To Gray or Not to Gray

I’m struggling with, what for me, is a big decision.  Whether to finally stop coloring my hair or not. I remember noticing the first gray hairs when I was 16.  Yup, 16 years old and I was getting gray hair.  Other kids then were getting cars, boyfriends, Aigner handbags (It was the 80’s) and I was getting GRAY!


“It’s hereditary”, I was told. My mother went gray young and so did her brother. My cousin starting going gray about the same age I did. So what if it’s hereditary.  “I don’t want it!” (Funny how we get things even when we don’t want them sometimes … Or especially because we don’t want them!)

I’ve been coloring my hair since I was in my early twenties.  I’ve had many different colors of hair.  Black, red, auburn, bright copper, frosted, bright pink highlights, very blond highlights etc.  I used to perm my super straight hair too but then it got so gray that I was coloring more often to try and hide the insidious gray and I didn’t want to perm and color constantly and completely fry my hair.  After all, even though it was gray, my hair was one of the parts of me that I liked the best.  I didn’t want to KILL it! So I got used to having super straight hair.  Now I like it straight and I wouldn’t put a perm in it for any reason.

It seems that with every year the gray increased at a cruel rate and with every child I had I got what appeared to me to be fistfuls of gray hair. So now that I’m 43 it’s REALLY gray.  I mean 85-90% gray.  Luckily it’s not icky gray but a bright white.  I guess if one must go gray at least it’s not all yellow and sickly looking stuff.  The funny part is that very few people know just how gray I am.  My family might. But you know how it can be being part of a biggish family that is super duper active; everyone has their own thinks to think about and rarely does MOM’s appearance register in their brains unless she’s about to embarrass them half to death.

Every once in a while I’ll get too busy to color when I should and the roots start shouting out the truth.  A friend will notice and be (loudly) amazed at how much gray hair I have. But for the most part I keep my dirty little secret well hidden.  I mean, I don’t want to look any older than I am.  But lately, I’ve gotten really sick of coloring every four weeks. It doesn’t take that long but I’m tired of spending the time on it, tired of buying color and tired of just having to do it…and quite frankly, I wonder what I would look like with white hair.  All I probably have to do is look at a picture of my mother since I look a lot like her but I have a different outlook on life, a different attitude, and I think that shows in my face enough to make me look different in some important ways.  But maybe that’s just all in my head.

Lately, I’ve taken to asking a few very close friends for their advice.  To gray or not to gray?  Some say, “go for it!” and others say to keep coloring it progressively lighter and the gray will look platinum.  The theory is that no one will know if it’s gray or platinum blond. I kind of like the sound of that option.  The dark colors that I used to sport just don’t look right on me now.  My skin tone has changed some and the dark colors just make me look even older.  Besides, I color my hair myself and the “over the counter” hair color just won’t cover the massive quantities of gray hair that I have like they should.  The color just doesn’t “stay”.  I’ve been going lighter and lighter trying to find one that won’t look so ridiculous as it starts to fade and lose it’s grip on my gray. 


Today I decided to do some research on going gray and here are a few links to articles I found. 

Marla Miller writes about going gray in Graying Gracefully

Back to My Roots: A Diary of Going Gray by Anne Kreamer. This is a story I could really relate to because she is over being seen as “hot” and not in a career where she needs to appear young to keep her place in a corporate world that thinks that younger is better.  And ready to be herself, whoever that may be.  That’s kind of where I am now too.  Personally, I like the picture on the right better.  To me she actually looks younger.


Going Gray for 48 Hours is a funny story about an experiment with gray hair and the upside/downside of her 48 hours with gray hair.

Unlocking the Secrets of Gray Hair a NYT article discussing the heredity of gray hair.  I like the last paragraph that says, “People with premature graying of the hair don’t die any sooner than anybody else,” said Dr. Leo M. Cooney, professor and chief of geriatrics at Yale University School of Medicine. “I think the study shows that gray hair has something to with your genetics and very little to do with premature aging.”

<nyt_author_id>So while you won’t see me walking around all gray headed tomorrow or even next week I’m pretty sure the gray days are coming sometime soon.  It’s not like I have a choice any way.  They are there and there isn’t much I can do about it.  Besides, I’m still curious to see what I REALLY look like.


Gray woman

Here is a photo I found on flickr and the photographers comment about the photo.

“I passed this woman just outside a neighborhood camera store and asked if I could shoot a picture. She asked why, and I said I thought that her gray hair was striking and unusual for a relatively young woman. She said her hair had turned gray when she was 13, and she had colored it for years, but she eventually decided to let it go natural. Her hairstylist is trying to convince her to color it. “
I also liked the comments of most of the people who commented on this photo.


  1. says

    Camille and Marilyn
    Thanks for your comments. I’m finding that going gray is very personal thing . I still read across the web about different peoples’ ideas about going gray.
    Recently I put a couple of really blonde highlights in my hair as part of my transition. I’m planning to take photos of the process of gradually going gray so there will probably be a blog post about that sometime in the future. In the end I think it’s never a bad idea to “Be Yourself” whomever that may be.

  2. says

    Hi Vicki, I found your post by googling “growing Gray Gracefully”…after working in Korea for a year, being pressured to be younger than my 43 years, I have rebelled for the last two months by not coloring my hair…and yes, I am trying to stomach the gray coming in at 43 years old…so it was refreshing to see your post. I don’t know what the percentage is yet…but I can see it is pouring in. In a way it has been liberating. In a way, it has been a realization that I have to accept gracefully these intruders cropping up. I have noticed a ton of hair loss, but I have also been having a ton of new hair growth…all gray. So I have decided, in part by my rebellion, to let it go. However, I am not cutting my hair yet…so maybe a few trips to the salon to add a bunch of low light to ease the transition…but there is nothing wrong with being who you are. I have finally learned that lesson by being pressured to look younger than I am…I am not a baby. I am not a child. I am a woman who is still as vibrant as ever.
    Maybe, just maybe, our youth obsession will stop.

  3. says

    I am in the same boat with the gray, whether to color or not. My hair is very dark brown and the “silver threads” are really noticable against it. I just put a rinse of color every month or so, because the gray is wild! The color calms it down somehow. If my hair was totally gray, I would let it go. My husband started going gray at 13! His looks amazing, he has never colored it and never will. Well that’s my two cents!

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