Reaching a milestone birthday, it’s not unusual to contemplate a little inner reflection. It wasn’t on my actual 50th birthday when my epiphany hit. My light bulb moment came six months later, and it was this: time to embrace my outer grey.
I was reading a random blog post with a photo of a woman sitting on a step with a young girl. For some reason I was drawn to the woman’s hair (see image below). Her hair was a simply styled version of grey and white – and I wanted her colour! I copied the pic and sent it to my hairdresser asking her advice if it was a possible for me to achieve this. Yes it was!
Why the change?
I’ve been colouring my hair for over 30 years. Going prematurely grey in my early 20s (actually, I recall someone plucking a grey from my hair at school when I was in year 6 – at just 12 years old!). For three decades, my mindset has been not wanting to look older just because I had an abundance of grey hairs. Thanks to a few clever hairdressers over the years, I’ve been many versions of dark brown. I’m a natural brunette, but my father’s more dominant grey gene pool seems to have taken over.
I tried light blonde when pregnant with my twins (attempting to reduce the chemical ingestion into my system). I look back on the photos at my twin’s birth with a shudder – and not just because there were two new little fellas in my life. I wonder why I’m considering becoming this shade again.
Something has stirred inside in my 50th year. An overwhelming desire to embrace who I am. Accept my identity and not try to hide any more. Plus I’m over having to visit my hairdresser every five weeks to have the skunk stripe (the dreaded re-growth) camouflaged.
I’ve been taking closer notice of hair colour lately. The #grannyhair and #grannyhairdontcare are popular tags on social media and great for checking out styles and colours.
On a recent trip to Sydney’s Paddington Markets I observed a woman with a striking head of grey hair. I approached her to ask why she decided to embrace her grey. “I love how low maintenance it is,” said Anna. “I no longer have to fuss over colouring anymore and feel the colour my hair now matches my current skin tone.”
At Christmas I met with a friend of mine. Up from Sydney, it had been over six months since Lizzie and I had seen each other. After so many years of hair colouring (her first grey was around the age of 15) dying her dark hair was no longer an option.
“My hair was a rainbow of colours and the yellow tone began to dominate,” said Lizzie. “I disliked the yellow more than the grey.”
At 45, Lizzie had her hairdresser strip back the colour and add blonde highlights. “You can’t stop your skin from ageing and I think dying your hair to look how you were in your 20s looks dreadful.”
For some, embracing the grey is a gradual process. That’s the path I’ve chosen to take. This way, my brain can adjust to the colour change it sees in the mirror. I asked Louise, a stall holder at Sydney’s Paddington markets about embracing her grey. “What grey?” she replied. “This is me – this is my hair colour.”
Louise revealed she is 70 and I’m aghast. She looks no older than 60.
“With many of my friends I’ve found when they have embraced their natural colour and stop colouring their hair, they like what they see,” said Louise. “I think people actually look better when they embrace their true colour at the stage of life they are at – it’s a matter of not hiding from your true self.”
Silver is the new grey
Society often attempts to dictate how we should look – but there also comes an age where you don’t give a flying toss what society thinks. Celebrities like Helen Mirren and Jamie Lee Curtis have happily embraced their lighter shade and look incredible.
Underneath my colour, I’m a white haired woman and I’ve been trying to pretend for years I’m not. Now I feel like accepting who I am. Have I achieved some pivotal point in my life with an abundance of emotional maturity? Or is it just time for a change?
Maturity brings a clarity of decisions. We no longer need to agonise over what we want. For some, that means embracing the grey or the white or whatever colour comes from their hair follicle. For others that means colouring their hair. But not everyone wants to embrace their outer grey.
Another Jennifer, 54 year-old retail assistant at Moss and Spy in Queen Street, Woollhara admits her job requires her to present a certain image. She considers dying her hair something she enjoys and will continue to do so for a while.
“It’s not just for my job – I like the colour I am now.”
It is not for me to judge if they’re denying the age they are. Maybe they just prefer to see a certain hair colour when they look in the mirror.
Personally, at this time of my life, I wish to embrace the hair colour I am under all this artificial colour. What that will be only time will tell, as I am happily undertaking the process slowly. I admit I probably won’t go all the way. I’m figuring on a few streaks to give depth and variety. But that’s the fun part – playing around with what you have. As the Cindy Lauper song says, don’t be afraid to let them show, your true colours are beautiful.
I’ve discovered many blogs devoted to the going grey topic. Support groups to help you along your greying journey! I’ve been inspired by the women I’ve spoken to who have so confidently welcomed their outer grey.
“I think we should embrace the lightness within,” said Anna.
My mum is in her early 60s and she looks fabulous with her grey hair! She was naturally a dark brown brunette, but over the years she had to lighten her hair to match her skin tone. It took some courage and her being sick of bad yellowy hair tones to embrace the grey and it was so gradual (she worked with her hair dresser to get there) that I feel like I hardly noticed the exact time the grey took over.
I know a few women in their 60s and 70s who haven’t had the guts and to be honest, I think they’d look so much better if they rocked their greys. I remember my mum being paranoid about becoming one of those ‘older’ women with the bad streaky highlights forever. I think that’s what motivated her to go grey.
I am in my early 30s and I feel like the greys are starting to attack. Being Asian, I get away with dying everything dark for now, but I can see myself being fed up later in life – that’s a lot of work to hide who you really are and what you really look like x
Give me a few more years and I am there with bells on!
the bells will be ringing Mrs Woogs!
Apologies drop the “s” in my above reply Mrs Woog 🙂
Kez, it is true its such a personal journey and it helps if you have a hairdresser who knows their trade – as in how to manage the process so it suits your skin tone and the “type” of person you are. And its true – it is a great deal of work to hide who you are! Thanks for commenting!
I shaved my head for charity a few years ago and decided I’d see if I liked what I’d been covering since I was 21. I’m 50 this year. I used to have short hair but was always trying to grow it a bit longer so I’ve never had it really short before. I always thought that I would grow in back white but in fact it’s a steely grey which I love! I’ve also kept it really short. People either love it or hate it. Men especially don’t particularly like it because in their mind I am a) not trying to make myself look pretty and b) because I don’t have long hair I’m not feminine. Well tough! I like it and that’s all that matters. And friends said to me when I shaved it, they didn’t realise how my long dyed hair had dragged me down until it was gone. Asked if I wanted to keep it I said no, it felt awful as I had to dye it every month. My hair feels so much healthier now because it’s natural, and keeping it short has meant that I barely need a brush when I get out of the shower. Embrace your grey I say!
Sarah – oh yes: embrace your grey! Re the men who don’t like your hair for the choices you’ve made – well fuck ’em – they ain’t worth a mili-second of your time. There is so much more to you than just your hair colour. You seem the kind of gal who already knows that. If you like your hair colour and style PLUS it feels healthier and is easier to manage – go for it! It apperars as we approach this mid century (ish) stage we know what we want.
I love this! I am 43 and have had greys since my late teens, and spent 20 odd years dying them a variety of browns, reds and black (we don’t talk about the black period). A couple of years ago I decided I’d had enough and gradually have let my natural colour come through. It is by far the best my hair has looked in many years. It’s silver and steel grey with a few stubborn brown streaks holding strong and I honestly love it! To anyone thinking about it … do it 🙂
Heather love that you have embraced your a la natural colour and have healthy hair to boot. Thanks for the support from the sidelines 🙂
Im no grey enough to have nice grey. As soon as I’m grey enough Im keen to cross over. But Ill probably still colour it grey so that it looks fresh and fashionable. in my job appearance matters but my age is not the issue, its looking styled and beautifully groomed.
Alice cross over when you are ready and the best part is – if you don’t like it when you do – you can always go back. It can look fresh and fashionable (just check out all the styles on pinterest) – proves you can still rock a grey and look incredible ie. styled and groomed – not dowdy and old fashioned.
I started going grey in my mid thirties. Instead of trying to cover it I had my hairdresser do ‘highlights’ or foils. In my mid forties I abandoned the foils. So it wasn’t such a big change. Many of my friends want to go grey but don’t know how. I have two suggestions: 1) do it gradually and 2) get a really good cut.
Kathy I am taking the go slow path – but I have read of others who do it in the one day, (a time consuming process but nice to know it can be done if the quick path is your preferred method!) If your friends are keen there are many great blog sites: http://greyisok.blogspot.com.au/ I found this blog site when writing the story – she has so many tips (and the most gorgeous Irish accent – via a video post!)
Agree the cut is key and using a shampoo that helps to prevent the dreaded “yellow.” Also change the make up colours you use and check the tips on the above blog site for clothing colours. Gratuitous blog advert here (not paid.)
Don’t use shampoo – bicarb soda is my thing. And no change to make up because I I go with make up that suits my skin tone, ditto clothing colours. For friends who equate grey hair with ageing, it seems to be psychological more than anything else. I like to go with straight hair though ’cause I think curls or frizz can look like you’ve got a brillo pad on your head.
Wow – bicarb – never thought of that! And no thanks to the brillo pad look – better get that straightening iron out of the cupboard.
Awesome post Jennifer, and Yay Champagne Cartel on addressing pithy problems. I love how women are embracing going grey. Many of my friends have and although I’m not quite there yet, I’m on the cusp. It’s such an age related topic, but I think it’s awesome that more and more women are letting their au natural shine above the cosmetic dictates of our youth centric society. It’s not a case of “Out out Damn Spot” but rather”Out out Damn prejudice.” All kinds of prejudice are being hammered and called out on so many societal issues these days, which is great. I’m glad that ageing and going grey are on the same podium too. As an aside, I wrote a post about going grey on my blog for women over 50 which was embraced like a forgotten friend.
Jo glad you enjoyed it and I love your “out, out damn prejudice.” It is another one of those societal issues but with places like this and your blog, people are expressing support for making a choice that suits them not others. I was also on the cusp but as you know am crossing over to the other side – taking it slow but enjoying the journey!