Months ago, I decided I would eventually chop my hair off and at that time, stop covering the grey. And that’s exactly what I did.
Why I stopped coloring my gray hair
I started coloring my hair almost 15 years ago, in my 20’s, because gray began popping up. I blame genetics (my dad was totally silver in his 30’s – awesome on him, not so good on a 20something me) and maybe stress.
I created a Pinterest board with attractive, middle-aged and up ladies who embraced their natural hair color. It was inspiring. It is entirely possible to be la femme d’un certain âge and stay stylish and even (dare I say this in a culture that worships the god of youth?) sexy.
If you don’t believe me, check out the Pinterest board or watch several French or British films that feature older women. Across the pond, women aren’t kicked to the curb just when they’re in their prime. It’s refreshing.
I have little in common with modern feminists, but I will insert here that we don’t put this pressure to look young forever on men. A man with a little silver at his temples is “distinguished“. I would never, ever ask my husband to color his hair just because he’s going gray. (And indeed, don’t people look down on that poor sap who dyes his hair? What a hypocritical double standard.)
We expect women to look 20 forever, yet judge women who have cosmetic surgery or are vain. What the what? And that’s all I have to say about that.
I would never in a million years want to go back to the clueless, insecure young woman who did sometimes desperate, stupid things to get the attention and approval of a man she loved.
Another recent source of inspiration was this post by Tsh Oxenreider on going grey in your 30’s. I left a comment here in which I expressed that I wasn’t ready to let my gray flag fly. This was just a few months ago. What changed my thoughts on that was cutting my hair.
One of the reasons I was tired of my hair was because I looked like a skunk when my roots began to grow. It’s one thing if your hair is lighter, but when it’s naturally very dark brown/almost black – you look like a witch.
I had a conversation with a woman I see on a regular basis because she works at the grocery store where I shop. She’s an attractive middle-aged woman with large, dark eyes and great cheekbones. She had a foxy short ‘do that I admired. We talked one day about the hassle of covering up gray. I told her that when and if I chopped my hair short, I would stop coloring it.
And that’s what I did.
Sometimes I look in the mirror (typically, only when the room is lit by fluorescent lights) and think, “Hmm. Yuck.” But everybody thinks this from time to time. I had plenty of “yuck” days when I had longer hair and when I was still coloring it too.
But most of the time, I’m ok with my gray hair.
After I cut it, I got more compliments on my hair than I have in years, from both men and women. (And not that it matters to me since I only care about the opinion of one man, but men do notice women with short hair. It’s a stereotype that all mean prefer long hair. What men like is the hair that looks best on the individual woman… and some women just look cuter with a shorter ‘do. Also, I believe that since short hair is unusual and speaks to a certain confidence, it can be a head-turner. Short hair says, “This is my face. I’m not afraid to show it.” Confidence is what’s attractive.)
I’m tired of coloring my gray hair
Primarily, I just got tired of the whole coloring routine. It’s messy, stinky, time-consuming, and who am I really fooling anyway? I’m fighting a losing battle. I’m 41 and happy with that. It’s stupid to waste energy denying reality. It just is. Why fight it? I would rather spend my time and money taking care of myself and my health, laughing and loving and learning. These are the things that make a person attractive!
What’s more, dark hair dyes may increase cancer risk. Since I have an aunt and a grandmother who are in their graves due to breast cancer, and my mom is a breast cancer survivor, this is no small consideration for me. It’s weird to spend extra on non-toxic skin care products but then douse my scalp in strong chemicals every 4-6 weeks.
Short hair means I spend all of 30 seconds each morning on my ‘do. I get out the door, dressed and with makeup on, in 10 minutes. I like it best that way. It means I can spend more time doing what I really love. (This is different from being low-maintenance because you don’t value yourself.) I like the way I look more now, not less.
The other day when I took the kids to the pool, I met a lovely silver-haired lady watching her grandsons. Her hair was gorgeous in a braid ’round her head, like Heidi. I told her I loved her hair, and she told me why she decided to stop coloring it. Among other things, the Skunk phenomenon (she was also very dark-haired in her youth), and the splotches of black hair dye that ended up all over the bathroom counter and cabinets.
Meeting this woman reminded me of an experience I had with another lovely gray-haired older woman, that also reminded me of what true beauty really is.
When I was 15, I went with my mom to Colorado to visit relatives. We stayed with her second cousin, whose wife, although at the time was in her 30’s, was gray-haired. Her husband was a guitar-picking troubadour and sang us a song he wrote about her. It was called “Silver Strands in the Moonlight“. And it was about her silver hair!
I’ll never forget that day, or the love that was in his eyes as he sang about his wife’s gray hair reflecting the moon’s light. I remember her talking about how her hairdresser pressured her to color her hair. She said she had no interest in looking like she was in her 20’s.
Now I understand why.
I’m 42 and have just a few grey hairs, but all along I’ve always said “I’m not colouring”, it doesn’t bother me at all, and I’m very “natural” all around anyways.. I don’t wear make up, don’t get fake nails, etc… So it’s just who I am. My sister is younger and has had a head full of grey for years… It’s gorgeous and she doesn’t colour either. Nothing wrong with being “natural” and embracing all that you are! 🙂
I think your new “do” looks cute! Kudos to you for opting out of the coloring routine. I know what you mean about the skunk stripe. I too have dark hair & colored it for about 5 years. I would see gorgeous women out & about with their natural gray showing, so I decided I too had better things to do with my time & money.
Carla I’m right there with you now! I thought before that grey wouldn’t go well with my complexion. I’m finding that I have to wear a lipstick that’s a bit more pink, and ALWAYS earrings. But I’m loving the change.
Better things to do – agreed!!
Women are targeted to buy hair products and services because it is a big business. My neighbor spends $140 every six weeks to get her hair cut and colored, and if she gets highlights, it is over $200. $2000 a year at the salon? Insane! I can’t imagine wasting money that I don’t have like that. My husband has the silver hair and he looks hot, like Sean Connery. Younger women flirt with him, and he told me to embrace my silver strands. But like you said, women can’t just do that, and I’m not ready to go all gray anyway. Of course I wasn’t going to dump toxic chemicals on my head that destroy your hair and cause cancer. So I researched organic hair color and found henna was the intelligent choice. My husband cuts my hair for, does a fantastic job, so the salons already hate me. I asked him to help me with the henna being he does my haircuts, I told him it is in the job description. He told me silver is sexy. I told him nice try, but he did apply it for me. I got great color, shine and my hair feels so soft. It looks natural, not plastic like the salon and box color. My husband was pleased with the results, but still told me it is ok to go gray. I have seen some women who have gorgeous long silver hair, and they look stunning. When I do go gray, I will keep my long locks, I think when women go gray, get men’s haircuts, they look look like frumpy old men, and the perms look like Brillo pads, no at all attractive. My grandmother always had one and I wondered why she did that to herself.
Thank you for sharing. I admire your blog and your style – in fact, both your life style and writing style. This post about going gray resonates with my own thoughts on the subject – i stopped coloring my long dark hair a few years ago, now i’m 34 and have plenty gray hair, salt-and-peppery at my temples. I used to employ crazy bright hair dyes when i was in my early 20s, then switched to natural looking ones. Got first noticeable grayishness around 28 yo, tried to cover it for couple years and then at one moment realized that i simply don’t feel like doing it anymore. I don’t like the hassle of doing it at home – whether with professional hairdyes or herbal ones and i don’t want to spend time and money getting it done for me at a salon. I don’t want my hair smell funny when my kids or husband give me hugs. I”m pretty proud of my gray hair, actually =) i feel authentic when i see myself in the mirror.
Wow Cheryl! “they look like frumpy old men”! Long or short, it’s the style that fits your face and lifestyle that is important.I’m glad women are feeling confident enough to embrace the gray! I am losing my hair at a rapid rate so all the wigs I am considering have gray in them! Carrie, you look fantastic with your new do!
I do understand what you’re saying Cheryl. Since I stopped coloring my hair, I take a little more time with my makeup and make sure I’m wearing earrings. I also prefer my hair with its natural curl and with a cut that’s a bit longer. I don’t want to look masculine!
Love your articles! I am the daughter of European immigrants (Ireland and Ukraine) and they definitely had a positive impact on the way I perceive beauty. My mom encouraged good skin care and wouldn’t let me use much makeup growing up, I was not allowed to wash my hair every day, and I was actually discouraged from shaving often- my gorgeous friends in Europe would often rock a nice tuft of underarm hair. My father would disapprove if I plucked my eyebrows or straightened my hair, yet he wanted / happily paid for a nose job for me when I was 20 because “looking naturally beautiful is best”.
I definitely believe natural is best but I do admit I color my hair- I’m 28, cut it myself, mid-neck length, and the usually use a drugstore dye in a medium auburn on my medium brown hair- after a couple children I am 20% grey and I feel better when my hair is a nice bouncy auburn. But I may change my mind later on!