March 16, 2011

To Gray or Not To Gray. That is the Question.

Do you remember when you were little and were standing on the end of a diving board wanting so badly to jump off into the pool below, but you were just too scared to do it? This is how I kind of feel about letting my hair go gray.

As I wrote in Gray Gorgeousness, I have been highlighting my hair since college and I've basically been happy with it. Recently though more and more gray hair has come in and it's getting so hard to cover it that I just feel like going natural. But I'm scared to do it because I don't think my hair is going to be a pretty gray yet- probably more of a mousy yucky gray, I fear. And then what if I try going gray and hate the hard is it going to be to go back and successfully highlight it again I wonder... So that's my quandary as of late dear readers...

I've been very inspired by my friend Karen who stopped coloring her hair this past year and looks so terrific. Check out her before and after photos below:  The 'before' is a not-so-great one of Karen and me when we had dinner together in Napa two years ago (post wine...I'm looking a little googly-eyed..)

Now look at Karen below since she has gone gray. She looks so great. Don't you think? (thank you Karen for obliging.)

To further support any gray wannabes, or kind-of-wannabes like myself, check out this article on the Silver Sisters Club who I first heard about on the Today Show. These going gray groups are forming across America. There is lots of other great support on this Going Gray Looking Great website as well.

And one more thing- there is a book out too by Anne Kreamer called Going Gray: What I learned about Beauty, Sex, Work, and Motherhood, Authenticity and Everything Else that Really Matters. I love the title. I haven't read it yet but I have it on order. It's gotten great reviews on Amazon.

Plus, I like the cover :-)


  1. I struggle with this as well. I have been coloring my hair since I was 21 (I'm now 45). Just colored it this past weekend and I hate doing it, but I also hate looking like a skunk. Unfortunately, my gray is like a stripe down the middle of my head (with some at the temples and a few other strands here and there).

    The struggle is so complex - why am I coloring - is it for me or for others? Am I truly less attractive when I have gray? on and on and on

    BTW - I think Karen looks amazing with her gray!!!

  2. I hear you Elizabeth! Thank you for your comment. That is an important question to ask ourselves- who are we coloring our hair for?

    If we haven't ever been gray none of us really know if we would be less attractive. I will say this- everyone I know who has gone gray looks great if they have a good cut.

    If anyone has any before and after pictures please send them in and I will post them.


  3. Thanks, Elizabeth, for your kind words....

    And Louise, Going Grey is the book I read almost 2 yrs ago that inspired me to give it a go. The book gives one woman's perspective on almost all aspects of the transition. It's a personal decision for each woman as to why & everyone's journey will be different. I've found it to be quite freeing, myself, and don't really know why I didn't try it years ago! (since I've had lots of grey since about 19---a family legacy!)

    BTW---since I've been wearing my hair short the past 5 yrs it only took a few months (about 3 cuts) to get all the old color-treated hair gone & to have the full grey-ness shine thru.

  4. Karen you are such an inspiration! Thank you for your great comment.

  5. karen, you look gorgeous! xoxokate

  6. Louise,

    I think you would be beautiful gray!
    You have such natural beauty that if you let your hair go gray it would be pretty.
    And because your hair is light brown, it wouldn't be so drastic of a change, rather blend with your hair as a compliment.

    Karen looks Great!


  7. Karen, you are a true beauty in your silvery shine! I'm on that diving board Lou talked about...altho I did go in to my hairdresser about 2 months ago (when we were all talking about it) and told her I was going gray...she chuckled and said, "no you're not". Right now, I agree with her...down the road I will go free. My Mom's never colored her hair and went gray in her early 40's..always thought it looked pretty cool. Kudos to you, Karen!! xoxo

  8. Oh my gosh, Karen looks amazing!!!!

    I quit coloring my hair last year. There is a shampoo out there for gray hair. It "brightens" gray hair. I read Going Gray, too. It was good.

    I think going gray requires a paradigm shift in what you consider beautiful? About a year ago, when I was considering not coloring my hair anymore, I started really paying attention to people's hair. I mean, really paying attention. Most of the time, you really don't look at people's hair, you sort of glance at it. What I noticed is that most of the time, people are coloring their hair and it looks good in a surface way. What I mean by this, is it looks good if you don't look at it too closely. This includes highlights. If you look at it closely, you can tell the hair is damaged, it is very clearly dyed, and looks very artificial. Sometimes you can't tell people are coloring their hair, but most of the time, it's obvious once you really look.

    Then, I noticed that gray hair simply looks amazing (Karen is a perfect example). This was a major paradigm shift for me; I never thought of gray hair as looking awesome. It's absolutely beautiful regardless of age.

    For me, quitting coloring took courage. It was a hard thing to stop doing as far as initially I felt less attractive with my gray showing. Isn't that weird? It's ridiculous because I don't think "how unattractive" when I see other people's gray!

    Now, I have started noticing all the amazing nuances to gray hair. Some people get these awesome streaks, there are seemingly an infinite number of gray tones, some people get salt and pepper, some people get gray on their temples, some people's hair stays curly when it goes gray and they have these amazing gray curls. Some people's hair stays thick and gray.

    Now, when I am out and about and I see someone who has amazing gray hair, I make it a point to tell them! It seems to really shock some people and it also seems to make their day. In a youth fixated culture, I can see why this would make them feel good.

    Louise, I bet you would be a knock out with gray hair.

    :-) xxoo,

    ps Elizabeth---you have the kind of gray that I look at and envy! Stripes are soooooooo cool. At least, I think so!

  9. I made the decision in my late 30's that I would let myself gracefully gray. I had a relapse in my 40's when I felt like I had cotton balls in front of my ears- my hair is thick and curly- but I hated the time and money I spent coloring it, the dyed color wasn't as pretty as my natural brown and in too short a time I could see the cotton balls coming back. Life is too short and there are too many things I want to be doing with my time. Waiting for my hair to process is not one of them. Coloring also just felt like a betrayal to my Self. Who was I fooling?
    Now, at 50, I am still mostly brown, but have some interesting silver "highlights" that I consider my inner sparkle shining through. The cotton balls in front of my ears have been tamed by a new stylist and a shorter cut. I spend less time thinking about the status of my "grays" than I would (or did) thinking about the status of my roots.
    I figure that being content with myself and interested in life is more important to my outer beauty than a little dye in a bottle.

  10. Gosh you all are so encouraging. Thank you for your wonderful comments. My heart is telling me that it is time for me to take the the jump. Maybe with summer coming it will make the transition a little easier as my roots and the whole process won't be as obvious with the summer sun. I dread the transition. Does anyone else want to join me??? We could start our own Silver Sisters Club. Cindy I love your mom's hair and always did. She was one hip woman. Little did we know how cool she was not going for the dye bottle. Of course your hairdresser said "No you're not" when you told her you were thinking of going gray...That was a smart business move...If she loses your business and you start looking as amazing as your Mom did-she could lose your whole town to a Silver Sisters Club :-)

  11. I must confess: the 3-4 months between when I stopped coloring & when my full grayness was revealed---the in-between/big roots/half in, half out period---can be tough & discouraging. Anyone who has ever colored their know knows too well how distressing "major roots trauma" can be, and how you just feel a bit less-than-perfect & focus only on how bad it looks at that moment. Fight thru it & the end result will amaze & excite you!!

  12. My natural hair color used to be gorgeous. Now? It is the most foul kind of mousey (sp?) brown. The grey is...well, just there. Were it not surrounded by the crappy dull of my (why? why?) natural color, I might be into it. But, I just gave up and threw some blind highlights in.

    I want to reach a point where I just don't give a shit about something as silly as hair color. Yes, yes, women, identity, blah de blah, but when I know there is so much work to be done out there in our communities, so much need, I just feel like a putz for giving a crap about my hair. But lord, I DO. And I know it's because I've been trained to care for the simple sake of making some billionaire wealthier. Dramatic sigh. I want to be above it all, far more invested in things that truly, genuinely matter (not to project my values on anyone else, of course).

  13. Karen thank you for the heads-up on how the transition period can be difficult. That is good to know first hand. I dread growing it out and feeling kind of ugly but your encouragement to be patient and hearing that it is all worth while is very helpful.

    CF I will be curious to hear how you progress with this. I think as you get older you'll probably get more impatient like I am with highlighting as more gray comes in. What's a girl to do? We've been pre-programmed...just one more reason why I wish I could go back to little house on the prairie days.

  14. Kevin P. O'SheaMarch 18, 2011 at 2:53 PM

    You look great Karen! If Emmylou Harris can do it that's inspiration enough.

  15. Oh, yes, Karen looks much more confident and fun with gray!

    Bookmarking this site to enjoy. I already am grey--have been for three years when I got tired of coloring (and of people looking at my scalp through my very thin hair). No plans to go back, but it's nice to have the support!

    Awesome and well-done site, too! Thanks!

  16. I too am just starting the process of growing out my gray, from having dyed my hair for close to a decade. I want to be more authentic, and realized too that I am now sensitive to hair dye. I got burning and itching and chest felt tight. But at the same time, I feel self conscious when I go out and see people who make comments about how I will look older. Or they don't say much, but I can see they think it is a bad idea to let myself go gray. I am single and worry about whether I will meet anyone if I go gray. And I will be job huting and worry about that effecting me as well. So many worries, and yet for health and authenticity (and plain old curiosity of what I will look like with it it's natural color, which I've never seen in totality) I want to keep going. But don't want to look unkempt in the process. Would love feedback. THX!

  17. I think you will like it more as it grows out. Maybe get a sassy new short haircut. I know that scarves and hats help the process along too. Start paying attention to other women with beautiful gray hair(also google images of gray hair for inspiration.)

    Thank for your comment

  18. Some people look hot with grey hair. To be honest, since I was a child I’ve admired it. I have always thought that they had to do something at the salon to get it that perfect blend of salt and pepper. I don’t think most people have naturally grey hair that looks so good. However, I could be wrong and hope that it’s possible for anybody to get that look naturally.

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