silvers, we really would lose that association.



It’s important to me to be exact in the words I choose. In no way do I believe that covering gray is always:

A. More flattering – Sometimes it is, sometimes it’s not. Many (like me) are not ready for partial gray because the white hair is obvious on the dark background. Transitions are not always easy. On lighter heads, the white hair virtually disappears and hair colour would gain the woman nothing. To my eye, it absolutely does look younger and more exciting to have the right hair colour on about half the women who colour. On the other half, no colour, even their own at 25, would look better on them than gray.

B. Necessary – My statement above, Besides covering gray, I can’t think of a time when chemistry improves base hair colour from what Nature gave us,  should be followed by, …if you don’t want gray. In that case, chemical colour is an improvement on base hair colour, as in the case of me, because it’s getting me something I want. My situation is therefore improved, if not my hair’s colour.


Photo: ywds
Photo: ywds


Summers gray very easily. But nothing applies equally to all women, not even within a Season. Women need advice they can use because they are going to colour their hair anyhow. I sure am, whether my natural hair colour is theoretically perfect for my genetic colouring or not. I lift my face with makeup and I am going to lift my hair. I can fully agree that it should not matter to me, that I should welcome the gray, and that many real people gray quite early in life. But the fact is that I am not willing to put my money where my mouth is on that topic. I should be glad to have one lipstick when women in Africa don’t have food. Yes, but I don’t live in Africa. I buy a box of $5.99 colour and invest 20 minutes every few weeks. The payoff outweighs the inputs. If 3 hours and $120 every month were my only option, I’d rethink it, I promise you.

I may not be the right person to talk about the silvering of hair. There are topics about which I feel more strongly. On hair colour, whatever rings your bell as long as it’s a good colour for you. If I ever sound defensive, the women I’m (over)reacting for are those for whom silver hair, or silver in hair, would not be the best choice. For instance, the woman who had children in her 40s and is tired of being asked if she’s their grandmother. To her, leaving her hair silver is someone else’s crusade. To the woman who had an illness after which her hair came back gray/silver, who felt that she’s missed a decade of her life in illness, silver hair makes her feel like she’s missed two. When life spins you too hard, hair colour, like tattoos, is a way of saying, This one thing, this one part of my own flesh, I still control.

Many of our choices are redirected from another problem. A cat is ticked at the stray that gets into the garbage Tuesday nights, so he attacks the other cat in a fit of redirected aggression. A person taking it out on you because they’re having a major Bad Hair Day has nothing to do with you. They’re redirecting aggression. A woman colouring her hair because illness stole part of her life isn’t making a social statement about Colour Is BetterYoungerPrettierSexier Than Silver. She is trying to get back some time. Redirection of energy towards distant and seemingly disconnected outcomes consumes huge behaviour resources, the intention as much a mystery to the redirector as the redirectee. I guess this is what psychologists do all day. It’s not just appearance, it’s healing.

Photo: Artgeek3K
Photo: Artgeek3K

A colour analyst sees people closer to undisguised reality than many professions. You just never know someone else’s story. How much of it they want to share is their business but there is always a story, and often it’s a truly hard and heartbreaking one. Humans are vulnerable enough and carry around enough hurt. Sometimes laying the gray hair card on the table along with all the others is one card too many. I’m not defensive of my own hair colour, but the discussion does seem to spark some need to protect all these people I see. And yet, I know that nobody is even remotely attacking them. Quite the opposite.

From Kate,

There are online groups most of them are only too aware of their view of grey hair not too long ago, and besides, they just want women to do what makes them happy. The banding-together/sense of sisterhood comes about not because they think their way is best /only way, but rather because of the sense of being judged by society / many women who colour.


Silver Sisters is one of these groups. Google will find you news articles here and here, and facebook groups.

I try to speak to all sorts of women and I try to keep it real-world, no pretty or ugly, no right or wrong. I don’t judge or control your appearance, I just want you to choose from many options demanding equal time and money and be able to pick out those that will really help you.

Anna* is a True Summer in her late 30s with fine hair, a spot on her face that won’t go away, weight that won’t move despite all the work at the gym, trouble sleeping, a recent divorce, and a personal commitment to live up to her greatest potential. To run her company and appear in front of young women, to meet men, to feel like a powerful leader, she feels better with coloured hair. Right or wrong, it doesn’t matter, she looks younger, more vital, and much stronger. On that woman at that stage of her life, her life will not change for the better with thin, white hair. She will age visibly and age mentally. I wonder if hair can lose colour before skin. It’s only coloured by melanin, not hemoglobin or carotene. Anna’s skin is not a day over how our culture perceives 30.

June* is a True Summer with silver hair. It’s magnificent. She is magnificent with it. She’d be out of her mind to come near it with hair colour.

It’s a choice. I so often come back to this great, great question Darren asked: What is it that you want to communicate and to whom? That’s where your answer lies.

Georgette* is 18 with some early graying. Should she have the moral fiber to just wear her real hair colour, despite having heard, What a shame! once too many times, which is to say, once? 18 is shaky enough. If I were Mom and she wanted to colour it, I’d drive her to the store and help pick the colour.


Photo: nkzs
Photo: nkzs


Why 25?

No firm basis, except thinking it looks good on most women. Once dye came along, this 25 colour is often the last looked one that looked just right on most heads. It is a time when we are shown our custom-colour. Sure, our silver is our custom-colour as well, but now we circle back to the top. When women show me their grad photos, I love the colour I see. If I’m being asked for hair colour advice, I request the grad photo, and there are the hue, value, and chroma for your head. It is a specific and more interesting colour, not medium to dark ash brown. It’s a colour that stylists can use to get that woman right and happy, not wrong and even older looking.

Kate said so well, that

Any diminishing in vitality with silver hair is a perception in the eye of the beholder, driven by society. I get that many women feel differently from me, that it is a personal choice, that lots of women will colour and therefore direction on that is good, and I cherish that each woman has the choice… just so long as it’s not a choice driven by fear, to quote you about not using makeup.

To me, accuracy requires the word silver instead of grey, because each hair that loses pigment is silver/white/colourless, so the overall colour we see on the head depends on the colour(s) of the still-pigmented hairs, and % of silver. Society uses grey for everyone, but that is so not correct. I, for example will never be literally grey, as I do not have the black hair needed to add to the mix to make grey.


Photo: saavem
Photo: saavem

Other Questions

Q: I am curious what happens when silver sisters take off that grey cap at the end. Is there a sense that their hair does not belong, the same as many women with chemically-altered hair experience?

A: I wouldn’t say that silver haired women need to adjust after the cap comes off. They adjusted long ago. They’re just looking at a picture they’re used to. Even on True Autumns, the gray is stunning against the warmer clothes. Stunning and strong and interesting. I love these unexpected contrasts and comparisons. They are visually so inspiring.


Q: Once hair begins to silver, do the grays of the palette become better neutrals in clothing, even replacing black for those whose palette included it?

A: Depends on the person and the colour of gray. What colour are the eyes? What type of gray is the hair? A Dark Season with a strong iron gray hair and black eyes remains striking in black, with makeup that looks better than ever. Every feature is like a rhinestone. A Winter with a lighter, softer gray hair may find black too dark. She is more regal, yet still austere, in sharp gray, wearing black in smaller areas if her eyes appear black. At any age, black does define, refine, and outline the colouring and features of Winters, it’s part of how you came to be Winter in the first place, but the amount of it you wear will vary by the woman, even inside a Tone.

For the other groups of natural colouring (Seasons, Tones), for everybody, wearing your hair colour looks good. It looks organized and connected. Your clothing makes perfect sense on you. It feels good to look at. Wear more gray. Should it replace your taupes or beiges? Again, it depends. A Light Spring with creamy silver beige hair still look gorgeous in her ivory and milky peach beige.

In beauty, even within a Tone, there is no one-size-fits-all. If there were, it would mean that there are 12 types of women. Nope.


Photo: echiax
Photo: echiax



24 thoughts on “Coloured Hair or Silver?”

  1. This is so interesting. I’d noticed that a lot of SciArt analysts are winters, and wondered about it. The attraction of a very logical system? The fact that a winter will tell you what *is*, rather than what you want to be?

    On the hair issue – apart from one stripe mine is natural, and perhaps that is why I found the analysis so easy to accept. If it’d had been 10 years earlier with highlights, it’d have been harder to see the balance of Bright Winter, for sure.

    I have some silvers coming in now, and I like the contrast of them. It may be that it’s easier as the greys haven’t started for me until close to 40, and it’s also quite a striking pattern at the temples.

    I got what you meant in your original statement – covering greys, should you wish to do so, for whatever reason; understandable. The use of hair dye to take non-grey hair very far from its starting point is rarely an improvement on the starting point though, and I also believe that to be true.

  2. This is a subject I have been struggling with for the past few years. I was draped as an Autumn a long ago in the old CMB system. My skin tone has always been warm. My eyes are a dupe for one of the True Autumn pictures in 12Blueprints’ “Autumn Eye Album”. I was a honey blonde as a child, then my hair darkened to a deep auburn / chestnut brown. The classic Autumn CMB colors flattered me and I was happy with them. I always got lots of compliments.

    Then my hair started to “gray”. For health reasons, I cannot dye it. It is now a salt and pepper color. Depending on the light around me, it can look very silver. To my eye, my “new” hair clashed with my Autumn colors. It didn’t seem to “fit”. So over the past year or so, I have been experimenting with other color palettes, mostly Soft and True Summer and Bright Spring. Soft Summer really washes me out; True Summer is terrible; Bright Spring is better, but just too “bright”. ( I don’t have anyone near me to do a PCA. )

    I finally gave up and started wearing a lot of cool pinks ( always one of my worst colors ). I gave away my almost all Autumn clothes, too. In cool colors, people would say, ” That’s a pretty top”, but never, “You look great”. I also wore cool pink lipstick quite often ( it made me look sick ) and silver jewelry. Truly awful on me. Why didn’t I just hit myself over the head with a 2 X 4 while I was at it? It was an exercise in self-loathing going on there, imo.

    About a week ago, I was in a hurry and put on an old dark brown sweater to do some errands. Also an old True Autumn lipstick and gold earrings. At the supermarket, I saw a friend who immediately said, “You look wonderful. Better than I have seen you looking in a long time!” No “I like that sweater” but “You look wonderful”. Really an epiphany for me. I am still a True Autumn, salt and pepper hair and all! Other people could see it but I couldn’t. I needed a lot of time to adjust my eye.

    Now I need to replenish my Autumn wardrobe. Lol.

  3. Christine, do find that your season affects how the grey hairs come in?

    I’m a Bright Spring and my grey started to come in as one thick and obvious skunk stripe on my dark brown hair — a clear contrast, like the clothing that is often recommended for Brights.

    My sister is a Soft Autumn and her grey is coming in in evenly distributed strands — sort of heathered like the clothes she wears so well.

  4. Lena, I have a client with your colouring exactly. The type of gray we think of Winter having and absolute Autumn skin. The combination is simply gorgeous. I saw her a year ago and haven’t forgotten how beautiful her colouring is.

    Monica, I have never heard that association. It’s interesting though – for instance, very odd eye patterns, like one thicker unusual-coloured spoke in the iris are often Winter. Many Winters have a stripe of hair that silvers very early, before the rest of the head, randomly positioned on their head. So what you describe doesn’t surprise me, but I can’t say if it really is common outside the average. Still, you’ve given me great food for thought, I never connected these things before. Thanks :)

  5. I love this article–and the photos too. I decided some time ago to go gray naturally, partly because my coloring is light and cool enough for the graying to blend in with my light brown hair, but it’s unnerving to see myself with gray hair in photos. My hair still looks brown in the mirror, but the brown doesn’t register in some photos. This happened to my older sister too. Her hair is now white and it’s very becoming. She actually looks younger with such light hair. She inspires me to keep my hair natural, and so does this article. I’ve enjoyed Lena’s story too, and I’m glad she has rediscovered her True Autumn self.

  6. Hair color is a tricky thing, especially for cool and cool/neutral seasons. Just like everything else, your natural hair color is comprised of red, yellow and blue. Artificial hair color dyes contain phenylene diamines, ammonia and the developer is hydrogen peroxide. When you mix hydrogen peroxide and ammonia, you get bleach. All permanent hair color contains these ingredients. Hair color, even if it darkens hair, will lighten the hair first and then work to deposit the color. Guess what color in the hair goes out the window first? Blue! That is why when hair color is applied to our hair and allowed to develop, underlying warmth shows up

    .Natural hair is full of warm underlying pigment. That is also why cool and cool/neutral seasons have such a time with hair color. The best solution is to use a natural/ash tone, or NA. You will still get the gray coverage you want, but with minimal warmth. A straight ash color will not cover gray adequately. It will look very drab like a piece of slate.

    Moral of the story….if you have a nice, cool toned natural hair color with little to no gray, don’t go messing with it. Add some subtle highlights if your season allows for it. And if your hair is a beautiful shade of white or gray and you are ready to take it on, wear it with pride.

  7. I’m fascinated to know how you think seasons might change/develop over a lifetime. At one end from the baby/young child and then into old age?
    My hair has been greying for a long time now, and getting more generally siver; my blue eyes have faded, and are not as bright a blue as before.
    Do you think a person’s season morphs from one to the next related one (or maybe further still!) or does it stay constant?

  8. I think it’s constant most of the time, Mary. It depends on where your initial position was in terms of how close to a neighbour. It depends on what the neighbour Seasons are (if they’re warmer or brighter, it seems unlikely you’d move there, as B Sp to T Sp). I see many SA/ S Su that are very Neutral, very much on the midline, and in that group, I do wonder if they shift to the cooler one in some cases.

  9. Well, anybody who had seen my toddler picture at the beach would have said Spring! But at my 9 years old I looked like a Winter. Of course, what you look like has nothing to do with what you are.

  10. Yes – I find this puzzling – my 3 kids changed massively from small children to adults.
    When very young, my son had light blond hair but the darkest of dark brown eyes and wanted to wear cool blues all of the time. His hair is now a darkish neutral (no highlights at all) brown. He wears a lot of black but it looks dismal. Overall he looks very muted. Can a summer have really dark brown eyes?

  11. Queen Elizabeth 2 is a True Summer from what I see. The Season can have very dark hair. They can also have dark eyes but if there’s a connection with black and skin is very light, it would be uncommon. Impossible? I’d never say that till I draped them. There are ALWAYS exceptions.

  12. What do you mean when you say “a connection”? Is it that the black is causing the eyes to appear black when they are brown?

  13. Yes, when you love at it, you see a colour repeat, Daenerys. My job as the analyst is to discover the full scope of your colours. If I only find half of them, you present a diluted version of the fullness of your real self. From your sentence, it could be adjusted to say, “…the black is causing the eyes to appear black when they ARE black.”

  14. Thanks for the answer. And about Mary B´s son… as you said, he could be a Summer. But what if he is a Bright Winter? Very light hair and very dark eyes are a striking contrast. It´s just an idea.

  15. I just wanted to comment on Lena’s story. Mine is so simiilar, except I now believe I’m a deep autumn. After going gray, all the books, charts, family, etc. diagnosed me as a soft. I don’t think I made a single important purchase since then that I was truly happy with, because I was trying for soft colors. But my knock-about-stay-at-home tops, that I just grabbed because they appealed to me, frequently got me compliments. Dark reds, dark greens, one dark brown. Deep purple. Dark gray.

    Then I returned to full time work. For my interview suit I bought a very pale gray. Lovely suit, but….. The first time I looked at myself in the ladies’ room mirror, I went out and made an appointment to get my hair colored again, asking for a “soft” brown. Felt better, my clothes still didn’t work.

    During the last couple of weeks I’ve done some research on color analysis and re-analyzed myself, covering my hair and draping just against my face in good natural light. What worked? Deep, dark colors, not too warm, definitely not too cool. Classic deep autumn colors. I’ve bought a couple of tops, wearing a slightly different makeup, a darker lipstick and I haven’t been so happy with my looks since I was first declared an Autumn in the 70’s. One of the happiest points is that I believe I can revert to gray whenever I want (and it will probably be soon!) and still be a deep autumn and still be happy with my clothes and colors.

    BTW, although I was an “Autumn”, I have believed for a long time that I was truly a deep autumn.

  16. Hi Anne, are you able to describe your colouring in a bit more detail? What was your natural pre-grey hair colour, what colour are your eyes etc and do you feel that you have an overall “dark” appearance?
    I’ve self-diagnosed as soft-autumn because my colouring is so neutral in every direction. Mouse-brown hair, hazel eyes without any “jewel” like qualities, so, not clear, and a good foundation match for me is Maybelline dream classic ivory. I’ve only bought two “soft” things in the last year and both of them have gone to the charity shop. The colours I live in are navy, burgundy, mahogany, dark browns, reds of all shades, taupe, which I love, and various shades of green – no fixed rules for green, I’ll try it all. And darker greys. No black, no white, no pastel, no “oatmeal”. I have a small, versatile wardrobe and have decided to just go back to looking for things in the colours that I like. But I still find PCA interesting, without reading this site and some others, I doubt I would have found a few lipsticks that actually suit me, or persevered in the hunt. Cheers.

  17. I find the haircolor debate very interesting. I’m a Bright Spring who colors her hair hot pink about 2 or 3 times a year. Once colored, it fades through a fascinating array of pinks and corals until it gets to a golden strawberry blonde. I love it all the way through. It’s not at all natural, nor do I intend it to be. I do it because it expresses a part of my inner self that I NEED to let out. I don’t even care if it’s the most flattering thing, though I believe that it looks great, and I still get compliments.

    Every PCA site I look at says “Keep your hair color natural” and I feel weird about that. I’d love to see what you have to say, Christine, about the the completely non-natural hair color trend.

  18. Wanted to thank Tina for her comment. Her comment is similar to what my former hair stylist said. Tina explained it in a way that was very easy to understand. I have no knowledge in this area myself.

  19. I love this article! I am 48 and went natural 9 months ago. I had been coloring my hair since I was 26, and something snapped this year when I started adding up the fortune I had given to hairdressers over the past two decades. My hair is almost completely white. I feel like I am seeing the self I always wanted to be. Plain Jane became a Diva this year! Your above photo of “frosted roses” could be my entire palette. I still don’t know what what season I am. Someday I’ll get draped if the money works. But I encourage any woman who is struggling with palette to experiment with her natural hair color.

    Thank you for this fine forum. I am learning a lot while reading your archives.

  20. Hi Christine!
    Thank you for your blog and article!
    I am a bright winter with ash brown hair that is always changing depending on the light (can appear golden blond, light ash, or very dark, or everything at the same time (i liked your description of ‘tea’ hair for bright winters in another post)) I began to have white hair only on temples, so I let it like that for a few years. It was great at the beginning but having more and more grey hair was a bit ‘sallow’ and sad so after a while I decided to try henné (not red but supposedly ash brown) and only on temples not to loose the whole color of my (very long) hair…Not bad but so un-sheer! I look like a Dark winter and also I’m fearing not being able to wear my bright winter colors again….I was wondering if there are tips and colors on how to dye your hair following your season?

  21. There are some guidelines, Nathalie. My #1 suggestion for Bright Winter and dye is, “Don’t.” Dye always seems too opaque and heavy on the head even if the match to the original colour is very close. When this woman wears her correct colours, especially the white, teals, and purples, her hair is remarkable whether pigmented or silver. If you really want dye, the best recd is probably to match the hair you had around 20-25. There is so much variation in the natural colouring of this group that generalities that apply to all, or even most, are near impossible to offer.

  22. Nathalie, I believe I’m a Dark Winter, but dye easily looks a bit too heavy and opaque on me too, at least a darker dye… I’ve found that only a red-toned dye doesn’t, strangely enough (and it has to be around the right darkness and warmth level too, of course). Red seems to be more translucent, somehow… But I know that won’t probably help you ;)

    Btw, the recommendation to “match the hair you had around 20-25” doesn’t work for me at all, as that time I had either lightened or hennaed hair, so it’s impossible to tell what my natural colour was ;) But trying to remember from roots, I’m fairly sure it was more or less the same as my natural one now, maybe slightly lighter, but this current one suits my skintone much better, in my opinion.

  23. Thank you very much for answering! Now I think I will do several experiments in regards to this new knowledge (still with henné as it looks quite natural, and still dying only on temples), for example to see if I can obtain some sheerness, if some tints are better , if pure black or pure red or better than a natural color, how is it with my 25 yo color,etc….And then decide if I go for silver or (partly) dyed hair….I had also noticed recently that mauves and purples look good although I used to be an unconditional of red….So now I know it can be useful for the next years to buy more purple :-)

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