I decided to allow my hair to gray naturally. This of course would be a non-issue if I were a man, but as a woman, this decision elicits all kinds of reactions, from “OMG you’re letting yourself go!” to “You go girl!” and anything in between.
I saw my first silver strands when I was in my twenties, and pretty much ignored them. By the time I was 30, I had quite a few, and I felt much too young for gray hair, so I started dyeing my hair. I hated it. Hated the time it took away from other activities, hated putting harsh chemicals in my hair, and I hated the way it damaged my hair, which used to be smooth and shiny and became frizzy and dull.
A few months ago, at the age of 38, I looked in the mirror and I knew that I was aging. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not an idiot. I realize I’m an attractive woman. But the aging process has begun and enough of the signs are there, such as skin discoloration and laugh lines, that gray hair seems completely appropriate. It’s difficult to explain, but the same silver strands that felt so out of place at age 30 now seem very natural, part of who I am, of who I am becoming.
But my main reason for deciding to stop dyeing my hair was the shame. As long as I was coloring, covering the silver strands, I felt ashamed of them, and since my hair is naturally very dark, they would show fairly quickly, just a couple of weeks after coloring. I would look in the mirror and fret over those roots, trying to decide what to do until my next coloring. I hated that – I hated feeling ashamed. Covering those roots was like covering who I really am – a woman near forty, no longer in my twenties, and I didn’t want to feel ashamed, I didn’t want my inevitable aging to be something that I needed to cover and hide.
So I stopped, about six months ago I think, and while I know that the photos here don’t really show the grays (I actually like to call them silvers, they really are sparkly), maybe in the photo below, if you look closely you see the silver strands, I can assure you that in real life they are quite noticeable, especially because the rest of the hair is so dark. In fact they are noticeable enough that people make comments and ask me about them (a common reaction is, “Wow, Vered, I haven’t realized you have so much gray hair! You really should color. Your skin is much too young, you look much too young to have gray hair.”)
Just like countless other women who have stopped covering their gray hair, I feel relief. It’s good to be free of a monthly process that I absolutely despised, to be free of the worries over whether my roots show, to be free to be who I am and to show my aging and to be OK with that.
But there are also worries, and just like countless other women, and men too actually, the worries are not at all on a personal level – my family and friends accept me either way and my husband still can’t get enough of me :). But on a professional level, you can’t help but worry that you might be labeled “old” or “too old,” that looking older will damage your career – especially in a few years when I have more and more “salt” and less and less “pepper” in my hair.
Am I critical of people who choose to cover gray hair? Of course not. This is a very personal choice, and each of us needs to do what feels right to them, what feels natural. Just a short couple of years ago, if you suggested that I stop coloring my hair, I would have looked at you as if you were nuts.
At the time, it felt like coloring was the right choice. Now, I feel that letting my hair gray naturally is the right choice – for me.