Prev Next

Styling the Alpha Alpha Mom: Hairstyles for Grey Hair

By Amalah

Hi, Amy!
Long-time listener,first-time caller here, and the advice isn’t even for me. It’s about my mom. She’s in her early fifties, and has survived a divorce, a hysterectomy, a massive career change, breast cancer and most of grad school.
And she’s never been a glamazon-type. But she needs some hair help. Before the cancer, she had fine, thin, straight hair that she dyed black. After chemo, her hair grew back salt-and-pepper gray, a little thicker and WAVY. She has no idea what to do with it. She really loves her little curls and all, but she’s kinda clueless about products and tends to go at it with scissors herself when it gets a little long.
Add to this the fact that last fall, she let her friend give her a box dye-job. Brown. I think there may have been wine involved. And she didn’t want to keep it up.
So now, she has shoulder-length, half-brown, half-gray coarse wavy hair. I’m at a loss for what to tell her to do.
Could you please suggest something low-maintenance? I had to argue long and hard to convince her to use conditioner a couple times a week, though she might just be lying to me to get me to shut up. What kind of haircut would encourage waves? What kind of product do you use to tame the wonkiness of gray hairs? And how can you do it relatively cheaply? (She IS a grad student, afterall, and I’m not rolling in the dough, either.)
She’s almost finished with her dissertation, and she’ll be on the job market hopefully by this coming fall. I love her to pieces and I want her to look her best.
Please help!
Devoted Daughter

Oof, tall order! Envisioning hairstyles for other people has never been one of my strongest talents (I’m no Whoorl, that’s for sure.), and without photos of her hair and bone structure I’m hesitant to suggest a lot of specific looks. That would probably be best left to a talented stylist, who can touch and examine her hair and face shape, listen carefully to her description of what “low maintenance” means, and make a suggestion for a style that will suit her.
jamieleeaarp.jpgIf I HAD to offer few pointers from my armchair on the sidelines, I’d definitely recommend going shorter, if only to chop off the remains of the brown dye-job. Personally I think she should embrace the salt-and-pepper color — I’m a big fan of embracing the grey once it’s the prevalent color. Besides, there’s nothing more low-maintenance than banishing the dye and the half-inch of visible roots.
A shorter cut will encourage the waviness — longer length equals more weight and this can pull curls down and out. A chin-length bob with some texture could really enhance the curls and make her coarse hair look soft and lovely. OR, if she’s got the face shape for it and isn’t against going ultra-short, a pixie cut would be awesome. Think Sharon Stone or Jamie Lee Curtis. Super-low-maintenance (she could definitely trim it up herself and keep the salon appointments down to yearly) and coarse wavy hair gives a pixie look a LOT of styling options. (Seriously. Just LOOK at Jamie Lee on the cover of AARP this month. Totally fierce.)
As for products, obviously that will depend on the style she goes for. Good shampoos and conditioners for her hair type are Aveda’s Be Curly line and . A gentle conditioner is beyond essential, so if she won’t use one just get her a bottle of 2-in-1 shampoo-plus-conditioner. And some coarse, wavy hair doesn’t even need shampooed every day (or like, EVER), so she might ONLY need to use conditioner in the shower.
After the shower, a spray leave-in conditioner will help soften up the texture and fight the frizz. I’ve always used Catwalk Fast Fixx, but she could also just go with John Frieda’s old reliable Frizz-Ease in the original serum or a spray.

About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

icon icon
chat bubble icon


newest oldest most voted
Notify of

I think that any woman who has survived what this woman has been through and continues to pursue higher education should splurge (or be treated, hint hint, daughter) to at least a one-time visit to a nice salon to get the initial cut, shape, and color clean-up (get rid of remaining brown). I’m not talking a $200 haircut but if she normally cuts it herself or goes to the cut ‘n cry, she could probably use the advice that would come from a more experienced professional. After the first good cut, maybe Mom can maintain it herself, or find less-expensive… Read more »


I have wavy hair, and to bring out the curls I use curly sexy hair products, I’ve been very happy with them.

Amy Corbett Storch

(Cut ‘n cry may be the most awesome name I have ever heard. HAA!)