Coloring Hair Jet Black

Woman with black hair
Q: My aunt just turned 40 and is thinking about dyeing her hair jet black. She has concerns about it because a lot of stylist experts say jet black hair makes you look old.
Her skin color is light. How old will it make her look? Ten or twenty years older? She would really appreciate any advice.

A: It’s not a quantifiable conversion; this “makes you look old” tenet. I couldn’t possibly say that dyeing her hair jet black would make her look a specific number of years older. The effect is dependent on many factors, like natural color before going gray, skin tone, and other signs of aging that may be present.
What you need to understand is “why” dyeing the hair jet black is likely to make the person look older. As we age, we undergo many changes that show aging. Among these changes are changes in pigmentation in the hair. Even when the hair doesn’t go gray, it naturally gets lighter the older we get. And in many different ethnic types there is a likelihood that the skin will also change in pigment, growing slightly lighter or darker over the years.
What this means is that your natural coloring will shift over the years, and your choices in dealing with more dramatic changes in your hair color from graying, should reflect this. Your stylist is trained to understand this concept and usually advises his clients accordingly. He will urge a client toward using a lighter shade of color than is generally expected in order to blend gray hair away (providing a natural result), and will urge clients away from very dark color shades as they age.
This is because when a dark color is used for an older client – particularly when the client has other aging signs (lightened skin tone, translucence to the skin, fine lines and wrinkles, etc.) – these signs of aging can become more visible. The dark color becomes a background that enhances the appearance of the shadows created by the lines and wrinkles and makes the translucent skin look sallow and washed out.
My best advice is to listen to your stylist. He or she wants to make you look your best, because that reflects well on him/her. Stay within your “color family” from your youth, but go with lighter shades of these colors. Softer colors in the hair can soften the look of the face, and if you do indeed have the other signs of aging, a soft hair color can even make you look younger – whether you’re covering gray or not.
Photo: Nadino/Shutterstock
See also:
Going gray
Hair and the aging woman
Hairstyles to look younger
Choosing a hairstyle for older women