How To Soften Coarse Gray Hair

Written by Anjali Sayee

As you age, your hair undergoes numerous changes that may leave it affected and damaged. Various factors influence the cells in the hair follicles (1). Your gray tresses also may feel dry, dull, unmanageable, and unkempt (2). But worry not – your hair does not have to stay coarse all the time. The right tips and techniques can soften your hair and restore its sheen. If you are wondering how to soften coarse gray hair, we have you covered. Keep reading!

Why Is Gray Hair Coarse?

  1. Changes in your hair follicle functionality, moisture absorption, and moisture retention accelerate with age. These may cause your hair to become unmanageable, wild, and dry(2).
  2. The weathering of the hair shaft is another sign of hair aging (3). Styling hair with heating tools, over-grooming, pollution, UV rays, coloring and bleaching, and chemical treatments can cause this weathering and eventually lead to cuticle loss and hair fracture. These hair fractures weaken the hair and make it dull, frizzy, rough, and tangled (4).
  3. Rough hair is a sign of hair damage that results from the misuse of hair products and lack of hair care (4).
  4. Stretching your hair when combing it can also lead to fractures in the hair shaft. These fractures can result in rough hair (4).
  5. With age, your hair loses its color and becomes fragile and dry due to changes in the hair follicle structure (5).
  6. It is known that oxidative stress is linked to rapid aging (3). Aging also causes a decline in the body’s antioxidant defense system, aggravating oxidative stress (6). Anecdotal evidence suggests that this oxidative stress may cause hair to go coarse. The heat from the sun could also be responsible for hair coarseness (7).
  7. Our hair gets its color from melanocytes. These melanocytes may control more than just hair color (8). They also affect the production of the keratin-producing cells. As you age, the production of keratin in your hair may reduce and lead to coarseness and damage.

Here are some tips and techniques to make your coarse gray hair smooth again.

How To Soften Coarse Gray Hair?

  1. Stop Using Chemicals: Avoid chemical treatments, colors, bleaches, and perms. These treatments can severely damage the hair cuticles (3). You may instead opt for natural DIY remedies or vegan coloring and straightening products. You can also go for organic alternatives to chemical treatments, hair dyes, and smoothing treatments.
  2. Stop Using Heating Tools: Heat damages hair. Curling irons, flat irons, blow dryers, straightening treatments, perms, and crimping tools require heat. Putting your hair through so much heat every day can leave it rough and dry. Find alternatives for heating tools.
  3. Find The Right Products: Hair damage can be repaired using the right hair products (4). Find a mild shampoo that doesn’t strip your hair dry. Use a conditioner whenever you wash your hair.
  4. Stop Over-Grooming Your Hair: Excessive hair washing or combing can lead to hair damage. Wash your hair twice a week. If you have an oily scalp, opt for using a co-wash or a conditioning cleanser mid week. Do not comb or style your hair too much. Give your hair a few days off and let it fall naturally. Avoid tight hairstyles that pull on your hair.
  5. Choose The Right Hairstyle: Sometimes, picking the right hairstyle can transform your hair. Excess volume at the bottom can weigh your hair down, stretch it, and cause roughness.
  6. Oil Your Hair: Oiling hair keeps it hydrated. It also enriches your hair with nutrients and makes it manageable. Oils also coat your hair strands and make hair smooth.
  7. Use Smoothing Products: Try smoothing hair care products that can transform your rough hair and make it silky and soft. You can also try natural hair masks with moisturizing ingredients that can replenish and fortify your hair.
  8. Use Heat Protection: You must protect your hair from the styling tools as well as the sun. Go for products that offer heat protection. You can also wear a hat or a scarf to cover your hair. Use a heat protectant when styling your hair.
  9. Cleanse Your Scalp: Under washing your hair can also lead to hair damage. Excess use of serums, protectants, volumizers, dry shampoos, conditioners, and regular shampoos can leave residue on your scalp. Even hair dyes and chemical treatments penetrate the hair and leave chemical residues, causing hair damage. Wash your hair with shampoo mixed with apple cider vinegar once a week. This ensures no product residue or dirt is left behind.
  10. Have A Healthy Diet: Your body produces less antioxidants as you age. Hence, have fruits that can increase antioxidant production naturally. Have a balanced diet of vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, and other important nutrients. Meet with a nutritionist and prepare a meal plan.
  11. Avoid Drying Products: Dry hair means rough hair. Avoid alcohol-based products as they can be very drying.
  12. Exercise: One of the best ways to relieve stress is to exercise. No, you don’t have to join a gym or become a fitness expert. But you can opt for less strenuous exercises. Going for a walk, or practicing yoga or Pilates can go a long way in keeping you healthy and stress-free.

If you have curly or wavy hair, here are some specific tips that can help.

Softening Coarse Gray Curls, Waves, And Textured Hair

Most people with curly and wavy hair have oily scalps but dry hair strands. The sebaceous glands that usually produce natural oils to moisturize hair have low productivity in such hair types. The coily structure of curly hair and the S-shaped form of wavy hair keep the sebum from reaching the tips of the hair strands – causing them to become very coarse. Here is how you can change that:

  • Comb and brush your hair regularly to evenly spread the sebum through your hair.
  • Stop chemically relaxing and straightening your hair. These treatments cause hair damage, stretch your hair, and change its structure.
  • Use conditioners and leave-in products to decrease any friction between hair fibers.
  • Certain anti-dandruff shampoos leave your hair dry and cause frizz, roughness, and tangles. Always use a conditioner after shampooing your hair. A conditioner reduces frizz and fly a ways and smoothes hair.
  • Use products that specifically cater to your hair type. Curly and wavy hair is different from straight hair, and each hair type needs a separate set of products.

While heating tools are a big no-no, ionic hair dryers could be different. But do they soften coarse hair?

Do Ionic Hair Dryers Soften Coarse Hair?

Anecdotal evidence suggests that ionic hair dryers do make hair softer. These are different from regular hair dryers. They release negative ions that attract positive ion water molecules to the hair strands. This helps seal the hair cuticles and increases moisture retention. The water molecules are also thought to reduce friction from the fibers and make hair smooth and shiny.

Does Coloring Gray Hair Make It Softer?

Coloring gray hair with chemical hair dyes, bleaches, or harsh colorants does not soften it. These hair colors use chemicals that penetrate the hair shaft and cause further hair damage.

You can instead opt for natural, vegetable, or vegan hair dyes. These do not use harsh chemicals but organic plants, fruits, and vegetables. These natural ingredients also contain many nutrients that can replenish your hair strands, build strength, and improve overall hair health.


While gray hair may seem thinner or coarser, it also has its perks. For some, it is more shine and for others, it is more body. The right hair care regimen will rejuvenate and replenish your gray hair. With these tips, you can flaunt a healthy silver fox hairstyle and keep your hair from getting rough and damaged.

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Articles on StyleCraze are backed by verified information from peer-reviewed and academic research papers, reputed organizations, research institutions, and medical associations to ensure accuracy and relevance. Read our editorial policy to learn more.

  1. Normal and Aging Hair Biology and Structure ‘aging and Hair’
  2. Grey Hair: Clinical Investigation Into Changes in Hair Fibres With Loss of Pigmentation in a Photo protected Population,
  3. Pharmacologic Interventions in Aging Hair
  4. Hair Cosmetics: an Overview
  5. Histopathology of Aging of the Hair Follicle
  6. Age-Induced Hair Graying and Oxidative Stress
  7. Oxidative Stress in Ageing of Hair
  8. Hair Cycle and Hair Pigmentation: Dynamic Interactions and Changes Associated With Aging
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Anjali Sayee is a writer and an introvert. From studying Aeronautical Engineering and wanting to design her own airplane to writing articles on hairstyles, she has been on quite a journey. She believes that hair is one of the key factors that define a woman’s personality. To quote her, “What’s the first thing they do in the movies to show a personality change? Change the hair – because it has a life of its own.” She’s here to help you find the hairstyle you need. This bookworm is a self-professed Wholocker, a talented drummer, and an amateur photographer.