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


    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


    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


    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


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

  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


    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


    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


    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


    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


    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


    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

  15. Reply


    Hi Lisa, I have a completely backward situation, lol. I have rarely colored my hair over the years. But now at age 65 I have become so bland grey/light to medium brown (50% grey?) I couldn’t stand it. I have very pale skin and I looked like an uncooked roasting chicken!! I just looked colorless! I always confidently said “I’m just going to grey the natural way” lol! But I had no idea how bad it would look with my “dirty grey” hair. So….I went and had low lights put in. I am someone who never liked going to salons and didn’t for most of my life. I’ve always had healthy, shiny, light to medium brown hair. I don’t really want to go and process my hair again. But what does someone do that is so pale and now will also have colorless hair? My sister’s skin tone is more olive and she has the most beautiful white hair. I know mine will never be white, it will always be this bland grey. My parents and grandparents were also just grey. Sigh. I would love to hear your comments.

    1. Reply

      Lisa Fennessy

      Hi Mary! Thanks so much for your comment. I think this is a common fear for many women – you are not alone! One thing that can help is to look at the before and after pics of people who have your same coloring or similar coloring. It can broaden perspective and help with mindset. Have you downloaded our Gray Hair Lookbook yet? That’s a good place to start! xo, Lisa

  16. Reply


    I just turned 50 (Nov 2022) and had been coloring my hair since I was 16!! I was using permanent color every 4-6 weeks, and once those grays started coming in (early to mid 40’s) I couldn’t get that dye on soon enough.
    My hair was always typically shoulder length, but 2020 was the year that brought me to a pixie cut, because why not!? My last permanent color was July 2021, then I just used temporary color (Joico Intense) to cover the grays and soften that growing out root line. My last temporary color was January 2022, and now I’m back to my shoulder length and full on gray/silver strands mixed in my dark blond hair. I say my saving grace to the graying grow out was my pixie cut and the temporary color. I LOVE my hair!

    1. Reply

      Lisa Fennessy

      Hi Luisa! I’m so glad you tried going gray and LOVE IT! It’s a feeling like no other! Thanks for sharing your story. xo, Lisa

  17. Reply


    I found my first grey hair at 7. My father went grey super young and at 31 I have very noticeable graying.

    I always decided I would never get into the mess of dying my hair to hide them and I’m glad I haven’t.

    Everyone has a different opinion but I think they look fantastic on my very dark hair. I absolutely encourage others to do the same. Nobody else is thinking about your Grey’s as much as you 🙂

    1. Reply

      Lisa Fennessy

      Love this. Keep going! xo, L

  18. Reply


    My roots are natural Gray but the rest of my hair is like a brown from coloring. I have oxidized my hair with go Gray and the rest of my hair has turned to a light brown with some light red undertones. What do I need to do to get all of my hair the same color as my gray roots. I appreciate your comment and thank you.

    1. Reply

      Lisa Fennessy

      Hi Cindy! I would recommend going to see a stylist to see if you can get some professional help. It’s so hard to diagnose and consult about color over text like this ; )

  19. Reply


    Hi Lisa, I’m 71 and always kept my hair short and went through the dyeing and highlighting for years and for way TOO much money. But during Covid with no hairdressers around I thought OK let’s look what’s underneath all this coloring. Once hair dressers were back I went to a barber (that also does women’s hair) and had the blond all cut off and a beautiful silver/gray emerged. I love it and get tons of comments. Plus since now I only need a cut EXACTLY like I want and only on six-week intervals the cost is so much cheaper. I’m in there for 40 minutes tops instead of three hours. I highly recommend trying to go natural! And yes I use a purple shampoo so my hair really shines.

    1. Reply

      Lisa Fennessy

      Hi Patricia! So happy that you’ve found your hair happy place! You go! xo, L

  20. Reply


    what is grey blending?

    1. Reply

      Lisa Fennessy

      It incorporates your gray hair into your coloring by keeping some of it untouched and then adding gray highlights and gray lowlights to ease the pains of growing out your hair cold turkey. My advise is if you are going this route, be sure to ask your colorist for examples of their previous gray blending work to be sure they can handle the task. I’ve had so many women say, “I did something like that and it didn’t turn out great and now I’m back at square one. I wish I just left it alone.” xo, Lisa

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