The Silver Lining

Annika von Holdt, 2017.

A guide to grow out your natural grey hair

I get so many questions from women following me on Instagram, or finding pictures of me on Pinterest or Google in regards to my grey hair, that I’ve decided to offer a small section here on Annika von Holdt. Com to answer some of the frequently asked questions and concerns.

YES! You can certainly have a head of grey hair and still be sexy and relevant. I promise. Read on.

Changing the Mindset

Doing research for that book on grey hair, I am thinking of writing, I came across quite a few articles that describe greying hair as “pathogenesis” (seriously? the development of a disease?), “a problem” and us silver foxes as “victims of grey hair” and “sufferers of grey hair”. A survey made in America, last year, showed that on the list of most dreaded hair problems, grey hair comes in on a second place – right after hair loss.

If it wasn’t so entirely ridiculous, it would piss me off.

There are discussion-boards on the Internet about “how to revert the process of greying hair” and forums that feed the myths and old wives’ tales as to why hair turns grey, early or eventually; What food you should eat to prevent grey hair, what you should do when you see your first grey hair, ways to hide grey hair, remedies to avoid grey hair etc.

Grey hair, in most people’s minds, is synonymous with old age. On social media the emoji for grey hair is a granny. Go figure. And even though most of us wish to grow old, really old, because life is fucking awesome, and we want the experiences and the adventures, we just don’t want to LOOK old whilst we have them. Alas, (many) people color their hair, inject fillers and Botox into their faces to hide the obvious signs of ageing, thinking (hoping) that this, surely, will make them look younger – or at least the best version of themselves.

I’d like to change the whole mindset of that – not the adventures and experiences, mind, but the ridiculous fear of looking older. What is so horrible about looking older anyway? We all will, if we get to live long enough. Why not embrace the signs? And who says that wrinkles and grey hair are not attractive features? I could name quite a few people, who I think look significantly better and more interesting as they’ve aged (wrinkles, grey hair and all), than what they looked like when they were young. Besides, who says you are going to look older, if you stop colouring your hair? – after all, grey is just another color.

Let me tell you a secret. Just between the two of us, coloring your hair, or filling your face and lips with chemicals is NOT going to make you look younger. It IS eventually going to make you look more desperate and fake (as in wrong), because if you do it repeatedly, you begin to look like Mr. Spock (and he’s a fucking fictional character designed to look odd).

But you’ve reached a certain age, and you feel like a color photograph fading to black and white. You probably like your life better now, but you want to turn back the clock on your looks. Why? . . . Why not reinvent yourself? And why not reinvent yourself as YOU? The CURRENT you. Not the you from a decade ago, or the decade before that, when your hair was dark and shiny, your skin smooth and your arse was 10 cm closer to Heaven.

And who says that the decade ago version of you was a better and more attractive version than the current?

Society? Will society judge you for your grey hair, deem you irrelevant for your wrinkles, will society think you let yourself go, that you’ve lost your sex appeal, your influence?

And who is society?

What if I tell you that society is YOU?

Yes, you are partly responsible, as a member of society, for the way we look at each other. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if people saw you on the street with your silver mane and they’d say: “Look at that woman with the sexy hair!”?

That actually happens to me. It happens so often and so much that my 13-year old son is rather annoyed to go out with me in public. Complete strangers stop me on the street, like I am a rock star, to pay me compliments for my hair or to ask how I achieved the color. On our way to Harbour Island once, from Denmark – through 3 airports, a few time zones, via a couple of countries, my son decided to count how many times people would pay me a compliment for my hair. He counted 162 times, including the otherwise grumpy airport security staff, believe it or not. I can not remember I ever got that many compliments in 20 hours for my hair when I coloured it, in fact I can’t remember I ever GOT a compliment for my hair back then. I stand out now because of my hair color. I’ve accepted a new form than the one I had when I was younger and a look that is uniquely mine.

It’s within YOUR power to change whatever mindset is fashionable – by changing your own, by setting an example, by inspiring others, by being a role model. You can be the best version of yourself and be the most YOU version of yourself at the same time. By OWNING it!

Ready or Not?

Are YOU ready to take the plunge?

Many women in this day in age, with so much focus and fascination on preserving youth, are afraid that grey hair will make them look old(er), or that people will look at them or treat them differently because of their silver locks.

I know that a lot of women want to ditch the dye, the hassle, the cost and perpetual keep-up, but many women write to me with their concerns; Will people think they let themselves go? Will their significant other still find them attractive? Will they lose their sex-appeal? How will grey hair play out in the boardroom? And so on and so forth.

Sure, grey hair will make you look older. Because you ARE 1-2 years older by the time you are fully transitioned. But it’s not going to make you look older than a helmet of coloured hair.

Growing out your grey hair can be a big challenge to your vanity, I am the first to admit that. If you are unwilling to cut your hair short, the transition is long and, in most cases, quite unattractive. So, brace yourself; During the transition you are not only faced with the worst version of yourself – hairwise, the possible judgements of society (or, perhaps, more likely YOUR OWN suspicions that you will be judged), unsolicited comments and opinions from friends and family, who still think that trying to hide your age at any cost is the only way to play it, you are also tested on your determination and commitment.

I can only speak for myself, obviously, when I say, that I have never felt judged because of my grey hair. I don’t think I look older than I did when I coloured my hair, in fact I think I look younger. Grey hair compliments my complexion in a way dyed hair never did; Mother Nature is the best designer and, more often than not, she just knows best. Women write me every day to tell me how courageous they think I am and how I helped and inspired them to take the plunge.

That doesn’t make me feel judged. That makes me feel good.

In the 4 years I have worn my silver hair with pride, only one person has commented negatively on my hair colour, and she wasn’t exactly the sort of person I’d take beauty advice from.

And if my words and experience isn’t enough to convince you to give it a go, look around you. There’s a cultural shift in how we view aging. While the heavily Botoxed look is still the answer for a lot of women, aging gracefully is becoming a trend for just as many.

Grey is the new blonde, ladies.

We are going to see a lot more of that in the future. Women of a certain age are not accepting to be irrelevant. This is a demographic to be reckoned with, they have a lot of power – and buying power, too. We get to be older than ever before, and people over 50 make up the fastest growing group of consumers in the world. Huge brands are already tapping into that wisdom: Celine used the 80-year old author, Joan Didion as the face of their campaign. Mac Cosmetics used the 90-year old, Iris Apfel as their spokeswoman, and Marc Jacobs used 65-year old Jessica Lange for their beauty line, L’Oreal uses 79-year old Jane Fonda. Sports Illustrated featured a 57-year old mother of two in their annual swimsuit issue last year – grey hair and all – holding her own among bikini babes half her age. And the year before, the same magazine featured a plus size black model, both campaigns encouraging women of any age, colour or size to show off their bikini body. And just recently, Christie Brinkley posed in a tiny bikini at the age of 62. Sixty two! And it’s not because standards are slipping for Sports Illustrated!

Confidence, personal style and fearlessness are attractive features – regardless of age. The stereotype is slowly changing, and the standards of beauty are being re-defined. Finally.

There’s no right or wrong anymore, no one way of looking, dressing and doing things. And I am not saying that growing out your natural hair colour is the only way to age gracefully either – grey hair is, perhaps, not for everybody – but in my opinion, some of the things women do to hide their age (Botox, fillers, hair colour, plastic surgery), are often the very things that make them look desperate, exaggerated, fake, sometimes ridiculous and downright older.

Decision to Transition

When you’ve made the decision to grow out your natural grey hair, there are different ways you can make the transition less noticeable. But no matter what route you choose, it’s not going to be a quick and easy process. You certainly don’t slide into grey. Prepare yourself for a lengthy transition period. Choose your timing carefully, stick to your hair plan and be patient.

When I made the decision to grow out my grey, my hair was dark brown with golden highlights. I didn’t know how noticeable it was going to be, and I ditched the dye for about 2 months to see what I was dealing with. The outgrowth was atrocious; I looked like someone had dropped a bucket of acid on top of my head.

I had to do something and, unwilling to cut my hair short, I consulted a well-renowned hair stylist and colour specialist. I opted to cut my hair to the shoulders and then to have the entire bulk of hair lifted to platinum level (don’t try this at home) in order to remove the dye from the hair and lessen the demarcation.

If you are considering the same method, be aware that this process, and the chemical cocktails involved, are very hard on the hair. And even though my stylist (one of the best in Denmark) assured me, she could take me from dark brown to grey in one day, I ended up with every shade between white, brass and orange.

To her defence, let me say; colouring the hair grey is technically very difficult (if not altogether impossible) as there are no grey or silver hair dyes; it needs to be mixed with other colours to achieve the shade of desire, and to succeed (in theory and for argument’s sake) you need a platinum blonde base – anything darker or brassier than that and the blue pigments just won’t cover. To take a dark brown head of hair, bleach it to platinum blond level and then dye it grey, and to succeed, demands healthy, unusually strong hair, a lot of Olaplex and a skill set only few stylists possess.

But there are other ways:

1. Go “Cold Turkey”. Don’t do anything at all. If you are blonde, this might work for you. If you are a brunette, however, be sure to wear a hat whenever you are close to someone with a camera and an Instagram account.

2. Go shorter, something in between or even a pixie cut. Get rid of as much of the coloured lengths as you possibly dare.

3. Add lowlights or highlights, or both. Lowlights are a few dark streaks to help blend the stark difference between the new grey outgrowth and dyed lengths. Highlights are used with bleach to a level that is roughly the same as your silver hair.

4. Cover the new grey growth – temporarily – with colour chalk, mascara–type colour applicators or spray-on colour powders. But don’t be tempted to use toners. Even the mildest of toners will leave yellow residue in your virgin grey hair and you are back where you began.

Care & Maintenance

When the transition is complete, you need to take extra good care of your virgin silver locks and avoid any and all brassy build up.

Silver is the purest of all colours and the most difficult to maintain. Even a slight hint of brassiness ruins the whole, and silver hair is so pure it will pick up anything you put in it.

Stay out of chlorinated swimming pools, steer clear of water with a high content of iron, avoid cigarette smoke and pollution, don’t ever use shampoos and other hair products that are coloured with anything but blue pigments, be careful when you use straighteners and curling irons (the heat can burn the blue pigments and you’re left with a yellow tinge), and wear a hat or SPF-spray when in the sun (the sun bleaches the blue pigments in your hair).

Furthermore, grey and silver hair tends to be more porous than coloured hair and can easily look dry and brittle. To keep it shiny, smooth and grey, you need a little help from products. Here is what I do, and the products I use to keep my grey and white hair shimmering and clear.

I wash my hair twice a week. Washing your hair more often than that is a bad habit and a vicious cycle, really. The scalp produces its own perfect oils, 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. If you feel your hair is oily, use a dry shampoo between hair washes.

1. I wash my whole hair in a normal mild shampoo and rinse it (I actually use Johnson’s Baby Shampoo).

2. I apply a blue or purple pigment shampoo evenly in 3/4 of the lengths – I never put it directly on my scalp – and leave it to work for 5 minutes (see below for product list). Remember, the darker the shampoo, the more pigments it will deposit.

3. I use a blue pigment conditioner, sometimes a hair mask as conditioner if my hair feels dry and needs extra nourishment (Goldwell Kerasilk Control).

4. When hair is towel dry, I apply a heat shielding spray all over the hair. A heat shielding spray seals the hair strands and also protects from pollution – some of them even have built-in UV-filters. I use Goodwell Dualsenses – Blondes & Highlights Serum, and I spray it generously.

5. As often as possible I let my hair air dry, but in my case it takes several hours for it to dry. When I blow dry, curl or straighten, I do so on lowest settings, as too much heat can burn the pure silver and cause my hair to turn brassy.

6. After blow dry and/or straightener, I apply a colourless hair serum on the tips (Goldwell Melting Diamonds).

BLUE PIGMENT SHAMPOOS I USE

Rule of thumb when you search for the perfect blue shampoo: The darker the color of the shampoo, the better it works. The light blue/violet/purple shampoos on the market are a waste of money, if you ask me. It takes potent, dark blue pigments to cover brassy build up.

1. Fudge Clean Blonde Violet Toning Shampoo for when I need something really potent. Instantly neutralizes brassiness. Apply evenly. Will stain your hands and your tub. Use gloves and rinse the tub immediately. Contains sulphates.

2. Clairol Shimmer Lights – also very potent. Neutralizes brassy build up after a couple of hair washes. Contains sulphates.

3. Oribe Bright Blonde – potent. Neutralizes brassiness and contains no nasties, but it’s quite expensive.

* You have to understand, if your otherwise silver hair has turned brassy, the damage has already been done. All that these tone-correcting shampoos do is to deposit blue pigments on top of the brassy strands. They do not remove the brassiness. And if these shampoos just don’t cut it, you have to dye (try Crazy Color Semi-Permanent Hair Color Cream in the tone “Silver”) or bleach the hair to remove the brassiness (try Fudge Whiter Shade Of Pale). Or consult a hair stylist.

Personal Style

What looked good on you when you were 20 doesn’t always look so fly on you, as you age. A style change is, perhaps, in order, no matter what hair colour you decide on.

Or maybe you don’t have to change anything at all.

I am pretty much at ease with myself; I don’t try to look younger. I don’t use Botox or fillers. I spend my money on good skin products – moisturizers and sunscreens – a little exercise and a healthy diet. I am very okay with my age and where I am in life. I am grateful.

However, I do try to look my best (for my age and all), and I find that the older I get, the less makeup I use. I like a natural look, regardless of age. I use very little makeup on a daily basis. I never use foundation, concealer or contouring; I am good to go with a bit of lipstick/lipgloss and perhaps a bit of mascara. And taming the brows; Mine are beasts. I am the type of person who can wear a lot of makeup and still not look “made up”, but wearing all that on my face makes me feel uncomfortable. And when I do have to wear a lot of makeup, I usually can’t wait to get home and wash it all off.

The same goes for colours. You’ll never catch me in a yellow dress. I stick to black, grey, white, nudes and browns.

Giving style advice is very difficult. I could talk for hours, of course, but in reality it all comes down to personality and attitude, how you walk and carry yourself, and most of all, it’s about confidence. Nothing is more attractive than a confident woman. And personal style is just that: Personal. Some women will rock skinny jeans, a leather jacket and an alarmingly red lipstick. Some won’t. And the secret is not in your weight, hight, facial features, or your hair colour. You look as good as you feel, right?

Having grey hair does not require a complete style change for everybody. Me, I didn’t change a thing.

I know that many style guides say the opposite; That you should re-think everything – in the clothes and makeup department – and that once your hair is grey, you should avoid black, grey, white, nudes and earth tones, as these colours will make you look washed-out and your complexion dull. But it’s all I ever use. They say, the experts, that you should wear clear colours, like pastels, and a lot of coral, apricot and peach. I wouldn’t dream of it. They also say that after 40, you should cut your hair shorter. Mine is currently down to the waist, and I like it that way.

The way I see it; When colours are right for you, your eyes, lips and skin will look radiant and enhanced. So, whatever works for you.