If you're as late to the hair color party as I am, you may approach the decision to nix your grays with similar anxiety. I'm 42 and found myself with more salt than pepper. Though that had become my "signature look," I wanted to feel—and, OK, look—younger. Booting the grays did the trick.

KNOW BEFORE YOU GO Be prepared to be there ... a while. Base color takes about an hour and a half; add highlights, and it may stretch to three hours (not that I minded a break from deadlines!). Be ready to spend money, too—it pays to see a reputable colorist. My base color and highlights set me back about $250, and the shiny, natural results were worth every penny.

CHANGE YOUR HABITS I had always been a shampoo-every-day kind of girl. But to preserve that precious color, I learned I had to suds every other day. And by all means, use a shampoo that's made for color-treated hair. I love L'Oréal Paris EverPure Smooth Shampoo ($7,—the smooth formula helps combat summer's humidity.

WHAT COMES NEXT? Maintenance, my friends—keeping up with those darn roots. I tried Clairol Nice 'N Easy Root Touch-Up ($7,, which was surprisingly easy to use with good results. For now, I plan to hit the salon every eight weeks for base color (highlights twice a year), but maybe I'll brave a home kit someday.