Beauty & Fashion
with author Jackie Morgan MacDougall
go gray or no way?
It was like a scene from a movie. She walked in the door of the salon, with the bright rays of the summer sun wrapping around her body like a soft blanket, highlighting her beauty. She was stunning, gracefully floating across the busy floor; her makeup applied perfectly, her outfit simple and elegant and her soft gray curls bouncing gently on her shoulders.
I couldn’t help but stare. Her name was Rita and she had the most gorgeous head of silvery locks I had ever seen. It was like she had spent hours at the salon having shiny, sassy color painted on strand by strand. Here I was next to her with foils in my head, just five weeks after my last color (which was five weeks after the one before...) thinking “what am I doing here?” I have spent more time and money on covering up gray hair when I could just embrace it and wipe another “to-do” off my list. Maybe I could even save the obscene amount of money I spend on color for like, oh I don’t know, my kids’ college education (there’s a concept).
I probably freaked Rita out, or at the very least pulled her out of her relaxing salon moment, when I leaned over and started firing questions at her. Was that her natural color? Had she ever colored her hair? At what age did she decide to stop the coloring madness? Was it hard to do? She was as pleasant as she was stunning, sharing that it was ten years prior (at the age of 48) that she decided to let nature have its way with her hair. Being married to a silver fox of a husband, Rita said she said it was easier to join him, no longer feeling the pressure to live life relying on the bottle. So she went for it, asking her stylist to snip her color-treated locks into a tight crop. After a little transition period, Rita was soon sporting a sexy silvery do.
If she can do it, the rest of us can too, right?
“Hell NO” was the resounding answer (I swear it boomed from my computer) when I conducted my informal online poll. Out of over 70 women on Facebook and Twitter (and a few in person), only a handful said yes, they’d actually let their hair go unprocessed, while another five women admitted they would possibly consider it as they got older. Hair coloring is as common as clipping nails or cleaning our ears, with no sign it will ever slow down. Plus, out of those I talked to who color their hair, most actually started hitting the bottle well before gray arrived, more for fun or some variety in their appearance.
Janeen colored and highlighted for years before realizing gray is the only way when it comes to her hair. Not only does the lack of hair effort fit best with her busy life as a single mom, but it’s also a family tradition. “The women in my family tend to have this gorgeous silver hair as they age. It's always kind of been our thing. My mom never dyed her hair, and I always thought she looked great. (Still does.) So, by about 43 or so, I decided to just quit messing with it. Not many women my age had natural hair, so it was fun. I'm lucky in that I have a white streak around my face and then it's more salt and pepper in other places, with various levels of salt or pepper. So, it looks very much like the way you work very hard to get your highlights to look.” But Janeen says her natural locks don’t exactly make her a bold trendsetter in her community. “I live in an arty-farty small town, and I'd say 75 percent of the women here don't dye their hair, so I'm just one of many.”
Renee’ Kaehny, owner of Rituals Colour Salon in southern California, says going gray is not necessarily for everyone and that it’s important to take a couple of factors into consideration before making the leap.
Hair color While we call it all “gray,” the actual tone of the hair can vary greatly. Do your natural locks come in “Betty White”" Silver a la Emmy Lou Harris? Or maybe a Jamie Lee Curtis salt and pepper? While some “mature colored” hair may look gorgeous on one woman, are you really ready to rock the Golden Girls look in your 30s, 40s or even 50s?
Skin shades Renee says the color of your skin can be just as important as the color of your hair when deciding whether to go gray. “Light skin with gray hair can look washed out. Brunettes tend to be the prettier grays because they have color to the eyebrows and lashes already, which helps.”
Ok, so you’ve decided to take the plunge. The next steps should be based on hair length and the shade of gray...
Short hair Many women (like Rita above) opt to chop off the length in order to start as fresh as possible. Renee says some opt to also lighten it up, creating a shade as close to its natural color to help make the transition as smooth as possible. “I had a client who had shoulder length hair, we cut it into a pixie cut and kept highlighting it until it was her natural color.”
Long hair It’s all about the highlights. Renee suggests having a colorist highlight hair to get it closer to the gray, using a toner to take out some of the yellow tints that can come with gray hair.
Whether you’re a wash and go kind of girl, hit the salon religiously or are considering a new look, it’s important to consider your own lifestyle and personality. Your hair should be a reflection of who you really are and an opportunity to show the world the real you. And for those of you who read this thinking it’s not something you’ll ever have to face, remember this: Behind every head is a silver lining... you could be next.