Transitioning to Gray: The First Year

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Going gray. If you’d told me a year ago that I’d be letting my gray come in, I would have laughed. GRAY? Isn’t that for people in their 70’s??

Nope. It’s not. It’s happening, and not just for me. I seem to have stepped onto a wave that’s rising. Everywhere I go, I see women – beautiful women, all-ages-women – growing out the gray. And I truly believe (OK, I also sincerely hope) that this isn’t just a trend, a temporary “thang”. That it’s something more. Something permanent! (Any and all puns are totally intended, btw.)

Gray Hair: A Long Time in the Making

Up until about June of last year, I was a committed hair colorist. I started seeing gray hair in my teens, and I can still totally recall the conversations that likely set the stage, so to speak, for the years that followed. It was just totally, completely uncool to be a 90’s teenager with gray hairs (and it you’re a teen and reading this, tell me how it is now – any different??).

Somehow, my friends seemed to have “gray hair” super-vision: one gray interloper seemed spot-able a mile off, and in an instant, I would have said friend standing inches from my face, peering intently, mouth open in a wide “O” of surprise. “Oh. My. God. Wow, you have grays coming in already!”

No blaming here though. I was the exact same way. And I would stare in horror as not one, but many, appeared.

Of course, that was more than twenty years ago. I shudder, not because I’m feeling old, nope, not at all – but because of the amount of chemicals, and the frequency at which I doused myself with them, between the middle 1990’s and about four years ago. Four years ago, I made major changes to the food I ate, the products I bought, everything. But ironically, hair color was one of the last to go. Sure, I made my own deodorant and cleaned my house with vinegar. I removed all plastic from my cupboards, ate organic and spent countless hours searching for healthier skincare and makeup. But hair dye? Nooo!! Don’t take it away! That was my attitude.

Why I Decided to Go Gray:

And yet, in the last three years, coloring my hair became more like a prison. It was a total chore, and if I’m being honest, it was a real source of anxiety! I was living with this fear of my gray being seen. The instant I spotted gray hair, out came the colored hairspray. Every three weeks I was getting my hair colored. Friends, that’s a lot of color. At about the same time, I was seeing more women growing out their grey hair. And they looked beautiful. People in their twenties and younger had begun dyeing their hair to make it look gray. I could see a change taking place. So, when my hair colorist asked me if I wanted to try growing it out, using highlights to blend it in during that “transition” stage, it hit me that YES, that was what I wanted. I also felt really good about cutting out the chemicals. My skincare makeup and cleaning products had improved, so I knew in my heart I would be doing the right thing by cutting down on them in my hair color, too.

Growing It Out: The Process, Feelings

That was last May. Initially, over a three month period, I continued going to the salon, getting more highlights put in. By the end of that third month, my hair = straw. It felt terrible. I had always had long hair, but the damage, combined with my gray hair growing in, led me to what seemed an obvious solution: cut it. I did, and have been very happy overall with the results. It’s SO much less maintenance. On the other hand, I do find myself mourning the loss of my long hair. Not just that, but I mourn my diminished curls, as well. They vanished during pregnancy and have never truly returned. I think it makes perfect sense to mourn changes as we age, but I also have to say, I feel a tremendous sense of freedom from that fear of being seen “gray”. Instead, there is a deep sense of pride in embracing who I am.

I don’t have any specific plan color-wise, going forward. That strong distinction between the gray and my naturally dark shade was my biggest concern (hence my hair turning into straw, because I just kept adding more and more highlights). But at this point, I’m not totally loving the distinction between the highlights that are still there and the dark roots beneath. The next step will probably be to use highlights and / or lowlights to blend that all together. But who knows? Part of the freedom I’m feeling now is that I’m not locked into one routine, one process of coloring, anymore.  

Finding Support and Encouragement:

One of the most wonderful parts of going gray has been the support I’ve received. Many people have complimented me on the change. Everyone has been incredibly encouraging. It’s been such a blessing. I also believe part of it is this cultural shift. It’s an exciting time to be going gray! More than ever, women are making the same decision I am. There are a number of Facebook groups I just discovered that can be wonderful source of support: GGG Growing Gray Guide, Gray and Proud, and Going Gorgeously Gray.

The point is, there is plenty of love and encouragement out there. And that’s a beautiful thing! Because, like the saying on Gray and Proud reads, “Those aren’t gray hairs. They are strands of glitter.” Yes to that!!

10 Replies to “Transitioning to Gray: The First Year”

  1. I thoroughly enjoyed your article. I am (at 62) transitioning and haven’t colored my hair since October. I just don’t want to do it anymore. I, too, have been concerned about the chemicals but still continued to color. It has been so freeing. When the wind blows, I don’t have to be concerned about the colors or lack of color being seen. I can’t wait until I’m totally a silver glitter. I would be interested to know what brand of makeup you have found to use. Thanks again.

    1. Kay thank you so much!! Those Facebook groups I mentioned are hugely supportive if you decide to do it. Ah, makeup. I am super picky – I like Poofy Organics and also started using au Naturale line.

  2. Alyssa! We didn’t get a chance to chat, but YES. Ugh, I noticed my first gray when I was 12. Dyed it every so often, then with great frequency when I was in my twenties. Every three weeks! What a pain. Last year I said, fuck it, I am letting them grow. Not a fan of the in-between stage where the grays are not yet the length of my hair, but it’s getting there. Thankfully the color I had used is virtually the same as the rest of my dark hair, so there isn’t as much of a delineation. And if I get bored of it in the future, I gave myself permission to cave.
    My hair was much more wavy before pregnancy, too. So interesting how hormones make such changes.

  3. This is so great! Thank you for sharing your journey Alyssa. I have never dyed my hair, but I have to admit that now and then I pluck them out. But maybe I will consider leaving them in. I love the perspective tha they are strands of glitter.

  4. Hi Alyssa,
    First I saw your picture! My first thought was wow, she looks great!
    Then I read your article. Good for you! Your hair and your face look beautiful!
    Funny, as a straight haired person I have found great joy in the added body and texture those gray hairs have been giving me.
    Thanks for your article and sharing your journey!
    Jean

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