50 Shades of Grey Hair – how it feels to embrace going grey early

Going grey essay

The Grombre community on Instagram has been an amazing inspiration. Image supplied.

No, I’m not stressed.

Nope, I’m not having a mid-life crisis.

No, I’m not ‘letting myself go’.

No, my diet is fine thanks.

Nah, I’m not old (also being ‘old’ isn’t a bad thing, it’s mostly guaranteed).

I just have grey hair, which is when the pigment cells in hair follicles stop producing colour (melanin). It’s okay to be grey.

I’ve been wanting to create this piece of writing for a while now, and finally had the push I needed last month after a raw, honest Zoom session with FashioNZ editor and friend, Evelyn. I wanted to encapsulate the narrative around grey hair, as I’ve found with many articles that I’ve been reading it often seems that if you’re sporting silver hair, you’re also an older woman. That’s not me, I’m 32 years young, and I’ve been going grey since I was 17 years old – my mum was similar. My hair chose to be this colour, so I’m embracing it and I don’t care what others think.

I want to see more people like myself being represented in the media with natural silver hair. Not this constant negative portrayal of grey hair. It’s not unattractive, undesirable or a sign of aging or stress. This is my clap back to frosty tops being hidden from sight.

I’ve been pretty lucky in regards to the negativity I’ve personally received around my grey hair, I genuinely feel like most of the negative energy has mostly come from my inner demons. You see, society hasn’t historically been too kind to grey hair… unless you’re a white man of course – then you’re instantly a silver fox, or a salt and pepper prince who “just gets better with age”. Women going grey, in particular, is only something most of us probably think about when we’re much older and it’s happening; before then, we’re bombarded with messaging and societal pressures to ‘dye it before it shows’ and to be ashamed of it.

One of the biggest changes taking place is where women are embracing their natural hair colour. After 30+ years of colouring – your natural pigment changes just as your skin tone does with age and when you’re embracing your more natural side you will find it is liberating. Embracing our silver hair is empowering and so beautiful.” – Amanda Bransgrove

Going grey essay

Growing out silver regrowth has been challenging and a bit of a mental game. Image writer’s own.

The Process of Going Grey
I decided around August 2020 to simply stop colouring my roots. It wasn’t something I ever sat down to think about or some carefully crafted plan. I just stopped dying my hair after the last major Covid-19 lockdown and wanted to know what my natural colour looked like.

For the first few months, it was incredibly hard to look at myself in the mirror and not wince with emotional pain at the ungodly sight of my silver regrowth coming through. I think these few initial months were the hardest to get through. Because my hair is so dark to begin with, colouring it to blend through the grey wouldn’t have been worth the damage to my hair. The cost of getting it done + conditioning to the high heavens would have left a massive hole in my purse so I decided with the help of my hairstylist to just let it grow out. In the early days, I honestly felt like it was a form of self-torture because this hasn’t felt like an elegant transition. I fantasise, not about the hot pool-boy… but about walking down the supermarket aisle and picking my favourite raven shade of hair dye. It would all be over in 60 mins. I could undo ALL this hard work – not just time-wise but also the mental work of allowing this growth to take place. It’s more than just a waiting game. It’s emotional labour, energy, courage, conversations with curious people and new ways of thinking about yourself.

I have days where I wake up and wish it was all one damn colour, and I can’t stand the sight of my hair being this half-grown out and half-dyed hair, but it’s been worth it for the conversations I’ve got to have with others too.

Someone asked me what was one of the hardest things about this transition and that would be seeing past photos of myself with my coveted blue-black hair and wishing I had it back, but I’ve also grown to like my salt and pepper look. I think my features look softer, not to mention the structure and overall feel of my natural hair. It’s different now that it’s not coated in hair dye. It’s colourful, it’s natural and it’s me.

Going grey essay

A fresh new haircut at Ryder Salon, Britomart. Image writer’s own.

My Community
I wanted to ask the people around me what they thought of grey hair and if they would ever consider ditching the hair dye. A range of different thoughts came through when I asked on social media including messages from those with ‘virgin hair’ who had always wanted to dye it but were unsure what to do out of fear. Some mentioned currently having some grey hair but thought it looked too ‘patchy’ to grow out or didn’t think they had enough grey hair to warrant just letting it grow.

One lovely lady mentioned having her scattered greys and only touching up her ends for a balayage effect which I loved. Another answer I received which I felt SO seen by, was from a friend who mentioned that she had loads of greys but that her hair grows so quickly so it would be a box dye job every couple of weeks to hide the sparkles. This was my life up until last year!

More often than not, contributors loved the idea of growing out the greys but wanted to wait till they were older – which is fair. Other messages included topics around having hair dye allergies, some who were currently embracing the greys (yay) and wanting to love their silver strands but not being able to which made me sad. My friend (and fellow podcast host) Jaimee calls her greys ‘hair tinsel’ and is another human I know embracing her hair. My close friends have all been incredibly supportive, with two of my best friends bringing up the topic around social conditioning and how they’re proud that I’m rewriting that story for myself.

Tips for Growing Out Your Grey Hair
I highly recommend talking with a trusted hairstylist/colourist if you’re wanting to go grey naturally or use a similar dye colour to help blend the regrowth. My hairstylist has helped immensely (Ben James at Ryder Salon in Britomart). They’ll be able to help you come up with a plan and as Danny Pato said “don’t underestimate the time and commitment required to do it gracefully. These things cannot be rushed”.

Another top tip is to have a trusted friend that you can talk to who’s fully supportive of your decision and can help you with words of wisdom and encouragement on the days when you just want to reach for the box dye. If you know someone who is showcasing their silver mane, give them words of encouragement, because it’s always nice to feel like you’ve got people on your side.

Lastly! Don’t be afraid! It’s just hair and you can change it at any time if you’re not happy or ready to commit to the silver life. People who comment on my hair think I’ve coloured it deliberately which I find absolutely hilarious. I am blessed with a much whiter strip of hair around the front of my scalp, which does look like I’ve gone into my favourite salon and asked for the ‘Cruella de Vil special’.

Going grey essay

Trying out different hairstyles with grey hair is quite fun because it looks so different and my white stripes help frame my face. Images writer’s own.

There was never going to be a half-hearted commitment. From very early I saw this as an opportunity to get some time back, save some dollars, and embrace my natural hair colour. Honestly, before I started growing my roots out, I worried so much about what everyone would think and what they would all say. I’m so much more than just the colour of my hair… imagine if we celebrated grey hair as much as we celebrate platinum blonde, cute pastels or vibrant red hair? What a world!

In March 2021, I decided to make an active choice to be even more real, vulnerable and as authentic as possible in EVERY thing I do. It felt perfect for the stage I’m at in life right now – big changes meant big silver hair energy. Honour the experience enough to see it thrive because I’m bringing main character vibes at all times and that means silver locks are front row. As Lana Del Rey sings “… let me be who I’m meant to be”.

If you want to see something truly extraordinary, then go and follow the #gogrombre hashtag on Instagram. Maybe you need some visual inspiration from people across the globe who are all growing out their hair to help you feel more comfortable or confident with your silver do’ – either way, go check out all the beautiful humans embracing their silver goodness. I’ll just be over here with my silver hair (possibly sporting a lavender wash at some point, because let’s be honest, I’m going to try some pastel colours now that my hair is finally getting lighter!).

Images supplied.

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