Going Grey Gracefully: A Modern Women’s Dilemma

Every day when I look in the mirror I have a little conversation with myself, and since it’s something I don’t really have an answer for, I end up putting off the decision I need to make until tomorrow: it’s about going grey gracefully.

My good friend Miriam, like me, has very dark hair. She’s just a few years older than I am and a few years ago, she was lamenting the need to get her roots done – again – to her hubby. Who said, “When do you think you’ll stop doing that?” And Miriam thought – hey that’s a good question. I’ll stop now.

And she did.

When she told me about it I laughed with her, at her ‘bravery’ and honesty – she’s like that, Miriam :).

And since then I’ve been wondering about going grey gracefully, mostly when I see Miriam and her lovely salt’n’pepper locks, and when I see my own hair in good light.

Thing is, I need a cut, badly. I’ve been putting it off for about ten weeks! because I need to decide what to do about the colour!

Just after that convo with Miriam I had one with my hairdresser, and she suggested I use a demi-permanent instead of a semi-permanent. I’ve been doing that for a few years now and I like it – the silver covered with a demi-permanent colour becomes kind of a natural highlight, less stark against my very dark hair than the grey.

I’m very lucky really, to have inherited my dad’s dark hair. Dad is in his mid 70s and has a fine sprinkling of grey through his hair, which still covers his whole head. Like his mum, who had the same kind of hair right up until she passed in her late 80s.

So it’s not like I have that many greys at all – maybe 1%.

It’s annoying me that I’m procrastinating about this, after all it looks good on George πŸ™‚ But there’s a few reasons why:

one, I’m you know, a love-your-body-anyway advocate and what does is say about me if I keep fudging and resisting going grey gracefully?

two, I’ve always liked playing with hair colour, at one point I had fuchsia pink streaks which my hairdresser called my ‘happy hair’ because I loved it – but I’m also impatient to be doing stuff and four hours in a hairdresser’s chair is not my idea of a fun time, it’s more something that has to be endured; and

three, it bothers me that all we women are pouring millions of tonnes of chemical hair colourings into our waterways every year, in the name of beauty or fun. I do know there is natural hair colour but I’ve not yet found a hairdresser who can do the natural stuff as a demi-permanent colour.

So there you have it – my going grey gracefully dilemma – I’m impatient about all that wasted time at the hairdresser, I’m a guilty greenie, and I wonder about the congruence around colouring my hair and being a body love advocate….

What do you think? What decisions have you made? Since I’m quite conflicted about this I’d appreciate hearing some other experiences…


  1. Nathalie on June 10, 2011 at 1:17 am

    I am going gray myself. When I first started to go gray, it was just a tiny streak in front. I freaked out! I ended up going to my mother’s hair stylist who looked at me and said, “People pay me to put that in and you want me to take it out?” (She’s a rare soul.) Then she explained the time and money it would take. In the end, I opted for a new hairstyle.
    What’s even more fun is that I get compliments on my ‘highlights’.

    • Sandy on June 10, 2011 at 7:42 am

      Hmmm a new style – now that is a thought indeed!

  2. JMH on June 10, 2011 at 3:31 am

    Part of it depends on colouring. My mother dyed her hair for twenty years, because when it first starting growing it, it was a shade of grey that clashed horribly with her skin tone.
    But about a year ago, I saw her roots and noticed that it had started to go more white. So I convinced her to try growing it out. *Now* she looks beautiful. It’s very elegant on her. But I don’t blame her for dying it before.
    My $.02, YMMV. I’m not sure if it’s overly helpful for you though.

    • Sandy on June 10, 2011 at 7:40 am

      I appreciate you sharing, thank you πŸ™‚

  3. Linda Zimmerman on June 10, 2011 at 3:48 am

    I decided to go grey naturally whenever my body was ready because, to me, it felt honest. I am not at all critical of women who prefer to colour their hair. If it works for you and makes you feel happy, that’s fine. It just would not feel like me. I’m comfortable and confident with my grey hair.

    • Sandy on June 10, 2011 at 7:40 am

      Oh I like it and yes, there’s a part of me saying ‘this is what my body’s ready to do’ – thanks Linda πŸ™‚

  4. Lisa on June 10, 2011 at 5:24 am

    My Mom dyed her hair till she turned 60 or so, then went natural. HER mother, about 22 years her senior, then followed suit!
    Does it make her look older? Well, yes. AND…she IS older! Why is there shame in that? Only the sick, twisted and demented worship of our current pop culture of youth. In many societies, older age was (in some still is) a badge of honor, a revered position connoting greater wisdom and life experience and not something to be dreaded and demeaned – or hidden and denied – let alone be ashamed of.
    ON THE OTHER HAND, Carol Tuttle (Live your Truth Beauty profiling and energy healing guru), in spite of championing the idea that EVERY woman is beautiful and the concept of accentuating YOUR OWN PERSONAL BEAUTY (which is different for every woman, of course, but which she has categorized into 4 main types based on inherent natural qualities which express themselves in, among other things, personality, energy level/type, movement, and facial features) thinks you’re an idiot if you want to look your age (if you’re over 40, that is), and is all about make up (even eyebrow pencil!!) and hair coloring!!! To me, honestly, that seems blatantly contradictory. If your natural beauty is YOU, then make up is only a good thing if you LIKE make up. I.e., she says make up and hair color ACCENTUATE and BRING OUT your natural beauty, if done according to your type (colors, textures, hues, etc) and only to the point where you shine through, not where the makeup “takes over.” Others take issue with that and say, hey, makeup and hair-color MAY make you look prettier (and again, that begs the question, “prettier to WHO??”), but only if you think make up and hair color makes you look prettier!!!! The “opposition” would say that makeup and hair color COVER UP – even if only slightly – your natural beauty – who you are/what the real you looks like. According to those opinions, make-up and hair-color serve to defeat the purpose she claims they supports (when used properly). Different strokes for different folks. I see what Carol’s saying, and it makes a lot of sense…AND, i don’t agree with her!!!!
    For my mom, and in turn for her mother, their ditching the hair-coloring was very much a declaration of independence: a statement of refusing to buy in to the societal youth-worshiping and age-denying. It was her/their way of saying, YES, i AM aging, and that’s a wonderful thing! YES, I look older, because i AM older, and there’s NOTHING WRONG with that. I am PROUD to be WHO I AM, and that includes my age! (and the savings in chemicals and $$$ and time and the hairstylist was a major added bonus!)
    But i think my father, in toasting mom on her 70th birthday, said it best when he quoted someone who said, “A beautiful young person is a gift of G-d. A beautiful old person is a work of art.” and then went on to say, “I toast to the beautiful young woman that I married… and even more so, the beautiful older woman she is becoming.”
    Yup, i think that about says it all, don’t you?

    • Sandy on June 10, 2011 at 7:39 am

      @Lisa, well that’s interesting, I’m on the point of appraoching Carol to speak on BIR3 – maybe I’ll rethink that because while I think that taking great care of our bodies is a smart move economically and physically, I am not ashamed or embarrassed about my age at all. And I’ve never quite understood what “looking your age” actually looks like….

      I’ve never been a big makeup gal either, though I love great skin care. I agree, makeup to me is about you being more you, rather than hiding, sadly lots of women seem to use it as a mask πŸ™

      I love your dad πŸ™‚

      Thanks for sharing πŸ™‚

  5. sara on June 10, 2011 at 6:58 am

    Hi Sandy, Amazing, but this is one thing I love about me. LOL. I remember my grandmother with her snow white hair, and now my mother is becoming snow-white… I am 50 (almost) and about ten years ago I looked in the mirror and saw that my hair is no longer auburn. Now I’m almost all dark gray with white streaks and with golden streaks and it suits me just fine. Thanks for your post. Sara, Israel.

    • Sandy on June 10, 2011 at 7:34 am

      Sounds lovely Sara… πŸ™‚

  6. Beth on June 10, 2011 at 7:03 am

    As I grew up I noticed I had grey and white hair VERY early, maybe atleast by age 15-16…I thought wierd…apparently its called swedish blonde….My mother too, got her salt and pepper locks early as well, not as early as I though. She said it was due to stress, lol who knows. Both of us dyes are hair over the years numerous times, funny though how I found her hair change so much more beautiful than my own. I guess in some ways its a matter of opinion……

    • Sandy on June 10, 2011 at 7:34 am

      Hah that is funny – swedish blonde πŸ˜€ It’s interesting that you see your mum’s colour change that way… thanks for sharing πŸ™‚

  7. Sadie on June 10, 2011 at 10:01 am

    After going through 3 years of he$$ with breast cancer treatment I am grateful to have hair at all. The amount of color and gray are irrelevant, just having it looks good in my eyes. About coloring–I’ve got more important things to do with my time than sit in a hairdresser’s chair, even if I did have the money for luxuries like that (treatment costs and losing my job wiped me out, still recovering 4 years later). All the women I see with gray in their hair look beautiful to me.

    • Sandy on June 10, 2011 at 10:45 pm

      Love your reframe Sadie, thanks for sharing πŸ™‚

  8. shirley on June 10, 2011 at 11:36 am

    Sorry ladies, I love the rich colours available to hide my greys too much to give up dying my hair!! Burgundy over top and rich red underneath.(That’s my colour at the moment!!) I have already decided: when the areas of grey get too large, I am going to go blondy again!!

    For me it’s a conscious decision: not because I am ashamed of my greys, but I like how the colours make me look and feel.

    • Sandy on June 10, 2011 at 10:22 pm

      Like my happy hair…. I get it πŸ™‚

  9. Melissa on June 10, 2011 at 1:34 pm

    I have been dying my hair for about 25 years. Not because of any issues with graying – but my natural mousy brown color just did not fit my personality at all. I have been anywhere in the spectrum from deep chestnut auburn to a light auburn with gold streaks.

    I understand the feeling that spending hours in a salon chair is not a good use of time. I would not mind if I could read a book or something. But they frown on that which is why I do it myself.

    A few years ago I noticed in between colorings that I am getting a gray/white streak just above my left eyebrow – like Bonnie Raitt. I am going to start leaving that area alone when I do my roots as I rather like the rakishness of this look. Besides, when my kids really get on my nerves I can point to it and say “YOU turned this white”

    • Sandy on June 10, 2011 at 10:24 pm

      I think the hours in the salon chair are fine if we’re happy to spend our time that way – we only waste time if we think we do πŸ™‚ I’m feeling too impatient these days, I remember many many hours with perming rods in my hair in the early 80s – I LOL when I see my hair in old photos now but man, it was *hot* back then πŸ˜€

  10. Jane on June 10, 2011 at 6:51 pm

    You have to decide how you feel about grey hair. One of my colleagues stopped dying her hair and had it cut into a short style like Judi Dench and she looked fabulous. She has now gone blond for her daughters wedding in July as she felt she looked to old. I colour my hair at home with hair colour to cover greys and use a natural colourant so as to avoid to many chemicals as a friend of mine’s mother died of leukaemia started by the build up of chemicals from dyeing her hair from her twenties. At the moment I am colouring my hair as I work with teenagers at school and do not want to appear to ancient to them and I have a & year old so do not want him to have comments that I am his Grandma. my mum coloured her hair until she was in her 60s and now in her late 70s has wonderful pale grey hair. Basically I know I am bowing to societies ideas but feel to protect my youngest I have no choice.

    • Sandy on June 10, 2011 at 10:22 pm

      Jane, I hear you sister! One reason we cover our greys because of what society thinks about older women – it’s a dilemma ….

  11. Sherri on April 27, 2012 at 8:54 pm

    I have been told alot of my health problems stem from chemicals…rather too many chemicals..so hair color should be out. Fortunately I have dark blonde hair naturally. So my 45% white with a little gray would look stellar using chammomile tea to color my hair. Plus it nourishes the hair to make it soft and shiny..which box or hair dressers can’t do past the first 48 hours. So, an alternative…but I would love to never color again, but with soooo much white at this age….I don’t know I’m not sure I would feel vibrant. I have colored my hair med. ash brown with vaious highlights for over 30 yrs..because I couldn’t stand the blonde in winter and spring and the red in summer.. I like a more there color. Is that weird?

    • Sandy on April 29, 2012 at 4:29 am

      Hey Sherri – nah I don’t think that’s weird at all, good on you for listening to your feelings. Have you seen the range of hennas available now? Not sure they’d work for you though, being fair-haired… a good health food shop should have some?

Tell us what you think - you know you want to ;)