It’s just hair, right? Ha!
Like it or not, a lot of our personal identity can be wrapped up in our hair. One only needs to look at film and literature to see many examples of the significance of hair and of changing one’s hairstyle. This holds true across cultures and time periods.
All this to say that letting go of dyeing your hair and embracing the natural grey is a big deal, especially with our society’s obsession with looking younger!
Going my natural grey was something that I had been thinking about for quite a while. From time to time I would broach the subject with my (soon-to-be ex) husband, teenaged children, friends and family, and overall the response I got was less than encouraging. It seems it is very difficult for people to accept grey hair in women who haven’t yet passed some magical point in time, whether that is being considered a senior citizen, having grandchildren, being over 50, or some other rather arbitrary circumstance. And then there was the hair stylist I asked for some guidance once I had already made the decision to go grey. Rather than offer suggestions, she said (bless her 20-something-year-old heart), “I don’t think women should EVER go grey.”
So it took a bit of time to actually firmly make my decision and let go of the dye. In my case, I had used henna/indigo for many, many years, and in the last year of dyeing my hair experimented with My Hairprint. You can read about my experience with that product here, but I wrote that post before the hennaed parts of my hair started reacting with the Hairprint. See the comments of that post for more details.
Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned through this process (and, trust me, it’s a process):
Find a good hair stylist who supports your decision and wants to help make it as painless as possible. Luckily, after the first unhelpful stylist, I found another who fully supported my decision and had just the right ideas to make the transition as smooth as possible. (Then there was the time she left the salon where she was at, and I went to someone else for one disastrous haircut. All I can say is “Golden Girl Barbie,” or as my son called it, “Lego Hair.”)
It won’t be “painless.” Best to accept that fact now and realize that as your hair grows, so will you. This process has been a real learning experience and lesson in self-acceptance and non-attachment. Now that I am almost at the end of the growing out period, I feel stronger for having gone through this process. I KNOW that sounds strange. I mean, honestly, I have been through a LOT this past year or so, and all those other things are much more meaningful and serious than my hair color, but I think the hair is an outward expression, a symbol of what I’ve gone through and survived. I feel like an authentic BADASS!
Don’t expect validation from others, but if you can find some women who have embraced their natural grey or are in the process along with you, connect with them. I never noticed how many women with grey hair are out there until I started growing mine. Now I often compliment them on their hair, or at least exchange a supportive glance and smile.
Don’t expect validation from others, part 2: if family or friends say unkind things, don’t engage. If you must say something, just make it a short, positive comment that expresses that you are doing this for you and are happy with your decision–even if you aren’t feeling so confident at the moment; say it in a way that makes it clear that you aren’t going to debate about it. (I must add that just yesterday I ran into a friend I hadn’t seen in a while, who also has transitioned to grey recently. She said that many people in her life were very supportive of her going grey, so hopefully that will be the case for you as well.)
Take extra care with your appearance on the days you are feeling uncertain about your hair color. I definitely wear more make up and spend more time “fixing” my hair than I ever did before. It helps me feel more confident about my decision during this transition period when my hair doesn’t always look great. This is probably due in part to the fact that my hair has undergone a huge transition in texture, as well as color. It was very damaged when I stopped coloring, and last summer began breaking off in chunks! This meant I needed to get my hair layered in a way that I wasn’t used to having. The upside is that now that all that damaged part has been cut, my hair is in better condition than it has been in years. (And then there was the Great Haircut Disaster I mentioned above!)
Realize and accept that growing out your grey hair is a long process, and it will have ups and downs, no doubt. Get comfortable riding the waves of emotion that come with the process, and know that each emotion will pass.
As Forrest Gump said (sort of), “Life is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re gonna get.” Well, it’s the same when you grow out your grey. It’s an exciting time of discovering what your hair – and you – will look like once it’s grown out. What are the color and shade variations, how does the texture change, maybe you’ll be able to wear different colors of makeup and clothing. Have fun. Be open. Embrace it all.
Having grey hair – especially while transitioning from dyed hair – is a wonderful way to weed out potential love interests. Imagine for a second, if you will, what it is like to not only start dating again after being married for over 20 years, but dating while your hair is half grey, half brown(ish). I’ll tell you – it isn’t for the weak of heart, people! But as I have come to know and accept myself at this point in my life, it is a helpful barometer for only bringing new people into your life if they 100% accept you for the person you are – inside and out. So, for those who don’t like my hair, I say, “Who cares?” I spent way too much time in my younger years concerned about what others thought of me. Now, in midlife, I can finally say I fully love myself, grey hair and all.
I’d love to hear from you! So if you are considering making the transition to grey hair, are currently growing it out, or are already rocking the grey locks, share your experiences in the comments below!
But first, here is a testament to how much I love you all: I am sharing selfies with you of my grey hair transition! (I really don’t like having my picture taken, especially selfies.) Click on the photos to see my whole head. 🙂