Making the decision to transition to your natural gray hair is not an easy thing. You would think it would be…it is your hair. Sadly, society and media have made women believe “gray is bad,” “it makes you look old,” “you’re too young to be gray,” “you’ll never get that job now,” “you’ve let yourself go,” or “what will your husband think?” We are inundated with this from magazine to television, and we don’t even realize it. When it comes to making this decision, we have to pilfer through all this indoctrination.
I thought I would share with you my answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about the transition from “how long does it take?” to “what color will my hair be?”
Question One: How long will growing out my gray hair take?
The average rate of hair growth is about half an inch per month or close to six inches a year. If you are of Asian descent, you are the lucky ones with the fastest growth rate, and if you are of African descent, you will have the slower rate of growth. Translation: if you have mid length hair between jaw and shoulders it will take you 20-24 months to grow out your gray hair cold turkey. With a pixie or very short cut, it will take 3-9 months.
Question Two: What is the fastest way to get completely gray hair?
Shave your head, no seriously. The next fastest is a pixie cut.
Question Three: What are my choices for going gray gracefully?
There are as many ways to get there as there are colors of gray. You do you. If you want to just cut it off and go with a pixie, go for it. If you want to grow it out cold turkey and preserve your length, do that. If you need a little stylist’s transition help, do it. I will advise after watching many women end up with fried and severely damaged hair YOU MUST find a great colorist that knows the gray colors well and is a PRO at bleaching. A great colorist can help you with highlights, gray blending (highlights and low-lights), overall bleaching and toning, Olaplex, etc. This is one way to do it that you really should not “try this at home,” unless you are a PRO colorist.
Some Transition Resources:
Ways to transition in this post: How Do You Transition from Dyed Hair to Your Natural Grey Hair
My post on Finding a Supportive Stylist for Growing Out Your Silver Hair! with helpful tips on finding your stylist.
Question Four: Can I use semi- or demi- permanent color until the permanent dye grows off and the let it fade to gray?
Semi-permanent is considered temporary because it fades after a few weeks. Demi-permanent hair color has developer in it so it makes for a longer lasting color. Permanent color is what most people with gray use because it is most likely to adhere to the gray strands and takes much longer to fade away. Semi, Demi, and permanent colors all actually stain your hair so they will ruin your natural grays. You could use semi-permanent for a couple of months before you go cold turkey for helping to soften the demarcation line.
Question Five: What color will my gray hair be?
There is no real way to predict this. You can look to your siblings, parents, and grandparents if they have grown out their natural hair. They may give you an idea, but even in families, the patterns and colors can be drastically different. Honestly, you will not know the answer to this until the last bit of dye is gone. Consider it your gift from Mother Nature that you will unwrap slowly and steadily seeing a new bit of you with each passing month. In addition, your hair will continue to change and evolve in color as you age.
Question Six: Will my gray hair be all one color?
Also, something one cannot predict. We think when we see that line of roots pop up that it is all one color of white, silver, or gray. The reality is, your hair is like mixing paint, there could be strokes of the color you were born with mingled in with pure white, or you could be more salt than pepper, or more pepper than salt, or white in the front and your born-with-it color at the nape. Many people are shocked to find their dark hair lingers at the nape of their neck for decades while the front and crown of their head goes whiter and whiter.
Question Seven: Will my gray hair make me look washed-out? Or will my gray hair match my skin-tone?
This is a very common worry. In all the 1,000’s of transitions I have witnessed I have yet to see a person’s hair not match their skin perfectly. Mother Nature really truly does know exactly what she is doing. Your DNA is smart. It all works together to create a softer and brighter you, and more often than not, I think silver makes you look younger and dye sometimes makes you look older because it can be so harsh and have no dimension.
Justine Leconte’s video on skin tone is really helpful if you feel lost, and it will also help you with the next question.
Question Eight: Do I have to change all the colors in my wardrobe and makeup?
The short answer… No. The long answer, you will find some colors don’t work anymore but don’t make that decision until you have all your silvers showing, the reality is we usually pick colors to wear in makeup and clothing that match our skin tone. I really think if you have a favorite color and you love it, hold onto it because even if someone says it breaks the rules, I say, “Whose rules?” A color that you love can make you feel confident and confidence looks lovely on everyone. If that color doesn’t look great against your new silver hair, consider wearing it away from your hair and face in pants, skirts, shoes or an accent color in a scarf or piece of jewelry.
Question Nine: I asked my family, boss, friends, or Facebook friends if I should go gray and they had some terrible things to say, what do I do?
Don’t ask others what they think you should do. That is just setting yourself up for heartache. Ask for opinions and you will most often get disappointed if they don’t align with your intention. It is difficult to argue with confidence and intention. Make a statement of your intentions, (if you are posting online) post a picture of silver sisters that are your inspiration or goals, and leave it at that. I did this on Facebook a couple of months before I ditched the dye; overwhelmingly, everyone was supportive and encouraging.
Say it, own it, claim it, be it.
Question Ten, the big event question: I’m getting married, or my child is graduating, or I’m going on a big vacation, I’m worried what I will look like in the pictures with calico hair, should I cut it or wait to stop dyeing until after the event?
If the event is within a couple of months of the ditch-the-dye-date you may want to do temporary color (sprays or toners) or you may want to pick a new ditch-the-dye-date. Your last dye could be the one for the event. If the event is months from ditch-the-dye-date or even a year… don’t worry about it yet. Remember a mid-length cold-turkey grow-out only takes around 20 months. Up-dos, braids, French chignons, etc. can be perfect for weddings and the dyed hair will be hidden in the style.
Or you may opt for a fresh new cut that eliminates the last of the dye, just do this a month or so before the event so you get a sense of styling it. As for vacations, have fun, don’t worry about your hair, if you are blessed enough to travel, enjoy other cultures, and spend quality time with your friends and family, focus on that. Hats, headbands, and scarves can be great for any vacation and will hide your hair. Live in the moment. Worrying about how your hair will look a year from now is useless, so many things change in just one day that a year could be way too far off to even be concerned about it now.
Last but not least, not really questions but common excuses:
“My hair won’t look like yours so I’m just going to keep dyeing.”
Honestly, you won’t know what your hair will look like until you try it. Commit to growing it out, and in the end if you hate it you know exactly what to do.
“My husband/family member doesn’t like me with gray hair so I’ve always dyed it.”
If you have always dyed your hair…how would they know what it looks like or if they like it or not? Ask them to give it a chance with you, explain the time, effort, money and chemical exposure you endure, they just might find a way to support you and give it a go.
I would just like to say, I see human bodies aging as a work of art. We have silver hair, laugh lines, scars, crow’s feet, crepey skin, stretch marks, and we have LIFE. We are privileged to have these “problems.” I see each of our “problems” as brushstrokes on Mother Nature’s Canvas.
In the last four years, I have been watching the before and after photos of women growing out their hair, the one thing I always see is in the after photo is the person looks lighter, happier, brighter, very often younger, and absolutely more authentically themselves. This truly is a journey of authenticity, these feelings you wrap around how your hair makes you look have absolutely nothing to do with your hair, if you put a hat on does the feeling go away? Probably not.
Showing our true selves to the world creates vulnerability. As Brené Brown teaches, the other side of showing and being vulnerable is being brave. You cannot have one without the other. Think of yourself as a masterpiece, because you are. Learn to embrace your little painted mistakes, in some native cultures their creations from rugs, jewelry, beadwork, to art are made with a mistake, so the soul of the piece can come and go freely.
Let yourself come and go freely, it’s not about the paint it’s about what is revealed.
If you need support getting through this process there are great groups on Facebook to help you get there with positive and loving members. Tell them I sent you.
Thank you for reading. Please feel free to share.
As always it is about so much more than the hair.
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