Going Gray at 40: My Transition Story
Going gray at 40 isn’t all that uncommon anymore but when I made the decision to ditch the dye seven years ago, gray hair was not considered as chic as it is today.
In fact, many around me were horrified by my decision to go gray so young and begged me not to do it, especially because my daughter and only child was only four years old at the time.
I was warned I would look older, become invisible, and be mistaken for my daughter’s grandmother. I knew all of this was a possibility but spending entire Saturdays in the salon every four weeks and hundreds of dollars on dual process color while using box color for touch-ups in between was wearing on me.
My decision to go gray came at a time when I was already fed up with the endless maintenance so when it became a health issue, I was ready.
Ditching the dye and going gray was already on the horizon in early 2012 when I woke up one morning, stepped out of bed, and could not put weight on my foot; it felt broken. I took some time wiggling it and flexing until I could walk but I was in serious pain. When it went away the next day I shrugged it off as a shoe issue: I used to love cute heels and didn’t mind sacrificing function for fashion. But when the pain kept moving through my body I knew it wasn’t my shoes.
To make a long story short, after a thorough examination, many vials of blood, and tests, and a series of X-rays, I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. It is severe and aggressive (I already had permanent joint damage in my toes) so thankfully, my doctor took an aggressive approach as well. I did my research and realized I could help make living well with this disease possible by making several lifestyle changes. These changes all revolved around making healthy changes and this included leaving the dye behind and going gray: it was the push I needed. You can read about my dietary changes here and my switch to safer personal care products here.
I committed to going gray in March of 2012.
As you can see in the series of photos below, I started by cutting my hair short. I had color and highlights at the time so frequent trims helped the transition as time went by. I had in mind what my color would look like as it came in, but it wasn’t at all what I was expecting.
Interestingly, when I started the gray transition, my hair was not nearly as silver as I expected it to be.
As you can see in the photos above, even when fully transitioned in 2014, it was obvious I had gray hair streaking through but it wasn’t the bright silver I was expecting when I fought so hard to cover them up each month for so many years. It was more of a steel gray. Also, there was less than I expected! Those grays really stand out next to dyed hair so it can be deceiving.
My stylist suggested many, many times that I wasn’t gray enough to have a successful transition and tried to steer me back to color the entire time. I sort of agree but looking back it actually made it easier because I didn’t have a stark demarcation line to contend with, but rather a few streaks here and there and mostly gray at the temples.
My Gray Transition Strategy
Although I didn’t have a skunk stripe (I wish I had!) to cover because my gray wasn’t very bright, I did need a little help to make the transition go as smoothly as possible. For instance, I started by cutting it short to get most of the color off. To help blend as time went on, I did get low lights a few times. Adding darker strands helped the gray pop more and blurred the line of dyed hair grow out. I had regular trims to continue to ride myself of colored hair. I also used this toning shampoo to help remove any brassiness and relied heavily upon this classic to help my steel gray appear brighter. It was so helpful!
If I could do it all over again and go gray today:
Option 1: If my color was the same as it was back then when I started I would use a safer, non-toxic semi/ demi-permanent color until the gray was completely grown in then let it fade away.
Option 2: If I was as gray as I am now when I started I would pixie super short and just let it grow (Man, I love pixies and the women who rock them look fabulous) or honestly, I would just let it go at any length. These are some of my favorite transitions to follow because of the clear line of silver versus color. Amazing.
I am jealous of those who have a full head of gorgeous silver coming in as they begin their gray transition. It took a few more years for my silver to show up.
My silver has come in pretty nicely since going gray back in 2012 and I have no regrets.
Have I been mistaken for my daughter's grandmother? Yes, a couple times, but we just laugh about it. I have grown to care very little about stranger's perceptions of me.
I certainly do not feel invisible and do not feel like I look any older than I would if I was still coloring. Age is an attitude, and my attitude is young. LOL. Actually, I think women look younger with gray because it is the color nature intends for them at this point in time. A dark dye can look so harsh.
Now that I have fully transitioned to gray, I just try to keep my silvers healthy (you can check out some of the products I use here) and shining bright and have embarked on a new journey: converting my natural waves into curls!
You can follow my journey on Instagram, where I have found a virtual support group of sorts made up of many inspiring, silver and curly-haired women, connect with me in my new Gray is Gorgeous Facebook group, and keep in touch by subscribing to my weekly newsletter.
I'd love to hear about your journey, too!