Transition from Dyed Hair To Your Natural Grey
Last Update: 5.5.2021
There are many reasons to stop dyeing, money, chemicals, organic lifestyle, chemo, pregnancy, just tired of being a slave to something for however many years you have been dyeing and just plain want to see what nature gave you. When you have that reason, you’ll need some ideas about how to get there.
There are as many ways to grow the dye off your hair, as there are ways to color it. After watching many women (including myself) delve into researching the ways they can let the dye go, here is what I learned during my journey, my research, and watching my fellow silver sisters.
I did a lot of research first. I wanted to play with what it would look like on my curls, I wanted to see if I was going to look older, I wanted to build myself up to it. I created a board on Pinterest just for curly cuts and silver hair. I collected images of gray hair, white hair, curly hair, long hair, and short hair. Yazemeenah Rossi, Cindy Joseph, Annika von Holdt took over my board. I squirreled it all away and dreamed of the day when I would be brave enough to ditch the dye.
When I found out Yazemeenah never colored her hair and started to grey at the age of 12 or 13…that was the turning point for me…because that is when we found my first grey hair. If she could rock the au naturale locks then so could I. That’s just about how she said it to me too.
So without further ado here are some ways to do the deed, ditch the dye, and some beautiful women who so graciously offered their images* up for this post.
A great example of shaving is Melanie, she very intentionally shaved her head for the process on New Year’s Eve. You can watch her journey via her YouTube Channel starting with her Shave Video.
My favorite thing that Melanie did: Because she shaved in the winter, she got some little beanies to keep her bare head warm. When she was done with them, she offered them up for donation. I saw her offer and coordinated with her so she could send them to my friend’s daughter, a 16 year-old girl who was battling cancer in Denver. (Update: Ella is cancer free.)
Pixie Cut Curly Girl:
Fellow curly girl Paula went for a pixie cut; she says, “It was really freeing! Been thinking of doing it again.” Paula is just marvelous in her pixie and her medium length curls.
Pixie Cut after a short grow out phase:
Liz honestly admits, “I hated the pixie. I’d never do it that way again, I’d be a bit more patient. The shock of long to short and so dark to silver was huuuge!! …No one recognized me.” I think she looked very classy with her silver pixie, but I agreed with her that it must have been a shock to not even recognize herself in the mirror. The last image is her today and she’s just gorgeous!!!
The Cold-Turkey Grow your Gray Out:
Without a doubt, growing out your hair slowly is the most difficult. It is not for the impatient. The line of demarcation will drive you insane if you let it. It is possible and it is worth it.
Long Hair grow out: Jen took a little over two years to grow her long bleach blond hair out to shoulder length and then she cut off the remaining dye.
Jo is just starting her long grow out process.
Medium length grow out:
Many women grow it out at shoulder length trimming color off little by little, month by month.
Amanda took from June 2015 to February 2017 to grow her dye off. She offered her thoughts, “For me, the change was not huge, but still people noticed it and their comments were not always positive. Interesting journey.” Her colorist was already doing a fantastic job with her color so her grow out looked pretty.
Bek in the middle of her mid-length grow out with dark dye. She mused, “I always say, to do this effortlessly, is to get a sense of humor and own it.” Bek is fully transitioned now. Personally, I loved her color with the dye even; it looks intentional and just gorgeous. Growing off dark dye doesn’t have to be a terrible experience.
A long grow out with multi processes to help it along.
Rachel shared with me, “It took me a little over two years to transition. The shortest I cut my hair was to about shoulder length. I stripped the brown dye and then did bleach/highlights on two different occasions to help me transition. Knowing what I know now, I would have never done the second bleaching/highlighting session because it was so damaging to my curly hair.”
Medium length grow out in stages:
I grew my white streak out first. I knew where it was because it was the first within days of a color that I would see white hair pop up. I had a stylist carefully lighten my streak, so it could grow out without being drastically different from the permanent red dye I was using. I rocked it for a while just dyeing around it and keeping the rest of my hair a dark red. I got many compliments on it, and I started to notice there was more than I originally thought.
I had a percentage of grey measurement done at a salon and found that the top of my head was around 80% grey. I went ahead, took the plunge, and stopped dyeing it. At around month five, I had a professional grey blending done with two low-light colors artfully blended into my demarcation line so the line wasn’t so harsh. Some women choose to do low-lights and highlights but my hair hates bleach so we just did two colors that blended well with my red dyed hair.
A couple of months after grey blending, I chopped off as much as I could stand to cut off just to get it to where I could trim little by little until the dye was gone. Over all the main grow out took 22 months, and here are my images start to finish.
The Dye Strip Technique:
Another method is called the Dye Strip Technique, where you section out part of your hair at your part and continue to dye that section, while your silver grow in underneath. You can read more about it on Katie Goes Platinum in her post with Diana: The Dye Strip Technique for Going Gray in Secret
If you do chose this route be prepared for damage. If you are starting at Level 1 or 2 color hair (that’s the darkest end of the hair color spectrum) you may need to have it bleached several times to get to Level 9 or 10. This can become very damaging, costly, and time consuming. Things to keep in mind, if you have fine, thin, or curly hair bleaching will likely hurt your hair more than help it as it disrupts your hair shaft and can cause frizzy curls, and dry hair. Since you will be growing it out, you will have stopped processing, and as time goes by the damaged hair can look worse and worse. For some people though it helps them get over the demarcation line and their hair can handle the bleaching. Try the grey blending mentioned above if you can. No matter what you decide, ALWAYS choose a great colorist who can help you tone it down without a harsh change and damage.
Olaplex is a relatively new product that many women, who do the “granny” hair trend, use to get their hair bleached to near platinum for the silver toners. It was created as an additive to bleach to be less damaging than bleach alone, but make no mistake you are still bleaching your hair and it does create some damage. For some Olaplex is no different from regular hair bleach, for others they have better luck. You can process (in multiple trips) down to almost Level 10/Platinum hair and use silver toners, but toner requires reapplication up to every two weeks. Again find a great stylist who has training and understanding of how Olaplex works…I have seen some sad stories of people losing their hair from an eager stylist that didn’t understand this product.
Elisa in Montreal used Olaplex to start her process. You can check out her awesome videos on Elisa’s YouTube Channel to get an idea of what she has gone through growing out her natural color hair.
Later in her journey, she did end up cutting her dry hair off because it was so very dry from the chemicals.
Some other ways to help you get through the transition from dyed to silver hair:
- Wigs and extensions can help you get through times when you have events where you may be photographed.
- Temporary colors, on a short cut can blend the lines until you are fully transitioned and you can play with vibrant fun colors for a week or two at a time each time you color with a temp color.
- Root spray can also be a game changer for events, just check the forecast, they don’t do well in rain.
Whatever way you decide, there is no RIGHT or WRONG way, only YOUR way. Do what you need to do for you!
Fair warning: There is challenge point at 9 months of “I hate this, what was I thinking?”
Here is my theory that I shared in my silver group:
“Those of us, who choose to grow our dye off, rather than cut it off, have a very similar mark. At around 9 months we all get antsy, we all start questioning what were we thinking, why did I do this, should I start dyeing it again, is this ever going to end, I thought it would be grown out by now?!?!?
Sound familiar. It does to me in two ways, one, I went through it at exactly nine months. And two, I believe women are hard wired to be totally willing to wait nine months. Then at nine months, we start getting fidgety and anxious and nervous, and exhausted, and impatient, and start to question the whole damn thing. The psychology of instinct I guess.
I’m guessing many of the guys, never had this experience because mostly they can get away with a good chop and be over it in a matter of weeks.
Just another birthing process, I suppose.
I’ve never had a child but have watched many pregnant friends; around the 30th day of month 8…they just get to the point of enough is enough already. I went through another experience that lasted nine months, it was brutal, but when it was over I was, much like a new mother, an entirely different person…the same thing happened with my hair, authenticity just kept creeping in and building more and more confidence.”
Supplies for the Growing Out Your Natural Grey:
- Hair bands
- Courage, wine, a sense of humor, friends…
A final key ingredient to your grow out will be a great support system:
When I say I had a support group people look at me crooked, and I instantly tell them you have no idea how much you want to quit or give up. The Silver Circle was my go to place when I felt like I couldn’t do it. We are a genuine group of folks who care how you are feeling. What is amazing is the constant point of positivity that infiltrates everyone as they go through the process of getting new hair and new friends. Honestly, if people aren’t supporting you in this decision and process they aren’t your people to do so, so find a group that resonates with you and join, you won’t regret it.
Thank you for reading. Please feel free to share.
As always it is about so much more than the hair.
P.S. The next challenge is overcoming the common myths of gray hair. From your hair stylist to the stranger on the street you will hear many of those myths. Read more here.
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