Going grey-2060x1236

This is what real #grannyhair looks like at 7.30pm on a grey Friday evening, after a long week at work. With no makeup and no daylight. The ironic hashtag used by young celebs and models isn’t the same when you’re over-50 and contemplating the change (of hair colour). And I thought my new passport photo was bad…

After 35-years of being a bottle blonde, I’m going grey. In summer, when I mostly wear my hair up in a topknot, the mouse/grey underbelly is on full view and last year I decided that I prefer au naturel to yellowy blonde. Since then, I’ve been transitioning. I’m happy with my decision – it was just a bit of a shock to find this image of myself on the homepage of the Guardian website, yesterday. Ouch, That Is My Age.

Fellow Mallen-streaked style expert Caryn Franklin recommended Charles Worthington to me, and so last week, I visited the salon for a series of lowlights and highlights to give my hair a more uniform, natural look. The new shade of silvery white is still a bit gronde (grey-blonde) but it feels right. The texture is coarser and has more oomph and, as a result, my hair is bigger. But the best thing of all is that no one notices. It’s a subtly different me – softer, chicer, more Scandi. Having been warned by senior stylist Linda Frawley that I may need to review the colours in my wardrobe, I’ve decided I’m sticking with shades of khaki, grey and navy. I’m happy to go the cool, northern European route. And I’m happiest of all to be celebrating my age, not hiding it.

One thing I have found is that grey hair requires different hair products:


1. A violet shampoo to keep the grey lovely and pale. I can highly recommend Brilliant Shampoo from White Hot Hair which I’ve been using for sometime and I’ve just bought some Philip Kingsley Pure Silver Shampoo to try, available HERE.

2. A good conditioner helps tame unruly grey hair. I’m still using my favourite Bumble & Bumble Super Rich Conditioner which is great (and expensive, so I’ll be finishing the bottle before trying anything new), available HERE.

3. For a special conditioning treatment, Philip Kingsley’s Elasticizer is ace, available HERE.

4.  A root lift, courtesy of Rush salon, available HERE.

5. Get the gloss: grey hair is coarser, drier and duller, so, an oil adds shine. I’m currently using White Hot Hair’s Lifeshine Oil, available HERE.

If I thought this photo was bad, the before shot is worse; read the full Guardian feature HERE. And there’s more on going grey in my book Style Forever.

85 thoughts on “Going Grey for the Guardian

  1. Hurray! Welcome to this wonderful club! I began greying at the age of 18 and dyed it right up until my mid 30s. I went for a pixie cut and let it grow out….this was years before it was fashionable! I have never looked back and to be honest it took years off me!

  2. I was a bleached blonde until a year or so ago. My hair was so dry and lifeless I had to keep it really short as it was almost like a straw mat if I tried to grow it longer. Now I’m grey and able to try different styles. I’m currently growing a quiff (at least I hope that’s what it is!) and am aiming for something Tilda Swinton-esque. I have definitely changed my colours, from bright and a bit ageing hippy to cool Scandi. I love neutrals and find they go well with my new hair. I’ve just bought some White Hot Hair conditioner but will try the shampoo. I love my new look and for me it’s not ageing at all. As I’m about to turn 60 I feel I’m entering a whole new phase of confidence – now channeling a magnificent matriarch elephant!!

  3. You look amazing Alison, as do you too Rebecca. I’m currently still dying – a wee bit lighter at ash brown But I am now really tempted to go for it – husband is not keen – but he’ll get used to the idea and the thought of not having to have 4 weekly roots done is a real motivator as is the idea of fewer chemicals on the scalp!

  4. I think the hair color is a wonderful match to your complexion, your eyes, everything! Is there anything better than the feeling your outside and inside aren’t fighting any more? And to top it all off that shade of light olive green is to die for…where did you find it??

  5. Alyson,I stopped colouring my hair as I couldn’t be near the chemicals. My hair is now naturally high
    Ugh ted and hairdressers are in awe. You look beautiful in your photos and inspired my hair style. Thank you for being you.

  6. I think you look lovely, Alison. I’m still having pale blonde highlights every 16 weeks because my hair is so patchy. It is a pretty silvery grey at the front but mouse brown at the back. I tried to grow it out and it looked horrible! I’ll be very happy to go grey when I’m grey all over, which will probably be when I’m 60 (I’m 50).

  7. Hi Alyson, I am staying blonde and with length to keep reliving the summer of 1978 – Australia. Love, love grey hair and your hair looks terrific . More unfortunate is us blondes who don’t go grey, just mousier. My mother has a fabulous grey streak like Yvonne De Carlo in the Munsters. Both brothers are tradies and swim in the surf so maintained sun bleached hair. No such luck for me. Thanks for the product recommendation especially the white hot oil. Yvonne

  8. Dear Alison, congratulations on this step forward – you will not regret it!! I think the picture is absolutely lovely and not at all worth of your harsh comments… I have gone white some years ago and would never go back – even my children love it and have forbidden me to ever even mention the slightest possibility of getting back to my wonderful chestnut colours… But let’s face it: it is a step for the brave, as more than once you will be treated like one of the invisible human beings which used to be a woman.
    What I really find difficult is the right hair cut. So easy to look mumsy and out of date with white hair – too short and you give the impression of either belonging to the troups which healthily walk the woods or of being on an eternal pilgrimage to one of the major holy places, where you need a goretex annorak and sensible shoes. But if it is too long, it might shout not “selfconfidence and personality”, but simple neglicence and a sort of surrender. So, a good hard look in the mirror and a dear hairdresser once again will be a livesaver.
    Let’s face it: growing older is not for sissies. And those who dare, DO win in the end.

  9. Alyson, you look great. I’m transitioning since January and have had complementary colours twice to help me along the way. I had scheduled an appointment for some highlights last week, the day before my son’s wedding? Guess what? I cancelled the appointment! My hair looks good although I have another few months to go before it is fully grey/white. I have had so many compliments I can scarcely believe it. My true skin tone is back. My eyes (green/hazel) are striking in a way I had forgotten. I’m so pleased to go ahead with this and really grateful to my ‘colourist’ Chloe for her support. Alyson, keep up the good work.

  10. I agree – definitely NOT granny hair

    At 46 I had my colour all cut out and launched my short grey hair cut – whilst my heart sinks every time someone offers me a seat on the bus overall I do love it – my dyed hair never really seemed to be ‘me’. Totally agree about the need for new hair products and the way you need some new colours to wear – some are definitely too cold for me now, and I have a new collection of grey/silver shoes. Plus I changed to a funkier hair style a few months ago as it was very easy for it to look, as my wonderful Paris hairdresser called it – ‘too classic’

  11. I suspect it may be easier to go from blonde to grey than brunette. I still dye my hair, can’t quite face the thought of going grey, and I am older than you. Is there a transitional stage you can go through or do you just have to be brave?

  12. I’m the odd one out here – 72 and only a tiny grey streak at the front of my dark hair. Perversely, I love grey hair, and its softening effect on older faces. I asked my hairdresser for some more grey bits round my face but you can’t dye hair grey, I gather. (Though I’m sure I saw Cara with grey hair: extensions? wig? Or maybe the technique hasn’t reached rural Wales where I live. Most of my farming neighbours cut each other’s hair in their kitchens!) Whatever, your new hair looks fabulous, AW. Thanks for sharing.

  13. I’ve stopped dying my hair and had the last of the old colour cut out and a lovely crop. I still have quite a bit if my natural red in there but find my real hair colour suits by skin tone better. I’ve added some paler but still warm tones to my wardrobe and Updated my makeup and feel better than ever. I’m 42 and I definitely look my age now and do feel that people’s perception of me has changed but I don’t care, I feel free and just a little rebellious!

  14. Beautiful, beautiful. I am inspired…but live far away across “the pond”. Does anyone have any recommendations for a trusted salon to help me make this transition…someplace close to Boston, Mass.. USA?

    1. My mum had a pure white streak in her jet-black hair as a young war worker in Ottawa. I love that photo. My hair greyed young too, but in a more diffuse way, though still, it is almost white on top and a lot of very dark hair underneath (in many people, it is exactly the opposite). I did colour it for many years, but got sick of it. Transition was difficult, with the three colours (dyed “reddish-black” hair fading to orange, the silver and the dark undyed hair. But it is over!

  15. Happily married to a silver fox, at 59 I was comfortable going grey. But 4 years later and 4 years of widowhood, I’m a brunette. Probably a reflection on society’s view of older women.

  16. Hello Alyson – You are so brave to make, what to my mind, is a huge transition. Bravo and it suits you. I am much older than you and “keep” my hair the reddish light brown of before. It’s a nuisance to keep up, but it wouldn’t suit my personality, yet to go grey. As I now work as a Pilates Teacher and teach people of all ages, I am not quite ready for the transition. I read your blog every time it arrives with much interest.
    Thank you, and bon week-end,

  17. Many thanks for the recommendations. I stopped my increasingly high maintenance regime several years ago anddiscovered pretty nice SILVER hair! Grey is rather a negative word but SILVER rather magical!

  18. You look great! I have no problem with growing older ,but have not such a beautiful hair as you. As natural blonde ,my hair goes mousier,as Yvonne said. I colour my hair the way you can’t actually see roots for months,so it’s something very similar to my “real”colour whatever it is,but better quality!

  19. Scandi! I love it! Having come from a family whose hair turns absolute silver around 40-50, I can tell you that it is a shock to go from the bottle to the silver. However, the silver is beautiful. I’m noticing your hair products–I’m currently using the Kevyn Murphy ‘violet’ conditioner with his moisturizing shampoo. I’ve also been using coconut oil for shine. I’m keeping my wardrobe of black and navy but did find that I had to change my makeup palette. Great article!
    You look beautiful!

  20. Gorgeous photo and brava to you for your transitioning. I am in the process too but have only about an inch of silver showing. And I am doing the highlight/lowlight thing as well, to help blend the sharp lines. Hooray for us. xo

  21. Excellent work! I also was interested to notice the 5 year transition that the Queen made in the photographs of her reign. The paler shade is also much kinder to those previously brunettes.

  22. I am a great fan of grey hair. Mine has been mostly grey for many years now (I still have peroxide highlights at the back to even it up a bit). I think grey is so much more flattering as we age. As our skin fades harsh dye can make us look much older and highlights the imperfections and wrinkles. At least that is my opinion. Strangely since going grey I seem to suite brighter medium toned colours.

  23. You look great ! Love the photo ! I applaud your attitude !

    BTW, received your book in the mail this week. So happy to finally have it !

  24. This makes me admire you all that much more. You look fabulous. I am 50 and have never dyed my hair, except once in college. I am probably about 50% gray now, and the rest mid tone brown. I definitely need to adjust makeup colors and haircare to make it all work, and skincare is super important, but I certainly feel better about my looks now than I did when I was in my 30s and chasing kids around and too tired to pay any attention to my looks. I also feel like going natural looks so much softer and younger, and encourage everyone who is on the fence about it to give it a try!

    Kudos to you for leading by great example!

  25. P.S.- I think perceptions of age have more to do with outdated hairstyles and wardrobes than with haircolor anyway. When I see a gorgeous gray haired lady with a killer do and outfit, “granny” or “invisible” is not the first thing that pops into my mind. I always think- beautiful lady, wish i looked like her.

    I was walking through the Chicago airport the other day and stopped in my tracks- saw a beautiful woman at the Starbucks- she had long flowing gray hair and a very chic outfit on. Invisible she was not. After reminding myself that staring is not polite, I made a mental note to myself to do all I can to look as great as that woman. No jealousy, nothing like that, just admiration, happiness that we older women are breaking out of the predetermined spot society seems to want to put us in. If she had dyed her hair, she would have been just another anonymous, invisible dark haired woman getting a latte, and I would have never seen her.

  26. I think you look absolutely fabulous ..!
    I’ve never dyed my hair , am 55 ,and now have developed white streaks in my previously long red hair … I feel and look better now than I did in my 30’s ,concentrating on having a great cut ( it’s still long by the way )
    I also get lots of compliments on my expensive highlights ,and am proud to reply that it’s all natural!

  27. I am not ..at the moment … interested in going gray but you are my guide and trail blazer on this journey. You have shown me that at any stage beauty is possible and perhaps we are more beautiful as we age. Thank you Alyson!

  28. Lovely photo, you look ace.
    Have you tried Klorane shampoo for grey hair? Its cruelty-free (as a fellow veggie I know you care) and Boots stock it. My Grandma had the most incredible silver hair and used it for years. xxx

  29. I stopped coloring 3 years ago. Now I’m about 50/50 mousy brown and grey. My stylist, and everyone says it’s looks wonderful and wish their hair was graying like mine.

    My mother still has some dark brown all over head and she’s in her late 70’s now. It looks like I may be following her path.

    Thanks for the product recommendation. I thought my fine, curly hair was finicky ….geez, now that I’m graying I’m switching up my shampoo and conditioner brands again.

    I’d love to see your new hair color, but I think you and your hair color au natural look beautiful.

  30. Am among the naturally gray…get lots of compliments on my hair–many from men…Seeing oneself in a large photo can be a shock, but have found that in person we look a lot better when animated with our personalities coming through. A good haircut makes all the difference with any hair color. I find a person very attractive who isn’t fighting their age. Radiating joy is so much more beautiful than gobs of makeup, hair dye, and the other indignities which women seem willing to subject themselves.

  31. Oh, wow — absolutely gorgeous. I almost wish my hair would just GO grey & stop messing about. I let it grow out about a year ago & it was as bad as I suspected: think week old dishwater with a lot of grey streaks. I decided I had to go back to colouring: either grey, or back to blonde. I’ve gone back to my blonde roots (no pun intended) but do it myself after years of salon colouring did incredible damage. I’m lucky — I’m in my 60s & still have thick, healthy, shiny, naturally curly hair. I use a light ash blonde and the grey still comes through but blends in so it looks like sun-streaks & I don’t think I’m deluding myself when I say it looks very natural. I use serious conditioners weekly & Moroccan oil for shine & to keep the frizz down. It’s very full and I use as little “product” as possible so it moves naturally (I wear it shoulder-length & when I’m outside, I want it to move with the wind, not just sit there). My mother & grandmother didn’t have completely grey hair until they were well into the 70s, so I suspect I’ll be playing about with colour for some years yet. I can truthfully say I’m not avoiding going grey, I’m just avoiding going badly grey.

  32. Brave Alyson – you look fabulous. I’m struggling to persuade my hairdresser that I want to go from brunette to grey – and you may just have inspired me to find a new hairdresser!

  33. Thank you for writing such an inspirational blog (and a great book). It has taken me 2 years to transition to my grey streaks. But I’m lucky. I’ve had the support from a great group of silver sisters on Gray Cafe. It is a tough journey but so worth it. I’m not ashamed of my age and I’m not bending to society’s obsession with youth.

  34. I think you will be surprised at how many of us are out there…..I cut mine very short 25 years ago (at 43) and stopped being a bottle blond. I love it and it suits me. Maybe ask your readers to send selfies of themselves with grey/white hair. It would be fun to see real people (other than celebs) who love being real. One thing to keep in mind, your wardrobe may need a tweak depending on what color your grey turns out to be. I can’t wear beige any longer as it washes me out (yellow-beige). Black, grey and taupe are my go to colors. Congrats and carry on!

  35. I am an advocate for ageing naturally- I think Gray can be stunning. All I will say is I believe for any woman to truly look her best is is to make sure she wears her right colours to suit her skintone. Wearing colour tones that do not match your skintone, only makes the skin look sallow and dull, and your lines deeper. Wearing the right colours makes the skin look radiant and it does softens your lines. Yes, I know ‘Colours’ is so from the 80’s, but it is one of the best ageing/beauty secrets there is! Who needs Botox and face lifts, when all you need to do is wear your right colours!

  36. On this very day I turn 61 and proudly wear my silver hair cut past my shoulders, much like Lisa’s actually.
    Aveda makes a wonderful purple shampoo and “It’s a Ten” leave-in conditioner is de-frizzing.
    You are an inspiration and you look stunning.

  37. alison, i feel so lucky to have met you in person. i say the gray looks fantastic! you look beautiful. i’ve never looked back and when i think of the money and time spent to color my hair well…. i think you’d look beautiful with a pretty red lipstick! x

  38. UYou and your hair look great. Nice high and low lights. I mean, what is natural? I tried to grow out my red hair to grey. It was a disaster! I had ugly iron grey in front and reddish-mousy brown in back. I looked like I had given up.
    Now, like most white women of a certain age, I am a streaky, tousled blonde—easier to maintain the roots.
    I am so glad to have your thoughts on fashion. Waiting for your book to arrive from Amazon.

  39. You have the fortitude to show the world who you are. The rest are details but the essential element is your resolve. After many years of apologizing for who I am, I am tentatively stating that I belong where I am and who I am. Next I will be stronger in my declaration. My congratulations on your bravery.

  40. You look beautiful and a bit like a Hitchcock-ian blonde; icy and mysterious. It is becoming length worthy of someone with innate style. My grandmothers hair just got more gorgeous as she went silver and I hope I’m as lucky.

  41. Great. … I too am on the verge of the BIG change. . ! Next 2 weeks will see me go from dark to grey. . It needs courage so I hope I like it straight away!

  42. Alison, congrats on your decision. You look wonderful. I did it about 10 years or so ago. It was an adjustment and the growing out period can shake your decision every day. I had visions of white hair since that seemed to be the color of my grow out at the roots when I was coloring. But it is many shades of gray, light brown, white, subtle only nature can place high and low lights. The texture did seem to change but then it settles into its self and now it it much healthier and shiner. I use Aveda Blue Malva conditioner, there is also a shampoo, every other day. Note to all that are thinking about transitioning, if your current stylist/salon is not supportive, find a new one because it makes a world of difference. I also get a clear gloss treatment every 8 weeks or so from my salon. Getting a slightly edgier/current cut is important. Your clothing color choices do change with grey hair and a brighter lipstick really helps. Returned home last night from vacation in Italy and your book was waiting, so planning to sit and read it this weekend.

  43. You look beautiful!!! I love how the color highlights your eyes. Last year I stopped coloring my hair and let it grow out naturally. It’s salt and pepper and frankly, I rock it and have gotten more compliments than when I colored my hair. We have earned our grey hair, own it!!

  44. You are chic. You know what works for you. The gray looks good and healthy, and you always have a very lovely cut. Not everyone can pull it off with such elegance but maybe with you as role model they can get some help.

  45. That’s with no make-up? You have perfect lashes – I’m so envious! You look lovely, and you’ll find it’s so nice not to have to keep up with hair color every few weeks. I call those odd, kinky hairs the crazy greys. They do add a little texture – and height when they stick straight up and float around like a halo!

  46. Alyson, your hair looks wonderful. To be honest, I think you look a bit tired, and that is doubtless simply because you were, after a long week labouring in front of a computer screen. At least your eyes haven’t turned pink as mine sometimes do when I have to pull very long hours on rush jobs. That is normal for women or men, young, middle aged or old.

  47. You look like a real FAB woman and an inspiration to us all. I am the only person in my immediate circle who doesn’t color her hair and it sometimes feels quite lonely. But nice when strangers comment on how nice it looks! GO GREY WITH GRACE!

  48. I did the same thing about a year and a half ago, in my mid 40s. Sometimes people assume that I’m older than I am, but that’s their problem, not mine. More often I’m asked who does my colour … I usually have a super-short pixie, but right now I have a short asymmetrical bob which I don’t mind, but I’ll probably go back to the pixie soon. I absolutely do not miss having to have my hair coloured every three weeks – I spend the money I save on art, clothes, eating out or whatever I feel like. It’s fab.

  49. Your hair looks lovely. I envy you that colour. I am in my late 60s and my hair is still mainly brown so I have blonde highlights and mid tones added to it every 2-3 months,to give it some ‘life’. My friend has recently decided to go completely grey and she looks fab,too.

  50. You look fantastic! I grew my grey hair out about 4 years ago and am so glad I did. Not only do I much prefer it to my old, dyed colour (or even my natural mousey colour), but I love that I am in some way, like more and more women, striking out for women being able to look how they want and not have to conform to the pressure of society to look young for as long as possible. The more I look around in the street, the more of us ‘silver sisters’ I realise there are out there! I also realise now that grey hair can be beautiful, cool, and fashionable.

  51. Funny, when I went natural, I thought I would have to reinvent my wardrobe colors as well, but I’ve found that to be less of a “thing” than most websites and whatnot will have you believe. The makeup was the thing that I relayed to work with. Really paring things down, keeping it as natural as possible, and minimising the bronzer seemed to be the way forward for me. Your hair is going to be a very cool ombre effect while it grows out. I resisted the urge to highlight or color while I transitioned because my hair is so dark naturally and I will have a lot of dark hair, but yours looks spectacular with the silvery crown!

  52. You look great and after finishing your book, (I read it in a day), I’m going gray. At 62 I feel it is the right thing plus I like what several people said about showing young women that getting older is not a curse. That just because there is snow on the roof doesn’t mean there isn’t any fire in the hearth. American saying don’t know if it is known across the pond. Thanks for letting us know that we can grow older without getting “old”. Loved your book!

  53. Bravo! Been there, done that and never going back! I love that my silver stands out as unique and proud of having made the decision and toughed out the growing out without cutting!

  54. Put a smile on that photo and you’d look stunning! My hair has been gradually going grey for close to two decades and I have chosen not to colour it. I sometimes wish that I could wake up one morning with silver hair like yours, but I’m often complimented on what I call my “silver highlights” so I’ll continue to go au natural for now!

  55. Dear Alyson,
    I think you’d look great whatever colour your hair was.! I’d love to see a picture of you smiling, though- you’d look even more stylish!


  56. For what it’s worth, I think you look beautiful. Age is not something to hide, rather it is something to celebrate. What I see is a very attractive woman, someone interesting because she has seen something of life, had experiences, acquired knowledge and become someone who would be fun to spend time with. Fabulous, congratulations you, the hair colour is very sexy according to both me and my man.

  57. Thank you for sharing your beautiful photo. You look like the rest of us and it’s inspiring. With hair growing out after chemo, I can honestly say my new silver hair is the best thing to come out of treatment (well aside from hopefully knocking out cancer) and is total hair liberation!

  58. A day of seeing life in a new way. I celebrated my 50th wedding anniversary September 11th. I also decided to let my grey come in naturally, though it has a blond cellophane that lightens with each shampoo. Your hair is lovely and must look pretty in a breeze.

  59. Just had to add my support for your decision to go grey. I’m doing it too, and it’s liberating. Letting go of the young me is hard but it’s easier when I actually embrace the not-so-young me instead of pushing her away and trying to cover her up. And I love your photo.

  60. I think your hair is fantastic! I decided two months ago after 23 years of trying to cover up (albeit unsuccessfully) my grey hair to just embrace it. I’ll admit that I am not brave enough to go completely cold turkey & let it all grow out without the added help of highlights, I think the skunk look would tip me over the edge, but reading your story & seeing your pictures strengthens my confidence & motivation to keep on transitioning, thankyou!

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