As I get older, I find I crave more simplicity. I finally found my niche in my decor by using neutrals, my closet now consists of mostly earth tones, and I recently moved to a farm town outside the city I grew up in. It’s really no surprise then, that I chose to stop being a slave to hair dye and go back to my natural color: an ashy brown, gray, and white mix.
It all started with my mother, as often does. (Sorry/not sorry, Mom.) While in her 20s, her hair was entirely white and gray. She didn’t enjoy her premature aging, so she dyed it blonde and even tried brown once (which totally washed her out–sorry, Mom, you were never meant to be a brunette). In her late 50s she finally gave it up and embraced her hair, which was then fully white. Ironically, her natural do made her look younger, combined with the pixie cut she stole from me.
Slightly ahead of these genetics, my gray didn’t start until I was 30ish. At 40, I am still nowhere near full-on cotton swab but have a healthy dose of the salt and pepper. Before the gray began I colored my hair for years, relishing the ability to transform my look so easily. When the gray hair started, I faithfully continued coloring my hair, as I wasn’t ready to embrace this aspect yet. I was content buying 2 boxes of color every month and preserving several ratty T-shirts just for dyeing days (even if I did stain some my apartment bathrooms). I went through various color phases but usually stuck to browns, although the auburn was super fun (and required lots of upkeep).
Fast forward a few years, I decided to go gray. I was in the pixie army and figured, “Why the hell not?” Having a short do made the growing out process very quick and simple. I loved not having to color my hair, that I could just be myself, and really appreciated no longer damaging my hair with dye. However, I still had to work at not caring what others thought, although most people complimented me for making such a daring change.
That phase lasted about a year and a half. In 2016, the “head needs a change” feelings resurfaced and since I wasn’t going to add a few feet of weave to my pixie, I went back to the box. This time, I resolved sticking to one hair color and that it be close to my coloring when I was younger. I felt like I’d somewhat betrayed myself, yet I loved how the color warmed up my complexion.
Last fall, I came across a post from journalist/Youtuber Rebecca Regnier about her decision to go gray. Being the good Facebook friend I am, I commented my support, while I lit up with inspiration. “How nice it would be to feel free again and to be done with the hassle of coloring curly hair,” I thought. (I’d grown out my hair to a short curly bob-ish style, and rediscovered how complicated it was to evenly dye curls.)
I wanted the liberation again, but was worried about how the gray transition would look. While my natural color is ashy, my colored hair was a warmer brown (see above). I imagined my head sporting that skunk stripe, and then the two-tone look… and thought, NOPE. But I wasn’t willing to go uber-short again to make that transition fast– growing out curly hair from pixie to short bob was full of awkward phases, even with a great hairstylist. It was like experiencing puberty all over again.
Then I explored why I didn’t want that look: perception. I didn’t want people to see me with that kind of hair, because it would look crazy. Then I realized, to hell with that mess.
Society says you shouldn’t look older than you are. Society says you shouldn’t look like you’re aging even when you are. Seeing it this way spurred me to go forth, gray and all. While we as women should do whatever we like, on our terms, I don’t want to do something just to fit into society’s norms. I want to be my unique self and feel free in that choice.
And so I made the decision to go gray, again. The last time I colored my hair was mid-September (2017), so my natural color really started appearing around the start of October. It’s a few inches out now and is just starting to be noticeable. While I won’t be enlisting in the pixie army to ease the transition, I will have it cut a bit shorter in the next month or two. Here’s how far I am from a few weeks ago:
I’m feeling pretty good so far, and people are starting to notice it now. I think it took some family by surprise recently when they hadn’t seen me in a over a month. I hope my confidence continues into the significant two-tone phase. I’m pretty excited to see it when it’s all grown out, and have been checking out gray inspo on Pinterest and other blogs for tips.
To further help with any of us going gray/already gray, my motivator Rebecca Regnier created a Facebook page, Gray AF. This page helps do away with those “gray is bad” notions and instead celebrates women who made the brave decision to embrace their gray, regardless of their age.
Have you gone gray or been naturally gray? What helped you through your transition?