Going grey when you’re over-50 and female is more than just a hashtag on social media. The change (of hair colour) is both a political and psychological issue. But then growing up in the 1970s at the tail end of punk, I’ve always pushed against the pressure to conform and look a certain way. At 54, I know I’ll never look 30 again and I don’t want to. The aim now is to look good, not young.
When I set out, the Grey-volution feels like an interesting experiment – will my natural hair colour be snowy white like my mum’s or steely grey like Manhattan Brother’s? No idea, but I’m determined to find out.
Initially, I have a mixture of lowlights (to kill off the brassy blonde) and highlights (bleach to lighten the hair and make the grey look more uniform), but after a few attempts I realise that all I’m doing is putting more colour in and decide to ditch the hair dye completely. The hardest part of the transition is the ‘Badger Stripe’ phase – when the regrowth is several inches long and difficult to ignore. I waver the first time I reach this point, have my roots done and instantly regret it. But second time round, I brazen it out. Friends swear by Colour Wow’s Root Cover Up – and Josh Wood’s new collection of Root Concealers – but I go it alone, tie my hair up and avoid looking at the back of my head in the mirror. Fortunately, the Mallen Streak of white at the front of my hair helps deflect attention away from what’s going on backstage.
Eventually I reach a point where my hair is mostly natural with a couple of inches of dye at the ends – a kind of faux balayage effect. It’s been a long process but I’m on the home stretch, at last. This summer will be two years of going Gronde (grey-blonde). To celebrate, I’ve started using purple shampoo – White Hot Hair’s Brilliant Shampoo and Pro:Voke’s Touch of Silver brightening shampoo and conditioner.
Going au naturel is a positive move. My hair is in better condition and the colour suits my skin tone more than bottle blonde. Less trips to the hairdressers, more compliments: win-win. Surprisingly my hair is finer, softer and more flyaway than expected and so when I want to add oomph I reach for John Frieda’s Luxurious Volume Touchably Full Shampoo and Conditioner or Sans Ceuticals Volumising Hair Wash and Hydratant. Or muss it up with a smidgen of Batiste dry shampoo or Bumble & Bumble’s Surf Spray. And guess what – turns out the new natural colour is less ageing than the dye job, after all. While I do not have a beautiful head of shining silver hair, the tone has a chic Scandi vibe and I feel more like me. Pleased that with age, I have found the confidence to stand my ground. To choose wrinkles over Botox and fillers, style over fashion and natural grey (ish) hair over a dye-job.
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This post is based on a piece I wrote on grey hair for Sunday Times Style magazine.