helen mirren gray hair

Helen Mirren looks chic and sophisitcated with her gray locks. Photo: Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic.com

Nobody asks for gray hair, but like it or not, by the age of 50, half of us will discover that half our head is covered with the silver strands.

From the moment we start seeing this happen, the "solutions" can range from painfully plucking the grays one by one (which, by the way, does not make two gray hairs grow back in its place), using an all-over dye or adding highlights. Some women even choose to do away with the tedium of coloring and simply embrace their new silvery self.

"Gray or white hair tends to look best with pink, olive, and dark complexions," Lisa Chiccine, a stylist and owner of the Lisa Chiccine Salon in New York City, told O Magazine. "If you're sallow or very pale, you'll probably look washed-out and should consider highlights or lowlights," she says.

So for those of us who choose the color route, the question then becomes: Lighter or darker? Which hue is best?

While the most obvious answer may seem to go back to your natural color, if you were a brunette in your younger years, that darker shade may be too harsh for your face now and accentuate any lines or wrinkles. Switching to an all-over color that is one to two shades lighter than your original color or adding light brown or dark blonde highlights is a better option.

"Brown hair that looks mousy as the gray comes in can be brightened and enriched by weaving in highlights and lowlights of honey, tortoiseshell or mahogany," Chiccine advices. "Another good option if you're just starting to go gray is to use a vegetable dye or a semi-permanent glaze. Both will stain a lot of the gray, and when the color starts to fade, you won't have a root line," says Chiccine.

For those of us with lighter locks, hiding grays can be a little easier. "If you only have a few gray strands and your hair is naturally blonde to medium brown," says L'Oreal Paris on their web site, "you can easily camouflage the gray in your base color by highlighting. You'll create a beautiful, multitonal effect that will appear very natural."

No matter what your natural hair color, holding off on an all-over color and using highlights to subtly blend away those grays for as long as possible can relieve the stress -- and expense -- of maintaining a complete dye job. Just be sure to go a shade or two lighter and work with your stylist to complement your current skin tone and complexion.

Want more great advice on how to look younger? Check out these makeup tips!