by Alison Goodman
To grey or not to grey. That has become the question.
During four long months in Melbourne lockdown, I saw my meticulously dyed long red hair—a trademark look for me¬—sprout a parting of silvery grey. My first reaction was ‘good grief, hand me the root spray’. Yet, slowly, as the silver grew wider, a revolutionary idea took hold. What if I didn’t dye it again? What if I embraced the grey?
Let’s not beat around the bush: embracing the grey is an act of insurrection for a woman. Unlike males with grey hair—commonly known as the silver fox—female grey hair is not associated with many positives: old, unattractive, and ‘giving up’ are just some of the pejoratives that surround the idea.
Recently, however, a fashion for dyed grey hair swept across young fashionables. It became cool to be grey or, at least, not so firmly placed as the hair colour of the crone. I began to research grey hair and before long I found a worldwide community of women thumbing their noses at societal expectations and joyously allowing their natural silver to emerge. They were saving money, saving time, avoiding chemicals and ending up with dramatic and elegant new looks. Grey could be gorgeous!
Did I dare thumb my nose too? It would be hard to give up the genius of my colourist. Long red hair has been ‘my look’ for years and, at 54, I am constantly told it is far too early to go grey and ‘look old’. And I have to admit, I do fear looking prematurely old and not ‘myself’. I am also worried that all the hard work I have done in 7 Steps will be ruined. At the moment I am a spicy, high colour contrast, medium value contrast gal. My style recipe is elegant boho with a touch of theatrical drama. Will cool grey hair mean I have to abandon my beloved and hard won spicy wardrobe? Will I feel the need to change my style?
Nevertheless, it is time for change. And so I have decided to start my journey to silver foxette—a grand experiment that may blow up in my face (in which case I will creep back to my colourist) or be the best hair move I have ever made.
My research has offered three pathways to going grey:
1. the ‘for Pete’s sake just cut the damn dye out’ pixie cut that removes all of the colour and leaves the grey for an instant transition.
2. the ‘cut some of the grey out and slowly grow out the rest of the colour’ method which comes with the risk of hitting a ‘feral calico cat’ stage.
3. The ‘I want to keep all my hair’ look that involves blending in the existing dye job with a grey dye job. This can be both expensive and injurious to the hair since it would probably involve bleaching and re-dying. It does, however, avoid feral cat territory and the shock of the short. A grey toner can also be used to create more of a blend.
As you can see from the photo of my first ‘pathway to grey’ haircut (with thanks to John at Foxy Vixen in Albert Park), I have chosen method 2 with the possibility of method 3 if I reach ‘calico cat’. So far, I love my shorter style with its silvery ‘highlights’.
My hair grows quickly, so over the next 6 months I will check in here to show you how things are progressing. And when I am at full metal silver, Imogen will redrape me and we will show you how embracing the grey has changed, or not changed, my colours and style.
Viva la silver foxette!
About Alison Goodman
Alison Goodman is a New York Times bestselling author. She has published seven novels, the latest of which is Lady Helen and the Dark Days Deceit, the third and final book in her Lady Helen regency adventure series.
I’m on a similar path. Stopped dying my hair, but I’m not totally grey and my fake colour was/is similar to the natural one. My hair has recently become very fine and weak, so that’s my main reason.
I will be curious to see this development as I am a Deep Autumn with a very, very large stash of fabrics for this colouring. I am concerned if I go grey what happens to my stash.
Depends on if you go dark grey or light grey – but you will most likely lose some of your warmth!
I had always been a dark autumn. My natural color has come in almost white. At 62 my skin has lost some warmth but my eyes are still a warm, dark brown. The rich mustards, tans and browns look terrible on me now and I feel a bit lost as to where I fit. For now it’s blacks and grays with some off white but I’m open to adding a bit of color if I happen upon it. Bright cool or bright warm colors look awful and I disappear in muted cool and warm. I’ve run out of categories but actually pleased with keeping the neutrals and using lipstick for color.
You could try a sunlit soft spring range. See on Pinterest. White hair is bright and warm brown eyes is well, warm. I truly wonder if the soft and warm range of this palette would work for you. I agree that muted colours would not be great with bright hair. I have grey hair now and was a deep winter but now am a cool winter. I don’t suit black anymore around my face. It has taking some adjusting. Anyway just read your post and wondered if that might help. 😊 Sheryl
Thanks for your feedback and ideas. The problem is, I can’t get an objective sense as to whether my hair is bright or softened. It looks different in different lighting.
Might be time for another in person colour analysis perhaps. The precision dyed fabrics are such great measures and they will tell the story of your new colouring for sure. All the very best. 😊
I love the haircut, Alison! Very chic and modern, which fits your “elegant boho with a touch of theatrical drama” style recipe. I’ll be interested to see how the grey grow-out goes–you could even add in a few silver streaks for some boho drama!
I’ve decided to “embrace the grey” too after 4 months of lock down. I’ve gone with a combo of points 2. and 3. with a toning down of my blonde highlights and a greige rinse to blend in. I was a natural light auburn. I’m really pleased with the result as I’ve been toying with the idea for the last few years, plus no more highlights means my hairdressing bill is lower too! I now feel ready and I think that’s the key too. I love your hair cut Alison – you’re rocking it! Can’t wait to hear/see how it develops.
I stared my grow out in December before we knew what a COVID was. I sprayed my roots with touch up until about March and then got the pixie cut. Working from home really helped me out. I really like my hair now and am still the same palette – intriguing. But the warmer colours in it no longer suit me.
From one silver fox Etta to another. The decision to go there is the hardest part. I find my silver leaves me truly free to explore my style personality. After all, when you have survived the revolution, you find out who you really are.
P.s. I get a lot more compliments on my hair than I ever did before.
Thank you for this timely post! I, too,have decided to go Gray since our lockdown in March. I’m at 8 months since my last dye and looking good! My natural hair is a lovely dark metallic. My stylist calls it “gunmetal” and I quite like it. The grow out dyed brown strands are forming a ombré effect and it looks like a natural, if obvious, transition. I’ll be following Allison’s progress!
My hairdresser and I took a different route. I started going grey in my early 30s, and so for nearly 30 years I kept up my original very dark brown. Then i decided I was tired of the effort it took. So i I put myself in my hairdresser’s hands and we slowly lightened it, going down 1/2 a tone each time and breaking it up with foils. There was no awkward stage, and after 2 1/2 years no more colour was required (except I use purple shampoo to keep it interesting). Very happy with my almost white locks
After a very long internal debate I made the decision to go to my natural grey. I went with Option 3 and it did take a while but I didn’t have to experience a very short cut.
However, I had to purge a lot of clothes from my wardrobe. I realized that I was not keeping up with my lightening complexion and I was also forcing a color palette that didn’t work. Overall it has been an internal process as well as external process.
In the end, I’ve fallen in love with my grey hair and my new, lower-contrast complexion. I’m getting to explore new colors and color combinations. I’m having fun!
One piece of advice… Take extra care with grey hair and pay attention to the products you use. The grey/silver will pick up any tints in shampoos and conditioners. I’ve also started using a clay mask that helps to remove any build-up from water minerals or from products. I stumbled across a product – QuickSilverHair – and use it about once a month. Lot’s of them out there to try, but bottom line is to take care of the tresses.
Imogen, I would LOVE to see a whole post on the different palettes and how they can work with grey hair. There is NOTHING out there that covers this topic.
In transition, I’ve found blue to be my colour saviour. Though I’m a cooler tone, blue really seems pretty universal during the process of getting to natural grey through the ‘blorange’ stage.
Love the haircut! It’s so stylish.
Fun post! I look forward to seeing the results!
I did a variation in my transition to my natural color that is probably about 40-50 percent gray. First, I started cutting my strawberry blonde/light red hair, which initially hit just above my bra. Every 6-8 weeks I would lose 3-4 inches, which gave me time to adjust. So it took most of a year to reach the pixie stage, at which point I just quit dying it altogether. I kept it short until the last of the dyed hair was gone. Then I began growing it again. My gray is mostly around my face and looks like highlights, I still have quite a bit of natural color left. If as things progress, I decide that the gray leaves me too washed out, I may get some low-lighting done, but I will never dye my entire head again, of that I am sure. I’m not interested in revisiting that level of personal maintenance. It’s one of the privileges of age, for sure!
I also used this strange time to go grey and stop dyeing my hair. I went from spicy to intriguing, but am thrilled with my new natural hair. I already had a pixie cut, so it didn’t take too long to transition. I’ve made the adjustment to a new palette fairly easily too. Change is fun!
When I got tired of the root spray one day I decided to let my natural skunk stripe show. My husband convinced me that it was lovely silver, not dull at all. IWhen I could finally return to my stylist I met her outside the salon the day before my service. She agreed that I should go with my natural silver, She used dye remover and a toner to give me silver highlights. She repeated this 6 weeks later and gave me a shorter pixie. By then I had almost all natural color and now all the chemical treated hair has been cut off. I LOVE it. I receive all kinds of complements. 30* years ago I was draped as a “sparkling autumn”. I had a color update (online) and my palette shifted only slightly to a warm tonal which eliminates some deeper autumn colors but now includes some spring colors. I purged all my black, gray and navy. I’m embracing color enthusiastically now. I feel like I look younger than I did with brown dyed hair.
Oh wow, such a wonderful post! Her hair looks amazing in the new cut. And I did have a good chuckle that the salon name is Foxy Vixen! How appropriate! I am not quite ready to embrace my gray at 46, but I also haven’t dyed it since July so I have quite a bit of gray roots going on right now. I am not sure which direction I will head at this point, but I am still embracing my signature long black locks and not quite ready for full on gray. But I sure do admire the women who thumb their noses at societal expectations (I do that in every other avenue of life). Hair color is such a personal choice and I respect all the choices! Thanks for sharing and linking with me.
Hoping to read your update!