A few weeks ago a friend and I were walking towards a club when the bouncer of another place said, “Cool hair.” I said thanks, and we continued walking only to find out the friends we were meeting were at the place where the bouncer had just commented on my hair. When we got to the door, he checked my friend’s ID and as she started to walk past him, I pointed the top of my head and said, “I’m sure you don’t have to see mine.” He responded, “Well why did you have to go and say that. I thought you had someone do you hair that color.”
Oops, my bad.
I’d all but forgotten that interaction until it warmed up enough in #Chiberia (the city formerly known as Chicago) to go without a winter hat. I sat next to a young lady who looked to be in her 20s, and she said, “I love your hair. That’s how I want to do mine. I want it that white.”
“Oh, I didn’t do my hair; Mother Nature did.”
“That’s your color? You’re growing it out?”
“Yup. I’m on my 8th month.”
“Ugh, I’m so jealous. I have some gray but nothing like that. I hate mine.”
“You should let it grow out. Give it a test. It took me a few months of growth to really start to like mine, and now I can really say that I love it.”
And there it is. Eight months in to growing out my hair, and that’s where I am, in my first loving relationship with my hair and wondering why I hadn’t stopped fighting it sooner.
So much wasted energy hating how fast my hair grew, so much wasted money on hair dye, and so much wasted time in the dyeing process. Oh, and let’s not forget the stains of dye-spills past that live on different areas of the bathroom as reminders of all of that waste.
A few months ago I thought that I’d eventually share my going-gray tips, but I thought that eventually would come 12 months in. After all, what the heck did I really know only 5-6 months in. But eight months in, I know things. I know a lot of things about going gray. I especially know a lot of things about going gray young.
In the past few months I’ve done a lot of reading from and about women who’ve chosen to grow their gray, and I’ve found that the subtext of most of what I’ve read and seen is “aging gracefully.”
It’s been disappointing because it’s not information that’s relevant or even very inspirational to me. I’m only in my early 40s, going gray isn’t at all related to aging or my feelings towards aging. I started graying at 13, my hair color doesn’t have a thing to do with age, and my decision wasn’t to make friends with father time, it was simply to stop fighting my natural color with chemicals.
I’m on the search for women life me! In the meantime, I’ve learned quite a bit and want to offer my best tips for getting started.
Know your why
I think I mentioned this in a previous post, but this was not my first attempt at growing out my gray. I started the process in the fall of ’11 and gave in as soon as my sister told me she didn’t like it and offered to pay for my hair to be colored professionally. Though it should be an easy decision to make, societal standards of beauty don’t make it so, and going into the process without being sure of your reasons for doing it, and firm in your resolve, it’s easy to give in at the first sign of someone else’s distaste.
I’m not gonna lie, the first few weeks are the hardest. They are the same weeks you are used to fighting. The weeks of gray hair you live through, if just barely, when you haven’t had time to visit the salon or buy that bottle of dye. The weeks that you’ve always spent trying to avoid the world if at all possible. Deciding that you are growing your hair isn’t going to make you see that same white/silver growth in a new light. It just won’t. You will walk by displays of dye and/or stare at your stylist business card thinking, “It would be so easy.” Don’t buy it and don’t dial it. Be strong. Just one more week, and you’ll be at that week you’ve never let yourself see before and your hair will start to take a new look. You’ll all of a sudden start feeling brave. I was listed in Revolution Gray’s 25 Bloggers Rocking the Gray Revolution! I am woman, see me gray!
Stock up on headbands
I read a tip on another blog about using temporary colors to get through the skunk line. If that works for you, then by all means do it, but I felt that I had to just live through it. If I kept touching up the new growth, then when would I begin to adjust to the new color? In spite of my will to go cold turkey, looking in the mirror was still not easy. Accepting it doesn’t necessarily make it aesthetically pleasing, so instead I chose headbands. I bought a ton of them in different styles and colors, and wore them every day.
Eventually, the headbands started to give me headaches and my brother pointed out that if I was really brave and being all “#grayrevolution” why was I covering it up with headbands. He had a point, so I decided it was time for a next step. For me, that was chop off a lot of my hair. Now I don’t recommend that for everyone, but it worked for me. I do, however, recommend changing it up a little bit. My haircut also had the benefit of adding layers, which now, months after the hair cut, give my hair that look that makes it seem as if I paid to have my hair colored this way. Many people think it’s platinum, and that they’re just funky highlights. Do what works for you and makes you feel good!
Change your routine
Every time someone realizes that my hair is naturally white, their next comment is usually either about how lucky I am it’s not yellow or how I better watch out for yellowing. I know what they mean. I’ve seen it in other people. That white hair yellowing a bit. Though the dyed dark parts of my hair that were once black are now a variation of reds, light browns and dark browns, I haven’t had a problem with yellowing. I think that’s for two reasons:
- Good Genes
- No Bad Chemicals
I’m lucky—I used to say unlucky— to have two parents who both grayed early and have maintained a beautiful whiteness to their hair, so for me yellowing isn’t too much of a fear. But you can never be too careful so I don’t use many chemicals on my head. At most, I use conditioner, but for the most part I just use coconut oil.
I’m a hair twirler. I’m constantly, without even realizing it, touching my hair. Years of chemicals, not to mention heat styling, left my hair dry and brittle. Though I could almost always manage to make it look soft and smooth with a flat iron, it still never felt good to the touch. About four months into the process, I started to feel a difference. My hair was soft, it wasn’t crackling under my touch. It felt so amazing to me that I spent the better part of my birthday party making my friends feel how soft and smooth my hair felt. Talk about affirmation.
Are you thinking of growing out or have your grown out your hair? Feel free to post your questions and/or tips!