5 Going Gray Don’ts

July 27, 2021 (updated April 8, 2022)

My going gray guide for anyone making a decision about if growing out gray hair is for them. I share some of the pitfalls that trip people up when going gray, and give you tips for success by avoiding these 5 going gray don’ts. And don’t forget to check out more of my going gray guides below!

By: Lisa Fennessy

1. Don’t use blue or green shampoo

First of all, you may not even need a toning shampoo at all. The first couple of years I grew out my hair gray, I was convinced my experience transcended purple shampoo.

Then, three years in, my hair started taking on a brassy tinge. I couldn’t tell if my whites were actually white or if they were browns that hadn’t turned white yet. It was all getting a bit muddy and I found myself craving something to add brightness, definition, brilliance and clarity to my grays.

Thankfully, a purple shampoo will help remedy that, which is why it’s so important to a going gray guide.

Purple shampoo is the best toner to use when it comes to gray hair because it neutralizes brassiness caused by heat styling, medications, product buildup, sun, salt, chlorine and environmental pollutants. Why purple shampoo? It’s basic color theory: Yellow is opposite from purple on the color wheel, indicating these two tones cancel each other out. For more, check out how purple shampoo works and my top natural purple shampoo picks.

That’s also why blue or green shampoo is NOT the choice for gray hair. When we look that same color wheel, we know that yellow + red make orange and red + blue make purple etc. So when someone with yellow-y gray hair uses a blue shampoo, guess what color you are going to get? That’s right. GREEN! Blue shampoo is not designed to be used on gray hair; its function is to neutralize orange tones in brown hair.

collage of pictures showing different shades of hair from darkest black to lightest blonde
Madison Reed hair level chart.

Lastly, purple shampoo will only work for gray hair that is a level 8 or higher (which in this case, means lighter), so if you have darker gray hair or dark hair with just a few grays, purple shampoo may not work for you.

RELATED: The best all-natural purple shampoos for gray hair (or silver or white or blonde hair).

RELATED: Should You Use Overtone on Gray Hair?


2. Don’t start until you are ready

It seems a bit counterintuitive for me to be encouraging you not to go gray but seriously, don’t start until you are ready. How do you know you are ready? YOU WILL KNOW.

Sometimes this knowing will arrive via a slow build over time or sometimes it strikes via a “straw that breaks the camel’s back” moment. This could be someone glancing at your roots (AGAIN), or an unsupportive hairdresser telling you not to go gray, a boiling frustration with having to schedule a hair appointment every three weeks or even seeing another beautiful woman rockin’ her grays.

When you are ready, your inner voice will sound something like, “That’s it. I’m not going dyeing my hair anymore.” (Or something a little louder with a couple trash-mouth swears thrown in.) And that’s when you will know it’s time.

My inner dialogue convinced me to dye my hair again just ONE MORE TIME (which you can read all about in my Going Gray: Before and After Pictures post).

If your inner dialogue still sounds like, “I want to go gray, but I’m not sure.” Or “I will go gray…just not yet.” Or, “It looks great on you but I could never.” Don’t force it friend. Give yourself some more time to build the confidence and desire to jump in. Find inspiration in other women, find other women’s going gray stories, read going gray books, search Pinterest or join a going gray group like The Gray Book. This will help you build confidence; I promise.

Then, at some point, something will happen and you will feel your inner voice getting louder and louder. And when it starts screaming words like, SCREW THIS!, that drive, that commitment, those feelings of being fed up will propel your experience forward and give you more strength and more tenacity to ride the ups and downs to come.

For me, it was deciding to go gray and then immediately chickening out. The moment I announced I was going gray, I made a hair appointment to get my hair dyed. I didn’t even last a week—haha! But going to the salon, sitting in that chair, looking at myself going through the motions one last time really gave me the closure I needed to move on. I often equate this last hair appointment with “breakup sex.” I needed that one last rendezvous to be sure—and it ended up being just what I needed to move forward.

RELATED: Need more going gray inspo? Check out our Going Gray Lookbook, with real women’s going gray journeys. Read my 101 Ways to Respond to Rude Comments About Gray Hair.


3. Don’t go gray alone

One of the most major keys to my success was having support. My husband was super supportive and he really gave me the guts to start. Then as I starting talking about the process publicly, I started getting words of encouragement from readers and even random people around town and it was just so….helpful.

I wish I could say I had the strength to do this alone but to be honest, there were several times along this journey that I needed to hear: “Your hair looks good.” These words of encouragement and this external affirmation really TRULY helped me continue on.

So, seek out support from friends and family, because it will make such a difference. I also realize that not everyone’s friends and family are supportive so I started a Facebook group for women to convene, exchange stories, support and identify in each other, grow, lead, follow….all of it, in one place, for your going gray guide. You will find support here. Come join us!

Download your free going gray lookbook graphic

4. Don’t limit your options

There’s no one way to go gray! I personally went cold turkey even though I begged my hairdresser every time to give me some highlights or lowlights or a gloss…SOMETHING to take the edge off. She never agreed because my hair is naturally so dark and she said it would just take too much processing to lighten it to where we would want to get it. She said she did that for a client once and it made the client’s hair so weak that when she put her hair up in a bun at the beach, her bun fell off. And…that’s what convinced me to just wait it out (and to share it in this going gray guide).

But there are so many different things you can do during the grow out like getting highlights, lowlights, ombre blonde or gray, a cute pixie, a shaved head…I’ve seen so many creative approaches.

I especially love this one woman’s approach: She told me she grew out her grays in her early 40s and then decided to start dying it again when she turned 45 and now, a couple of years later, she’s growing it out for a second time.

There are no rules, friends! Have fun with it.

RELATED: Easy braid styles for gray hair.


5. Don’t listen to naysayers

A big part of a going gray “guide” is this: Don’t listen to people who tell you not to do this. It can really change our trajectory when our mom or our dad looks us in the eye and says, “Don’t do this.” Or, “You’re too young to go gray.”

This is a classic example of “result” and “intention” clash. People who say that genuinely MEAN WELL. They truly think they are doing you a favor by “telling you something you don’t know.” They think they are enlightening you, bringing you out of the dark. Sharing knowledge. Helping you.

The reality is, it’s just really hurtful, unsupportive and it makes us feel less-than and alone. That’s not the intent of their words, but it’s the effect.

I wish every woman could have a picture like this of themselves before starting out…

two side by side images of Lisa that show her transition from dyed hair to naturally gray hair
Three years later…

A gray hair crystal ball if you will. I used to pull and pry at my roots while covering my dyed hair with my hands to see, Am I gray enough? Will it look too mousy? Do I hate it? Do I love it? What will this all look like in the end?!

This 👆 is me a little over three years into my journey. And I would choose this route every time. Again and again and again. And I think other people would be supportive from the beginning as well if they knew this was my outcome.

These types of comments come from fear, inexperience, ignorance and love. Until we have more women walking this earth with their natural grays glowing, we will continue to have our loved ones respond this way. They want the best for us and their idea of “best” is shaped by history and societal norms.

Change starts with you and change starts with me. But first we have to get there so FIND SUPPORT along the way.

Looking for a go-to going gray guide? For more on going gray, check out:

Xo, lisa
Download your free going gray lookbook graphic

FAQs for our going gray guide

Should I use green or yellow shampoo on gray hair?

Neither. You should use purple shampoo on gray hair to combat brassiness. Learn more here.

How do I know I’m ready to go gray?

Don’t start until you’re ready. If you’re having doubts about it, give it some thought, connect with women going through this journey, or join a group like The Gray Book.

What’s the best shampoo for gray hair?

Purple shampoo is definitely the best choice because it neutralizes brassiness. Check out how purple shampoo works.

By Lisa Fennessy

Lisa is the founder of The New Knew. Passionate about clean beauty, organic eats and nontoxic lifestyle, Lisa writes to create awareness. Conscious consumerism and informed decisions will impact the marketplace, our health and THE WORLD!

222 Comments

  1. Reply

    Melissa

    I am 49 and a half. I decided this morning that I don’t want to color my hair any more. I am about 95% white/silver with waist length spiral curly hair. My hairdresser is my unofficially adopted professional brother and he moved out of town. He isn’t as available as he once was. I was looking at my now 1-1 1/2″ roots today and I could imagine all of it that color and I think it could be gorgeous! I’ve been coloring since my 20s. I am so excited! I told him today that we need to have a serious talk when he comes back in another two weeks about my natural hair color. 🙂

    1. Reply

      Lisa Fennessy

      Oh. My. GAH. Melissa, it is going to look SO GOOD!!! Please share pics with me! xoxox, Lisa

  2. Reply

    Laur

    I found this post looking for reassurance I did the right thing! I have been contemplating for over a year now about letting my gray roots well actually mostly white roots grow in. Yesterday while waiting in the waiting room before my hair appointment an older woman with lovely gray hair talked to me about my thoughts and asked my age, which is 59, and told me I should wait probably a little longer to go gray. I made the tough decision to go for it and my stylist removed all the color from my hair (my hair color was a beautiful, golden, light blonde throughout most of my head and darker underneath) and applied a toner. This will lighten up and I will get toned again in 8 weeks. It’s a big shock even though everyone likes it, but now my white/gray hair can grow out and not be so noticeable. I’m still having my doubts about it. I would post a pic here but I don’t think it will let me. I did join a fb group the gray book group and waiting for acceptance. One funny thing is I asked my stylist, “so do some woman never stop coloring and go to the grave without going gray?” Her answer was, “yes”. I can’t imagine coloring for the rest of my life. Ugh. Let’s see how this goes. I can always go back.

    1. Reply

      Lisa Fennessy

      Hi Laur! It’s a big decision to make but one that is not permanent! You can always change your mind. You can always go back. But why not give yourself the gift of discovering what’s on the other side? Just to be sure? You’ve got this! xo, Lisa

  3. Reply

    Judy

    I’m 76 and would like to try going gray , the edges are pretty, but from the scalp back has that Ugly yellow + what ever, it’s sickening.
    I was born a redhead, redhead’s usually don’t gray well , I know my dad didn’t, my sister did, her hair was light red, mine was auburn,, now I have like a burgundy, my hair is short.

    1. Reply

      Lisa Fennessy

      Hi Judy! So excited for you to try going gray. Have you tried a purple shampoo? It can help reduce the yellowing. These are my faves. Hope this helps! Lisa

  4. Reply

    Judy

    Yes I have, but done nothing for my hair, except around my face
    Thank you for getting back to me
    Judy

  5. Reply

    J. Watson

    I am a registered nurse and absolutely refuse to use toxic hair dyes. The chemicals in these hair dyes seem so unsafe for human health…in my opinion. I am gray around my face and brown hair in the back…too bad not the opposite!!!
    I started putting henna on my gray in the front a few years back….it works well. I like the brand The Henna Guys…..order off Amazon. I use the medium brown and mix with black coffee. It sits on my hair for 4 hours wrapped in Saran Wrap and covered with a North Face stocking cap to contain the heat from my head….then rinse with cold water. No shampoo for 48 hours. ALWAYS a red color at first….but slowly turns a more natural brown color and blends with my hair on the back. Just an alternative for gray but without the toxic chemicals of hair dye. Henna is easy….not a hassle and from a health standpoint very much worth it!!!!!
    Thanks for all of you very insightful articles!!!!
    Very much appreciated!!!

    1. Reply

      Lisa Fennessy

      Thanks for sharing your experience and insight J! xo, Lisa

  6. Reply

    Kitty

    Hi. I have natural strawberry blonde hair and I’m 56. I have a few gray hairs can’t really see them. Should I start to use purple shampoo?

    1. Reply

      Lisa Fennessy

      Hi Kitty! I don’t think so. You only need to consider purple shampoo when your gray hair starts to yellow or turn brassy. Purple cancels out yellow tones and that will help keep your grays brilliant looking. I you are not experience any brassiness now then you don’t need it yet. Hope this helps! xo, Lisa

  7. Reply

    Almira

    Hello Lisa, I’m 49 and I’m starting to go gray this year because I find out last year that I have scalp psoriasis and I’m afraid to dye my hair again.Do you think the purple hair is ok for me to use?

    1. Reply

      Lisa Fennessy

      I do because it does not have the same chemicals that hair dye has. But always a good idea to spot test before using to be sure. Same with any product. Hope this helps! xo, Lisa

  8. Reply

    Laura Myers

    I’m 55 and finally decided that coloring my hair was too much work too irritating to my scalp. My stylist started gray blending about 2 months ago and I’m loving the look.

    1. Reply

      Lisa Fennessy

      Woot woot! So excited for you Laura! xo, Lisa

  9. Reply

    Elisa Viegas

    Hi, I’m Lisa too 😂 (actually Elisa, but my family and close friends call me Lisa) and I’m 44.
    During covid pandemic I thought I was going to stop dyeing my hair, but… Nopes! It’s just like you said: I wasn’t ready!
    But now, I feel ready! Last time I dyed my hair was by the end of July, só it’s been 2 months and a half. I feel great ☺️ everyday I look at the mirror and pray for my hair to grow gray 😂
    BUT just like you said it’s not easy when you tell someone you’ll no longer dye your hair and they look at you like “Oh God, she needs therapy!!!” Or they just say:” I hope this is a joke!”
    The worst thing is when my oldest son, a 15-year-old, says: “Mom, you’ll look like an old woman! Yout students will no longer like you!” 😨😡
    Welllll… anyway, he’ll get over it 😂 and in fact some (girl) students told me: is everything ok with your hair, teacher?! But when I tell them about my decision, they respect it ☺️
    So, here I am… going gray 💪🏻 and loving it 🫶🏻
    Thanks for all the suggestions and posts 🙌🏻

    1. Reply

      Lisa Fennessy

      Love this so much for you Lisa! Show them whatsup! You’ve got this. xo, Lisa

  10. Reply

    Rachael

    I am 2 1/2 years in…the back of my hair doesn’t seem to want to transition…I am naturally dark and am contemplating some “help” with highlights/lowlights but also don’t want to feel like I am cheating, giving up, or even worse, going to cause damage.
    Most days I am starting to feel so ugly because the transition is pretty much at a halt. Any magic advise?

    1. Reply

      Lisa Fennessy

      Hi Rachael! I totally hear you! And you don’t have to sit and wait for it to grow out. There are plenty of ways to go gray…here are a few that we’ve rounded up. Hopefully they will inspire and encourage you. xo, Lisa

  11. Reply

    Ie e

    On my 43th birthday (late june) I decided I had enough of the ‘touch ups’ and hours of ‘in salon treatment’. It’s 45% gray and I thought: ‘this is the moment to grow it out, without the dreaded ‘bar of grey’. I’m done with the hassle. Tomorrow my hairdresser is going to chop it off to a lob and start to ‘grey blend’ it all to make sure I look ‘representable’ at work. After four months of growing out my natural colour so my hairdresser has a storting point, I’m excited. Everybody around me saying I’m ‘too young’ but I don’t care. I’m going to be me again, with sagging skin, greys and all.

    1. Reply

      Lisa Fennessy

      OMG HOW DID IT GO???!!!

  12. Reply

    Quetcy

    Hi I’m 52 years old have been going gray for almost three years. But my hair is like past my waist and not completely gray. It has some gray around the top. And under the hair my question is Can I use the purple shampoo. I have tried all shampoos and my hair gets really dry.

    1. Reply

      Lisa Fennessy

      Hi Quetcy! So the whole point of using purple shampoo is to keep grays looking brilliant. If your grays already look brilliant, you do not need a purple shampoo. If your grays look a little brassy or yellowy, a purple shampoo will help color correct that. Some purple shampoos are super drying. You want to use one that is more moisturizing, not only to your hair but your scalp. I like recommending BRUNS for that. Have you tried it? xo, Lisa

  13. Reply

    Linda

    Hi I’m Linda, I’m 56 and many of my friends have gone grey, but I wasn’t ready. It’s become so expensive and time consuming though, that I think it’s time. I can’t wait to see how it looks and hope I don’t change my mind when the first few inches start to grow in.

    1. Reply

      Lisa Fennessy

      You’ve got this Linda! I love that your friends have paved the way, I’m sure they will be a big source of encouragement for you. xo, Lisa

  14. Reply

    Rhonda

    I’m 67. About a year ago, I had finally had enough. Enough sitting in a chair for hours, scheduling appointments around everything else. And the money! I could have taken myself on a really nice extended beach vacation on the money I’ve spent coloring my hair for the past 8 years. So, about 8 months ago, my hairdresser started blending my gray and lightening my blond color. Now I’ve got some significant gray showing, but I’m still a long way from having totally natural hair color. Realistically, probably another year. But once you’re ready, you’re ready. I don’t care what my hair looks like right now. It’s going to fabulous soon!!!

    1. Reply

      Lisa Fennessy

      Couldn’t have said it better myself; When you’re ready, YOU’RE READY! Love this! xo, L

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.

5 Gray Hair Dont’s 10 easy braid styles for growing out gray hair Do You Need a Hair SPF?