aging

Tracy enters the grey zone

It’s funny how sometimes you just know you’re ready for a change. Somewhere back in January I had a strong desire to do something different with my hair. When your hair is short like mine, the only thing you really can do is grow it. But it was also blond, and I was starting not to like the blond anymore. Apart from the three hour costly appointments at the salon, I just felt like the regular bleaching wasn’t worth the trouble anymore.

I told my stylist about my decision and she got positively excited. So, slowly over the past couple of haircuts, we’ve been cutting out the blond. And last Thursday was the end of it. No more blond:


Image description: Head shot of Tracy, short cropped grey hair, smiling, wearing a black hoodie with purple writing on it, abstract painting in the background

I mostly like it. It has made me feel liberated from a beauty regime that has taken up hours of my life for the past 20 years. Instead of being in the salon for three hours, I now only need to be there for half an hour. And that is likely going to reduce further because now that the blond is all gone and I’m back to my natural colour, I’m going to grow it a big (I said I needed a change!).

It’s definitely going to take a bit of getting used to. Of the many friends I have who are my age, the vast majority colour their hair or bleach it. I only know a handful of women in their 50s who let their hair go natural. I do see this as something of a political issue, in the sense that if we are all thinking we need to keep ourselves from going grey we stigmatize grey hair.

On the other hand, apparently there are people who pay good money and go to great lengths to have grey hair. Young people, even, if this Glamour article is any indication of the demographic. And there is a much-followed Pinterest board called “women who rock grey hair.” And on that board, most of them are “of a certain age” and they look awesome with their grey hair.

I hope more women in my circle decide to go for it too so I have some company in this. But meanwhile, that’s where I’m at these days where my hair is concerned. I know that there are many reasons people colour their hair. For me, it was simply to fend off the grey. And that runs counter to my resolve not to worship at the alter of youth, but instead to accept that as I age, I can expect to see some physical changes, and the natural colour of my hair happens to be one of them.

Anyone else out there gone from colouring or bleaching to allowing their natural grey (if it is grey) to shine?

27 thoughts on “Tracy enters the grey zone

  1. Fab look! I always love your cut, and the way your hair color has changed fits so well with it. It totally suits you!

    I started going gray in my late 20s, whether due to life stress or genetics or both, who knows. I colored it in a salon for years (brownish/goldish which is natural, then more reddish). Then that got expensive and I lived in a place with limited options, so I started doing it myself. Then I started having to do root touchups for the gray, either with the dye or those crayon/mascara things. At some point in my mid-40s (after thyroid cancer) I said “eff it” – too much time/$, too much unknown about toxins, feeling like I was having to put on a look for others. I let it grow out – months of looking in the mirror and trying to shrug – and went back to a longish pixie cut, which helped. I even managed to make a career change showing my gray, got lucky. (my DH, who has gone quite gray, has actually been coloring his hair for a few years to protect himself a bit against ageism in the workplace and job market)

    I have my mom’s pattern of graying, which is some silver/gray and more wiry on the outer layer in some areas (with a TON around cowlick at back top of head and in the back), far less close to the face. I call it my “looks like I painted the ceiling badly without a hat” look. I sort of envy those who’ve gone pure silver or have the contrast of the charcoal/white, as my “regular” color has dimmed to sort of light/medium brown. (my sister, in her mid 60s, has no gray at all…v weird) I don’t use hair product (feels like it would take me down a slippery slope back into appearance obsessing, comparing, trying for something I’m not…kind of like when I think about concealer, tinted lip balm, mascara after giving up makeup) so it gets washed and then it looks how it looks. It’s currently a scissor cut – which, as a female in my area is ridiculously expensive – and I keep trying to convince myself to buy a clippers and do it myself, but it’s longer than that, and well, I’m not there yet, may never be. So I try to space the cuts out further and trim annoying areas.

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    1. Thank you! And thanks for your story of letting yours go grey too. I totally understand about the uneven pattern. Mine isn’t uniform either. It’s salt and pepper, with more salt than pepper in some spots, more pepper than salt in others. I will have a better sense of the pattern as it grows. I appreciate hearing from others who have embraced their natural hair colour as it changes.

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  2. I think your hair looks amazing. I would let mine grey except for the fact that a) it’s only about 15% grey; b) the grey isn’t silver it’s just sort of Sad Mouse; c) it doesn’t fold into my natural non- grey colour at all, which is sort of Slightly Less Sad Mouse. And it’s also naturally very fine and limp and straight — the colour adds texture and lets me do Things with it.

    I keep looking at the roots willing it to be the elegant white my grandfather rocked from his 40s but so far not so much.

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  3. I’ve recently let my silver sparkle for many of the same reasons that you listed and am loving it.

    My concern was that I might risk not attracting clients (I’m a personal trainer) but it’s had the opposite impact. I posted an article about #grombre and that was the deciding factor for a new person to join my program.

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  4. I love the new look! My hair is pretty much completely grey/silver/white. The women in my family go grey very early in life. My grandmother, who never colored her hair, had a full head of silver hair at age 45. I’ve been coloring my hair, mostly for fun, but also for grey coverage, since my mid-30s. And I’ve been talking with my stylist for the past year about going grey. So it’s going to happen, and hopefully sooner rather than later. Thanks for sharing– it’s motivating me to speed up the process!

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    1. I keep reminding myself that if I don’t like it I can always change back. I think it was made much easier by my very short hair. I couldn’t wait to get the blond cut out, and that took 3 cuts. But if it is longer there are many more months of waiting for the colour / blond to be cut out. A good stylist will manage each step so that it looks like it’s supposed to be that way. Mine is brilliant. Good luck with your process.

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  5. I also have a very very short pixie cut. And I also have been bleaching my hair to platinum for several years after coloring my hair since I was a teenager. Having such short hair means that I have to bleach it every time I get a hair cut, and that has started to feel like an obligation and a burden. So I have decided to let it be grey. As it grows in I’m worried I will just feel mousy, especially after feeling like a blonde badass for a while. But, as you say, I can always go back if I hate it, but I’m committed to going 1 year without coloring.

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    1. Good luck! I found it sort of exciting to wait for the “final reveal,” when all the blond got cut out and I saw what my “grey pattern” looks like. It’s definitely strange to look in the mirror, but as Sam reminded me, I also felt that way when I first went blond. I hope you love it. It’s a super liberating feeling not to be doing that bleach routine every six weeks when I go for my hair cut.

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  6. I just started coloring my hair. I leave some grey because I cannot manage timely hair appointments. But I did it because I was absolutely feeling the impact of ageism at work. I have a young face, so for most of my career, I was not treated as someone with much wisdom, just a young thing. I was constantly having to prove myself. With a little grey and a few wrinkles, for a short period of time, I was valued. Then with the sudden onset of a pile of grey, I noticed a change to being almost completely ignored. I couldn’t believe it. So I experimented with coloring and viola – back to being valued. It seems like fiction, a poorly written after-school movie, but unfortunately not. I have a job for which first impressions matter. Maybe its time for a career change instead of a color change!

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    1. It’s not easy being a woman of a ‘certain’ age. I guess that age is somewhere over 40. I’m 51, I don’t dye my hair and I am definitely going grey. However, most don’t notice it because it is so evenly spread. I suppose they just think I’ve got light brown hair with a few streaks in it! But more seriously, it is pretty amazing how the hair on your head dictates how people treat you. I am well aware I am entering the invisible years. It annoys me most when I go out to a bar or restaurant – too often my partner and I are overlooked because we are two women, and gee what are the chances two women are going to leave a good tip?? Chances are really pretty excellent if one of those women (me) has worked in hospitality.

      I’ll be out on the job market soon. I’m wondering now if I should consider dyeing my hair to combat ageism. You’ve given me food for thought.

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  7. Getting hair colored is such a huge cost and time-sucker! I resent it a bit every time I go to the salon (so I keep my hair long, which gives me an excuse to ignore it for MONTHS if I want to). I don’t really color mine to cover the greys, but I’m sure aware that the greys are becoming more of a feature. I don’t choose to color all of my hair, just to lighten it at the top and sides, so there’s always some natural color peaking through. I do suspect that some day I’ll just say “F-it” and stop doing even that. I often wonder–am I doing it for me or am I doing it “because I’m supposed/expected to?” I do like how it looks, AND I haven’t really given myself a chance to find out if I’d like it the other way!

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  8. I’ve coloured my hair for fun for most of my life. From purple and pink in the 80s to blonde now. But it’s been weird navigating the age-related hair colouring in recent years. I don’t colour my undercut and it’s a mix of brown and silver and I don’t fully colour the top curls. I just get blonde highlights. So it’s fast, not so expensive, and still lets lots of the silver show. And I still get to keep my fun colour. When I change hair salons I have to explain though that I am not trying to hide the grey.

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    1. I think my stylist has been covertly trying to cover my greys for me, even though I haven’t asked her to. Otherwise, I can’t explain why I’ve been getting blonder and blonder despite giving her the same instructions for years! From her point of view, I suppose it’s a safe assumption that most women want it, and it’s sort of awkward to bring it up.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I’ve never colored or bleached, and have never had the desire to. I got my first grey hairs in my 30s, and the process has accelerated since my late 40s.

    I’m not going to color, even now. Those grey hairs? I *earned* those. I’m gonna flaunt ’em.

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  10. I hope my hair looks that fabulous when it’s time to go all the way gray! I have been debating what to do about the increasing number if white hairs appearing in my bangs area. I really want them to be purple, but my husband says that’s acting like a teenager.

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    1. I am side-eyeing your husband. I’m 48 and at the moment, my sides and back are short and showing my natural grey while the top is longer and deep magenta.

      I say go with the purple!

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  11. I have been dying my hair to cover grey since I was 20, and switched to blonde at 43 when the roots showed too quickly. This is a family trait, as is the lovely silver and white final colour. Last year, turning 50, I had almost no brown in my roots and gradually phased out colouring. I think some of my coworkers are puzzled by the change, but I love the silver colour. The texture is more wavy than before and I like that too. (I do get asked if I am eligible for discounts on Seniors Day at the drugstore, not so sure how I feel about that)

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  12. I stopped colouring mine in December, and I’m really happy with it — I like the way the silver lights up my face a little, but also I feel liberated from the routine of colouring appointments, a routine that always made me feel negligent when work and finances got in the way of making it to the salon every few weeks. It’s kind of cool when people do the double take — grey hair computes to old, but the rest of me looks younger. Plus, I can now do the hair paint thing and go purple for a few days if I feel like it :D.

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  13. I love the new look! I only have a few “highlights” of grey strands in my otherwise naturally blonde hair, so mostly I admire other women who have grey. I first fell in love with the look when I worked with an older woman 35+ years ago who stopped colouring her hair. On most people, I think the grey is much more flattering than dyed.

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  14. Keep it short…it looks great.
    I hit 60 a few months ago and….have never dyed my hair. I do have some grey strands which I haven’t bothered to worry.

    Honest I have a baby great-nephew who has brain cancer. And I worry about grey hair? Insane.

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  15. I’ve never really bothered with colouring my hair, even though I found my first white hair on my nineteenth birthday. Part of it is genetics (both my parents kept their natural hair colour into their fifties), but the greatest incentive has been simply that for the past twenty-nine years I have higher spending priorities for both time and money. I have been fortunate in that my dark brown hair transitions to silver without any or the mousy shades that some individuals experience, and that my “pattern” is relatively defined (a strong streak top centre, with finer wings at the temples). When I’m feeling whimsical, I refer to it as a “bride of Frankenstein” look. Come to think of it, it is mainly my coppery highlights that are silvering, so I can consider myself to be increasing in value as I age.

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  16. I went grey/natural at 39, after 25 years of colouring my hair (at first for fun, later for vanity). I’ll never look back. Welcome grey sister!

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