This month marks one year of growing my hair out gray. I literally can not believe it’s been a year already. It feels like just yesterday I came home and told my hubs I dyed my hair for the last time today. One year has brought some unexpected insight, a sense of pride and an overall acceptance for who I am right now.
By: Lisa Fennessy
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A Beautiful Transformation
I guess one of the most beautiful transformations that I’ve experienced has been on the inside. I used to carry the weight of I hope no one sees my roots today, they are so bad. That story would live LOUDLY inside my head two weeks out of the month. I used to “prefer to stand” just because if I sat down then people would have a birds eye view of my grays. I used to be mid conversation with friends, family or coworkers and be sidetracked wondering Did they just look at my hair? I bet they can see my grays. I was carrying around so much mental weight about my hair – it was totally owning me.
And the kicker is, even though I was dying my hair, I was unhappy with it 75% of the time. I hated a fresh dye because my roots were super dense/opaque and way too dark to look natural. The second week was great. But by week 3 + 4 I was living in paranoia city again.
This sort of cyclical rumination was taking over and I didn’t even realize how big it was until now. Now that my story has changed. With a year under my belt, I can look back and compare then and now with some insight. And with this perspective, I can clearly see it’s a classic If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em scenario – but one with the most powerful ending.
Now I see people staring or commenting about my hair but I know it’s because they see the young face/gray hair juxtaposition and their brains are going haywire with can’t compute..can’t compute.. Either that or they like it, or they don’t but whatever – the looks don’t eat away at my self confidence and sense of self worth like they used to. That in itself is AMAZING to me.
RELATED: Best Natural Shampoo for Gray Hair
Like how could something bother me so much before but now that I’ve leaned into it, I could kinda care less? What the heck changed?! Not much really. I mean I’m still me. I look in the mirror and I still see my face. I look around and I still see my loving husband and beautiful kids. I talk on the phone and catch up with the same friends. I mean, I’m still me…It’s kind of like when you turn another year old and people ask how you feel – and you’re like um….the same?
So let’s compare. For the first few months of my grow out, I was starving for compliments and positive reinforcement. I just wanted my mom to tell me that she loved what I was doing and that my hair looked amazing. I wanted to hear it from my friends and husband too. I really needed that fuel to feel like I was doing the right thing. (As my Love Language screams Words of Affirmation).
But now? Now that I’m a year in and about half way there? I don’t really need it any more. We were at dinner the other day and one of my relatives said, “You know, I was really skeptical when you started growing out your hair, I was like, don’t do it Lis. But now it looks so good!” That comment would have given me drive for another several weeks when I was at the beginning stages but now I’m just like, “Cool. Thanks.” But it didn’t effect my sense of self at all. I didn’t need it. I didn’t thrive on it. It was totally peripheral while my core remained as-is: strong, confident and fly.
I guess what I’m trying to say is I’m not feasting on praise anymore. I’m not thirsty for affirmation. I truly just like the way my hair looks and I’m happy where I am now. (Okay actually I can’t wait till it’s fully grown out but that’s neither here nor there). I NEVER anticipated to have these feelings of ownership, pride and confidence. But I’ll tell you, feeling at peace with a part of my body that I hated for the past 20 years? Now that feels pretty dope.
The Highlights I Always Wanted
Did I tell you I’ve always wanted highlights? I love the look of 100 shades of blonde ranging from white to brown – don’t you? It looks cute up, down and the dimension is visually stunning.
So naturally getting highlights was happening at some point in my life. I mean, did anyone escape the 1” highlight fad circa 2005? Didn’t think so. Except for me, getting highlights meant lifting my dark locks for a ridiculous amount of time to the point where a week later they all broke off at the midpoint. (That was hot). So anyways, at 40 I finally have the 100 shades of dimension I was going for 15 years ago. Up-dos, braids and buns, here we come!
Save a buck…or 25,000
Also, let’s talk money. I used to totally cheap it out and forgo the blow-dry just to save money and I was still shelling out $60/month with tip in my heyday. So let’s do the math. That’s $720 a year and for argument’s sake, let’s assume at 40 that I have 35 more years of hair dying. (I mean I’m aiming to live to 100 but most people are okay with having gray hair when they are 95 – right?) That’s over 25K in savings (!!??) I should just congratulate myself right now and buy a new car with all the money I’m saving.
So I know a lot of people struggle with their grays turning yellow. Fortunately that hasn’t happened to me…not yet at least. I’m wondering if it has something to do with the water quality and/or element exposure?
So for the summer I’ll be doing a lot of hats. But honestly, now that I’m in Atlanta, I really don’t have much of a choice. I was at the playground with my kids last week for a few hours without a hat and got too much sun on my forehead – in April (!?!) So I think living in Atlanta just means hats…all the time.
But I have also been using True Botanicals Shampoo faithfully and my hair has not turned yellow. I don’t know weather to chalk it up to my environmental situation or the products but either way, it’s working! (2019 update, I used to use their conditioner too but it’s been reformulated and it’s too heavy for my hair now. Still love and use the shampoo!)
I also love using Josh Rosebrook’s Hair Spray Firm Hold to tame the gray flyaways – totally helps!
And I’ve actually been enjoying Innersence Organic Beauty Quiet Calm Curl Control when I straighten my hair. It’s a gel texture and gives my hair just a little more weight/texture so it lays a bit flatter. And of course when I curl my hair with a diffuser I am still loyal to my hero product: Inner Peace Whipped Creme Texturizer.
I have a video tutorial of how I style my hair both straight and curly with these products here!
Now this is just a theory of mine but I think going gray is easier when you have A LOT of gray – way easier than when you have a half-hearted mane. I wonder sometimes if I would have gotten this far if my grays weren’t as prominent. I think I may have been tempted to turn back if my end game wasn’t so obvious.
Also I can see that with a short structured cut, after a year I’m about half way there. Hoping to be all gray by December even if that means having to go shorter to get there.
Now tell me about you! Are you going gray? How is it going? What surprises did you discover along the way?
If you are not ready to go gray yet, check out my Hairprint review – it’s the cleanest and only nontoxic option on the market for coloring hair. It’s limited but if it’s a good fit for you it can be a life saver!
- Going Gray: Why I Stopped Dying My Hair
- Going Gray: 3 Months And Counting
- Going Gray: 5 Months and Counting
- Going Gray: (at 40!) 8 Months and Counting
- Going Gray: It’s Been A Year!
- Going Gray: A Transformation both Inside and Out Video
- Going Gray: The Final Cut!
- Going Gray: Real Life Inspiration
- 10 Things that Surprised Me About Going Gray
- What NOT to do While Going Gray
- Growing Out Gray Hair: 10 Ways to Go Gray
- 101 Ways to Respond to Rude Comments About Gray Hair
Photos by the lovely Monkey + Squirrel