Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Authentically Me, or Why Go Gray?

This blog post title is a two-fer; it's the answer and the question. So the question is, "Why go gray?" It's been posed to me several times. After all, I'm only 43. Sure, I found my first gray hairs at the age of 11 and started graying for real in my 20s. But hair dye can cover all that, right? And it did, for over 20 years. But I decided enough is enough.

Because I want to be authentically me. My youthful days of pretending to be someone else, someone better, someone different, are over. I don't desire that anymore.

Maybe that's not a good enough reason to take this "drastic" step. After all, I still happily apply plenty of makeup every day. And makeup is an artifice! (An artifice I happen to adore) But I have more.

Reapplying the dye every three weeks is a real PITA (Pain In The A**). That's time and money I can spend on something else.

Putting chemicals directly on my scalp and letting them sit for a half hour or so every few weeks can't possibly be good for me. I'm not exactly a health nut, but I try to live a pretty healthy lifestyle and dye flies in the face of that.

I'm a mother, and two of my three children are girls, and I want to set a example of self-acceptance for them.

Fighting a constant battle against my roots was depressing. I would leave the salon (or my bathroom) feeling like a million bucks, but each day, the color would be a little less shiny and less vivid. And I would find more of those pesky roots.

One day I had an epiphany. Those pesky roots? Are actually PRETTY. They are silver, like the jewelry I love. They are shiny, and they sparkle in the sun. It started to feel like a bummer to have to cover them over. I wanted to see what would happen if I just didn't apply the brown chemical paste one month. And then another.

And it turns out I love it. I LOVE it! I'm not quite fully natural yet; I still have a good six inches of leftover highlights/lowlights on my ends. I expect within a year or so I'll have that all cut off. But I am very much enjoying what I see so far.

So, how exactly did I go about it? I actually starting thinking about maybe doing this five years ago. I wasn't quite ready, and I let my hair stylist talk me right out of it. But the seed was planted. So I started coloring at home, and using only semi-permanent dye, the stuff that's supposed to last six weeks. Well, it doesn't really stay very brown that long, but it did last the 3.5 weeks I needed it to before my roots demanded a re-dye anyway. Still not fully decided to go natural, I asked my stylist to put in highlights and lowlights, and I stopped doing any sort of base color in December of 2012. When I'd had enough of the highlights/lowlights, I just went cold turkey; this was April 2013. So now, ten months with no dye, my base color has totally reverted to natural, but those highlights and lowlights were permanent, so they will have to be cut off eventually.

It's been quite a painless transition. I can't suggest everyone do it this way, since semi-permanent color really doesn't fade out for everyone. But if you have the time and you want to experiment, it's one way to go.

I don't ever try to "sell" anyone on quitting the dye. I don't make any judgements on anyone who wants to continue dyeing forever - at one point, I definitely thought I would. But if you are considering it, I highly suggest joining Cafe Gray - the beautiful and kind Silver Sisters over there have helped me on this journey immeasurably. If you think going gray will age you, a quick perusal of the many women who have transitioned will disabuse you of that notion. If you're not the message-board-joining sort, two books I read also helped me a great deal: Going Gray, Looking Great! by Diana Jewell, who also started and moderates Cafe Gray; and Going Gray by Anne Kreamer. If I can help you in any way, leave me a comment and I'll do my best!

Here are some photos of my journey so far:
Full dye (freshly done) - April 2012

Highlights and lowlights, base starting to fade - January 2013

Almost natural, highlights/lowlights relegated to bottom 6in - February 2014


  1. Bravo, Karen! You are a good writer ( already knew that) and your blog is interesting and fun already! It is now bookmarked and I look forward to reading more. Cheers, Katherine

  2. Thanks so much, Puppyfur/Katherine! You are my very first commenter! :)

  3. Dang!! Puppy beat me to the finish line.

    Nice job, Karen. Look forward to reading more.


  4. Aww, thank you Celebration/Mollie!

  5. Love this post - and your color looks awesome.

  6. you forgot to mention that your gorgeous hair is such a head turner!

    1. Beth, you are too sweet! But YOU are the silver stunner, my friend!