April 11, 2021

Why Wearing Softer Colours With Grey Hair Will Not Make You Fade Away

Why Wearing Softer Colours With Grey Hair Will Not Make You Fade Away


Reader Question – Why is it that you advise that those with grey hair wear smoky and more muted colours? Doesn’t this just make us fade away?

Although our genetic makeup never changes, our hair changes both in colour and texture as we get older. In the same way, we lose the bloom of youth and pigmentation colour in our skin tone. It is not usual to find that certain colours make you look sallow, dull, or washed out as you age. This phenomenon is called simultaneous contrast.

Simultaneous contrast 

Simultaneous contrast occurs when two adjacent colours influence each other, changing our perception of these colours. The actual colours themselves don’t change, but we see them as altered.

Simultaneous contrast can make a colour (or your own skin) look brighter or duller, depending on the colour you put next to it.

Each of the centre colours below are the same. You’ll notice that that centre colour either looks brighter or duller, depending on the colour it is that next to it.

Simultaneous contrast


  • Dark and light make each other look brighter
  • Bright and dark make the bright colour look brighter
  • Bright and muted make the muted colour look duller
  • The more similar in brightness, the less bright they both look

When I’m doing a colour analysis, I’m assessing how you look in comparison to other colours – your simultaneous contrast.

Muted colours won’t make you look dull if they are the right kinds of colours for you.  In the photo below taken at one of my personal colour analysis training courses, you can see how these more muted colours actually look brighter on the client as they make her look bright – so they don’t look dull, as they would on someone who had bright colouring.

Personal Colour Analysis

These colours are not bright colours – but notice how her eyes pop and she looks bright – this is because the more muted colours enhance her rather than drain her softer colouring.

Why Wearing Softer Colours With Grey Hair Will Not Make You Fade Away

Grey hair comes in a variety of shades – salt and pepper; steel grey; cool ash grey and platinum silver to name a few.  Some greys are brighter than others. Textured grey hair will look less bright than smooth grey hair.  The more white in your grey – the brighter it will look as well, versus the more ‘steel wool’ the duller your grey.

If your hair has gone grey, it has lost its pigment. Your hair is the most obvious location where the pigment disappears from but also pigment disappears from your skin and your eyes at the same time, you just don’t notice it in the same way as it’s not as obvious.

This is most noticeable if you ever dye grey hair back to the natural colour at 20 years old, your hair colour will usually look harsh against your skin. This is because our skins and eyes don’t have the vibrant pigment that it contained when you were younger.

You can add makeup to compensate for that loss of pigment but if you’re not someone who likes to wear lots of makeup, you’ll just find that those brighter colours that may have worked for you when you’re younger start to look really harsh and we see the colour rather than you.

If the colour is right, you will look healthy and your eyes will sparkle. If it isn’t, the colour will pop and you will recede. Or worse, you will look dull as the bright colour makes you fade away.

When I’m draping someone who is more muted and my eye is being drawn to the colours rather than the person’s face, then when I drape them in the more muted colours it’s like they have suddenly come alive and their face becomes the focus, rather than the colours.

Smoky colours don’t make you look grey unless you aren’t actually ready for them. Some people will reach the greyed, smokier colours sooner than others. Not everyone will go grey but their colouring will soften.  Some people don’t have bright colouring to start with – they are always more muted.

If you were wearing continue to wear bright, saturated colours of your youth, you will disappear and recede into the background. We will see the clothes versus you.

If your overall colouring is greyed, then the smokier colours work for you, they will enhance your natural colouring and you will actually appear brighter.

If your overall colouring is softer, then the softer colours work for you, they will enhance your natural colouring and we see you rather than the clothes.

We want you to be the star and you to shine

Personal Colour Analysis

Have you noticed that colours you used to wear and love no longer suit you?   Which suit you bright clear colours, medium clear or softened colours?

My 7 Steps to Style program members all get a personal colour analysis from me with the 18 groups and from the feedback I read on their forum it’s really obvious to see just how much better they feel in their right colours, plus how it makes building a wardrobe easier (not harder as many fear).

Alternatively, you can get a colour analysis online if you are just after your ideal colour and signatures as well.!

The joys of working with your refined and nuanced palette is that the colours work together really well, as they have the same colour properties, so it makes mixing and matching the items in your wardrobe so much easier (a problem so many people have, though it’s not because they don’t know how to mix and match, it’s because they are trying to mix colours together that just don’t go together – as I wrote about in this post on clashing colours).

Remember, your colouring changes and you need to reassess every 5-10 years.

More Tips on Colour and Ageing

How Your Colouring Changes as You Age

Style and Taste at Every Age – Quality

There is No Age Limit to Style

How Does Your Colouring Change As You Age?

Understanding Undertone and Ageing – Warm to Cool

Why Grey Hair Should Not Make You Fade Away

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