Here you are; you’ve decided to go naturally gray. You plop yourself down in your long-term hair stylist’s chair, you declare your intentions excitedly only to be met with that deadpan look in the mirror. We all know the one…the why-on-earth-would-you-stop-dyeing-your-hair face. Worse yet, they begin telling you all the reasons you should not grow your silver hair out: you are too young to stop dyeing, you are too pretty to stop dyeing, you are too single, you are too professional, you are changing careers, you are too pale or too olive complexion, and et cetera ad nauseam. This is when you know, you and your hair stylist are probably over. Sadly, unless they are very understanding and can change their tune to being supportive through your transition to silver, you will find yourself being judged every time you sit in their chair. No one wants that on the regular.
It is hard enough finding a competent stylist just for a great hair cut, and if you are like me, it is even harder to achieve with curly hair. Making the choice to stop dyeing takes courage, patience, and will power especially when you see the demarcation line emerge, this is where a supportive stylist will be your greatest asset. Some can go cold-turkey, just patiently watching the silver grow out and the dye get steadily trimmed off, others feel they need more support.
Finding a supportive stylist for growing out your silver hair, may take some effort but it is so worth it in the end. So here are a few of my stories, nightmares, challenges, and how I found the right stylist to help me finish my grow-out journey. Ideally, there are a few key questions to ask, I’ll get to those in a moment.
In the beginning, when I first transitioned my white streak over my left eye, I had a great stylist who I’d been with for a few years. She jumped right on board and highlighted that bit of hair for me. I grew it out eventually deciding to grow out all my gray hair. As luck would have it, she had a baby, and life whisked her away to mommy-hood. Not so lucky for me, now I had to start all over finding another hairdresser…sigh!
I Hit the Street Looking for the One
One would think, in a city with five beauty schools, it would be easy to find a new stylist. However, it is anything but easy. Honestly, I believe it is because there are so many beauty schools in Albuquerque; loads of new stylists coming fresh out of school wielding scissors and color bowls, ready to change the world. In turn, this means, I may sit down in a seasoned stylist’s chair or sit down with a scissor happy newbie. No offense newbies, you have to start somewhere, and some of you were born with natural talent. Even the best of the best can screw up, I drove 40 minutes across town one time to a referral from a friend; he confessed halfway through my hair cut he was drunk…sigh!
Ulta Needs Sensitivity Training for Their Employees
The worst reactions about my gray hair choice have been stylists, oddly enough at Ulta. I assumed Ulta would be a judgment-free zone where hair and makeup are concerned, since they literally sell everything under the sun in the beauty industry. Early in my journey, I went into Ulta looking for a curly styling product. A stylist came over to help me…she immediately looked at my demarcation line and exclaimed, “You are too young to be going gray!”
My patent response has usually been, “Evidently, my hair didn’t get that memo!” I started dyeing my hair in my late teens, when I would say I was getting my roots done; someone would invariable say, “you’re too young to be going gray.” Turns out, I would need the same response for the opposite reason when I stopped dyeing…sigh!
The next incident in Ulta flabbergasted me. I was fully transitioned at this point; my curls were in shock with no color, so I needed help. A very nice stylist had been helping me for a while when another stylist walked up. Her hair was dark spiky dyed hair with bright, bleached, chunky, and fried highlights, she was probably in her late 50’s. For me, while her hair was cute and spunky, it was also stark and startling, but hey that is her choice…I didn’t say anything. She however, didn’t feel the same reserve about my hair, “Can I say something to you?”
I should have immediately said, “Yes, of course, as long as it is kind and supportive!” Instead, I just nodded. She then proceeded to very exaggeratedly state, “You are WAY too YOUNG to have that color hair.”
I replied with my normal response, “Evidently, my hair didn’t get that memo!” Yet she continued. I explained to her I started graying at 13, I had dyed it for over 20 years, and I didn’t want to continue dumping chemicals on my head until I was in my 90’s. She just kept shaking her head. I walked away. Shocked and appalled. I wasn’t even angry; I just couldn’t believe how much societal bullshit she had laid on me…sigh!
Gray Blending…I Should Have Just Left It Alone
When I was about five months into my transition, I decided some gray blending would be helpful. Olaplex was fresh on the scene. I started calling around looking for anyone who knew about it. I discovered right away Olaplex was still so new, not many even knew what it was. I was nervous about bleaching anything, as the last time I had had highlights all over my head, I sat for three hours for a multi-tonal highlight job which left me with green hair…I immediately re-dyed red the next day. I lost that stylist because she didn’t want to correct it…sigh!
I found a woman who said she knew about Olaplex, I decided I would have her trim my hair first, then while she had her hands in my hair discuss how I could proceed with the transition. She was 20 minutes late for the appointment, came in, made me wait another ten minutes, I was about to leave when she finally came to get me. I sat down in her chair, told her I would like a trim, and I would like to discuss help transitioning. She began my trim, as I told her what I was doing, she kept saying, “so you want to dye your hair?” I kept saying, “no, I want to do a blending and then grow it out.” At some point, she brought me a color book so I could pick a color. She meant for my whole head…sigh!
I gave up on the idea of using Olaplex. Later, I found a Ouidad salon, which is a brand specialized in curly hair. I asked the young man, who answered the phone, all the right questions. I felt good about it so I made my appointment. I showed up only to find he was not there; he had given my appointment to someone else. I talked with her for a bit, she seemed to know her stuff, so I stayed. She did a nice job with low-lights in two different colors for blending my gray with my dyed hair; however, she went all the way to the root, which I had asked her not too. Each chunk of low-light was a starting over point in my grow out…sigh!
I Found THE One
I realized about a month later, I must find someone who would at least help me with trimming off the color regularly. So here I go again, researching and calling around to see if I could find a great stylist, instead of cutting my own hair. I found this amazing picture of a gorgeous head of gray hair being styled for a wedding. I called the salon on the spot. Crazy Jane was booked for months out and going on vacation…sigh!
Walk-ins Might Be Welcome but It’s Risky
I did something drastic, something I normally would never do…I walked into a salon and asked the first person who was available to chop off my hair into an A-line cut. She got the chopped part right. Oh my heavens, I had hair that was ten inches long and hair that was three inches long…none of it made any sense…sigh!
Trust the Crazy
The next day, I called back to Crazy Jane and made an appointment for her next available. In the meantime, I sucked it up, grabbed some scissors, and cleaned up the chopped up mess the best I could. Then I waited for two months for my appointment. It was a long wait, but it was so worth it. I ended up finding the gold standard in hair stylists. Jane has been amazingly patient, understanding, and supportive. No judgment, no rudeness, never late, she has truly learned me, learned my hair, and was the voice on month 20 who declared, “Your last bit of dye just hit the floor!” …SIGH!!!
Finding the right stylist is like the story of the girl who keeps telling her mom during weeks of looking for a puppy at the shelter that she is looking for “puppy size.” After a while the mother is exasperated and tells her you have to stop worrying about the size, but the girl persists. Until she picks up that last puppy and holds him just a little longer than all the rest.
“Mom, that’s it! I found the right puppy! He’s the one! I know it!” She screamed with joy. “It’s the puppy size!”
“But it’s the same size as all the other puppies you held over the last few weeks,” Mom said.
“No…not size… The sighs. When I held him in my arms, he sighed,” she said.
“Don’t you remember? When I asked you one day what love is, you told me love depends on the sighs of your heart. The more you love, the bigger the sigh!”
All You Have to Do Is Ask
The truth is, we’ve all been through similar unbelievable scenarios with hair stylists. We all need a go-to guide to acquiring the right hairdresser for our individual needs.
Interviewing your potential new stylist is important. They yield scissors, thinners, razors, clippers, dryers and hot irons as their tools of artistry, one mistake and we all know the consequences: weeks or months of getting over the fry or the chop. And once you are in their chair, if something doesn’t quiet feel right, never be afraid to just say, “This is not working for me, thank you for your time,” and just leave.
Experience Question: How experienced are you? How long have you been cutting hair?
There is no right answer here, go with what you feel most comfortable with. I will say though, some of the younger hairdressers are far more willing to support you with no dye, than those more mature stylists.
Curly Girl Question: Are you experienced with curly hair?
Curly hair is not straight hair and cannot be cut as if it is. Ouidad’s Carving & Slicing is the only trademarked cutting process for curly hair; you can find their certified salons here. DevaCut has certified stylists as well; you can find them here. You don’t have to find someone who is certified in either of these techniques to be good with curly hair.
I will tell you NO ONE has ever said, “No, I cannot cut curly hair.” I’ve just learned to ask more questions, like do you use a special technique for cutting naturally curly hair? Some Aveda technicians are trained to cut curly hair sopping wet. One of the best cuts I ever had was done like this.
Silver Question: I am growing out my dyed hair to my natural silver. I am done dyeing. Will you be able to support me through this transition?
You will know right away based on their reaction to this question. Go with the person who enthusiastically says, “Absolutely!”
Blending Question: How proficient are you with Olaplex/Bleach/Gray Blending and can you help with blending without further damaging my hair?
If you are going to do any sort of blending process, this is one question you want a confident answer. Ask if they have a portfolio you can look through. Olaplex and Bleaching can be extremely damaging if done improperly and/or too fast. It can also be very expensive, as you should have to sit a few times for a full head of Olaplex or bleaching out from dark to light hair. If a stylist can do it in one sitting, they WILL be frying your hair.
Willingness Question: If I get fed up and need to shave my head or ask for a pixie will you do it without trying to talk me out of it?
Many stylists don’t like to do extreme things for their clients, while others are more than willing. You want the answer to lie somewhere in the middle. A good agreement you can make with your stylist is, “Make me wait two weeks and if in two weeks I still want a shave or pixie…then we do it!”
The Bottom Line
You need a stylist who will not consider your choices an extreme, even if you chose to shave your head for your transition.
After all, one woman’s extreme is another woman’s empowerment.
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