Learning to love grey hair at 62

— by Alyson Walsh

Debra Hepburn founder of Young British Designers embracing her grey hair


Debra Hepburn is a 62-year-old slow fashion-lover. From the middle of the Warwickshire countryside, she founded the website Young British Designers (YBD) in 2010 with her husband Julian Whitehead. The platform showcases a tight edit of the best independent designers and enables small fashion labels to gain a presence in a hugely competitive industry. ‘I think being out of London really helps us step outside of the fashion bubble and look at every designer with unbiased, fresh eyes,’ she says.

With the company’s support, designers such as  JW Anderson, Eudon Choi and Rejina Pyo have achieved global success over the last decade or so. ‘I love finding brilliant new brands and introducing them to the right audience. Helping people discover the clothes and accessories they love is intoxicating,’ Debra adds, ‘ My latest find is Farphoria, founded by Xenia Busalova who makes  exquisite, affordable porcelain jewellery. Her rings are a new favourite.’


Debra Hepburn photo taken for That’s Not My Age in 2020, before lockdown.



Since lockdown, Debra has been growing in the grey and sharing the results on Instagram. I caught up with her to find out how she found being au naturel. Here’s what the 62-year-old had to say:


Tell me a bit about your hair

My relationship with my hair has been very hit and miss. I loved it when I was a young girl growing up in South Africa, and I love it again now. Then, it was long, thick and made white blonde by the fierce sun. I never considered its colour or length, and my hair was only a nuisance when mum and dad used to fight about whose turn it was to comb it out after bath time, with lashings of some tangle-remover spray, in a 1960s orange bottle.

Now it’s completely natural and grey, I feel more carefree. Not always looking at the roots and wondering if it’s time for the hairdresser AGAIN! And I think it suits my colouring at the age I am.


How would you describe you hair?

Apparently, I’m known for my hair, I guess there’s so much of it, it’s the first thing people see! All of the old blonde highlights are cut out. I still have darker blonde underneath at the back (natural, not low-lights), it just hasn’t grey’ed as fast as the rest of it. I quite like the different shades as it adds some texture.

It’s always been a messy mass of colours: dark blonde, blonde-blonde in summer, highlights, low lights, ombré, a Henna phase in the late 70s, a peroxide bleach buzz cut and a ‘painted-on’ slices, kind of French ‘do’. Some of these I’ve enjoyed. Others, not so much. Lots of playing with colours and styles for I guess around 38 years!


So how did you feel about growing in the grey?

With all of this going on, it’s not surprising that I didn’t notice the first grey hairs appearing. My friends, younger and older, were bewailing theirs, violently tugging them out and examining them up close, in horror. My hairdresser had obviously noticed but by then I was moving into my ‘just leave it as natural as possible’ phase and she was subtly adding some low lights.

And then it was 2020. I was 58 and locked down. We all stayed home for months on end and I set to cutting my family’s hair, but just left mine. And left it.

A funny thing happened. When I spoke to friends online or at twenty paces I thought how lovely they looked. Yes, because I was missing them. But also because their hair had softened, dyes had become diluted and smudged. The emerging greys, whites and silvers suited their older, beautiful faces. The colour of their eyes popped and sparkled against the backdrop of hair that looked at ease with itself. Not trying to be too fierce, too young, too harsh.


Out with the blonde, in with the grey


Were you tempted to add more colour?

Post-Lockdown, I never went back to a full-head of hair colour. Just added a few blending high-and-lowlights to see me through the final grow-out.

I know I’m lucky. It’s harder to grow out dark hair. I’ve always had some white, some blonde, some dark blonde. And I’ve got the best kind of hairdresser who, although she now only sees me every six or eight months, has helped me every step of the way to being what Instagram calls a Silver Sister. At my last session, she snipped away the oldest ends of blonde residue and I emerged, faintly victorious. The girl who ran the conditioner through at the basin bent low and whispered, conspiratorially: “You do know that women are coming in asking to be dyed your actual colour don’t you?”


And how do you feel?

So, here I am at 62-years-old. Loving my hair again, as I did when I was a child in South Africa. Not fretting about it (apart from which purple shampoo is best?!). Feeling more me than I have for many years. Loving that I can wear a bright lippie and not feel overdone. Proud to be the real deal. I never say never, but I really can’t imagine wanting to move away from my natural silver/white/grey hair ever again. And people seem to really love it as much as I do. They keep telling me, so it must be true!


You mentioned grey hair products – what’s the best you’ve found?

I do love the Oribe Bright Blonde range as it’s not as too harsh and purple-y (also available in the USA). I use it when I feel my hair needs a cleansing boost. It smells super-nice too and I’m a sucker for natural ingredients and a beautiful scent.


BEFORE: Debra Hepburn photo taken for That’s Not My Age.


AFTER: Debra, today


Grey haircare, oh yeah!

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