5 Going Gray Don’ts

July 27, 2021 (updated March 21, 2023) — Written by

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!

a side by side image of me before and after going gray
Lisa before she starting growing out her gray (left) and three years into her gray grow out (right).

By: Lisa Fennessy

Growing my hair out gray has been one of the scariest and most rewarding experiences of my life. 🏆 But the actual decision process was not something I took lightly. I’m a people pleaser and I didn’t want to do “the wrong thing.” Negative comments I received weighed heavily on me and messed with my intuition (surprise, wish I knew that + these 10 things before I started going gray).⁠

Now that I’m on the other side, I can say, listen to YOUR gut (no one else’s gut!). And if your gut isn’t saying anything rn, give it time. You will know when you are ready to go gray. And when you do jump in (or if you’re here because you’re diving in already), be sure to check out our guide on how to go gray and keep scrolling because you’ll want these tips for what NOT to do when you go gray.

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—since then I’ve tried and tested every natural purple shampoo known to man.

Because 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 you will find purple shampoo recommended in basically any 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.

A look at how Bruns Purple Shampoo tones a blonde wig, before and after.
A look at how Bruns Purple Shampoo tones a blonde wig, before (right) and after (left).
A look at how hair reacts to Oway Purple Shampoo.
A look at how OWAY Silver Steel Hair Bath tones a blonde wig, before (right) and after (left).

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.

The before image of a woman with dyed hair.
8 years ago, when I dyed my hair every 4 weeks.
The after image of a woman with gray hair.
5 years after going gray.

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. And by the way, you don’t just have to sit and wait like the dye strip method, gray hair blending or these additional 10 ways to go gray.

My inner dialogue convinced me to dye my hair again just ONE MORE TIME.

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.

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!

going gray lookbook

a woman going gray chose to shave her head.
Kiva Sherr chose a close crop.
Woman with gray hair going cold turkey
Julianne Statnick went cold turkey.
Woman with gray hair extensions
Carol Love tried gray extensions with twists.

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 and so much more.

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 dyeing 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.

5. Don’t listen to naysayers

What would this going gray guide be without some mindset advice? One of the most impactful things I can tell you is don’t listen to people who tell you not to do this. It can really change someone’s trajectory when their mom or their dad looks them 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. Read more about this + what to say back in our 101 Ways to Respond to Rude Comments About Gray Hair.

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

A woman with dyed hair.
My dyed hair before going gray.
A woman with gray hair.
3 years into my gray journey.

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.

More support for going gray

Next head to my guide to figure out how to actually go gray.

xo, lisa
The Going Gray Lookbook.

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!


  1. Reply


    Yes! I just don’t get it. My hairdresser’s only suggestion was that I use a semi-permanent dye to help blend as I let the new stuff grow out and see what it looks like.

  2. Reply

    Sabrina Savage

    Hi! So I just turned 40 on the 3rd and I have a lot of silver and white hair I was dying my hair red for a long time and decided to go back to my natural color brown. After it started to grow out lol I seen how much what I like to call them wisdom hair I had, I decided to just let it all grow. I mean heck it’s in right now and girls pay good money for this color. But my oh my is it taking a bit to grow out. Nun the less I’m on my way.

    Your an inspiration and you look amazing

    1. Reply

      Lisa Fennessy

      Oh so excited for you Sabrina! You are ON YOUR WAY! xo, Lisa

  3. Reply


    Love this i went cold turkey and had a lot of comments why ? But i stayed firm

    1. Reply

      Lisa Fennessy

      I think most people who comment are coming with a positive heart. They actually think they are helping in some way. I did the same thing to my mom when she first stopped coloring her hair. I told her not to. (I hate that I said that!) But I honestly thought she was making a mistake and I was helping her see the truth – lol. So glad you stuck with it. xo, Lisa

  4. Reply


    Hi…I’m so confused! My grey hair is colored an 8 n. Color…but now it has a reddish tone to it. I m not ready for grey…just don’t want the reddish tone ….my skin is warm…I’m 64…help….thnks! Would purple shampoo be what I need???

    1. Reply

      Lisa Fennessy

      Hi Lou! Because your hair is colored brown and you are looking to get rid of that red tone…you might try a blue shampoo OR you may need to get it re-toned at the salon. A hairdresser would best be able to advise! xo, Lisa

  5. Reply


    Hi I am 60 the front of my hair is white and very light grey the back of my hair is dark grey with light grey bits what would you recommend I have a medium Bob style haircut . I have a picture if you need it.

    1. Reply

      Lisa Fennessy

      Hi Teresa! Your hair sounds beautiful! I think the best thing to do is crowd source for inspo. Have you joined The Gray Book yet? It’s a private group we host on Facebook where women can get feedback, inspo, support and find community. I think this would be a great question to post! xo, Lisa

  6. Reply


    I am going grey mostly in front and on top. I had auburn hair (more red than brown) but after radiation it turned a dark brown. Now that the grey is arriving the rest of my hair has turned black. I love the grey but hate the black. Do you have any suggestions for the black?

    1. Reply

      Lisa Fennessy

      Hi Susan! I’m so glad you are doing better after radiation? That sounds like a really beautiful color combo to me. I think the best thing to do is crowd source for inspo. Have you joined The Gray Book yet? It’s a private group we host on Facebook where women can get feedback, inspo, support and find community. I think this would be a great question to post! xo, Lisa

  7. Reply


    If you have brown/light brown with lots of scattered greys but your overall hair texture feels rough (I assume the greys have taken oven slowly and therefore texture has changed), Will purple shampoo hurt? Is there anyway to soften up the hair at all? I’m only 33 so going grey has been a battle but just like you said this year I had that moment of “it’s time” but didn’t take into account texture and color changes! I’m just not sure what to do for hair with lots of grey but more so the texture. I currently just use a white shampoo, haven’t ventured into anything purple or for silver/grey bc I still have brown too.

    1. Reply

      Lisa Fennessy

      Hi Nic! Purple shampoo will not hurt the condition of your hair – go ahead and try it to see what you think! For adding softness and shine, I would recommend EVOLVh’s SuperFinish Polishing Balm – it’s so good! xo, Lisa

  8. Reply


    I always wanted to stop dyeing my hair. covid gave me the final push. I love how my hair looks now salt and peppered in with bolder streaks bracketing my face. I don’t look wise coz I am wiser 😀

    1. Reply

      Lisa Fennessy

      So happy for you Manj! Wiser for the win! xo, Lisa

  9. Reply


    I don’t understand the fuss about going grey. I’m a 58 year old with medium brown hair. I’m starting to get silver strands and I’m excited to see my hair in a few years.

    I haven’t colored my hair for 20 years , give or take a few years. My hair is still predominantly brown but the silver strands are coming in. Love it.

    1. Reply

      Lisa Fennessy

      So fun! And I know, it’s a social construct that does not serve us anymore. We are working to rebuild! xo, L

  10. Reply

    Lucy H.

    So I went white naturally during Covid. It took a little over two years to complete the process. I went to Sally’s Beauty Supply to get a toner and she recommended “Bright White”. Well….it turned my hair PINK and there is nothing I can do but start the growing out process all over again. Lesson learned!! Bummer…

    1. Reply

      Lisa Fennessy

      Oh, my, gosh. NOOOOO! So sorry that happened! Second time is a charm? xo, L

  11. Reply


    I have been going white since I was thirty and kept dying it naturally dark brown. Had left it for over six months but hated the strip that I was getting left with it made me feel old only 48, So back to the salon had a colour correction and toner to go lighter, what a shock after seeing how bad your hair looks after a bleach bath, but once it was completed and so much lighter them toned the transformation was amazing didn’t bleach the roots just toned and yes you can still see them but not to the extent so back in a month again for full
    Highlights and eventually will go lighter each time till you don’t notice different , and no white racing strip. Best decision I have made even though I wanted to go grey myself I just couldn’t deal with the stripe.

    1. Reply

      Lisa Fennessy

      That’s amazing Mo! I wish you could drop a picture here so we could see. Be sure to share one in The Gray Book on Facebook – so much inspo there, I know the women in that group would appreciate learning about your experience! xo, L

  12. Reply


    IPleAse helpi dyed m6 hairsomuch. Last 2 years it’s finally gettting health6
    M6 question is I shave dark brown hair my roots come to fastin 3 weeks 8n

    I don’t want full gray ye5 maybe just highlights what color for high lights so can stop doing my roots so much

    1. Reply

      Lisa Fennessy

      Totally! Here are some more ideas to help you transition to gray hair. Hope this helps! Lisa

  13. Reply


    You are spot on my friend! Im 38 and My decision built up over 6 months and I did have a SCREW THIS moment and shaved my hair that moment. I really didn’t get much flak from anyone, just my kids lol, and most neighbors and friends said they admired the balls it took and that I was “fierce” and hat they wish they could do it too. It was freeing and I will say I have never ever felt more confident, even tho I know I looked better with my long brown hair, ill eventually have long salt and pepper hair and I’ll rock that too!

    1. Reply

      Lisa Fennessy

      Omg Rachelle, YES! I love that you lived a “shave your head” moment. If I’m being honest, I’m kinda jelly. I wish I did that, just for the experience of it all! So happy for you. xo, L

  14. Reply


    I have 3 applications of professional permanent color that I’ve been using for years, and now I’m ready to try dyeing only 25% of my roots as, and blend my way out of hair color. Can you tell me the best at home approach? I’m open to using foil, but the simplest route is my preferred route.

    1. Reply

      Lisa Fennessy

      Oh! I love this idea and I’ve never heard of doing that before. Sorry, no advice but be sure to keep us posted if it works for you! xo, L

  15. Reply


    I am at the last stage of getting my blondes cut out of my hair. I’ve been talking for the last two years about embracing the grey. So July 21 I started the process. I went short with my hair to start it. Love my new style and my grey is starting to appear. It’s more at the back and sides so one more cut maybe and it should all be natural. Hoping that I like it. It’s more salt and pepper. I’m 52 and thought now is the time. Not going to let anyone judge my decision

    1. Reply

      Lisa Fennessy

      Hi Maxine! So happy for you! You did it girl! xo, L

  16. Reply


    Hi there! Wanted advice- I’m 38 and I’ve got about and inch and a half of gray – I’ve been coloring my hair my natural color which is very dark brown for years. Sometimes a smoky black, sometimes a dark brown, so my hair between the dark and the gray has a reddish brown tint. I want to brighten my inch of gray that I have but fear purple shampoo may mess with the reddish brown yuck in between – what would you recommend?

    1. Reply

      Lisa Fennessy

      Hi Leanne! Purple shampoo will not affect dark colored hair, only light colored hair so I think you will be fine trying it. Refer back to this post and check out the hair color chart, you can see what I mean there. Hope this helps! xo, L

  17. Reply


    You are right when you said don’t start when you’re not ready. My grays more noticeable on the front than anywhere else. I had my hairstylist worked around my grays and she did wonders (got a fierce haircut, too!). Loved my hair then but love it more right now. My husband was initially not keen about me going gray but told me that it looks great. I think I got most of your list done.

    1. Reply

      Lisa Fennessy

      A fierce haircut can solve like 99% of my problems, personally, lol. So glad you are loving your new look Irma!

  18. Reply


    I will turn 72 in May. Because of circumstances for about 8 weeks I haven’t seen my beautician . My blonde is growing out and is about 2 inches.. I have a lot of white in my hair and some dark hair too. What do you suggest?

    1. Reply

      Lisa Fennessy

      Hi Chris! Here are some ideas for how to grow out your gray. I also recommend joining our going gray community for support, inspo, solidarity and community. Excited for you! xo

  19. Reply


    I’m 67 and haven’t colored my hair since I was a teenager. I was very light blonde as a child. Then it turned ash brown until it started turning grey when I was in my 50’s. Now it is very light grey and to me it looks blonde. I would like to enhance that blonde color and not obliterate it with purple shampoo. I don’t understand this obsession with purple shampoo. Not everyone wants to get rid of the yellow in their grey hair. I pour coffee on it and use Henna Gold shampoo to try to bring out the gold highlights. I’m sensitive to chemicals, so I don’t want to dye my hair, but I would like to recreate that blonde hair I had as a child. Any suggestions?

    1. Reply

      Lisa Fennessy

      Love this! I don’t have any experience with trying to bring out gold highlights personally – but I would recommend joining The Gray Book online to post this question. We have over 16K women in this community ready to support, inspire, share and lead – try posting your question there and I bet you will get some ideas!

  20. Reply


    Now that there are gray dyes on the market do you recommend trying the gray dyes on? My hair is between medium to dark blonde with gray roots. I figured I could try the gray dye and if I don’t really like it cover over it with a blonde dye. Any thoughts on the whole gray dyeing process to see if you like your hair gray.

    1. Reply

      Lisa Fennessy

      Hi Paula! Thanks for your question. I’ve never tried gray dye so I can’t speak to this experience personally BUT you could ask our gray hair community The Gray Book on Facebook. See if anyone has tried it and they can share their experience. That would be a great place to start. From what my hairdresser tells me, no sort of dye will be able to replicate what you have going on naturally. So as the dye starts to grow out, you will inevitably have roots again. Hope this helps. xo, L

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