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aging gracefully

When is the right time to go grey?

When I told my friends that I’d decided that it was time to go grey they were surprised and immediately started peppering me with suggestions about how best to cover those pesky grey roots. They’d missed the point. I know about all of the ways to cover that new growth, I was just choosing not to anymore. I wasn’t just deciding not to dye, it was more about the positive step towards embracing my grey hair.

So how did I make up my mind that it was the right time to go grey?

Let’s start with time, my hairdresser is an hour’s drive from where I live, I’d be in the salon for a couple of hours with an hours drive home. That’s half a day gone! Half a day every 6 weeks! Over the course of a year that’s literally a couple of days spent in the hairdresser’s chair. Yes, I could save some of that time by finding a salon closer to me, but I like my current one a lot. Obviously I’m not one of those people who find sitting still for hours with bits of tin foil stuck on my head and a rapidly cooling cappuccino in hand a ‘luxury’.

Next we have the cash element. Colouring isn’t cheap. Last year I decided to save some money by doing a box colour that I bought on special offer. That was a relative bargain at around £5, but was messy, and sadly didn’t cover all of the grey – the box said that it would, so it was probably user error.

Then there’s the health factor. When I was pregnant with my children I was advised not to dye my hair due to the chemicals crossing the placenta. They were all born in the US which doesn’t have the same strict rules as Europe with regards to cosmetics ingredients. As someone who purposefully eats as healthy as possible (organic veg box delivery, local butcher and greengrocer rather than the supermarket), and is fully aware of what’s in my skincare and make-up products. It seemed slightly incongruous to be avoiding parabens and sodium lauryl sulphate in shampoo only to apply who knows what chemicals in the salon.

A slightly trickier issue is the sexist one. No-one even raises a (charcoal) eyebrow when a man lets his salt and pepper start to show, but when a woman does she’s ‘letting herself go’. Somehow choosing not to dye your hair is a subject worthy of public debate. Even my hyper-aware 17 year old daughter (who is very comfortable using phrases like ‘toxic masculinity’ with irony or without) didn’t spot this societal hypocrisy.

Since starting this process in May 2019 I’ve had a couple of surprises… First, I’m not as grey as I thought I was! This is quite helpful as it means that I don’t have a grey/white demarcation line against my dyed dark hair. Also, I didn’t expect to find so much support for my venture. There are huge online communities of women who are growing out their grey with pride like Silver Sisters on Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/groups/welcometosilversisters/

By far the biggest change though has been in my attitude to the new grey growth. Before choosing to embrace my grey hair, I’d be annoyed by the new silver growth appearing at my temples a week after visiting the hairdresser. Now I eagerly search to see what new hair is appearing and what colour it is. This shift both in attitude and confidence has occurred gradually over the months that I’ve been very busy not dying my hair.

Only you can decide when is the right time to go grey.