So they turn to the bottle for help.
"I want to look 35," said Mark Eldredge, 52, of Mukilteo. "I feel 35."
There's an arsenal of products for men who want to camouflage, tone or salt-and-pepper the infiltrating gray.
Why not? Women dye it all the time.
"It's always been said that gray makes men look distinguished and women look old," said Tanya Rae Piper, stylist at Salon Zuberenz in Lynnwood.
"Some men don't feel distinguished. They feel old."
Men tend to be sneaky about what happens at the salon or over the sink.
"They don't want people to go, 'Oh, my gosh, you've been coloring your hair,'" Piper said. "They have egos."
She said lots of guys start out with a quick fix that discreetly blends the gray at the shampoo bowl.
"They don't like to sit with color on their hair because they feel awkward, especially in a salon with women," she said.
Many get over that, and advance to permanent hair color.
Piper said about a third of her male clients use some form of hair color, and not only on top. "They are also coloring their beards and mustaches because of gray," she said.
A few go the other way, deliberately graying it all to do an Anderson Cooper. Not many guys can pull that off.
Male hair coloring has surged since Piper started styling hair in the 1980s, when youth-seeking studs got mullets, perms or, if really daring, blond highlights.
Brian Gahan of Northwest Hair Academy in Everett said coloring for men has increased about 20 percent in recent years with his school's clientele.
"Women like more of a change," Gahan said. "Men are straight up about gray coverage. They want more of a natural look in general, unless they're 20 years old and just want red hair."
Even so, men are creatures of habit. It often takes a job hunt, divorce or crisis to get them to alter anything in their primping regimen.
For Eldredge, it went along with his mid-life makeover when he was pushing 50.
The former athlete didn't like what he'd morphed into: an overweight, out-of-shape, bar-stool hugging, two-pack-a-day Marlboro man.
Instead of happy hour every night, Eldredge hit the gym, quit smoking and lost 140 pounds, half of his body weight. His waistline went from 48 to 27 inches. He got his cheekbones back and a whole new wardrobe.
It was like he was 35 again, except for his receding hair, which was dark on top and gray at the sides. "Like there's a bowl on top," he said.
At first, he'd pick coloring products off the drugstore shelf. His hair was an ongoing experiment.
"It was reddish, then blondish, then it was brown, then I'd go light brown onto a brown, then a dark brown onto a brown, then reddish. I'd do it all," said Eldredge, a structural engineer at Boeing.
His colleagues took note.
"They'd say, 'Nice hair,' but they were kidding," he said.
Finally, he put his hair in the hands of a professional stylist.
"Now I go into work and nobody knows I colored," he said. "It's natural, which is good for work."
He gets his eyebrows dyed to match. Can't forget that.
Color choice can make or break a man's 'do.
Stylist Nataliya McGrew of Rock & Roll Hair Salon in Everett said men are better off choosing a color in their natural tone range because of that pesky root problem.
"The new roots growing show. For women it's normal, but guys kind of get embarrassed," McGrew said. "Guys have too many complexes."
Andrea Brown; 425-339-3443; firstname.lastname@example.org
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