I found my first gray hair at 15.
I remember it vividly. Standing in first period with my current crush towering over me, my teenage heart fluttered when he lifted his hand to touch my hair. “Oh hey, you’ve got something in your hair.” That elation quickly turned to complete and utter horror when I felt a tug at my scalp and he stammered “Oh… uh, I think it’s stuck, actually. It’s a hair.”
I made a hasty escape and had my friend pull it out in the bathroom. He was right. It was a long, silvery hair. And I had grown it on my 15-year-old head.
I wrote it off as a fluke. I couldn’t find any more gray hiding in my otherwise extremely dark locks, and I knew there could be no possible way I was actually starting to *go* gray. After that initial embarrassment, I actually found it funny.
Four years later, I found myself sitting in a restaurant with my mom. As we were chatting, her eyes narrowed and then widened as she grabbed for something near my ear. I felt a pluck.
“What was that?”
“Was it a gray hair?”
Once again, it was long. It had been there for a while. And I still hadn’t hit 20.
After that second experience, I started noticing more and more gray sprouting out of my head. Gray isn’t even really the right word. They’re white. Pure white against my nearly black hair. They’re everywhere. I don’t have a streak, a spot, or a concentrated area. Like dandelions on a soccer field, they’re popping up wherever they please.
And I’m actually really okay with it.
Maybe it’s because I’m fairly young to truly be going gray, but I have never once had the urge to dye them. I feel like it’s kind of becoming my signature, maybe a metaphorical middle finger to the beauty standards that we’re inundated with daily. I don’t feel this way about all of my “flaws.” I have severe hormonal acne that has only recently started to improve with the help of a great dermatologist. I’ve had three kids, and I don’t always love everything about the changes that has brought to certain areas of my body. I have a fluid relationship with my appearance, as I think many of us do.
Maybe what makes my gray hair different is that, unlike changing my skincare or updating my exercise regimen, there really isn’t much to be done about it. Nothing will stop or slow the rate at which my hair follicles naturally decide to stop producing pigment. The only thing I can do is cover it up, and honestly, thought of the upkeep (and cost) of keeping these blinding white roots hidden against my natural color is not appealing in the least. This is just what I’m going to look like.
Furthermore, I seriously love the way people’s hair looks when it’s completely untouched by dye. This is a personal preference, and nothing more, but as a color analyst, the natural dimension that occurs in people’s hair is endlessly fascinating to me. Hair is rarely all one color naturally, and the way it perfectly complements our skin and eyes is one of my favorite parts of color analysis. I love showing clients with natural hair how rich and nuanced their color truly is, particularly when they think their hair is “mousy” or uninteresting. It never is to me!
That’s certainly not to say that dyeing one’s hair is a poor or misguided choice. It’s not. Just as I feel most comfortable leaving the house with makeup on, some people feel most comfortable with dyed hair. That’s perfectly valid and I support it wholeheartedly. I love working with clients with dyed hair as well, and I spend quite a bit of time during my PCA appointments talking about it. Everyone’s unique combination of coloring means everyone needs slightly different things when it comes to hair color, and this is also a huge area of interest for me. Dyeing your hair is not the problem.
The problem comes when we assume that once women have a certain number of grays, they “should” start dyeing them. The problem comes when we then assume that women who don’t dye their hair have given up or are “letting themselves go” (can we just get rid of that phrase altogether?) The problem also comes when we see older women who do dye their hair as failing to accept that their youth is gone and “trying too hard” (get rid of this phrase too.)
I understand the pressure to fight aging. As women, we’re fed the idea that “pretty” is VERY IMPORTANT from an unfathomably early age. We’re often treated as if we have an expiration date in a way that men simply aren’t. This is problematic and nuanced in a way that is beyond the scope of this one post, but it is extremely relevant. No matter what decision you make about any aspect of your appearance, the only opinion that matters is yours.
If you’re having a weird relationship with your hair color right now, my only real advice is to examine why you’re feeling the way you’re feeling about it. Particularly when it comes to grays: do you want to cover them because they don’t make you happy when you look in the mirror? Do you dye them because you’re afraid of what others will think if you don’t? Are you feeling stuck because you started dyeing them and now feel like you can’t stop? Are you on the precipice of “should I start or should I keep them?”
You don’t have to decide today. And you can change your mind. If you come see me for a draping, we’ll talk about how warm, cool, dark, or light I recommend going based on your coloring, but I will never tell you how you should feel about your hair. I’m here to support and encourage, never to direct. It’s your body, and how you feel about it is the most important thing.
As for me, I like my silver hairs, so I’m keeping them naked for now. I might change my mind later, the way I’ve changed my feelings on tattoos, bronzer, and toe rings over the course of my life. It’s just hair, but it’s my hair. And today, I love it the way it is.