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Sunday, April 18, 2021

5 things I’ve learnt about going grey

Grey is the new black (or in my case, the new blond). Especially in the era of COVID-19 shutdowns when access to hairdressing services is restricted due to social isolation and health and safety concerns.

Back in 2008, I read Going Gray: How to Embrace Your Authentic Self with Grace and Style by American author, Anne Kreamer. In the book, Kreamer describes her journey from weekly brunette hair dye jobs to letting her silvers shine, outlining how many thousands of hours and dollars she had invested in her dyed hair over the years. She also probes the issues behind two fears she believes mature women face: ‘Can I be sexually attractive as a grey-haired middle-aged woman?’ and ‘Will I be discriminated against in the work world?’

While those fears resonated with me (my answer to both is ‘sometimes’), I finally worked up the courage to give up the (hair dye) bottle in December 2018, with the plan being to be fully transitioned before my 60th birthday next year. The locks are well on track and will soon be rid of any dyed ends. Here are some of the things I’ve learnt since then.

Save heaps of time, money and angst

While Kreamer had been having weekly dye jobs, I had been frequenting the hair salon every three to four weeks to maintain my ash blond colour, a shade which happily resulted in a fairly subtle “skunk line”. On occasion, the haircut, colour and styling would take around three hours; time that’s now better spent doing other things, free of chemicals and heat being applied to my hair and scalp. In just 16 months, I’ve already saved countless hours and thousands of dollars (yikes!). And with current concerns around social distancing in hair salons, that’s far less of an issue when you’re only popping in for a relatively quick haircut without the colour. People tell me grey hairs are coarser, but as someone with fine hair, I say ‘bring it on!’

Not everyone will approve, and that’s okay

When I first shared my decision to stop dying, several friends of a certain age (55+) mumbled “you’re letting yourself go”. My response: “I’m letting myself be.” When a friend suggested my grey roots required touching up and I explained I’d stopped dying my hair, she exclaimed: “Why would you do that?”, as a look of horror flickered across her face. “Because I want to,” I replied. “I’m ready.” Mic drop. Not everyone is ready to climb aboard the silver train, and that’s fine. Also, some people feel entitled to comment on your hair or your decision, which might say more about them than you. Own it.

Find a support crew

If unkind or rude comments get you down, surround yourself with like-minded folk who support your decision; e.g. the Silver Sisters Facebook group shares the triumphs and tribulations of its grey-haired members around the (predominantly first) world in a supportive environment. Importantly, be your own biggest champion. Take heart in knowing if I can do it, you can, if you want to. I’ve got your back.

Silver is the new black

Young trendsetters – from Ariana Grande and J-Law to Nicole Ritchie and Zayn Malik – have chosen to have their hair coloured in various shades of platinum and grey. Mine comes at no cost to me or the environment. Shine on, silver sister.

It’s a political statement. Who knew?

Often, a man who greys naturally is called a ‘silver fox’ while women are suspected of ‘giving up’. For me, embracing my natural greys is telling the world I don’t ascribe to extrinsic ideals of youth and beauty. I’m confident enough to sport my silvers without worrying whether I look older. Then there’s that urban legend about grey-haired women of a certain age becoming invisible. After decades of feeling the unsolicited gaze of male strangers on me when younger, it’s now a relief to remain largely unseen. Plus, I neither crave nor require attention to feel validated. If the issue relates to feeling invisible while shopping, simply go where you feel welcome – or throw them shade like Vivian in Pretty Woman: “Big mistake. Big. Huge. I have to go shopping now.” Finally, silver hair is related to wisdom and experience, not just age. Again, own it.

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