To Color or Not to Color (On Going Gray)

For the past few weeks, my emerging gray hair has had me considering whether or not to let myself go gray once and for all.  I’ve had noticeable gray hair for at least a decade, but only in the past couple of years have I had to resort to coloring it.

The other night, I looked up inspiring articles and pictures on Pinterest, and I almost had myself convinced . . . until I brought it up with my husband.  He said I look ten years younger when I color my hair and seemed genuinely dismayed by my decision to go gray.  Out of respect for his wishes- gotta keep our men happy, right?- I gave in and colored it.

photo credit:
photo credit:

As I colored my hair, my 6yo daughter stood by, inquiring about this whole coloring-the-hair thing.  And, you know, it felt wrong having to tell her that I was coloring my hair to look younger and more beautiful than I do with gray hair.  I felt like I was sending her the message that men won’t love you unless you look a certain way and that I don’t like who I really am, so I have to cover it up and be something else.

I know, perhaps I was over-analyzing the situation, but having my confused and impressionable young daughter watching me made me want to stop right then and there.  How can she possibly understand the struggles of aging and fading?  It seemed unnatural to have to explain it at all, to her or myself.  However, I kept on coloring.

Here are the before and after pictures (both are taken within an hour of each other; only the shirt is different . . . well, and my hairstyle!)  I think my husband may be right after all. (He usually is.)  In case you are wondering, I used Clairol Nice and Easy, 6N/115 (Natural Light Brown).

with the gray                         no more gray

For the record, I hate the hassle of coloring my hair, and even though it does look better, it still feels artificial to me.  That’s why I started looking online for support to go gray.  I definitely found it; in fact, I was surprised by how many women have written about their positive experience with going gray.  However, what I also discovered while reading was that, in going gray, you don’t exactly rid yourself of the hassle.

seasonal color wheel
photo credit:

Depending on your coloring (this is one of my favorite topics to research), gray hair doesn’t favor everyone.  Summers and Winters and some Springs tend to grow lovely silver or white hair that looks beautiful against their skin tones.  Autumns and other Springs generally don’t have the same luck.  Our grays tend to be dull and contrast with our warm skin tones.  In order to successfully go gray, these women use highlights to augment their less flattering gray shades, which kind of defeats the purpose, in my opinion.

And then, there is the issue of texture.  The maintenance of these stubborn gray hairs can be even more time consuming and expensive than dyeing them.  You have to purchase special products to keep your gray hair from looking coarse and wiry: expensive shampoos, weekly deep conditioning treatments, and the like.

clairol nice and easy 6N 115

So, for $6.00, I spent an hour making a mess of myself, stinking up my bathroom with noxious fumes, and came out looking (unnaturally) younger and with softer hair to boot.  I even got a tube of weekly conditioner in the box.  I am lazy, though; I only color my hair maybe three times each year, so I certainly have seasons of feeling and looking less attractive (as you can see in my very unbecoming “before” picture).  Despite all of my misgivings, I think I’ll save gray for my 50’s and enjoy the benefits of a cost- effective, gray-less existence for this decade.

Have any of you chosen to go gray at a young age (I’m 40, for the record)?  Are any of you considering it?  I’d love to hear your thoughts and/or experiences.


Note:  It’s been a week, and I thought I would comment on my color.  I have copper undertones in my hair that have definitely taken hold of this color.  Since washing it a few times, my hair now has a strong hint of reddish/gold, especially at the crown, which I generally try to avoid when coloring, since it looks even more artificial.  I may try an ash based color next time . . .



4 thoughts on “To Color or Not to Color (On Going Gray)

  1. The truth is, I’ve been gray for a long time. At 41 I decided to color my hair just to try something new. My hair texture changed and was soooo much better. Now at 44 I have a group of grays that have taken over. I love to see women rocking the gray but I don’t see it for me. I color and it makes me look younger and covers the gray until a major life crisis pops another one out. Who knows, I might even go back to my real hair color next time 🙂

    1. I feel the same way! I look younger, feel better about myself, and my hair feels better, too.

  2. I’m 50 and still wrestling with the idea. Several of my sisters have “embraced their grey” and are happy they did. My husband also wants me to “let go”…he really likes how my sisters look and thinks I’ll look great. (My hair-dresser says I will be almost all white-as are some of my sisters!) Maybe when I’m a grandma….? I think it’s so hard because, even in my 50s, there are very few people my age who are grey.

    1. Yes, in our culture, allowing oneself to age gracefully is no longer acceptable; we are encouraged to maintain our youthfulness as long as possible, in some cases too long. There is a curious trend recently among young women, though, who actually dye their hair gray as a stylistic choice. I love that your husband is on board and that you have a support network among your sisters, who have already forged a path ahead of you. When you feel ready to go for it, I’m sure you will find yourself in good company and at peace with the decision.

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