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.