Graying with Grace
I remember major life events, like where I was when the space shuttle exploded or the towers fell, or when I saw my first grey hair. I was in my car driving up a mountain pass, I was 36 years old and pregnant with my son, it was a single silver strand, directly above my right eyebrow and I immediately hated it! I felt hot and cold all at the same time. My palms and armpits felt sweaty as I tried to watch the winding road and verify it’s existence in my rear view mirror. Texting and driving would probably have been safer than what was happening behind my steering wheel that day! I pulled into the first Walgreens parking lot I came to, bought a box of chocolate brown box color and proceeded to turn my lovely head of highlights a murky green that very same night. My stylist was not amused and refused to fix it for a week...lessons must sometimes be learned the hard way!
Fast forward 12 years and not only am I helping others navigate this minefield of aging, I’m walking right beside them. Several years ago as my salon got busier and my time became more precious, I made a decision to stop coloring my hair...it wasn’t like I went cold turkey though, first I bleached most of my fringe pale blonde so my grey stripe would look intentional, then I played around with different demi-permanent colors throughout the remainder of my head in an attempt to camouflage my demarcation line. Eventually though I just gave in and stopped. About three months ago the last of the hair color was trimmed from my tresses. It’s mostly good and I’d love to report that it was liberating and I love what I see, but we all know it’s just never that easy. Often when I stand at my color bar formulating color for a client I drift off into thoughts of what that new mocha shade would look like on me, or I’ll be applying my makeup and think I’d look a lot younger if I covered those grays or...just fill in the blank, we all do it to ourselves. Aging gracefully seems to be like a unicorn, we all want to see it, but no one actually has!
So, for those of you asking yourselves if you should let nature take its course here’s my advice. First, there aren’t any shortcuts, if you think you can heavy highlight your way to gorgeous grey hair it doesn’t really work that way. You’ll expose the yellow underlying pigments which will look brassy next to the cool tones of natural hair and you’ll need to commit to regular glossing sessions to maintain a blend. The young gals wearing those trendy silver shades are putting a lot more time and money into their colors than you think. Second, there will be a lot of people who think their opinions matter. Some of these people will be family members and long time friends, but others will be complete strangers who assault you in random places. They say things like “WOW, I wish I were brave enough to let myself go” or “Have you been too busy to keep up with your color?” I’d like to think none of them are intentionally being assholes, but that’s too optimistic....I think most of them are in fact just being assholes. This journey requires confidence and fortitude to weather the ugly...because aging brings out the ugly not only in us, but also in those around us. Lastly, it is a painfully slow process. Hair grows on average 1/2 an inch each month, so that’s six inches a year. If your hair is short you’ll make the transition in a year or less, if it’s shoulder length it’ll be about two years and if you’re hair is mid back it’ll be four years or more.
In my own journey I struggled through people saying dumb stuff like “your hair doesn’t LOOK grey“ or “it’s easier for you because your hair is curly“ or lighter or any of a dozen other irrelevant comments. My hair doesn’t have any color in it, it just looks the way it looks and I assure you nothing about the transition was fun or easy! I’m closer to 50 than 40 and I assure you 50 is not the new 30! The bottom line is YOU have to want to stop coloring your hair and be ready for everything that comes along with the transition. How many times have you heard someone say men who grey look distinguished, but women just look old? Do we REALLY believe that, or is it rooted in something else? Personally, I love grey hair and I never try to talk someone into or out of a service, but I do try to get to the root of their why because it’s a very personal journey and each person comes to it and through it with their own demons. Success in this endeavor depends a lot on what motivation is behind it. My motivation was more time to do other things, what’s yours?
A dear friend’s young son once lovingly told her she looked like a sparkly hedgehog with the sun shining through the sun roof onto her hair. She was peeved until she looked in the rear view mirror and saw the pure joy on his face. He was delighted by her silver hair and saw her as beautiful...that’s a lesson we can all walk away with!