Go ahead, show off that hard-earned silver.

There was a time when going gray was something only the rare Southern woman would brave. Coloring gray roots came as natural to her as swiping on red lipstick in the drive-thru line or wearing her pearls to the grocery store. But in our humble opinion, naturally gray hair just hasn't been given its due credit. Silver strands are a mark of a Southern woman who has seen, done, and cooked it all—with superb style and etiquette to boot.

Then suddenly, silver strands began popping up on crowns that weren't old enough to naturally turn the hue (or even, perhaps, to rent a car); and gray hair became a bonafide trend. Ash blondes and smoky brunettes made going gray young and fresh, and that means if there's ever a time to transition to gray naturally and stylishly, it's now.

Contrary to popular belief, going gray takes more work than just cancelling your next salon appointment for a monthly root touch-up. (If it were that easy, who wouldn't jump on that time-saving, penny-wise, and hassle-free scenario?) There are a few essential tips when you decide to embrace the gray that make sure the transition from color-treated to completely natural occurs without any moments of doubt or discomfort. Check out the four best tricks you need to go gray gracefully when you decide it's time to give up the permanent color.

1. Start with a consultation.

The first step in transitioning to your natural color is meeting with your stylist for a consultation. You might find that your hair is less gray than you think—meaning it could be totally gray toward your hairline and the rich, chocolate brown of your youth toward the back. Your hairstylist will be able to right-size your expectations while also providing a game plan for how to help you achieve your gray goals. She will likely be able to help you avoid stark gray roots and a lengthy, awkward grow-out phase with strategically placed highlights and toning treatments. We like to affectionately refer to this practice as graylighting.

2. Make the chop—at least at first.

One thing is for sure: Going from colored hair to natural gray requires a transition stage that can be made a little less noticeable by getting a chop. Having a short haircut will keep your hair from looking conspicuously contrasted in color. Your stylist will be able to consult on the best cut for your face shape and for your individual path to gray, so be sure to take full advantage of her expertise. You'll love the low maintenance styling that a short haircut needs as you initially embrace the gray. Start by checking out these hairstyles that flatter at every age.

3. Use the right shampoo to avoid dull, yellowing gray strands.

Whenever hair is dyed or highlighted, using the proper toning shampoo helps keep brassiness at bay. Similar to the toner that your stylist might apply at the salon to help supercharge your journey on the road to silver, a toning shampoo can help keep things cool or warm depending on your objective. For colored blondes, violet shampoo keeps every shade vivid and balanced. For colored brunettes, blue shampoo keeps those caramel highlights rich and warm. Similarly, gray and white hair can skew yellow or look dull easily—due to pigment loss—when not kept in tip-top condition with the right shampoo. Invest in one of these shampoos formulated just for gray and white hair to avoid dull, yellow, or brassy strands. For most, a violet-tinted shampoo will work wonders when used just once or twice a week. (Use an ultra-hydrating shampoo formula for the rest of your weekly washes.)

4. Start regularly masking for healthy, hydrated gray hair.

Gray hair tends to be coarse or dry. The best way to make your gray hair look softer, shinier, and healthier is to regularly use hydrating and smoothing hair masks. For curly hair, try the DevaCurl Melt into Moisture Matcha Butter Conditioning Mask to leave curls incredibly soft and hydrated. For damaged hair, the Living Proof Restore Mask Treatment works some serious repair wonders. For your everyday hair mask, rely on Caviar Anti-Aging Replenishing Moisture Mask. (Because your hair deserves some antiaging love too.)

Been thinking about letting your high-maintenance butter blonde or chestnut brown venture into its natural gray state? These tricks will help you get the healthiest and most gorgeous gray hair from start to finish.