Why I Stopped Coloring My Grey Hair

a year ago

I started coloring my hair almost 15 years ago, in my 20's, because grey hair began popping up. I blame genetics (my dad was totally silver in his 30's - awesome on him, not so good on a twenty something me) and maybe stress (sleep deprivation from babies every couple of years, divorce and other stress).

Image: Flickr via QuietlyUrban

Several months ago, in anticipation of this change, I created a Pinterest board with attractive, middle-aged and up ladies who've embraced their natural hair color. It was inspiring. It is entirely possible to be la femme d'un certain âge and stay stylish and even (dare I say this in a culture that worships the god of youth?) sexy.

If you don't believe me, check out the Pinterest board or watch several French or British films that feature older women. Across the pond, women aren't kicked to the curb just when they're in their prime. It's refreshing. 

We don't put this pressure to look young forever on men. A man with a little grey at his temples is "distinguished". I would never, ever ask my husband to color his hair just because he's going grey. (And indeed, don't people look down on that poor sap who dyes his hair? What a hypocritical double standard).

We expect women to look 20 forever, yet judge women who have cosmetic surgery or are vain. What the what? And that's all I have to say about that.

I would never in a million years want to go back to the clueless, insecure young woman who did sometimes desperate, stupid things to get the attention and approval of a man she loved.


One of the reasons I was sick of my hair was because I looked like a skunk when my roots began to grow. It's one thing if your hair is lighter, but when it's naturally very dark brown/almost black - you look like a witch.

I had a conversation with a woman I see on a regular basis because she works at the grocery store where I shop. She's an attractive middle-aged woman with large, dark eyes and great cheekbones. She had a foxy short 'do that I admired. We talked one day about the hassle of covering up grey. I told her that when and if I chopped my hair short, I would stop coloring it.

And that's what I did.

Sometimes I look in the mirror (typically, only when the room is lit by fluorescent lights) and think, "Hmm. Yuck." But everybody thinks this from time to time. I had plenty of "yuck" days when I had longer hair and when I was still coloring it too.

But most of the time, I'm ok with my grey.

After I cut it, I got more compliments on my hair than I have in years, from both men and women. And not that it matters to me since I only care about the opinion of one man, but men do notice women with short hair. I believe this is because short hair is unusual and speaks to a certain confidence, which is attractive. Short hair says, "This is my face. I'm not afraid to show it."

Primarily, I just got tired of the whole coloring routine. It's messy, stinky, time-consuming, and who am I really fooling anyway? I'm fighting a losing battle. I'm 41 and happy with that. It's stupid to waste energy denying reality. It just is. Why fight it?

What's more, dark hair dyes may increase cancer risk. Since I have an aunt and a grandmother who are in their graves due to breast cancer, and my mom is a breast cancer survivor, this is no small consideration for me. It's weird to spend extra on non-toxic skin care products but then douse my scalp in chemicals every 4-6 weeks.

Short hair means I spend all of 30 seconds each morning on my 'do. I can be out the door, dressed and with makeup on, in 10 minutes. I like it best that way. It means I can spend more time doing what I really love. (This is different from being low-maintenance because you don't value yourself.) I like the way I look more now, not less.

The other day when I took the kids to the pool, there was a lovely silver-haired lady watching her grandsons. Her hair was gorgeous in a braid 'round her head, like Heidi. I told her I loved her hair, and she told me why she decided to stop coloring it. Among other things, the Skunk phenomenon (she was also very dark-haired in her youth), and the splotches of black hair dye that ended up all over the bathroom counter and cabinets.

When I was 15, I went with my mom to Colorado to visit relatives. We stayed with her second cousin, whose wife, although at the time was in her 30's, was grey-haired. Her husband was a guitar-picking troubadour and sang us a song he wrote about her. It was called "Silver Strands in the Moonlight". I'll never forget that day, or the love that was in his eyes as he sang about her silver hair reflecting the moon's light. I remember her talking about how her hairdresser pressured her to color her hair. She said she had no interest in looking like she was in her 20's.

Now I understand why.


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