Going Grey: Scariest Decision of My Life
Yes. Choosing to go grey was one of the scariest decisions of my life! Just over a year ago (June 16, 2017, to be exact) I took the plunge and started the process to see what my natural hair color is. How could I not know the natural color of my own hair? I'd been coloring it since I was 18—all over lightening, highlights, low lights, and balayage. I actually discovered my first grey hair just after high school—luckily only a random strand—not a sign of prematurely going grey. But over the last ten years, my roots began changing from dark brown to salt and pepper. It wasn't until a year ago April that I really became curious about the status of my hair's current natural color. How much was salt and how much was pepper? Was I brave enough to find out?
Rewind to age 18. My first foray down the hair color rabbit hole was a product by Clairol called Luminize (I would compare it to a professional version of Sun In). It gently lightened my hair to what I would describe as "auburnish". I knew I had a lot of warmth in my hair because growing up my ends would be a brassy blonde after a summer at the swimming pool. After a year of Luminize, I went back to my natural dark brown because I started perming my hair. Once perms went by the wayside, I added copper highlights—something that only needed to be done 3-4 times a year. Getting your hair colored professionally isn't cheap, so frequency is definitely a factor when deciding what to do. I began doing all over color when I was having my hair highlighted. I discovered the hair not in the foils would naturally lighten up to the tone of the hair that had been highlighted so my colorist started coloring the non-highlighted hair dark brown to keep the contrast. In the early 2000's, I decided to be more bold when my colorist recommended something she called balayage. Chunkier sections—bleached and then toned to a brassy blond. By the time I decided to return to my natural dark brown, the roots around my temples were beginning to turn salt and pepper.
My hair has always grown pretty fast—something most people would not complain about—unless their roots are going grey. I have used every root touch up product on the market to temporarily hide those pesky grey hairs: hair mascara, marker, pencil, powder, and spray— because less than two weeks after having my hair colored it looked like someone was shining a spotlight around my face. Because of course, the first place to go grey was my temple area, not the middle of the back of my head where no one can see! It got to the point where the longest I could stretch my appointments was every three weeks. Even using colorists at the Juut training salon was making a bigger dent in my wallet than I could afford so I began coloring it myself in between salon visits to save money. I went from every three weeks to stretching those salon appointments to six weeks. Then eight weeks. Eventually, I gave up on the luxury of having a colorist altogether. But the professional hair color purchased from Sally's Beauty Supply never looked as good as the Aveda hair color I was used to—and I knew it.
Fast forward to April 2017. I was fed up with the constant coloring and feeling like my hair never looked good. But was I ready to make a bold move? Over the past year, I'd tried going to a lighter brown so my roots wouldn't be such a drastic contrast, but it just ended up looking drab. Then I did balayage again, hoping the highlight trick would work (it didn't). In June, I finally decided to be serious about possibly going grey. Yikes! What would it look like? How much would it age me? How long would it take? Would I look like a skunk? How much of my hair was actually grey? Maybe I could ombre the grey into the dark, I thought. Perhaps I could color the grey parts lavender or blue (funky bright not "little old lady"). I considered all possible options BUT grey—for at least a minute. I asked my two daughters what they thought. One was cool with me trying the grey thing. The other nixed the lavender/colorful idea but found me a muse on Instagram for going grey: Annika Von Holdt.
Annika had the most stunning grey hair I'd ever seen. She has beautiful silver around her face with the remaining being a steel/titanium color. As it turns out, hers is naturally greying this way. I had no idea what mine would look like, but I was determined to find a way to replicate it—even if it meant coloring my hair grey.
I have to be honest: this last year has been hair hell. I constantly felt the need to explain to people that I knew my hair looked like sh*t. When your hair looks bad, it affects how you feel about yourself overall. Truthfully, I'd not been feeling my hair for a number of years. The compliments I used to get were non-existent. Once I decided to transition to grey, I rarely allowed any photos of myself—especially on social media. First, there was bleaching to try to remove the brown which caused a small section of my hair to melt off. Then I cut the length to try to blend the missing hair. I was using hair conditioning treatments up the wazoo. I spent most of last summer wearing my hair in a ponytail because I was definitely not meant to be a blond. As my natural color started taking over, my colorist foiled in low lights to break up the blond with the growing darker "pepper" hairs. Eventually, I gave up and cut the length again. What's the use of saving it if it looks like crap? I also took thinning shears to randomly snip off those low lights on the ends
A year later, I now know what my current natural hair color is. It's actually pretty close to my muse. My hair style is not where I'd like it to be (yet). But the bright silver that was once the bane of my existence now frames my face and is what showcases my new look. My hair also fades into that steel/titanium color like Annika's does. Now I just need to grow some length back!
The biggest drawback of going grey? I'm used to people assuming I'm a fair amount younger than I am but twice I've had young ticket takers at the movie theater give me the senior discount—without asking. As frugal as I am, that was hard to swallow. Clearly, they don't know coloring your hair grey is trendy right now and has nothing to do with age!
Even though I'm still somewhat in transition (at least emotionally), I just had a birthday earlier this month so I thought I'd take this opportunity to do the big reveal. My daughters also tell me my 'photo strike' has to stop. The only evidence of my previously colored hair is a few wispy strands in the back of my head. Growing out my natural color is pretty close to complete but the style and length are definitely still a work in progress. The biggest surprise about going grey? I've been getting a lot of compliments on my hair! Complete strangers will literally make a point to come up to me when I'm out and about to rave about my hair using words like beautiful and gorgeous and telling me they love it. It's mostly women, but even a few guys have made a point to tell me they love it. One young woman in her early 20s told me my hair was rockin'! Maybe it's time for us to stop thinking it's just the men who look better or "more distinguished" when they go grey. We call men silver foxes, why not women too?
Stay tuned for more of my journey! I'll be sharing photos and telling you exactly what it took to get me to this point. The pictures are not pretty, but it'll give you an honest look at my year of hair hell. I'll let you know my secrets for maintaining my natural grey hair—it still requires some effort. And I'll talk about makeup and style changes since going grey. You can follow me on Instagram @thekatturner for real-time progress.