I wasn’t shocked to find a few grey hairs my senior year of college. My grandmother’s hair was white in her 30’s. But I did object-my long, thick, curly hair was my favorite feature, so off to the salon I went!
At first I asked for a richer brown and later, shades of red. At first, it was every few months – no big deal. Coloring was fun! My hair was magenta at one point in my late 20’s after a move to LA to work in the music industry. But by my mid 40’s, it wasn’t fun and I was at the salon every month.
When I asked several stylists over the years during if perhaps I should go grey and they all No!
“No! You look so young for your age, and it will age you”
“Why? You will look so much older, at least 10 years older”
Or just a dismissive “No” followed by silence and slight head shake. So I kept my appointments.
Fast forward: summer 2016. My hair seemed dry, brassy, slightly off no matter what hair mask or deep conditioner I tried. I switched stylists again. The master Beverly Hills colorist who did my hair last September made it look great for about 2 weeks, but even his expert work left me brassy and fake by week three. That’s when I realized it was time for a change.
But I was afraid. I’ve interviewed many women – they tend to have similar fears including:
1- Grey hair makes you look old, older and/or is not sexy
2- Grey hair won’t complement my skin tone
3- I’m not sure what my real color is anymore!
4- What will other people think?
Like any woman in our youth oriented society, I didn’t want to look old, or older. Especially in LA! I was often assumed 5-12 years younger than my age, so the thought of “fast forwarding” seemed like a terrible idea. But I started looking at photos of grey haired women on line – Facebook groups, Pinterest, You Tube: executives, doctors, moms, artists and models. Some average looking, some stylish, a few young and trendy. Some were 100% silver or grey and stunning.
Grey hair encompasses many shades: Bright silver, pure white, steel grey, light grey, and is often mixed with our original shade of blond, brown, red or black. One of my favorite things about the greying process is that we are all unique in our coloring, and no one will have the exact combination of shade, light or dark, as we each produce a different pattern.
I decided to go for it!
Part Two of Michelle Ray’s journey: My Transformation + the benefits of going grey
After weeks of looking at gray, silver and white haired women on Pinterest, YouTube, Facebook and Oprah Magazine, I decide to embrace my real hair. Maybe not all of it, since I have no idea what it’s going to look like!
So I ask my stylist, armed with a dozen photos, the big question:
What about letting some of my real color grow in as my new “base,” adding some color for contrast?
I held my breath, waiting for him to say how much older I would look and how horrible that would be. Then he said “Yes. Of course.” And he got to work, leaving my roots untouched while adding fine ash blond highlights to my hair.
Even with wet hair, looking in the mirror I’ll never forget that distinct feeling of relief. I feel brighter, softer, more real. I was thrilled.
“When do I come back? “ I asked.
“Wait as long as possible” he replies.
My skin looks brighter against the lighter hair. I go lighter and lighter. I choose to cut a decent amount of my length to just above the shoulders, as the bleach is damaging and my ends are frizzy.
But I feel better and don’t cringe at the silvery color now that it blends with the highlights instead of screaming loudly against my old brassy brown hair.
I share my story with everyone who will listen. I notice women with grey hair everywhere and stop to compliment them. I am unabashedly obsessed with gray hair! My mom gets inspired and goes gray too. She receives many compliments on her bright white hair.
Grace Ilasco, co-owner of the Color Lounge in Burbank, California, offers a “Fifty Shades of Gray” transformation from colored brown, red or blond tresses to an all over adjustment to match or blend seamlessly with the client’s grey, white or silver roots.
This can be accomplished in a 8 or more hour appointment (record is 16 hours!) or in a few sessions.
Some benefits of not coloring :
Freedom from constant root touch up appointments
Healthier, shinier hair
Hair that naturally compliments skin tone (which changes slightly with age)
Less exposure to potentially toxic chemicals
More free time, less driving and sitting in the salon chair
Savings of $1,200 – 2,500. a year or more depending on frequency and type of color
If you’re interested in detailed information on how to transform your hair to its natural shade, please check out my e-book, Go Gray Your Way! Expert Advice & Inspiration from a Former Color Addict