Some people follow me on Instagram only for my grey hair – the rest follow me because of my cat (don’t worry, I have no illusions). And by popular demand I wrote a rather lengthy post about my transition into grey a while back. I accidentally deleted the post when I recently updated a new version of my blog – and I don’t keep copies of my posts, sorry. The blog post was very popular, and I receive e-mails daily asking where the post went or when I am going to re-write it, please? … so here it is:
I get a lot of compliments (thank you so much), comments and questions on my hair colour. So here are some of the answers to those of you who are considering growing out the grey, too.
This is me pictured in daylight; this is my natural hair colour, a mix of brown, slate grey, silver and white.
It’s a big step to go grey, and it’s a huge challenge to your vanity to grow out grey. You certainly don’t slide into silver. It’s not a quick and easy process. It takes a significant amount of commitment, and there’s no way to do this entirely gracefully or un-noticed, I am afraid. Depending on your current hair colour (dark being the worst, naturally; the darker the hair, the starker the line between the grey hair and the lengths) and your willingness to cut off the coloured locks or shave your head clean, you are looking at 700-1400 bad hair days, give or take. If you’re a natural blonde, it’s going to be a much smoother transition, but it won’t go un-noticed. And once you are fully transitioned there’s another set of shackles waiting for you; you must avoid a yellow tone in your hair at all costs. That means you’ll have to take extra good care of your hair, always use blue-pigmented shampoos (I use Shimmer Lights from Clairol, or Sheer Blonde from John Frida) and nourishing conditioners (grey hair is often more porous – it absorbs everything) and avoid heavily chlorinated swimmingpools and generally avoid water with a high content of iron. Watch the sun, too. And don’t wash your hair more often than every second or third day. Washing your hair every day is a vicious cycle. The scalp produces its own perfect oil, and if you wash your hair excessively, you destroy the natural balance. Consequently, the scalp produces more oil to protect itself, and you end up having greasy hair half a day after you washed it – this goes for every hair colour and every type of hair by the way.
Are you still up for it?
Okay, then. First thing; You have to remember that silver is the purest of all hair colours, and you have to stick to your hair plan, no matter what. Don’t be tempted to tone the grey out-growth, as even the mildest semi-permanent hair colours, toners or rinses will leave yellow residue in your virgin grey hair, and you’ll have to start all over again (you can safely use temporary fixes like crayon cover-up sticks, root touch-up sprays, or mascara wand colour applications for that important social event). There’s no way around it. You have to be patient and always keep a hat in your bag – especially if you are near someone with a camera and an Instagram account.
When I gave up this no-win fight against Mother Nature, four years ago, my hair was mid-brown, and the 80% silver out-growth I had to cover every two weeks was atrocious – I had dyed my hair with permanent hair colour for years (I began to have grey hairs in my late twenties and they had brothers and sisters who multiplied fast). I let the grey grow in for about three months – to have enough root showing exactly what I was dealing with; It looked like somebody had dropped a bucket of acid on top op of my head. I had to do something. My hair was long, and I didn’t want to cut it short. Alas, I had two options to make the transition seem less noticeable: 1.) Having the entire bulk of hair lifted to platinum level, or 2.) having my hair highlighted (my virgin hair was 80% grey – if your hair is only, say, 30, 40 or 50% grey, you have a third option: lowlights). I eventually opted for the second alternative and what seemed the least invasive solution. I had my coloured hair heavily highlighted (to platinum level – don’t try this at home!). The idea was to tint the highlights grey with blue pigment to hide the transition … except it didn’t. The thing is: You can’t dye your hair grey. The blue pigments won’t stick for longer than one or two hair-washes.
Whilst the grey grew out ever so slowly, my brittle hair was a horrible shade of brassy-blonde in between the ongoing blue toning of the highlights.
But I suffered through it. And once the out-growth got down to my ears, I stopped tinting the highlights and had the ends trimmed every month instead. It was incredibly liberating not having to dye my hair anymore. Ever! And I discovered, to my surprise, that grey was like finding a hidden treasure. With benefits: Grey isn’t lack of colour; It’s another colour. Grey hair matches almost any shade of clothing and does wonders for your complexion.
Most women who write to me are concerned about other people’s opinions. In this world so focused on youth and looks they’re scared that grey hair will make them look older; They are scared that the grey will make them look color-less and washed out too. If anything, grey hair will make you look younger. Nothing ages you more than a helmet of dyed dark or reddish hair that works only to highlight the fine lines, wrinkles and redness on your face. More often than not, the things you do to hide your age are the very things that actually make you look older. Let’s face it: If you’ve got grey hair, you are no spring chicken. You are lucky to be this old in the first place. Embrace it! Don’t try to hide it: No amount of hair colour, Botox, breast implants or fillers is going to make you look any younger – perhaps more desperate or ridiculous, but certainly not any younger. Mother Nature knows best. Besides, there are other ways to get away with being a little rock ‘n roll, even when you are past forty.
And on the topic of other people’s opinions. Not that I care a whole lot, but I have found grey hair to be very accepted, even admired. I have been a model for many years, and I’ve received more than a fair share of compliments and attention for my looks, but I have never received so many compliments for my looks and my “courage” as I have after I let my hair grow grey. Young girls stop me on the street and ask who does my hair and how I achieved the colour. Even some of the grumpy airport security people stop what they are doing to compliment my hair.
Grey hair is, more than anything else, an attitude. I wear my healthy shimmering grey hair with pride, and you can, too. Stay away from the long-arsed grandma jeans and helmet dos, reconsider your make-up – perhaps a style change was due anyway; what looked good on you in your twenties doesn’t look quite so flattering on you in your fourties and fifties – and embrace a new silvery version of yourself with confidence.
My long grey hair has become my trademark; People may not remember what I said and what I wore, but they will remember my hair.