4 Tips for Going Gray

4 Tips for Growing Out Your Gray Hair

Making the decision to “go gray” was a controversial one—not for me, but for people in my life.  Quite a few people (my kids, my college roommate) tried to talk me out of it, telling me I would look old, people would think I’m older than I already am, etc. But I was the one who had to live with the frequent dye jobs, the roots, the time, the expense, the toxic chemical load, and I was ready to go gray.

I started coloring my hair when I was in college, just for fun, and continued coloring throughout my twenties. But then the Baby Years arrived, and I was on autopilot: sleep deprived, overwhelmed, with no time to think about my hair. So when my roots would start to show, off to the salon I would go. I kept this up for another decade.

Then one day I realized that I was starting to schedule life events around my need to color my hair. Vacation? Gotta choose a week where fresh color won’t be tinted by the sun, but also choose a week where my roots are not yet showing, and also need to choose a week where I’m not scheduled for color. See where I’m going with this? My life was being dictated by my hair!

After thinking about it for over a year, I decided to take the plunge and go gray in 2012 at the age of 42. I talked with my stylist who told me that I wouldn’t be able to do it; she said lots of women try it but hardly any succeed.

Challenge accepted!

I had a hard time finding resources to prepare me for the journey. (Remember, this was 2012.)I found a book about one woman’s experience going gray and I read it from cover to cover. I made a list of every woman I knew (or had known) who had gray hair . . .  it ended up being a VERY short list! Even though I googled endlessly, I found very few personal accounts of those who had gone gray. So then I started looking for gray-haired women when I would be out and about, and sometimes I even worked up the courage to ask about their journey to going gray. 

Gray hair, don’t care!

I was determined to do this and to see the process through to the end. I made appointments at two local, high-end salons that are known for their work with hair color. Each salon had a “specialist” in gray hair, so I visited with each in an effort to formulate a plan for blending my gray roots. (I discovered that this is not as easy as you would think, but I cover this in #3 below.)

Next, I bought baseball caps, hats, and hairbands in preparation for growing out my gray. I was putting so much energy into being prepared that I was actually unprepared for how powerless I would feel while the gray was growing. There was nothing I could do, I just had to be patient and wait for growth.

It took me a total of 21 months to fully grow out my hair to gray. I am SO GLAD I persevered because I have gained WEEKS of my life back, and saved thousands of dollars in the six years since I stopped coloring. (I was spending 2-3 hours every 3 weeks coloring my hair. Add in the cost of coloring, plus tip, and you can see how going gray has saved me time and money.)

Here are 4 tips that helped me to go gray and maybe they will help you too.

  1.  Be 100% committed.  People will certainly have opinions (both positive and negative) about your journey. DO NOT BE SWAYED by those who try to talk you out of your decision. You need to make the decision that is best for YOU.
  2. Be prepared. The first 2 months are the hardest.  Looking in the mirror when you’re growing out your gray can be tough because your eyes will look towards your very unsightly roots every time you look in the mirror.  Your impulse will be to call and make an appointment to color your hair. PUT DOWN THE PHONE AND STAY STRONG. After a couple months you will start to look expectantly in the mirror, eager to see new growth, curious about the shade of your undyed hair, and you’ll stop cringing every time you see your roots showing.
  3. Have a plan. Choose to cut your hair short. Or don’t cut it at all. Some people cut their hair short, cutting off all the color, and start from scratch, allowing their gray hair to grow in.  This was not something I wanted to do. I have never found a short haircut that worked for me, so I was reluctant to start over with a new haircut AND gray hair. It seemed like too much change all at once.  In the meantime, I invested in a few wide headbands that I could wear to cover the “line” where my gray hair met my colored hair. About 10 weeks into the growing-out process, I made an appointment at a local salon to have some highlights and lowlights cut into my roots to help blur the line between my dyed hair and my roots. THIS WAS PURE MAGIC. It made all the difference in the world between walking around looking like a skunk vs gracefully growing gray. (Note: it did take longer to grow out my color due to this highlight/lowlight process, but I felt that it was worth it.)
  4. Use the “growing out” process as a time to reassess your skin tone, makeup, and wardrobe. Once my gray hair had grown enough that it framed my face, I noticed that a lot of my clothes made me look washed out and it seemed as though my make-up no longer looked as good as it once had.  I had always colored my hair a reddish/auburn and chose my makeup and clothing accordingly. But suddenly I was finding that I looked better in vibrant blues and maroons and discovered that these colors brought out the green in my eyes. I started experimenting with cool, rather than warm makeup and was shocked to discover that I have cool tones to my skin! I had always considered myself to have warm undertones, but it turns out that my dyed hair was tricking me into thinking I had warm skin. Take the growing out process as a time to get to know yourself, your skin, your hair, your clothes, your preferences.  It’s a long process, you might as well dive in and make the most of it. 

What questions do you have about going gray? What tips did I miss that you would add based on your journey? Let me know in the comments!

12 thoughts on “4 Tips for Going Gray

  1. I was excessively pulling out my grays to the point of having a bald patch in the top of head. I did the Big Chop to cut out the excessive dye. I’m slowly embracing my gray and opted to wear scarves until my hair grows out.

    1. Oh my gosh, OUCH! Glad you figured out a way to work around your hair until it grows out. It’s definitely a process (and honestly, the first couple months were the worst) but worth it!

  2. Just the article I was looking for. After coloring my hair for 25+ years, I have made the decision to grow out my gray. I just talked to my stylist last week to start a plan to add hilities and lowlights as I grow it out for many of the same reasons…having to color every 4 weeks to cover the roots, planning around vacations and work functions…just tired of it. You provided me some extra incentive that I can do this!

    1. Awesome! This is exciting! It’s definitely rough the first few weeks (because the urge to color is STRONG!) but after about a month it became exciting for me because I could see that my hair was coming in with it’s own version of highlights (lighter gray) and I didn’t have as much gray as I thought I had, so it was really interesting to watch my hair grow. Good luck!

  3. Your reasoning sounded like I had written it myself! I’ve decided that after almost 30 years of coloring… I’m done! 2020 will be it ! I’m excited to embrace this journey and see the “real me” ! Wearing very short hair most my life I’m hoping this won’t take too long… I’m ready to go short and blend as much as I can to ease the transition!

  4. On reading your article it was like listening to my own thoughts. I have been going white since I was 21 as in roots and are so tired of dyeing my hair. Lots of people have talked me out of it. My mam has cancer unfortunately and I had thought I bit severe I know but Macmillan have a ‘Brave the shave’ so I had even thought about doing this to raise money and solve my grey issue out.
    I’m still not sure but I know would be a lot easier in the long term.

  5. I loved reading about your journey into revealing the natural color of your hair. It’s been 2 months since I’ve colored my hair and, despite some negative comments from my peeps, I’m so not giving in! I’m 68 years old with a very lively disposition and a quick smile. In my mind, the best way of feeling and looking youthful is being positive and friendly to those around you. Of course, being honest with yourself. We can’t always be this way all the time but, making the effort will make it irrelevant as to what color your roots are! I actually love my naturally dark brown hair with silver strands that are healthy and shiny. Keeping up on a good hairstyle is also key to highlighting silvery hair. I’m liberated even at my age!! Thanks for inspiring me to share my journey as you have.

    1. The first 2 months are the hardest so you are well on your way to making this happen! I struggled a lot (when I would look in the mirror and see my hair growing out) at the beginning because it annoyed me SO MUCH that I was walking around looking like I just didn’t get around to coloring my roots. But once I got a few months into it and it was obvious that I was growing it out, then I relaxed into the process a bit more. Plus, it was kinda fun to watch it grow in. I had fewer grays than I originally thought; and, I had a couple of areas where I had gray streaks and that was cool to see them show up. Good luck on your journey!

  6. Wow! 22 months, that is good to see, I am on month 11, feeling a bit defeated yet firm in my resolve to see it through. I told my stylist/cousin what I wanted to do, she consulted with others in her shop, she pulled out color samples did a lot of lip pursing and said “We can do this”, she colored me one shocking shade of blonde from my usual color , color of my natural non gray hair of brunette. with highlights. Neither of us were too sure, yet gave it a month then added low lights, found we could go 6 weeks between touch ups. We began adding low and high lights. We decided an ash blond would be better and closer to my natural color and it worked, she was not touching much of the roots. Two months ago the natural color was looking better than the brassy highlights, so we stopped dying it. I like the color better, feeling washed out. I will be shopping for new colors to wear, thanks to your suggestions.
    Thank you!! I love that there are courageous women like you to post and share, it is a huge help and support.

    1. It sounds like you found a work around that helped the growing out process, and it also sounds like you are ready to start figuring out which colors work with your new look. I hate shopping so this was not a fun part of the process for me but it has opened up a whole new world of colors so at least I feel like I lots of options when shopping. Good luck!

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