I’ve been meaning to write an article on this topic for ages…well, since I made my own decision to ‘go gray’, which was over a year ago at the age of 45. At the time, it felt like an odd-ball decision that I was making all alone and like it was an upstream direction that I had chosen to swim in, culturally speaking, but since doing this it seems to have become a trend; in fact, one of the most talked about fashion fads on the internet. Celebrity after celebrity seems to be making headlines for letting those silver threads out of hiding so, whilst hair colour should be an entirely personal choice (and, as an artist, you don’t need to remind me that playing with colour can be fun), what I am finding so heartening is that an age-old imbalance is being redressed and its no longer being made to sound like its actively “wrong” to make the choice to let nature take its course.
It really feels like a paradigm change is underway, one that is hugely exciting and empowering for women in particular (men have been “allowed” to go grey forever) and which is all about personal choice and being at liberty to put other considerations, such as health, above a culturally determined idea of what is acceptable. Apparently, I’m part of the movement of women who are not only prepared to say that gray is OK (whatever your age) but that gray hair is beautiful!
As this thing builds in momentum, articles about it seem to be coming into my newsfeed all the time but the latest one, by TV presenter Carla Hall, jumped out at me because it nailed the thinking behind my own decision-point in these three quotes:
The thought of spending five hours in a hair salon each month peeved me.
Why is it that we think men look distinguished with gray hair, and women look old?”
Letting my hair go gray will probably place me in a different demographic. But, for me, there’s a relief that comes with not fighting against the inevitable. I don’t need to look 25 again; I’d prefer to look good for 50 and celebrate what that brings: the silver and the freedom that comes with knowing that my hair and I are happier this way.
Hear hear, I couldn’t agree more. The feeling of breaking off the leash and making a dash for it that comes along with making this decision is indescribable but find a video on YouTube of a dog let off at the beach and you’d be getting close. It feels way beyond what you would expect as you make what is (on the face of it) quite a trivial decision and actually feels quite profound and cathartic; something akin to cutting loose from generations of stereotyping, indoctrination and hand-me-down rules not to mention gender double-standards. I actually find I have more pride in my appearance now than I did for the past decade; I wear this look and I own it, plus it fits with a zillion other ways that I have embraced a more natural way of living.
Its also a lifestyle and health-empowerment thing as its impossible to take charge of either without coming up against this one issue of “to dye or go natural”. When it comes to lifestyle, I don’t know about you but I’ve got far better things to do with my time these days than spend those five hours at the hairdressers perusing the curled-edge stash of magazines that fail to hold my attention for longer than it takes to get a trim. Women often tell themselves that its this very behaviour that constitutes a pamper session, a few hours put aside to feel good about themselves, but being forced to stare at myself under harsh lighting wearing an outfit borrowed from the props room of Doctor Who and a funny wig made of tin foil is a huge leap from what I regard to be self-care these days. I could go for a massage in less than half the time and at a fraction of the cost – now that’s proper self-care.
On the health topic, the step aside from all the chemicals used in salon or DIY hair colorant (those skin-allergy tests are necessary for a reason and the scalp is a giant permeable membrane, you know) has been the crowning glory of my real self-care routine; the one that looks closely at everything I add or take away from my body. Impossible to look at health care thoroughly without scrutinising what you expose yourself to via the skin or your environment and the ingredients in hair colour were no longer a fit for me. Taking this decision has left me feeling able to use the most natural, organic hair products I can get my hands on, for my daily hair care, without feeling I’m undoing all that good work with a prolonged toxic overdose every time I get my roots done.
As for the super-white hair colour that’s coming through (and yes there’s always a tricky phase as the roots grow out but it doesn’t take all that long), I just love it; its far more “statement” and in-your-face than the mundane caramel blond I used to colour it. This has its own high and lowlights and literally glows in the sunlight, looking fab with sun-kissed complexion and colourful clothes. Best of all, it feels authentic and like a signature detail of “me”; one that would have lain dormant and suppressed (which seems such a shame when I’m all about self-expression…) had I continued to colour it to oblivion. Genuinely, it feels like gray hair is nothing to do with “being old” anymore (a stereotype that has more than run its course); but has everything to do with embracing maturity and experience, quirk-factor and individuality plus all those wonderful womanly qualities that come with territory. As I turn 47 this week, I find I still look surprising youthful for “my age” and my hair has nothing to do with it while my attitude has everything to say on the topic; I honestly regard myself as being in my prime. So yes, it feels worth shouting about as more and more women seem to be embracing the same choice-point without cringe or apology; its about time and what a great message to convey to our daughters and granddaughters.
Care of gray hair…
Is actually very simple when you compare this with the old colour routine. Choose a good moisturising shampoo, conditioner and finishing oils to keep it shiny and sleek (I swear by Moroccan oil to finish the ends and use coconut oil as a leave-in heat treatment) plus I recommend the use of a natural gray-enhancing product such as Aveda’s Blue Malva range, which makes the whites as bright and dazzling as can be.
Articles and resources:
Gray Locks…25 Women Who Rock Silver Locks (Huffington Post)
The last article contains this wonderful quote, a great point to end on, about women who embrace their gray…
They always strike me as being high priestesses of sorts; women who are light years beyond societal beauty norms so much so that they’ve created their own niche where they can be alluring and beguiling without having to get into the whole battle royale that is aging. They get the joke; what makes the hot chicks hot is that they aren’t slaves to narcissism. They have the moxie to take their vanity in moderation which gives them an air of wisdom and strength.