How to prevent silver hair from yellowing

August 14, 2018

I've decided to try and grow my silver hair out -- long. I kind of want it to look like this:

from Pinterest

Of course, it's possible that I will end up looking like granny from The Beverly Hillbillies. Reality is often different from our dreams, haha.

But I don't have any big events coming up, like a family wedding, so I'm going to bite the bullet and embrace the long, painstaking process of growing it out. I don't plan on wearing it down; once it gets long enough I will wear it up, maybe like this:

from Pinterest

What's the point, you say? Well, I just want to. I've always loved long hair, but because shorter looks better on me, the solution is an updo. And if I end up with a tight little gray bun like granny instead of this gorgeous upswept look, I can always cut it again.

So, now the question is, how do I keep my hair, hair that could end up being two or three years old by the time it's long enough to put up, from turning yellow? Right now, it's so short that I probably get a new head of hair every six to eight months, with regular trims, so I don't worry too much about it. But if I want to keep it looking nice for up to three years, what to do?

If you're wondering the same about your beautiful silver hair, I've done the research for us.


Gray or white hair contains very little pigment and will sometimes yellow from pigments picked up from the environment. Factors include:

  • chlorinated water from pools or showers
  • cigarette smoke and environmental pollution
  • heat styling tools such as hair dryers and curling and flat irons
  • hair products like gels or mousses that contain silicones or sulfates
  • the sun
  • water with a high iron content
  • some medications, such as those for malaria and chemotherapy drugs. The ingredients in sunless tanners and dandruff shampoos can also yellow hair.

Sometimes, genetics plays a role, but since there's nothing we can do about that, we'll focus on what we can do.

Install a shower filter. I'm looking at one on Amazon right now, but I'm going to do a little more research. I'll let you know. Unless anyone has some advice here? I don't swim in pools, but I guess you need to keep your hair dry or make sure you wash it well after swimming.

Don't smoke. Wash your hair if you've been around smokers or in a polluted or dusty environment.

Avoid using heat styling tools. Or turn them down to the lowest heat setting. Or use a heat protective spray. Be aware that the spray itself could cause yellowing (see below).

Avoid hair products with silicones or sulfates. I'm hoping longer hair will mean no more mousse or styling gels for me. In the meantime, I guess I'll have to figure out how to style my hair without them. Also, don't use a shampoo with a yellow-ish color to it. Try to use clear or white-colored shampoos.

Avoid mid-day sun and wear a hat if you'll be outside for an extended time.

I don't have any experience with high iron content in water or water softeners, so you'd have to check on this. And obviously, you need to take certain medications if needed. I was surprised about the sunless tanner. I put that on my legs after I get out of the shower. I guess I could still have it on my hands while drying my hair, so I need to either give that up or make sure I thoroughly wash my hands before touching my hair.

If you do notice some yellowing, use a blue shampoo. I am going to try and work it so I don't need to do this. A blue shampoo is only going to cover the yellow with a blue tint. I'd like to avoid the yellow in the first place or tinting my hair in the second place. But I'll definitely use one if I end up with any yellow. Just don't use it too often; I've ended up with a steely blue color. Once a week at most.

I've read conflicting reports about how often to shampoo your hair if you're trying to avoid yellowing. Some articles said wash it more often, even daily, to remove dust and environmental pollution. Others say less, to avoid chlorine in water and dulling shampoos and products. I think if you have a shower filter and use good products and avoid heat you could wash more often.


I'd love to hear any tips you might have here. Also, do any of you lovelies with silver or gray or white hair wear it long?

Edited to add: I forgot to mention the strangest thing I read. Too much beta-carotene, as in carrots, can yellow your hair. So that daily carrot juice may be the culprit!


  1. This must explain why my grandma's hair looked blue. I always heard it was a blue rinse, I guess to keep the yellow away. But the interesting thing is she didn't start with the blue until she cut off her beautiful long, white hair and wore it rather short. My hair is still a blend of white and gray and is short so I haven't noticed the yellow color yet. This was an interesting post!

  2. Interesting! I never realized that silver hair can yellow. I've seen some people with purple-tinged hair which looked neat to this purple lover.

  3. My sister has beautiful white hair, which she uses a blue shampoo on. She dilutes the blue shampoo half and half with a white or clear shampoo. This gives her the right balance, Good luck growing out your hair!

  4. I have white hair and wear it long. I have very heavy hair and so it is hard to wear it up because it gives me a headache. I do straighten it because it is curly (frizzy curly). I look awful with short hair and when it is short it looks like a brillo pad on my head.

    Good luck. I think you will love having it long once you get past the 'weird length' stage.

    I just went to a class reunion and had a number of people come up and tell me what beautiful hair I had...2 of them wondered if it was a wig. lol

    I don't use the 'silver/gray' shampoos because I find them to be very drying.

    Good luck- xo Diana

  5. I have long silver hair and yes, there is a yellow cast. I don't smoke, don't use any products other than shampoo. My hair is shiny. People say they love my hair and that does make me feel good. I stopped coloring my hair almost 20 years ago.

    Just this week I did see a natural shampoo that I want to try, it's rather pricey, so I've not ordered it yet. ~ 'Just Nutritive
    Gray Hair Shampoo' ~ Sulfate-free Brightening Shampoo for Gray and Silver Hair.

    I agree with Diana, that you will like long hair once you get past the weird stage/length. I've always wanted long hair since I was a little girl. My mom said no, and I had short permed hair until I started dating my future husband who loved long hair. I've only had it trimmed through the years. I'm 69 years young. :-)

    I'll let you know when I try this shampoo by Nutritive.


  6. I know carrot juice will make your skin yellow so I guess it makes sense it would color your hair too. My sister has silver white mine....and wears it long. It looks beautiful! I look better in short hair. I know that for a fact! lol I tried the special shampoo and hated it. I don't use any styling gels or hair spray on mine either. And the sun? That's the wonderful thing about silver white hair...the sun makes it lighter and brighter. It bleaches it yellow whatsoever! WHEW! I LOVE silver hair. You'll be beautiful no matter how you wear yours!

  7. Good luck in growing out your beautiful hair, Deborah. A friend of mine does use a blue shampoo, and her hair never gets a blue tint to it. I look forward to seeing your new do in the coming months.

  8. I think you would look beautiful with long hair, Deborah. I do so admire hair that is like that first picture and from looking at your photo it seems like yours would be like it if long. So go for it! I haven't had my own cut in a year and it's longer than it's ever been, long enough to pull back and use a clasp at the top of my neck and have about 5 inches hang down from the clasp but it's due for a shaping cut. I went white in my 30s and tried the blue shampoo once and it's just not right with my complexion but I do love it on others. Be patient in the growing out stage, keep reminding yourself of the photo of yourself you will post here a year from now!

  9. Long hair or short, you will look beautiful, my friend. I hope this hair growth journey goes well. I know there can be moments of aggravation {{smiles}}

    Thinking of you and sending love and hugs your way.

  10. Deborah~I so enjoyed reading this post and visualising along with you about growing your beautiful grey hair out,I guess because I've been there done that. :}
    First I must say that you will look lovely with your hair softly pulled up should you feel the need.
    What I have done for years with my grey hair has worked, therefore I try not to change things up.
    I use Paul Mitchell's Forever Blond and twice to three times a week I use his Platinum Blond, though I do not color my hair. This really keeps my grey having a pretty silver look.
    I do use Pureology smoothing serum, blow dry my hair and use Purology hair spray lightly. So, once a week I use Aveda's Dry Remedy, a moisturizing mask that is AWESOME! That seems to keep my hair clean, soft, shiny and healthy.
    Fortunately we have spring water, so no chlorine to deal with.
    I wish you all the best, there will be frustrating days, but well worth it if it's what you want.

    Have a beautiful day~

  11. My hair is almost completely gray and I wear it up. Being African-American my hair has it's own set of problems. Lol
    I have switched to a white sulfate free shampoo and I wear a headcovering so that helps cut down on discoloration.

  12. I've had gray/now mostly white hair for years and use Clairol Shimmer Lights about twice a week. Like a previous comment, I mix it with another shampoo. I've never looked purple except as I got toward the end of a bottle of shampoo. My stylist said to always shake the shampoo bottle before using and then be sure and mix the last bit with other shampoo so you don't get the purple. It really does help the white not be yellow! Good luck with growing it out.

  13. I am certain long hair will suit you perfectly! I am growing mine again - and it is platium.

  14. I'm thankful for white hair because it is easier/coarser and therefore fuller. I used to use a bluing shampoo twice a week, but well over 2 years ago I started going poo-less. I pour baking soda mixed with warm water over, work it in, then rinse it out. Finish with diluted white vinegar in lotsa water to prevent tangles. I no longer have to use ANY hair products and my hair has never been better....or easier! I "wash" it ever 3-4 days.

  15. Well, I love your short hair style shown in your profile picture. But, it appears you have beautiful hair so I do not blame you for growing it out. And, as you said, you can always cut if off if you do not like it. My Mom had the most beautiful white hair and as far as I know, she did nothing to keep it white, it was just a beautiful white. Me, I'm an auburn and my grey is yellowish, just like my Dad's, so I'll keep coloring I imagine. I get in the mood to grow mine out at times and after it gets a certain length I have it cut. I think I really look "sassier" with a shorter style. Good luck in the growing out process. Be sure and post pics as you go along.

  16. You have a cute hairstyle but I can understand wanting to grow it out for something different. It's a long process (I did this a few years ago) and there are so many pretty hair accessories to arrange an updo.

  17. I have just started to grow mine a little longer, so far no yellowing. I love the idea of an updo, it looks gorgeous.

  18. I can picture you now with that beautiful up-swept do... although I do love your current short style. I may not need to worry about the silver hair for a few years yet if I am anything like my mom. She was mostly brunette until she hit her eighties! Good luck growing out your lovely silver hair!

  19. Deborah, I don't have a gray hair on my head (thanks to my mom's genes), but I might have a bit of info on shampoo. I started making shampoo bars because I had some customers ask about them. I looked into it -- commercial shampoos (like we all use all our lives) are actually detergents. They strip the oils from our hair (which we want, especially when we're young) and they have those sulfates that you mention. Those are hard on hair. A shampoo bar is not a detergent; it's a soap. I think it's best for people with not much oil in their hair, older folks like us :) I've really enjoyed using mine. I alternate using the detergent shampoo and the shampoo bar. It's much more gentle on my hair, and it absolutely gets it very squeaky clean (you can feel the squeak). It does give it a different feel/texture, so about once a week I'll use the liquid detergent. Just a thought, and something else for you to research :)

    Also -- smoking. I bet the effect of smoking is not just external, but internal as well. Smoking affects the skin so badly, and I know it does the same to hair and nails. In that way, smoking seems to be different from the other negative influences on the hair - it attacks from the person's own system, chemically.

    Well, I think your hair will look so gorgeous. Of all types of women's hair, the most beautiful (to me) is longish silver hair (mid back or higher) Can't wait to see yours! I also have long hair and wear it in an upswept up-do, esp. in warmer weather. You get rather good at figuring out different styles.

  20. Thank you for the info about Hillside College.I intend to study their free courses.

  21. Deborah,
    Your hair is beautiful and I love it short but I imagine you will look beautiful with long hair as well...on your worst day you would never look like granny! LOL! My MIL had the most beautiful head of white hair. It was stunning really and I don't think she ever did anything except use regular shampoos. Can't wait to see your new do....xx Linda

  22. Your have beautiful hair! I'd love to have long hair but not sure I can take the headaches; my recent hair cut was more of a scalping. I wanted a trim ---lol.

  23. I've taken after my dad's genes for not having much grey yet. I still enjoyed reading your post with all the interesting information you've discovered about greying or yellowing hair.

    I can see you with that lovely up-swept do -- although I do like your current short look. I do hope it works for you.

    Have fun with your experimenting...
    Brenda xox

  24. I'm in my mid 70's and have had grey hair for decades. I've worn it both short and long. At the moment it is long and I enjoy the versatility of being able to style it either up or down. There are a number of good products on the market that remove any yellow tint from the hair to leave it a clear white with no hint of blue. I like a product range called 'White Hot' and Pro-Voke do a brightening shampoo with a violet pigment called 'Touch of Silver'. You only need to use these products now and then. If you over-use them the pigment will show!
    Enjoy your new style, I think you will look lovely with long hair. Luckily hair grows, so we can change our minds and try all sorts of styles!
    Miss Cellany.


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