The Ultimate Guide to Going Gray
*aka: How to go gray without losing your shit OR yourself in the process...
After nearly 20 years of coloring my hair, I ditched the dye in November 2019 –– mostly to save money, but also to see what my natural shade (grays and all) actually is –– and I’m happy to report: the grays are here to stay! It wasn’t all roses, though –– those first few (read: SEVERAL) months were ROUGH! Thankfully the transition grew easier (see what I did there?!) as the months passed and others joined the movement, albeit by necessity, thanks to the pandemic.
Either way, it’s been fun to see so many women embracing their natural locks and leaning into what mother nature intended, regardless of their age or reasoning.
As someone who’s nearly two years in –– and because I know it can be hard to stick to it in the beginning –– I wanted to share some helpful tips and resources, what to expect, and encouragement for any other women considering coming over to the dark...errr light side, and letting their silver strands shine through. So without further ado, I give you: The Ultimate Guide to Going Gray...
THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO GOING GRAY: a quick overview
I’m taking this back to my high school English class days and hitting you with the WHO, WHAT, HOW, WHEN and WHY of going gray! In this guide, you'll learn:
WHO this is for
WHAT to expect
HOW to cope
Resources (helpful Podcast episode + finding your community)
Owning your gray
Products that helped me
WHEN you can expect to see an improvement (i.e. approximate timeline for outgrowth)
WHY it’s worth it (i.e. the benefits)
let's get to it...
WHO THIS IS FOR
Women of ALL ages and backgrounds who are considering or just embarked on their own going gray journey.
WHAT TO EXPECT
Tears. Lots and lots of tears (like, the ugly crying kind!). I’m slightly joking, but also not. In all honesty, I was surprised by how emotional this process was for me, at least in the beginning.
When I started this journey I was 36 years old and hadn’t realized how attached my identity was to my hair. As someone who is young(ish), healthy and fit, I didn’t identify with having THIS MUCH GRAY. But alas, I do (and have for quite some time) –– it’s just been meticulously concealed for years and years.
Intentionally going gray forced me to release the notion that gray equates to “being old” (something I DEFINITELY don’t believe now) and the fear that it would age me and make me –– a still single, late thirties something (gasp!) –– look less desirable to my male counterparts, who somehow automatically get an “ooh, that’s sexy” hall pass when it comes to going gray prematurely.
Again, these were personal misconceptions and insecurities that I had to work through, but I bring them up because you might experience your own emotional triggers during the grow-out process that might also lead to similar identity crisis cries, so I want you to remember the following…
The first few (okay several) months kinda suck
It’s okay to cry about it, in fact, I highly encourage it (if the mood strikes)
You are not your hair color and you’ve probably been through worse things (like a pandemic!!!)
Journaling about what comes up for you –– fears, anxieties, insecurities, emotions –– can help you process those feelings and even get to the root (no pun intended) of where they’re really coming from.
Men actually love it! Not that you or I need their approval or applause, but it was certainly a nice surprise to receive so many compliments, both from my male friends on IG and strangers in passing who took notice of my new “natural highlights.”
As with anything that goes against societal norms, there will inevitably be naysayers. The reality is, some people just won't get it and may even try to discourage you from going gray "prematurely." In my experience, though, those who disapproved were projecting from their own insecurities around aging and what's considered "beautiful," rather than reflecting on what was best/felt right for me.
The grow-out process is temporary and will not last forever (I promise it gets easier!)
HOW TO COPE
Listen to this podcast episode: Going Gray is a Power Move (it’s soooo good!)
Find your community! If you’re on Instagram, search the following hashtags and profiles for a TON of “going gray” inspiration and camaraderie with women of allll ages, stages, style and backgrounds…
HASHTAGS: goinggray | grombre | silversisters | ditchthedye | grayhairdontcare | graying grayhairmovement | gogrombre | grombrehair | silvertransition | grayhair growingoutthegray | saltandpepperhair | naturalhighlights
Own it and talk about it! No need to clear your social calendar for two years or hide under hats. Talking and sharing about your decision to go gray will not only help you emotionally integrate the change in your appearance –– and let go of any shame you might feel –– it will also get people excited to follow along on your journey. Plus, by owning it (rather than trying to hide it), you level up your self-worth and trust me when I say, the universe (and those watching) will take notice! Remember: you made the decision to go gray, so wear it proud and FLAUNT THAT SHIT!
Products that helped me during my gray transition:
Kristin Ess Signature Hair Gloss (I used the Smoky Topaz, since my natural shade is a medium brown)
oVertone (temporary) color conditioners – they have SUPER fun colors and your basic ones (blonde, brown, black), too. I tried the Rose Gold for Brown Hair Coloring Conditioner and loved the pop of pink it gave me, especially on my lighter end pieces from previous highlights! I also tried the Chocolate Brown Coloring Conditioner, which surprisingly toned down the gray quite a bit!
COLOR WOW Root Cover Up – All Day Hair Color Touch-Up Powder – this stuff worked great for the first 1-2 months while my grays were just starting to grow in. Once it got to more than an inch of outgrowth, though, it was too much surface area to try and conceal with a powder.
Coco & Eve Like A Virgin Hair Masque or another really good hair mask, because the more nourished and healthier your hair is, the better it will look!
Hats! Okay, I know I said not to hide under hats for the duration of your grow-out, but there will inevitably be days where you just can’t stand the look of your hair, so invest in some cute hats and/or beanies (depending on the season) to get you through. Trust me: you’ll thank me later! P.S. Here’s me in my favorite hat by West Perro and a favorite beanie from Target (no longer available, but there are a bunch of cute ones here).
Wear a cute turban headband or head scarf (example here)
Wear your hair curly, instead of straight! The subtle wave will help minimize the varying shades.
As your gray hair grows in a bit more, play around with your eye makeup, using shades of gray, taupe, plum and olive (depending on your eye color and/or skin tone).
WHEN YOU CAN EXPECT TO SEE AN IMPROVEMENT
Everyone’s hair is obviously different –– from the texture, style, damage and growth speed to the amount of gray you actually have –– so the length of time it takes for your grays to completely grow out may differ from mine. It wasn’t until about month seven that I started embracing my grays and actually liking them, but see below for a rough timeline with visual references (linked images/videos) of my grow-out stages...
*photos above were from a photoshoot in July 2020 (8 months into growing gray)
Month 3.5 – my grays were wiry AF and starting to really pop against my dark hair (not in a good way)
Month 5 – my grays were two inches long and still a bit wiry, but getting better
Month 8 – my grays were less wiry, laid flat and would finally tuck behind my ears (halle-freakin-lujah!)
1 year in – I made it to my goal, WOOHOO! By this time I had really embraced my grays and was excited to keep going...
Month 20 (July 2021) – after nearly two years of growing out the length (my last cut was September 2019, two months prior to beginning the gray transition), I chopped off 12 FREAKING INCHES!!! Now, I only have about five inches or so until my gray is completely grown out. YAY!
P.S. Below are some recent snapshots of the new do AND my latest stage of "growing gray"...see how nicely it's blending in?!
WHY IT’S WORTH IT (i.e. the benefits of going gray)
Now that we've covered the possible challenges with going gray, let's talk about the PROS, aka: the MANY reasons you should totally tough it out and stick to your going gray guns, no matter how strong the temptation is to dye it back to whatever color you’ve been masquerading around in for the better part of your adult life…
It’s a HUGE money save! No joke, I have saved nearly $1,200 annually by ditching the dye! And here’s the kicker: I’d been dying my hair consistently (meaning root touch-ups and/or highlights) every 4-6 weeks for roughly 12 years, which doesn’t count the 6 or so years prior where I had intermittently dyed or highlighted it. THAT’S ALMOST $15,000 Y’ALL!!!
It’s a HUGE time save! Think about it: every time you sit in that chair, it’s at least 2, if not 3 or 4 HOURS...every 4-6 weeks (or more frequently, depending on how much gray you have and how fast those fuckers come in)!!!
It’s liberating! I know, gag me, right?! But it is. Embracing your natural, silver stranded self is not for the faint of heart, but holy crap is it incredibly freeing when you do. You just gotta get through the awkward grow-out phase first, i.e. the time it takes for your grays to stop being wiry little fuckers, refusing to step in line with the others (your natural, non-gray hairs), start laying flat and blending in. Trust me: they’ll get there and so will you. YOU GOT THIS, YOU GORGEOUS GRAY-HAIRED BEAUTY, YOU!!!
It’s incredibly flattering! I don’t know why or how, but it is. Just consult any of the aforementioned hashtags on Instagram for proof. You’ll find THOUSANDS of women at various stages of their #grombre journey and despite each of them having different skin tones, eye color, gray shades and bone structure, they all –– EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM –– look stunning! It’s like nature knows best or something (wink, wink).
Okay, my going gray gals...I hope this helps you feel less alone and more empowered to take on the grays, one inch at a time! Let me know if you have any questions in the comments below or you can send me an email here or DM me on IG.
Good luck –– you've totally got this!!!