My Gray Hair Journey

UPDATED: July 17, 2021

UPDATE: Still trucking along at 16 months in. Thank goodness some of that “short and unfortunate” hairstyle has grown out a bit.

Mental Note: Creative positioning with a camera can hide a chubby face, but short hair in reality says, “Let me just shine a spotlight on that face for ya.”


Have you heard of the new fashion trend? It’s called Pandemic Gray. I’m certain there are more ladies out there than just me who thought to themselves,

“Well, I’m in the house for the next month or so, since everything is closed, guess I’ll just let it go for a few weeks…”

I’d tried to let my natural hair color grow out a few years ago, but – honestly – I just wasn’t ready. Somehow, I decided to BLEACH IT PLATINUM instead. Let me tell you, you think the silvers are jarring? Try white! (No, don’t. It’s a miracle all my hair didn’t fall out.)

So the journey to silver hair began in March of 2020.

See the smiley face on my mask? I got cute.

While I do have pictures roughly every month of this process, the first few are pretty subtle. I mean, you can barely see it. So let me skip ahead to more recent.

6 months in
15 months in

Other than feeling like I look bald when the sun hits that corner of my head juuuust right, I was pretty happy. I’d cut all the length off to make growing it out easier.

Everyone has thoughts on going gray and below are some of mine.

What Have I Done?!

I don’t know if any of you are like me, but I was dyeing my hair consistently every six weeks. I had started going gray when I was 19 years old so, needless to say, within two weeks, you could see it coming back. It didn’t matter what color my hair was dyed either: brown, blonde, auburn — after two weeks, pigtails and braids were definitely out. I was too worried about “the demarcation line.”

Once I made the decision (the second time) to let the silver grow in, luckily I was already working from home. You can hide a lot with creative lighting and, if it gets really bad, you can just keep your video turned off during Zoom or Slack calls. I’m not saying I did this…but I did this. (Also helpful if you’re having a bad hair day, a particularly big zit, or a cold sore.)

Within the first month and a half, I started to feel the cringe of it. Six weeks was my “trip to the salon” time and I was feeling icky. So now we’re looking at running two weeks beyond schedule and I was getting self-conscious.

I obsessed over it. I checked myself in the mirror. I looked at websites where you can “go gray in a day” (to the tune of several hundreds of dollars and 10 hours in a salon chair). I watched before/after YouTube videos.

I questioned myself. A lot.

I became so obsessed with my hair that I began to wonder if other women who decided to let their hair go silver did the same thing. So I joined a Facebook group called Silver Sisters.

I looked at all their amazing pictures and thought,

Mine doesn’t look like that. Why doesn’t mine look white and lovely like hers does?

I immediately began searching Amazon for “gray hair” products because, even though I didn’t really have enough worth worrying about, this was a new and shiny experience and I didn’t need much of a reason to go shopping.

PRO TIP:

There is a big difference between blue shampoo and purple shampoo. If you’re like me, you’d heard of purple shampoo, but not blue.

Blue is for canceling out orange.
Purple is for canceling out yellow.

Thank you, high school art class and that wonderful color wheel.

Biggest Worries:

  • Looking old
  • Looking old
  • Feeling old
  • Getting called out for looking old
  • Appearing “washed out”
  • Not looking like “me” anymore
  • Becoming invisible
  • No longer feeling pretty or cute
  • My husband hating it (fyi – not a fan)
  • Looking old

I’m wondering if you’re beginning to see a subtle pattern here…

Despite worrying that I’d start looking like Aunt Bee, I kept on trucking anyway!!

Okay, Maybe This Isn’t So Bad…

Well, theoretically.

After I got to the, “you really CANNOT hide this anymore” stage, rather than give someone the opportunity to go, “Uh, Mel, you could use a touch-up…” I would proactively bring up that I was going au naturel. Like, a lot.

Like, every chance I got.

And I began to think, “Maybe people are getting sick of me talking about this.”

It didn’t stop me from doing it, but I did wonder.

After a few months in, I discovered that I LOVED NOT HAVING TO DYE MY HAIR. I mean, for reals. Now that it was impossible to hide (I wasn’t about to use any kind of gray hair concealer), I found that it was really nice to just not have to worry about it. Can’t hide it. Can’t go to the salon anyway. No one will care.

And quite literally – to my shock – no one did.

That didn’t mean that people didn’t have opinions about what they would/would not do to their own hair, though. When I’d posted to Facebook about the experience and what I was doing, I got a huge variety of responses from, “Not for me. Heck no” to “Do eet! Do eet now!”

Not one person said a thing about what I looked like. I really worried that people would be jerks about it for no reason. And it was a waste of my worry cycles.

I discovered that my husband wasn’t a fan of the look in general (he prefers me with dark hair), thankfully, he wasn’t actively pressuring me to dye it again.

I also learned another valuable lesson: Unless you specifically ask your husband to lie to you every time you ask him what he thinks about your gray hair, stop asking him if he likes it.

I did make the mistake of growing out my bangs at the same time as I began growing out the gray. (Get it all over with, amirite?) So awkward bangs grow-out, weird moving demarcation line of silver, and my dark color to this now-orangey brown weirdness. (Some call it “blorange”.)

I decided that I would not get any touch-ups, toners, low lights, or anything else to alter my hair. Some people opt to help the grow-out process along, but I decided that my hair and scalp will thank me for not treating it with chemicals anymore. Also, this natural process ensures that I’m slowly adjusting to it so by the time it’s fully grown out, I’ve had two years to get used to it.

CAVEAT: I reserve the right to change my mind and do any number of these things because I’m only halfway through here!

What I’ve Learned So Far…

  • I’m cheap (I love not paying for getting my hair dyed)
  • I need to style my hair (gray hair is kind of strangely unruly in spots, so I find I need to straighten it and curl it under to make it look like this whole thing is deliberate and isn’t just me being incredibly lazy)
  • I don’t typically need or use any special gray-hair products (my hair isn’t really yellowing so while I’ve used a purple shampoo once or twice in the last year – I didn’t really need to)
  • I prefer to cover the gray on my eyebrows (when I’m at home, I don’t care, but when I’m out — I feel it looks better because they are surprisingly kinky and bright against my naturally dark eyebrows – I mean it SHOWS)
  • My hair is thanking me (the natural hair is so soft; in contrast, the dyed hair is dry, especially around the ends)
  • Cutting off several inches of dyed hair makes the process easier (I can’t imagine how many years it would have taken to grow the gray to my waist).
  • While some people go for the pixie or shaved head to “get it done”, I am not one of them.
  • People will have opinions, mostly positive, some meh – at the end of the day it’s your hair to do with as you like. And really…it’s just hair. (So why is this so harrrrddddd?)
  • Join a Gray Hair transition group if you are finding the road tough or are looking for advice on how to brave the waters
  • Search YouTube for some transition stories because they are a great source of inspiration (I’d do one, but do I really have anything I want to say ON CAMERA? I’m so much wittier in print.)
  • If you don’t like it, there is no rule that says you can’t dye it again. Maybe it’s not your time. Maybe you just REALLY don’t like it. It doesn’t matter. You do you.
  • There is no right way to go gray. From what I’ve read online and seen on YouTube everyone does it their own way.
  • You get to learn all about patience whether you want to or not. Remember how fast your hair grows when you’re dyeing it all the time and you’re stressing out about it? Don’t worry, once you let it start to go gray, it will feel like it has LITERALLY STOPPED GROWING (it hasn’t, but that’s how it feels sometimes)
  • Take pictures along the way to document (if nothing else, to remind yourself that it’s still growing)
  • It gets easier as you go – the beginning is the toughest (trust me, after a while you may start looking for ways to show off your gray under all the top layers of dye)
  • Don’t jump on the impulse to dye — give it a while — I’ve heard so many stories of people who reached for the box dye and then regretted it and HAD TO START OVER.
  • I have tattooed eyeliner, but I find I also like to put on some purple eyeliner to accentuate my green eyes and make me feel like something on my face “pops” (I have not discovered the joy of red lipstick – I’m not sure I can pull it off)
  • Consider hats – now that you have silver hair you need to protect it from sun damage (I’ll admit I’m horrible at this — I hate hats). But I also hear that it keeps it from yellowing. So there’s that.

I hope this helps you. If I think of anything else, I’ll be sure to update!

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