The New Daily

Grey or nay? The perils of ditching the hair dye

Embracing grey hair is something we all must do at some point in our lives – but when should you give up the fight? Kirstie Clements investigates.

Jamie Lee Curtis

Jamie Lee Curtis has embraced the grey. Photo: Getty

“Should I start to let myself go grey?” I said to my hairdresser Bruce the other day.

He’d been on holidays and my grey hairs had started to show through, so I’d used a home dye packet with a not-so-successful result.

My hair looked overly black with dull, matte patches that looked ageing against my skin.

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I’m not a person who likes to spend time in the salon – I fidget during a blow dry, and I hate waiting for streaks to develop.

I’d been watching my friend Michelle transition into total grey and she looked incredible so I’d decided maybe I should too.

One of my sons had noticed some grey in the front of my hair and said, “Cool. Let it grow out. You’d look great with silver streaks”.

I thought, yes, why not, I’m going to embrace the natural ageing process. Let’s forget this Real Housewives artifice and be a confident, modern, feminist earth mother.

Hillary Clinton, Helen Mirren and Diane Keaton are going grey gracefully. Photo: Getty

Hillary Clinton, Helen Mirren and Diane Keaton are going grey gracefully. Photo: Getty

But Bruce looked at me as if I had said, “Let’s experiment with some blonde nylon hair extensions”. “No,” he said firmly.

“You’d look old. You don’t have the right hair.”

The reason I’ve been going to Bruce all these years is that he knows way more than I do about my hair. Whenever I go in I say, “I don’t care, just do what you want”. And then I don’t look up from my phone until he’s picking up the hand mirror to show me the back.

“But Michelle looks great…” I protested before he quickly cut me off.

“One, she is only forty. Of course she looks fabulous. Two, she has really great, thick hair,” he retorted.

They were very good points. Often when the media depicts images of women who look beautifully grey its because they’ve gone prematurely grey. The waitress in the café next to the salon was letting herself go grey, her thick hair swept up in a messy black and silver streaked bun. But she was in her early thirties with gorgeous olive skin.

“There is a lot you have to consider if you want to go completely grey,” Bruce continued.

“Men can carry off salt and pepper, but it’s more difficult with women. Unless you are one of those women blessed with thick black hair and an olive or dark complexion – then silver streaks look gorgeous. But if your hair is fine or if you are mousy, then it can add 20 years.”

I think he was now referring to me.

John Slattery, Will Ferrell and George Clooney are able to carry off the salt-and-pepper look. Photo: Getty

John Slattery, Will Ferrell and George Clooney are able to carry off the salt-and-pepper look. Photo: Getty

It was interesting to watch Michelle transition into grey. She had the sort of hair that turned completely grey while she was still in her thirties. She spent years having it dyed dark brown but the root touch-up was endless – her pure pragmatism made her decide to let it go completely.

She discovered growing it out was not easy, as the first stages make you look, and feel, vaguely unkempt, as if you’ve forgotten to go to the hair colourist.

People are not sure whether to mention it or not and often Michelle used to just open a conversation with, “And yes, by the way, I am growing my hair out”.

Now, a few years on, it has turned into the most fabulous shoulder-length silver bob, beautiful against her pale skin and blue eyes.

Meanwhile, I’m back at the basin.

For more from Kirstie Clements, click here

  • Carol Foster

    I’m pro-grey. Visit the “Going Gray, Looking Great!” Facebook page. It’s an easily accessible and interesting starting point. See if you can find pics of someone who has your colouring. If you’d still like to grow out your colour, don’t worry about your hair being fine. All you need is a supportive hairdresser and a good haircut. You will have more money to spend on what makes you happy and/or secures you a better life for the time when you have no choice but to be grey. It’s also a fab feeling to be free of the increasingly relentless colouring routine and to never again dislike the breeze ruffling your hair and exposing regrowth. And whatever your choice, you can change your mind as many times as you like. It’s just another “hair thing” you’re contemplating, as we do throughout our lives. Have fun flirting with the idea for a while!

  • Athinker

    Ah, vanity.

    When I see a woman who is clearly of mature years, but with blatantly non-grey hair, I wonder what she’s scared of.

    Be proud of what comes naturally.

  • Michael JAMES

    Don’t fade, don’t pretend, go the full electric. I started going grey in my 20s and have been playing with colour ever since. Just like the monkey on the Cocoa Pops packet says, “It’s all pure and natural”, Henna.

  • Chester Wellington

    Ideas for future articles: ‘Why deaf and incontinent is the new sexy’; ‘How to pull off the osteoporosis hump’; and, ‘Yes to death: is it time to let yourself slip away?’

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