Herringbone Highlights Is The Genius Way to Embrace Your Gray Hair

The strategy is a celeb favorite.

Gray hair is no longer the taboo it used to be. Though showing grays once felt like a palpable descent into old age, acceptance has been quietly growing over the years, with the pandemic really accelerating the shade’s mainstream embrace. It’s no longer a question of whether to fully embrace your grays or go all in on a dye job; today’s options are varied and nuanced—offering, quite literally, shades of gray when it comes to settling into the hue. Following on the heels of gray blending, which offsets or accentuates gray strands by mixing in extra pieces of highlights and balayage to create a more natural look, is the latest in gray innovation: herringbone highlights.

According to celebrity colorist and Redken ambassador Matt Rez, herringbone highlights weave a pattern of colors through fine sections of hair to complement and celebrate natural gray hairs, blending them into the hair color design rather than covering them up entirely. The aptly named technique mimics the palettes, tones, and patterns seen in various styles of herringbone wooden flooring to create seamless highlights that intentionally feature grays.

“This herringbone pattern of highlighting will bring brightness to the collective color so there is a perfect balance of warmth and coolness, creating more of a vibrant neutral vibe,” he explains. “The technique is particularly great for hair that’s anywhere from 25 to 75 percent gray.”


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Herringbone highlights are nothing new: Jennifer Aniston, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Sarah Jessica Parker are all fans, and Rez uses the approach on many of his own clients, including Amanda Kloots, to blend graying hair into a multidimensional color that grows out seamlessly. 

The trick to nailing the look, he says, is finding the right balance of warm and cool tones to help soften stark grays. By diffusing various shades around the head in an irregular pattern, the herringbone technique mimics the sporadically scattered nature of gray hair. Rather than fighting against grays and trying to hide them, herringbone highlights work with them.

Hairstylist Jessica Page is also a fan of the technique. She says the seamless blending allows for a soft grow-out rather than a harsh line. The result is a more lived-in, low-maintenance look that celebrates grays—and requires far less upkeep than traditional methods of dying grays away.

To get the look yourself, Rez suggests asking that your grays aren’t covered with a single-process color. Instead, ask for a mid-light shade to be incorporated into your colorist’s highlighting pattern—this should add a warmer, connecting color to tie your base color flawlessly into the lightest highlight color used. 

Page says you can simply ask for a very soft grow-out with fine, blended babylights that celebrate (not hide) grays. Be sure your colorist mixes the highlights throughout the hair in an irregular, scattered way, rather than alternating between each shade, so that they resemble the natural dispersed placement of grays.

Despite the widespread acceptance of embracing grays, we know the decades-long negative associations can be hard to shake. With that in mind, Page emphasizes that this is a technique used to blend grays, not cover them. “You will still see the gray,” she warns. “It will just be more blended and flattering!”

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