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

    andrea

    Hi Lisa,
    You inspired me to go gray and now that I started, I’m feeling the pain of the demarcation line.
    Do you recommend anything to help reduce the brassiness of the old color growing out that I can do at home?
    Thanks for your honesty and helping me accept myself as I am.
    Much gratitude!
    Andrea

    1. Reply

      Lisa Fennessy

      Hi Andrea! Check out our ideas for 10 Ways to Go Gray and also Overtone. You might find inspo in either or both of those posts. I agree, the demarcation line is not a fun stage but I found once I got to about 9 months (past my ears) it was a lot easier. Hang in there! xo, L

  2. Reply

    Kimberly Jackson

    I turn 60 in a few days. I am very fortunate in that I have never colored my hair. I have really dark hair and am starting to get some noticeable gray. Do I use purple shampoo now to brighten the gray coming in or wait until I have more gray?

    1. Reply

      Lisa Fennessy

      Hi Kimberly! The purple shampoo will only affect your gray hair. It will not alter your dark hair. So if you feel like your gray strands need a little brightening then go for it but if they don’t then no need to invest in a purple shampoo. Hope this helps! xo, L

  3. Reply

    Abi

    Hi, I’m 25 and I’ve started seeing more and more grey/white hairs. I’ve decided that I’m going to keep them and embrace the silver linings as they come. Thanks to this article I’ve received advice and words of comfort.
    I’m going to keep a lock of my natural brunette hair.
    We need to tackle this grey shame in society.

    Thanks,
    Abi

    1. Reply

      Lisa Fennessy

      Hi Abi! So excited for you to experience your hair journey in this way. You’ve got this! xo, L

  4. Reply

    MsWalkALot

    Hey
    Based on bitter experience, there is another thing I’d love to add to your list of things to never do. Never be tempted by hair dye remover to use at home! In my experience: it didn’t fully remove professional hair colour and I was left with a disgusting orangey mess; at the time I had approximately 1.5″ natural silver regrowth and that got stained yellow; lastly, the rotten egg smell takes weeks to wash out of your hair.
    [I ended up having it all cut off to a very short pixie (I always had short hair anyway so not too terrible). I’m growing it for the first time in 30 years and it’s now almost down to my shoulders.]

    1. Reply

      Lisa Fennessy

      You are not the first person to say that so thanks for sharing. So sorry this happened! It sounds beautiful now though! xo, L

  5. Reply

    Christy

    Just want to say that your gray looks beautiful! I let mine grow out starting in 2015. It was hard. I’m a blonde so I think it is easier for us, but I had been coloring my hair and it was light brown when I started. I’m so happy I stuck it out. I’m 49 and now it is blonde and silver mixed together and halfway down my back. I get so many compliments and people asking me where I get it done. They think it’s purposely colored this way 😂. For everyone in between, just keep going. It will be all done before you know it and then no more having to color!! So liberating!!

    1. Reply

      Lisa Fennessy

      SO LIBERATING! So happy for you Christy! xoxo, L

  6. Reply

    Danielle Battle

    Hey I have been going gray since I was 17, really started coming out in 2019. So I totally stopped dying it. I am 47 and I am really starting to embrace it.

    1. Reply

      Lisa Fennessy

      Amazing! So is your grow out complete now?? xo, L

  7. Reply

    Kathleen

    Hi Lisa
    I turn 59 in a few weeks and I’m ready for the next phase of my life. I’m going to start my purple shampoo with OWAY SILVER STEEL HAIR BATH but I didn’t see a conditioner. What do you recommend?
    Thanks for the validation!!
    Kathleen

    1. Reply

      Lisa Fennessy

      Hi Kathleen! I’m so excited for you! Your 60s don’t even know what’s about to him em – here we come! I like the Bruns purple conditioner or Bruns purple hair mask which is a more concentrated conditioner – both are available here. (Restocking this week!)

  8. Reply

    Shruti

    Hey
    I’m 17 years old and brown and I’ve been prematurely greying since I was seven
    I’d say that I’m 90% silver all over but have been colouring my greys a bold shade of coppery red with henna .
    It’s exhausting ; the touch ups, people telling me the roots are showing and that making me conscious and it’s super hectic as I’m a high school honours student .
    I really am fed up of it
    Should I embrace my Greys?

    1. Reply

      Lisa Fennessy

      Hi Shruti! Oh my goodness, if you are feeling the calling to give it a try then, YES! A thousand times yes. I wish I was that cool and confident to do something like “go gray” back when I was in high school. Why not give it a try? It’s not permanent and you can always change your mind and color it again if you decide you don’t like it. Or you could set a goal to do it when you graduate. I mean that’s the beauty of it. It’s really all up to you. Keep us posted! xo, L

  9. Reply

    Diana

    Hello,
    Thank you for sharing your journey with us.
    I have a question. I am considering going grey. I sam 3 month of color free. However, i have very little grey compare to the other people I generally see online and in your blog. I am not sure my hair color will be as beautiful as yours after it will grow out. I worry if it will just look like s stopped caring instead of like beautiful strikes/balayage like what you have.
    Would you recommend going grey for someone who have like 20% or less of grey hair? Or would you recommend waiting until there is more?

    1. Reply

      Lisa Fennessy

      Hi Diana! I have several friends who have just committed to not dying their hair and have no or very little gray hair, lol. Isn’t that always the way? I know what you mean but I can tell you it looks great on them. My vote would be to give it a try and see what you think. If you decide you don’t like it, you can always go back. xo, L

  10. Reply

    Jane

    After seeing your picture I can’t help but notice what lovely skin and smooth complexion you have. Wow!! You are beautiful!!

    1. Reply

      Lisa Fennessy

      Thank you Jane! I always say it’s from all the oils I use on my face. Oils to clean….oils to moisturize. Best thing I ever did for my skin! xo, L

  11. Reply

    Amy Renee

    So I have read your blogs many times over the past few years. About 3 years ago I ditched the home hair dye and started to go gray, three months in I wasn’t prepared for how bad the demarcation line was, I had no idea that at 37 I had that much gray hair. So now here I am approaching 40 and I’m definitely ready. I’m tired of the salon, I’m tired of the box dyes. I’m tired of trying to change who I naturally am. I found your blogs the most helpful out of all of blogs out there. Thanks for taking the time to post about yourself, the advice has been very helpful.

    1. Reply

      Lisa Fennessy

      Hi Amy! We ain’t ready till we ready! So excited for you and I wish you all the best on your going gray experience. Be sure to join our Facebook group for support along the way! xo, Lisa

  12. Reply

    Bella

    What oils do you use on your face? My face is naturally oily and acne prone. I tried a EVC oil and my face broke out. And how do you use oils to clean your face?

    1. Reply

      Lisa Fennessy

      Hi Bella! You can check out the oils I am using right now in my current skincare routine and also you can check out how I cleanse with oils in this post! Hope this helps! xo, Lisa

  13. Reply

    Kris

    Hi! I saw your article last fall and it helped me decide to stop coloring and let my natural gray take over! I haven’t colored since October and although it is hard at times to see the “water mark” as I call it, I am really starting to love the changes! I am very white/silver underneath, and the entire top of my head overall! My family has been super supportive (I am 54, and my husband at 54 has been gray a long time) and encouraged me to stick with it! Thanks for all of your positive information, it helps to have a community and support!

    1. Reply

      Lisa Fennessy

      Hi Kris! I’m so so happy you are really starting to love it! I know it can be hard at the beginning but when you hit that point where you are like, WAIT A MINUTE, I ACTUALLY LIKE THIS…it all gets so much better! Thanks for sharing your story! xo, Lisa

  14. Reply

    Suzanne

    Lisa,

    I just found your website on Pinterest this past June. I have been dyeing my hair since my mid-20’s. I was happy sinceI was working, and young, and trying to get further in my career. But as a aged, my responsibilities increased and my health unfortunately was in turmoil. I was diagnosed with MS in 2015, and keeping down my greys wasn’t all that important anymore. Besides, younger people were dying their own hair grey, so I was not out of fashion anyway! Thank you for being here!!!

    1. Reply

      Lisa Fennessy

      Hi Suzanne! I hope you are managing well with MS? Thank you for sharing your story. I know it will help others too. We are here for you! xo, Lisa

  15. Reply

    Mila

    I made my decision to go gray in 2008. I had been in a horrible car crash and was beaten up pretty bad. Broken bones and so on. My husband had to wash and dry my hair and many other tasks for my care. I just couldn’t ask him to color my hair. Best decision I made. My hair is beautiful and people tell me it is. I’ve inspired 4 other women since then to go gray.

    1. Reply

      Lisa Fennessy

      I’m so glad you are okay Mila! So amazing that you have inspired others to do the same. Love this story, thank you for sharing! xo, Lisa

  16. Reply

    Gloria

    I am a brunette who has keratin straightening done every 3-4 months. I’m so over dying every 4 weeks! Do you have suggestions/recommendations for sulfate free, anti brass products? Thoughts on highlights vs cold turkey going gray?

    1. Reply

      Lisa Fennessy

      Hi Gloria! I would recommend this purple hair mask (so good!) and this sulfite free purple shampoo / conditioner. Also, you might like this post that shares 10 ways to go gray including going cold turkey and getting highlight / low lights. Hope this helps! xo, Lisa

  17. Reply

    Delia

    I hope you do not mind my asking Lisa, but can you help with purple shampoo which turns my still wavy hair frizzy. I apply conditioner but it still frizzes after a few days. Apart from that I love being a silver brunette. I stopped dying my hair as I became allergic to dye. I believe our complexions change to match our silver grey hair. Thank you. Delia

    1. Reply

      Lisa Fennessy

      Hi Delia! Another option is you can skip the purple shampoo and use your fave shampoo. Then you can condition with a purple conditioner or a purple hair mask. That might be a good workaround! Hope that helps. xo, Lisa

  18. Reply

    Sara

    For me it’s not about going grey but more about going natural. My hair since I stopped dying it is all different shades and tones – including grey. It’s interesting and it is to my mind pretty.

    There seems to be a lot of pressure to be the ‘right’ sort of grey, to buy a lot of products and to be a ‘proper’ grey. Well many of us are between. I’ve noticed there are so many products and involvement with hairdressers. All of which seem designed to make you feel bad and part with your cash in order for your grey to be made proper and uniform and conforming to a set standard and to be the same as everyone else. We are never good enough as women are we?. Well no. I like my hair as it grows and that was the point of stopping the dye. I don’t need anyone’s validation to know this is okay. Of course it is ok, it’s basically accepting who and what we are and feeling good about it.

    1. Reply

      Lisa Fennessy

      Hi Sara! This is exactly right. The most important part is that people feel good about moving forward. If you have found that path than I am happy for you. ; ) xo, Lisa

  19. Reply

    Joy

    Hi Lisa,
    I am 49 & stopped dying my hair 3 years ago and it has been so liberating. I worried that it would make me look old but it’s the opposite! Now my hair tone is natural my skin looks more radiant. I get lots of compliments from total strangers, which is lovely, and have given my Mum the courage to ditch the dye too! We were both brunette & went cold turkey, Mum’s short hair took 6 months, mine at shoulder length took about 2 years. The only advice I have is I found the demarcation line much easier to deal with when I put my hair up & ignore negative remarks, let your confidence shine like your silvers!
    Grey Pride 😊

  20. Reply

    Alexa Morton

    Hi. I am Alexa and I am 40. my greys have been coming in fast since I had my last child so I went grey last year. I know this article says to go grey slowly keeping the long hair and growing it out but the best way is to shave every bit of that gunk off. I had long hair my whole life until my 39th birthday. I wasn’t fond of my long hair but I didn’t want to be strange. The shortest it had been was mid neck in my 20’s. My husband always wanted me to shave my head even on our first date he asked me how I kept all that hair on my head and if I had ever thought of shaving it all off. But on my 39th birthday my 3 kids and my husband were with me. I was complaining about my hair as usual and was saying how much of a pain it was to dye it. Then my husband said that I should forget about social norms and just buzz it all off. We went into our bathroom got out our pair of clippers and buzzed my head. It felt so good and my husband loved mine so much that he buzzed his own head. I wished I had never had hair because this felt so amazing. Later that year my 10 year old daughter shaved all of her shoulder length hair off to and my two boys as well. Then my mother mother in law sister and almost every other women in the family and some friends two shaved their heads. It is a much better way to live and I hope long hair will be wierd for women to have and every woman be bald someday. Hope I inspire some of you to follow me. Love Alexa P.S. I shave my head every week

    1. Reply

      Lisa Fennessy

      Oh my goodness, I love this story SO MUCH. Talk about influencing others. Be strong in your right and you can change the world. Keep going friend! xo, Lisa

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?