A few weeks ago, while I was washing my hands in a fluorescent-lit bathroom, I spied with my little eye…a rogue gray hair. At 24 years old, I did a double take, and much to my surprise, the more closely I looked, the more grays I saw. Curious to hear more about going gray, I spoke with four women of different ages. Here are their stories…
Rachel, research coordinator at UC San Diego
Age: 25; started graying at 12
On rocking it: When I was in middle and high school, I was insecure about the rate at which my hair was turning gray. I looked different from my peers and didn’t want to stand out, and was terrified that I’d reach key life events, like getting married, and be fully gray. I’ve considered coloring, but as I’ve gotten older and grown into my hair more, I’ve realized that this is what I am supposed to look like. This gray is part of me, and I shouldn’t try to cover it up. I get compliments from strangers every day, whether I’m at the pharmacy or running around my neighborhood, and I can’t tell you how much they make me smile.
On go-to products: My favorite products are Provoke Touch of Silver shampoo and conditioner. Sometimes, gray hair can adopt yellow or green undertones, and purple or blue shampoos like Provoke can neutralize those pigments. They’ve worked magic for me. I also use Aveda Light Elements Smoothing Fluid to keep my hair sleek.
On family genes: My parents also grayed early in life, so I joke that this trait is so deep in my family genes that one day our next generation will be born gray. I’ve known my entire life that I was destined to go gray early, and at this point, I’m proud to walk around with this big head of beautiful hair on my shoulders.
Christan, founder of Tula
Age: 34; started graying in early 20s
On role models: My mom went gray in her early twenties. She has the most striking silver hair, so I never had a negative affiliation with it. I colored my hair with henna in middle school (such a ’90s thing to do!) and then colored it through college for fun, but I never colored it to hide my gray.
On evolving style: My style and beauty routine have changed drastically over the last few years, not only since going gray, but also after starting Tula, a mobile plant shop, and diving deeper into horticulture. Nowadays I don’t wear any makeup and I’m very picky about what I use on my skin and hair. I seek out natural products and shy away from stuff with ingredients I don’t recognize. I like Goodtype pomade. It doesn’t weigh my hair down and gives nice texture to my curls without making them greasy.
On aging gracefully: Silver hair is a rite of passage. Gray doesn’t mean you have lost your youthfulness; rather, it says, ‘Look at me, I’ve lived, I’m living and I’m owning the natural progression of my life.’ How great would it be if this were celebrated?
Ty, author and blogger
Age: 41; started graying at 14
On insecurities: In the past, I would wear my hair to one side and never show underneath, because that’s where all the grays were. And just like everyone else, I still have insecurities to overcome. Going gray was always cool to me, but I never envisioned a whole head of WHITE hair. I’m practicing the art of being grateful, though, so here’s to the fact that I have super healthy hair.
On go-to products: To brighten my grays, I use Clairol Shimmer Lights shampoo at least once a month.
On changing perspectives: I’m elated that going gray is becoming more of a trend. Over the years, I’ve realized how much women are advertised to and how we’re told to believe certain things about our bodies and appearances. Every commercial on TV exploits the narrative that going gray means you’re old and that you should dye your hair. It’s important to challenge that idea with images of women who look amazing sporting it.
Suzie, second-grade teacher
Age: 58; started graying in late 20s
On taking the plunge: When gray hairs showed up in my twenties, I wasn’t happy. I dyed it blonde for years. Then at 40, I cut my hair really short and had to color it every four weeks — there is no hiding gray roots when the length of your hair isn’t much longer than the roots themselves! In my mid 40s, I finally let it go to see how white it was, but didn’t feel ready to fully embrace it until I turned 50.
On go-to products: I use Clairol Shimmer Lights shampoo, which keeps my hair from looking dull. Gray hair can have a different texture, and I’ve never been good at styling, so keeping it short has kept me from worrying about all of that.
On second thoughts: I’ve been asked if I qualify for the 65 and older discount at places — that’s a rough one. Every now and then I look in the mirror and think, ‘Should I color again?’ But it takes about 30 seconds to realize it’s not worth the money, chemicals or upkeep. If you Google ‘gray hair,’ you get lots of hits for ‘cures,’ which is so extreme; I’d rather think of it as a sign of maturity and acceptance.
Thank you so much, Rachel, Christan, Ty and Suzie! What are your thoughts on gray hair? I’d love to hear…
P.S. 16 hair tutorials, and six secrets of a hair stylist
(Top photo of Rachel by Ray Photography Co. All other photos provided by Rachel, Christan, Ty and Suzie.)