Going Grey – Should or Shouldn’t?

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I found my first grey hair at age 15 – easy to spot because my hair was so dark. I’m now around 80% grey and dye the roots every 3 weeks. I don’t feel ready to be grey, I feel it’s ageing on me and doesn’t feel like ‘me’ at all.

I’ve done a dodgy photoshop job on my hair to see what it might look like. What do you think? Do I look older or younger? What ages would you guess me to be with the grey hair and as a brunette?
There was a book written by Anne Kreamer called Going Gray: How to Embrace Your Authentic Self with Grace and Style which delves into why women choose to dye, what reactions people have to grey hair as well as the author’s own choice to go grey.
Why is it I’m so averse to grey hair? Part of it I think is that I’ll lose my contrast – it makes me more noticeable (and as an introvert I need that kind of help), grey hair is receding so would it make me fade into the background?
Sure I want to look younger than I am, I can’t imagine that letting my hair go grey will help there (there is an interesting series of photos on Anne Kreamer’s website that shows percieved and real ages with grey hair, and we always guess older with grey hair).
Is it because I’ve got young kids and I don’t want people to think that I’m their grandmother rather than their mother?
Is is less authentic to dye? Am I hiding my ‘true self’ with the hair dye?
Is it because I identify grey hair with old people and I don’t see myself as old, I still feel young?
What are your thoughts about grey hair? Do you dye or not? If you do or don’t why?

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41 Comments

  • I guess a lot would depend on the type of grey. Some women go white or silver which can be flattering (and your eyes do seem to stand out in the dodgy photo shop picture!) but that awful salt and pepper or brillo pad look is very aging.

    If you feel that you wouldn't be you without your brunette colour then stick with it. You will know when you are ready to go grey and it probably won't be til the kids are older. And there's nothing wrong with that.

    I saw an amazing older woman in the doctor's waiting room today. She had white hair which she had tinted with bright pink streaks, her earrings were huge and dangly and she had a walking stick which she had decorated with flower stickers and bright pink and purple ribbons. She looked fabulous. Out there, but fabulous.

  • Looking at the pictures of you as a brunette and then with grey hair, I like both of them. Unfortunately, as one ages, most of us suffer from hair loss and the grey is not as shiny as the grey in your picture. Mostly grey hair is aging. You are yet so young, so I see no reason why you should go grey just yet. I thought until about a few months ago, that I would never color my hair. There were lots of grey highlights and I seemed to loose all my colors, I became pale. Now I get a color rinse every 4 weeks, and it helps. What I have noticed though is, that I also have to color my eyebrows and use some mascara + lipstick. maybe even some tinted day creme. Probably I would have to use them even if I kept my hair natural.

  • I think this is a very personal journey! I too found my first grey hairs at a young age (18) and coloured it for a long time. At 40 I started thinking maybe I was ready to be 'me', naturally me. It took me about a year to take the plunge and I decided to go cold turkey – I also had issues with my scalp which made the decision easier.

    I was very lucky to have an amazing hairdresser who understood totally and was very honest – even more great considering she was going to lose the money I had been spending on dyeing it – and she actually encouraged me!

    I love my hair! I can honestly say I have had more comments on my hair style and colour since I went grey – a lot of people have actually questioned if it is totally natural!! Lol! I was extremely flattered the other day to be told I didn't look old enough (I am now 43) to be my 21 year old sons mother – and that is a comment I have heard a lot more since I stopped colouring my hair!

    But, as I say, it isn't for everyone, you have to wear it with pride and confidence IMO.

  • Grey hair started around 18 for me, too. Since I've naturally blond hair, but the ash-blond, muddy type, I started dying and experimenting with color from age 17. Since then, I haven't seen my natural hair color again appart from the roots. I think it will stay that way unless I really develope total grey hair in a nice shade. I certainly don't want my natural "blond" back, and added silver streaks wont excactly be upping the level of attrativeness of it.
    But I do like looking at women with natural grey hair, some really spot great colors! and I have to agree with metscan, I like both pictures of you, grey or brunette.

    @ kiltsnquilts: you really DO look awesome with your grey 🙂

  • In general, I completely support going grey. I do think having a flattering haircut (like your current one) helps communicate one's interest in style and/or fashion.

    That said, I'm a premature grey-er and am a brunette at heart, if not at root! I'm just not ready to be a light-haired person.

    IMO, you look like a grey-haired woman with a young face with the Photoshop, and a slightly younger women as a brunette. If you decide to go to 100% grey you can always dye it back….

  • You have a young face Imogen, so you'd look good with the grey. But of course it's entirely up to you. I can see how the constant retouching to cover the grey would drive anyone mad.

    I do like to see a stylish women with silver hair, my ex-mother in law went completely grey from an early age and she always has it cut well, and has always look very stylish. I also work with a silver haired women who look fab. I think it's down to how you wear it, and the clothes you wear.

  • I think besides the kind of color (whose importance sparklingmerlot pointed out), the cut is also important. Personally, I think your cut is really cute with your dark hair, but would become too "oldladyish" with grey hair (please, don't take it as an offense, it's not meant to be! – I have more or less the same cut as you, so I must really like it). I'd prefer a shorter, more modern cut, like a pixie cut, where the high/lows of the grey would be underlined.
    But overall, I really like the grey color, if the shade is right.

  • I got my first grey hair when I had my first child – 30 years ago. Needless to say, I pulled it out!Over the last 10-15 years I have coloured my hair in a variety of shades of brown, which I think is both fun and age-regressing.I am now a grandmother, but I still don't feel like going grey.I think it's about how old you feel and trying to match your appearance to that age.

  • I think you look younger and better with dark hair. The few women I know who let themselves go grey look older than they really are. It's a tough decision, and ultimately you have to be ready to embrace it. I do think you have to maintain a grey hairdo…it can look very sleek if done right, but then it also becomes a maintenance issue.

  • I like the grey. I think , as others have said, your cut is really key. As long as you keep the cut stylish and don't let it go to that crazy old lady stage…LOL..I think it would be super flattering.

  • I: I don't love the grey (though of course, it's just a quick photoshop job) – you are very youthful and I think it's one in a million women who goes grey without looking a decade older than she is – beautiful skin notwithstanding.

    You may want to try going a bit blonder, however. In a zillion years I didn't think I would do that (I'd been dark haired by dye for years) but in the last year, my crazy hairdresser has decided to do her own thing (it's a dangerous tactic) and I am really enjoying the youthfulness and lightness of my new look.

  • I am 65 and a greying redhead. Not really a pretty sight to my eyes. As you mentioned in your post, the contrast is gone along with the beautiful red. I have some blondish highlights but a lot of my hair along the sides and back lost the red and are just dull and the texture has gone from straight to oddly dry and wavy. I do not want to look like some older women who dye their hair a flat darker version of the hair of their youth, but I still love my natural red. My hairdresser says she can add subtle strawberry red highlights as a homage to the color of my youth. I think I will do that.

  • I feel grey hair is one of the negative results of aging. I buy shapewear to smooth my 52-year-old aging body and cream for my aging skin. If I were grey, I'd buy dye for my aging hair. With the rare exception, I associate grey hair with elderly grandmothers. I think you are stunningly beautiful as a brunette.

  • I dyed my hair for about 20 years then lost it all to chemotherapy. When it grew back, not being grey had lost importance, it was just nice to have hair again. I received lots of compliments on my sparkly hair and "haircut". My teenage daughter and her friends especially love my hair. I keep it very short as white/grey hair has a big impact, less is more. Also after the convenience of having no hair for 6 months, you lose patience with spending too much time styling. Just another perspective. I enjoy your blog – very well done!

  • i'm hoping to go grey – one of these days. i had white blonde hair in my youth (which has darkened over the years) so i should be able to expect a lovely silver/white according to what i've read other places. i think i have an attitude (which several posters have mentioned) that will allow me to pull it off. i'm comfortable with the idea of being grey. but (there had to be a but) it's the root-y look that i hate.
    the transitional time factor is killing me!! i've had lowlights added to eliminate the rootiness and buy more time and length. the right cut wil play a major roll but when doesn't it?? i've seen grey hair done well that doesn't cry out 'old woman' and dye jobs that can be heard to whisper 'trying too hard'. as with so many questions of personal style- it's up to you to know what is right and when you'll be ready.

  • People would think you're the children's grandmother but that silver hair in the picture is anything but receding. Do we think silver jewelry is receding? I think you look very young in that picture, as a surprising contrast with the "grey" hair. Almost looks like
    stunt grey hair – deliberate shock
    attention getting device. 😀
    Or eat-your-heart-out-with-envy grey.

  • You've seen some of the struggles I've had with my hair, and I'm currently back to dark brown after about 5 years of highlights. I started going grey at about 23, and I'm currently about 40% grey.

    The reason I went with the highlights in the first place was to camoflage the grey – and it worked. Originally I had an all over dark tint with the highlights, but stopped that after a while.

    For the time being I'm going to embrace my inner brunette – I'm only about 40% grey, and it's very "patchy" – I think snow white hair or all over silver is stunning, but right now I'm more badger/skunk!

    Is there an age where grey hair is "presumed"?

    Apparently I was about 13 and asked my then 38 Mum when she was going to stop dying her hair and grow old gracefully! Now I'm 38 she takes great glee in asking me the same thing!

  • I can't imagine ever being ready to go grey as I can't abide how people treat me when it is. One poster reminds us that there are worse things in life (such as hair loss due to chemotherapy, blood diseases or other causes) but still, the patronising way I got treated when I tried that tells me I certainly won't do it at least until I can draw an old age pension.

    I do know women who look good with grey hair, but they are a particular type – usually tall, rather imperious, very slim or rangy, small-busted.

    I have lots of hair, but as it is very curly-kinky it can get that ugly brillo-pad look when it is left to grey.

    I do colour my hair a bit redder and a wee bit lighter than its original colour (which was as dark as yours). But I'm 10 years older than you are, or so. Your hair colour looks fine on you now and their are problems with reds too, as they can look too brassy and harsh.

  • Imogen, there's only an answer for each of us. Like you, I'd feel older and more invisible grey. But yesterday I met a stunning woman with thick, stylish grey hair. She was also lithe and dressed in very hip jeans and shirt (she is a yoga teacher about 55.) Think it's the total picture- posture, body, clothes and makeup too.

  • I think it's totally your personal choice, but, who are we kidding, you do look younger and more vibrant with dark hair. As long as you can stand the hassle of dyeing it, I suspect you will make the choice to keep doing so!
    Goodness knows, I have a fairly minimal beauty routine, but for me, the time/benefit of getting out the dye is well worth it.

  • Sparklingmerlot – I'm guessing I'd look way more salt and pepper than the photoshopped version which is much shinier and nicer than it would be in real life!

    Metscan – I think I'd look very dull.

    KiltsnQuilts – you look gorgeous with grey hair!

    thoughts in the city – I sometimes think I"m going to have to go blonde sometime, but I don't identify with it!

  • Vix – so with you on being brunette – I think it's like blondes identify with being blonde, and I identify with being dark (used be black).

    notSupermum – I see the occasional person looking fabulous grey, but many who don't.

    chiara – I think you're right about the cut – would look old lady with grey but works as a brunette.

    Janet – you look great with brown hair.

  • Mom on Health Patrol – yes – all haircuts need maintenance! No easy way out of that one.

    Christine – I don't think it would be such a nice silver colour as the photoshop pic – more dull and salt and pepper at the moment!

    K.Line – you look great with your new hair. My colouring can't take golden blonde at all I'd have to be platinum and that process would probably completely kill my hair!

    Patisjean – I can understand wanting to keep some of the colour that you identify as being 'you'!

  • I'm 56 on Wednesday and the best thing I ever did was to stop dyeing my hair, which was around four years ago.

    I have a wide streak of silver and the rest is a mix of brunette and silver. It looks great and feels like me. It actually feels a bit counter cultural and rebellious in a funny sort of way!

    I'm lucky though, the texture is shiny, the colour is pure (not yellow) and I agree with some commenters that it can depend on the type of hair. Some hair gets very wiry as you age.

    It has to be up to the individual, but I don't think women should be frightened to go grey. Do it in your own style and if you're a big personality, go grey flamboyantly, like the woman in sparklingmerlot's comment.

  • Josiejean – yes I think I'm with you – my dad didn't start greying til near 50 – and he had jet black hair – I don't see why I had to start so young!

    Jane – I'm glad that you have your hair back and that you are recovered – that is very important. Often hair grows back a different colour and texture after chemo – did you find this?

    Downthegardenpath – yes – I see many women who dye their hair back to their 'natural' colour and it no longer suits their skin tone (which also changes as we age), and my hair is now 4 shades lighter than it was when I was 20, and I am accepting that I'm going to have to keep moving up the scale for some time. I think in general grey hair looks better on the shorter side.

    Vildy – yes that is stunt grey hair – and way brighter and more shiny than my real grey hair looks!

    Tat – these days even my 70 year old mother dyes her hair and isn't grey! Maybe it's 80?

    Anon – yes I think I'll keep dying for the moment.

    Lagatta – great point – and texture is important too – steel wool is not a look I'm keen on cultivating either!

    Duchesse – I met a woman recently a year older than me who had chosen to go grey, and I felt she looked at least 15 years older than she was – we each have to do what is right for us. Hunched stance, shuffling walk and grey hair do scream old lady don't they! Yoga teacher would be a whole different kettle of fish.

    Struggler – I will keep going – at some point I'll probably make a radical change to blonde so the roots are noticeable – but I'm nowhere near as ready for that change either! I'm lucky that I can do it myself (or get a neighbour to help) so it's not a big expense (about $5 per time).

  • Tess – I always wanted a white streak – but alas I'm just that salt and pepper look – if I'd had that I would have gone natural I think.

  • Imogen, my mum had a streak like that – I have an old photo of her as a War worker in Ottawa, at her desk beside one of those old upright telephones. Very chic indeed.

    I look ghastly with short hair.

  • Your decision depends on so many factors. One that wasn't mentioned here but which weighs into many women's choices is the opinion of the spouse/ partner. Several of my friends (in our late 30s/ early 40s) wanted to go "au natural" with their hair colour and in one case the husband loved it but with the other 2 the partners hated the gray and found it deeply unsexy. (and, then there was the friend who wasn't going gray but decided to stop the monthly golden highlights and her husband almost wept…"but I married a BLONDE!")

    I know we are all strong, independent-minded women who can choose to dress and look however we like, but I have to say that if my darling were to express a vehement opinion one way or another, I would absolutely take that into consideration. At the end of the day, I will please myself, but his opinion will carry a bit of weight.

  • I stopped coloring completely about a year and a half ago. (I'm 46.) I just got tired of all the cost and time involved. Prior to that, I had blond highlights for many, many years, but then I decided to go back to my natural brown color (though it took several tries to figure out what that was!), and from there, did a sort of reverse highlighting every 2-5 months to allow the gray to come in gradually.

    Like kiltsnquilts above, I often hear that I don't look old enough to have a 25 year old son. (And my husband still finds me very sexy!)

  • Just say no, to gray. Very few can pull it off gorgeously. No matter what the argument is for keeping gray hair, when you have it, you look older. Unfortunately in our society, ageism is a problem. Why invite that in?

  • I think you will be one of those lucky ladies who looks gorgeous in steel grey hair…..but not yet! In 20 years. My hair is getting greyer and I dye it. I will never have the nice grey hair, so will eventually do the blonde tips thing – but not yet..maybe in 10 years.

  • I think as long as you continue to lighten up the color a bit each time you color you'll be okay. I really hate when friends occasionally go too dark and it makes them look so much older….

    I have personally avoided dyeing recently, but that's because of health issues, not any particular philosophy or preference.

  • I agree with most commenters that you look better and more natural without the crazy color of grey you photoshopped into that pic!

    My general impression of gray hair is that it reads "old."

    In my early thirties I worked with a gray haired woman who I always thought of as very elegant. I hoped to have her elegance and style when I got to be her age, which I thought was mid-fifties. Then she colored her hair a soft brown color, and the next time I met with her I realized she was probably very close to my age.

    Please just keep up with your roots. This week I had a meeting with a colleague who is probably in her mid forties and she had a minimum of 1" of gray roots showing. It was very distracting and is far worse that a headful of gray hair.

  • Imogen, I think you look great with your current dark brown hair color. I think you'd probably look good as a silver grey too, but it would be different, and possibly more ageing.

    I don't think there's anything wrong with dying hair whether to cover grey or not. I've come to the conclusion that having reddish hair is "me" and when I've tried to change it to something more neutral I've missed it.

  • I think you look great in both pictures and think it would be whatever you were ready for. The gey would depend on color, cut, and maintenance would not make you lose your contrast. I think you complexion looks brighter in contrast to the cut and paste grey hair, and might even add drama.

    That said, I believe people should do what makes them happy, and if you are happy and yourself you will look young and like yourself.

  • I love the grey on you! It looks fantastic, and your face really pops. Where as in the other picture I think your sking looks duller.

  • It all depends on your lifestyle and comfort level with other people. Imogen I think if you had gray hair you’d probably would wear it short and sort of funky looking. You might be surprised how you would look with a shorter, less dense gray hair wig. It would give you another range of colors to accent with your colors. But you also look fab with dark hair also. I think your comment about feeling less than outgoing tells it all: you’re not ready for gray hair and the blending in.

    That said, I gave up certain lifestyle reasons for gray hair. I got tired of coloring and keeping up with the roots. I’m about 80% gray and it was a nightmare to keep up: it cost a lot, I never felt comfortable, gray hairs would pop out at the most awkward times. Since I didn’t feel confident getting close to people because I was “hiding” my gray it affected my self esteem. I notice a 100% improvement in my self esteem when I was “myself”.

    However, it is true that others in our society have associated gray hair with aging. For instance if I’m driving I can feel the looks that the gray hair lady is holding up traffic (LOL) But ironically there is an hypocrisy involved with typecasting: If I go to the movies people want me to pay the “full cost” and never ask if I’m a senior. (And yes, I’m of senior age) So what’s up with that?

    But at the end of the day I’m comfortable with who I am. I was glad to see that you have some wonderful pages on using hair as a neutral. I’ve tried it and it has been really fun. But I thought about designing my own jewelry because I have textured gray hair (super coily) and shiny skin and can wear both warm and cool colors, although my recent color analysis suggests that I can wear shiny silver and shiny gold but I’ve found that mat silver doesn’t look so bad because my hair is now super curly.

    I have brown eyes and skin. I’ve found it difficult to find designers that have accessories that can emphasize both eyes, skin and hair yet give me the contrast I need. So needless to say my accessory wardrobe isn’t up to par.

    Thank you for providing this platform for us to share things about ourselves.

    • Sadly Sandy I don’t suit a short cut! My hair now is as short as I can go and look good. I think with a grey cut you need to have it really funky. I love it on many others, and even though I’m over 80% grey I’m not yet willing to go that way. Maybe in another decade I will be!

      I think it’s great that you are embracing your grey.

  • I think your choice a couple of years back to go lighter was brilliant; it really suits your skin and lovely eyes. I have experimented just over a year now with allowing the grey to grow in, and after much deliberation over cost, convenience and my comfort level, I think I will go back to some version of my dark brown hair. My reasoning: I just don’t think the gray and silver–of which I have a large chunk up front–that have grown in harmonize with my natural hair color or my dark brown eyes/brows and freckles. I would never pair the same grey and brown colored clothing so I have found it hard to accept my hair in it’s natural state. Perhaps it is the contrast I can’t get used to either.

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