Embracing My (Mostly) Gray Hair
At a certain point in one’s 40s or 50s, the thinking goes, one needs to pick a lane. Cover your grays or don’t. One woman chose a road somewhere in between…to remarkable effect.
I used to love my hair...
I basically hit the hair lotto. Born with thick natural waves, every morning my hair did its magical thing with minimal effort from me. All I needed was a great cut — and I could just about wash-and-go.
Until I started going gray.
At first, a few springy gray stragglers popped up around my temples that I had no problem plucking. But, within the year, I realized part of my morning routine became what I called “gray patrol." In the light of the morning sun — where unwanted hair can’t hide — I commandeered a 10x magnifying mirror and tweezed every last offender.
I know I’m not supposed to pluck. But I sure as hell did. Being a gray “in-betweener,” I wasn’t ready to dye my whole head of hair. Instead, I stocked my bathroom with root sprays and brush-on powders. Eye shadow worked well in a pinch. I even kept tweezers in my bag and car for emergency gray extractions.
But then, in the truth of the morning sun with my magnifying mirror, I had a come-to-Jesus moment. There were too many coiled gray boingers to pluck. Whole sections of gray from my temples and part were springing out in full force. I was beyond plucking, powders and sprays. Even beyond babylights.
It was time to enter “the world of color."
Still, I was reluctant. I didn’t want to deal with roots — and double my salon bill every four weeks. Yes, my hair grows that fast. Plus, I actually liked my natural color: a golden dark blonde with a touch of red. I mean, every summer, the sun gave me highlights for free.
The solution to embracing my grays
I accepted that going gray was natural. But then why did it feel like a frenemy?
I blamed living in Los Angeles. Perfectionism is everywhere. It was hard not to compare myself to the tan, toned, manicured, non-graying women of LA.
I really wanted to embrace my gray and give society’s expectations a healthy middle finger. But, I also really didn’t want to let the gray show. Talk about existential angst!
To find a solution I felt good about, I sought the advice of color guru Amanda George. Founder of ROIL salon in Beverly Hills, she’s the mastermind behind the gorgeous tresses of Charlize Theron, Kate Hudson and Victoria Beckham.
“Let’s give the gray a personality,” said George, putting me at ease.
Face-framing permanent lowlights that matched my natural color was the answer. All the while leaving in strategic strands of gray to add dimension to the look. As George put my hair in foils, she pointed out a gray swirl and said with confidence, “That’s pretty. We’ll leave that.”
Something clicked inside: Why not gradually get on good terms with my grays by seeing them as pretty? The foils popped off. A shampoo, head massage, vinegar rinse and blow-dry later I loved my hair again. Like George said, leaving in some gray was pretty. It sparkled in the light! Bonus: I only have to do lowlights every nine months or so. The low maintenance was music to my ears.
Face-framing lowlights would stave off dying my whole head of hair for at least a few more years. But what I appreciated most was the amount of headspace it freed up. No more scrutinizing myself on gray patrol every morning with a magnifying mirror. Instead, I’m focused on more creative pursuits.
Yes, I’m still an in-betweener. But it’s different now. I’ve got one foot comfortably in the world of color. And the other is dancing with my gray.
Check out The Plum’s Going Gray Gracefully for more on gray acceptance.