Men turn to the bottle to battle graying hair

October 30, 1991|By Liz Doup | Liz Doup,Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel

Just look at the figures: Only five years ago, the first wave of boomers turned 40. Now, roughly one-third of America's population is 45 or older, all of which adds up to a lot of gray hair on the same folks who once said you couldn't trust anyone over 30.

But graying hair is an old story. The new twist is men joining women in the color brigade.

As evidence, retail sales of men's hair-coloring products increased 40 percent in 1988. That same year, trend-tracking "USA Today" reported that the number of people in the 35-59 age bracket would surpass those in the 18-34 category the first time that statistical blip happened since the '50s.

So there's safety in numbers, yes? No.

Dan Rather, 59, made headlines instead of reading them, all because his graying mane went black. Viewers noticed. More important, so did Phil Donahue, who asked Rather whether he dyes his hair. The newsman answered:

"You have the right to ask that question. I have the right to say, 'That's tacky, Phil.' "

Sensitivities aside, men can learn from women, who already have made the full gamut of color mistakes.

If people don't know what they're doing, they go dark, too dark. It's that Morticia look and all it does is accentuate the wrinkles. As people age, skin tone changes and so should hair color by getting lighter. But it shouldn't go monochromatic.

A more natural look is achieved when hair is colored by "blending." Simply speaking, the hair that hasn't turned gray is left its normal color. The gray hair is colored in a lighter hue than the hair was originally.

The result is a head of hair that's not one solid color. Just like nature intended.

In addition, men often request that a little gray be left at the temples, so their unnaturally colored hair looks natural.

There is, of course, a down side to this personal pampering.

Coloring dries the hair, though a good conditioner can combat the dryness. And once you start, you're addicted. If you don't want to see the gray, you need to repeat the process, and that can be expensive and time-consuming.

Do-it-yourselfers can pick up coloring kits at the drugstore for around $5. At salons, where prices range from $15 to $45 for hair coloring to $45 to $150 for highlighting, you're paying for expertise.

The coloring process, which is semi-permanent and washes out, lasts about six weeks. Highlighting is permanent, which means the regrowth is going to look decidedly different from the treated ends. So highlighting needs to be repeated about every three months.

As for time involved: Figure anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour or so in the stylist's chair, depending on hair length and what's being done.

If that sounds like too much trouble and expense, remember this: About 40 million men in America are sporting gray hair, according to one manufacturer of hair-coloring products. But only 8 percent of those men color their hair.

That means most of those guys are grappling with their gray. Some, no doubt, better than others.

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