As many of you know, in December of 2016 at the age of 45, I made the hard decision to stop dying my hair. Thus began what felt like a very long process of transitioning to gray hair.
I got my first gray hair in my twenties and have dyed it myself ever since. When I made the decision to transition I knew I was gray but I really didn’t know the extent of it since for the past twenty plus years I’d only ever seen my roots. It got to the point where I was having to dye my hair every four weeks just to keep on top of the gray. I hated this monthly ritual and the pressure I felt to get it done before anyone should find me out. And as many of you know, the pressure is intense! Society is pretty clear that not dying your hair is your fast pass ticket straight to the old folks home. Good grief! It’s no wonder making the decision to stop is so hard considering how counter-cultural and frowned upon it is.
By the time December 2016 rolled around I had been living with Rheumatoid Arthritis for two years. I had completely changed my diet to manage my RA without meds. This diet is an anti-inflammatory Paleo diet without grains, legumes, gluten, dairy and refined sugar. Here I was eating a clean diet yet dumping chemicals on my head month after month. It just didn’t make sense for me anymore and it was the last push I needed to finally make the decision to quit. But oh the emotions that followed. Nervousness that I wouldn’t like the results, excited that I would, bracing myself for the backlash from others and of course just hesitant about all the unknowns involved in the process. It’s been an interesting ride these last 18 months that is for sure.
First let me start by sharing some before pictures with you. The fact that I’m sharing a blog post heavy with self portraits makes me so uncomfortable (it’s all sorts of awkward, selfies are hard y’all!) but in order for this post to tell my story, I realize it has to be done. So here goes. The first photos show my before and after and then I’ll share some of the transition pictures as we go along.
This picture is from 2012. I dyed my hair this color for years.
In 2016 I went a little lighter.
This picture was taken in November 2016 right before making the big decision.
And here I am in 2018 almost fully transitioned.
Now I’ll get into the nitty gritty and share with you some of the unexpected results I experienced during this whole transitioning to gray hair process. Please know that I am simply sharing my personal story here and am not in any way passing judgement on those that choose to dye their hair. You do you 🙂
I Wasn’t Alone
I remember that January day in 2017 when I walked into my bible study group and declared to the ladies that I was no longer going to be dying my hair. There were audible gasps around the room followed by a lot of questions and uncertainty. I explained my reasoning as best as I could.
I was tired of conforming to society’s standard of beauty and being told that forty was way too young to let those gray hairs shine. I was tired of the chemicals and the monthly commitment and frankly being told what to do. I was just done and wanted off the hamster wheel. What did my real hair look like? No one knew. I told myself and my friends that if I didn’t like it I would dye it again but I wanted to give it a go.
It felt very scary. But that day, surrounded by a large group of woman, one of my girlfriends bravely stepped up and said to me, “I’m going to do it with you too”. And all of a sudden it didn’t seem quite as scary anymore. My girlfriend has stuck it out with me and now she too has a gorgeous head of silver sparkles.
The Grow Out Process is Painful
I knew the process would be hard but I guess I thought it would be a little easier than it was. Oh my goodness, transitioning to gray hair was a slow and not so lovely process to endure. Short of cutting a pixie cut, which was something I wasn’t prepared to do, I just had to sit back and wait for the skunk line to slowly creep its way down my head. Yes it was exciting to see the gray color finally start to reveal its true shade, but the contrast between the old color and the new was a lot to take some days.
One month in.
2 months in.
5 months in.
These next two pictures are 6 months in.
It never seems as gray to me in person until I see a photo of myself and have to do a double take.
8 months in.
The Fascination Is Real
By the 6 month mark I think people really started to figure out what I was up to. Not one to love attention, I felt very exposed. Ladies were just genuinely curious (and surprised!) as to why I was doing it and couldn’t help but ask me about it. Even random strangers would stop me to ask about my hair. It definitely took some getting used to that is for sure, I often felt like a lion on display at the zoo! Most ladies were very encouraging yet there were others of course that thought I was totally crazy. Thankfully, for the most part, I was able to let the naysayer comments just roll off my back and not bother me.
9 months in.
*I get commissions for purchases made through links in this post.*
At this point the brown was starting to fade but was still noticeable. My girlfriend bought me this Aveda Blue Malva Shampoo (affiliate link) and it really did (and does) make a huge difference with manageability. It keeps the grays soft and shiny while keeping the brassiness down on the brown. I highly recommend it and though it’s expensive, a little goes a long way!
I Wished I’d Done Toner Sooner
In addition to using the above shampoo I also had my hairdresser apply a toner to the bottom half of my hair at this time. As you can see this helped immensely to tone down the brown color and make the contrast of the two colors a little less obvious.
10 months in.
The toner isn’t permanent though and after a couple of months the brown gradually reappeared.
One year in.
I had the toner done a few times and I always felt so much better without the obvious line. If I had known it was an option I may have started doing it sooner. Other options are hats and head scarfs of course but I never really felt those looked good on me.
I Had to Change my Wardrobe
The problem with gray hair is it can wash you out if you let it. It became clear to me that my makeup and clothing choices needed to be an important part of this process. I still wanted to feel pretty and alive and the gray clothing that lined my closet wasn’t cutting it anymore. Apparently I really loved gray clothing because I owned a lot of it. I’m slowly trying to incorporate brighter colors into my wardrobe as I can afford to.
14 months in.
I continue to play around with makeup to add color to my face and bring out my eyes. And while you can’t tell in these particular pictures, I’ve also been trying to go brighter with my lipstick to perk me up and feel a little less drab.
I Don’t Feel Old
This one surprised me the most. I wrongly believed the lies that with gray hair I’d automatically feel old. Like the two would just naturally go together like bacon and eggs. Every day I’d wake up and wonder if overnight it had finally happened lol. The emotions I went through in anticipation of what was to come with transitioning to gray hair were strong and all over the place. It takes awhile to adjust to the person you see in the mirror everyday but eventually I realized it’s still me. The same person I’ve always been. My goofy, crazy personality wasn’t going anywhere.
What I’ve learned is that gray hair is simply a color, nothing more. It only dictates what we let it dictate.
16 months in.
Setting an Example for my Kids
I’ve always encouraged my kids to dare to be different, to be leaders and not followers. And what was I doing with my hair? Totally being a follower because culture dictates that I hide the natural beauty that God so beautifully bestowed upon me. Nope now I can stand proud and tell them that I’m practicing what I preach. That I’m brave enough to stand apart from the crowd and it’s okay. I’m okay. My world hasn’t fallen apart. That feels really really great.
16 months in.
I Don’t Regret My Decision
Now here I am a year and a half later. I still have a tiny bit of color to grow out but I’m almost there. I had some doubts over the last year but now that I’m on the other side I’m so glad I did it. I’m really proud of myself. I love the way my hair has grown in and I get even more compliments about it now. Without the obvious line, everyone wants to know where I go to get it done professionally, ha! I shout it loud and proud that this is what my Father gave me and it didn’t cost a thing! 🙂
18 months in.
And then finally one more taken just today. See how it looks different in different lights?
Update: 2 years in!
Gray Hair is Beautiful!
If this is something you’ve been thinking about doing, I hope this post encourages you to just go for it!
I’ve literally studied hundreds of before and after pictures (as part of the Gray and Proud Facebook group I’m in) of gray hair transitions and can sincerely tell you that all these ladies look so much better in their after pictures. The uniqueness I see in the variations of gray/white/silver coloring is simply stunning. Plus as we age our skin tone changes so the lighter grayer hair just naturally looks better.
I feel no shame in my gray hair game. Only confidence that I made the right choice for me and can proudly stand firm in that decision regardless of what anyone else thinks. That alone is so very freeing for me especially considering that by publishing this post the possibility for judgement is there. Eeek!
Whether you dye your hair or not, confident women are beautiful women so be bold and brave in whatever you choose!
If you’ve got any questions about the transitioning to gray process, please leave them for me in the comments. I’d be happy to try and answer them.