I was in my early 20s when it started. At least I think so. I can’t be entirely sure because as soon as it happened, I covered it up immediately. I was a little bit shocked by it. I wasn’t ready. But when are we ever ready to go gray?
Turns out, at almost 40 years old, I think I might be ready to go gray now.
My relationship with my hair color has been a complicated dance. In the eighth grade I wanted “sun-kissed” hair. I didn’t exactly know what that meant, but it sounded amazing. Friends were fantastic resources for sharing hair-altering tricks. I learned about squeezing lemon on my hair and sitting in the sun, but the sun never kissed my head. I learned about the product that you could spray on your hair and then go sit out in the sun … and still, nothing.
I read a book where a character had a hair nightmare after she poured hydrogen peroxide on her head. For some reason I was convinced I could use peroxide and have everything go swimmingly. Ha ha ha. At least I finally found something that generated results. Shame the results were a head of day-glow orange brittle straw.
The expected lecture from my mother didn’t happen. Shockingly. She was disappointed I had damaged my hair, but what was done, was done. She took me to her salon and one of the hair dressers turned my mess into something manageable.
I’ve been dying my hair ever since.
I’ve been a deep chestnut brown, every shade of red and auburn, and for a day I was almost a blonde. (At hour 12 into the process, with a scalp burned from chemicals, I gave it up.) For years I couldn’t tell anyone what my natural hair color was.
When you dye your hair, you eventually have to address the roots as your hair grows. If your natural hair color is close to the color you have dyed it the roots are not so noticeable. If your natural color is darker it can throw off the balance of a fantastic head of hair. For decades I diligently attended to my roots and hair growth. Then I watched as the hair at my roots changed from dark to silver.
The term “gray hair” doesn’t seem to apply to my locks. I have white hair. When it was just one or two strands, I felt completely OK about covering them up. But the more white hair that arrived, the more it started to feel almost rude to hide them. What was I trying to say by altering their appearance? Why couldn’t I just let them be?
So eventually I did. I started to ignore the white hair.
It is no mystery as to what my hair will eventually look like. I see the future every day when I look at my mother. Her crowning glory is breathtaking, truly. People stop her on the street to tell her how beautiful her white hair is.
I watched my mom make the transition from coloring her hair to letting it be natural and there was a slight shift in her personality as her hair changed.
She became more graceful, more poised.
As much as I appreciate a beautifully and richly colored head of hair, there is also something kind of magical about letting go of that color and seeing what lies beneath.
My plan was to simply stop putting dye on my hair, but now I am considering amplifying my white hair to help me transition. So much of my white hair is around my face. People get highlights in this area, the “picture frame” or “halo” they call it, so why not enhance my white hair in this section? It’s time to embrace this part of me.
In a piece in the New York Times about the gray hair trend, website editor Alia Soraya shared,
“I found my first grey [sic] hair when I was 17 … and had been dyeing my hair—dark, red, fuschia [sic], blue, green, purple, highlights, caramel, platinum blonde—ever since. It became a part of my look, an extension of my personality. But on a deeper level, I was trying to deny my natural aging process. I just decided it was time to be my true self.”
Seeing the acceptance of gray and white hair in Hollywood and within fashion has been a nice push to help me embrace my mane. It IS amusing to see celebs actually dying their hair gray and rocking what they call “granny hair,” but it’s inspiring that so many can see the gray as beautiful.
I’m looking forward to owning it.More On