Taking a look back at the past three years and highlighting 10 things that surprised me about going gray. Some surprises are more superficial, some are more deep but together they make up my personal experience. Do any of these ring true for you? Are you going gray and loving it?
By: Lisa Fennessy
1. Gray haircare is LEGIT
I was fine using all of my same products at the beginning of my grow out but now that it’s been a few years, my hair needs have done a 180.
First, I won’t leave the house without a UV protectant. Gray hair can yellow from a plethora of factors including medication, environmental pollutants, cigarette smoke, heat tools and UV exposure. Using a great UV and heat protectant can stop gray hair from turning brassy or yellowing before it even has a chance to start. I personally love EVOLVh’s SuperFinish Polishing Balm which not only protects agains heat and UV damage but also defrizzes, adds moisture, softness, shine, strength, prevents breakage and splitting too. It’s pretty much a wonder product….as in…I wonder where this has been my whole life!
Second, to help grays stay bright and brilliant, I’ve recently turned to purple shampoo. Purple works to counteract yellow tones and it helps keep grays from looking dingy. You know I won’t settle for any ol’ purple shampoo. It’s gotta be clean and it’s gotta work. Rounding up my top two picks plus more on gray hair care here.
2. I actually like my hair
I 100% went into this process knowing I could do it. I had the tenacity, the will power, the determination, the confidence…everything to get the job done but what I didn’t have was KNOWING it was going to look good.
You can read more about my inner dialogue and how I actually went gray in my Going Gray: Before and After Pictures post.
Honestly? I was ready to do this as a consolation. As a step down. As something that I felt I wanted to do but that I would be letting go of so much. My youth. My looks. My identity.
What I realized in the end is that I actually like my hair. I’ve spent so much effort and time over the years drowning in hair thoughts and now I don’t have any of that. All of the self-talk around hair is gone. And I can truly just be me.
3. Other people actually like my hair
And it’s not just my mom! Other women on the street, at community events, at the grocery store etc…people genuinely go out of their way to comment on my hair. I had one woman at my son’s school library tell me she was “Going gray tonight when she got home!” But it’s not just all women. It’s men too.
Who knew men like gray hair?! For all the women who comment on my hair, there is a guy giving me a complement too. I even had this one guy driving down Peachtree Road in Atlanta yell out of his convertible, “Love the hair!” he screams (pointing at his own head). I mean, my hair made such an impact on this guy that he felt the need to scream at me across Peachtree to let me know. While I don’t think Scarlett O’Hara would approve of such public displays, the sentiment was noted!
4. I feel and look younger
Okay, maybe I don’t feel younger but I feel like I look younger and that is so surprising. I mean, how can someone with gray hair look younger?! Something about the lighter hair around my face…maybe it’s the juxtaposition of younger looking skin next to older hair? Maybe it’s my inner spirit shining through? I don’t know what it is but it’s working.
I look at pictures of myself from when I was 35 and compare them to now when I’m 42 and I would pick 42 every dang day! This is me at 38 still dying my hair…
5. I can rock cool tones like a boss
This may not seem like a surprise but all my olive skin toned sisters know what I’m talking about. With warm-toned hair and warm-toned skin I was never able to pull cool tones like hot pinks and purples. Warm tones and cool tones tend to clash… like one of those 1990s optical illusion posters you stare at and then a picture jumps out at you. That was me trying to wear pink.
BUT now with my new cool-toned hair + warm-toned olive skin, I am actually a walking anomaly. Is she warm? Is she cool? She’s both y’all! And I and can pretty much rock the hottest of hot pinks like Clove + Hallow’s Lip Velvet in Road Trip and the coolest of purples like OLIO E OSSO’s Lip Creama in Ibisco without batting an eye.
6. The Sisterhood
The day I caught myself winking at a stranger I was like, WHO JUST DID THAT! Along the way I found camaraderie, solidarity, strength and confidence in every woman I passed on the street that was gray or going gray. I still do.
I’m calling it the sisterhood and it’s a glance, a smile, a compliment toward another woman growing their hair out gray and I didn’t know this kindredness existed until I started going gray.
7. I mistook myself
Last week I was looking at old photos of the kids and I was like, “Aw, there’s me and little Cole..” Only to realize, NO! It was MY MOM and Cole! I mean, my mom is beautiful so I’ve got that going for me but dang. That was surprising.
8. Learning something new about my body
At 40 years old you would think I knew everything there was to know about my own body. Welp, turns out, I was wrong. Seeing my hair grow in in highlights, streaks and new-to-me patters was straight-up righteous. I was so surprised at how obsessed I became with learning about my hair and anticipating it’s final look.
So often I hear women say things like, “It looks great on you but I could never.” And I totally relate to that. I had those exact same thoughts too. I used to pry my part apart to see if I could catch a glimpse of my future and it was always so hard to tell what my hair would truly look like. From what I could gather at the beginning, I thought it would be mousy and just look dirty. It wasn’t until I saw it fully coming in in it’s totality that I could actually see the big picture.
9. It’s a movement
What has been 100% surprising is the amount of messages, emails, feedback and comments I’ve gotten from women along the way like..
I love your blog and your message and I have been on a similar detoxification journey over the past number of years. I feel like ditching the hair dye is really my last major step. Again, I can’t thank you enough for sharing your own going gray journey. I loved watching your final cut! I seriously almost got out my clippers and buzzed my own hair off LOL!
I can’t believe it but, I’m excited for my hair to grow out!April
I’ve also heard women say, “I never even knew it was an option to go gray until I saw you go gray.” Or, “You inspired me and my mom to go gray together!” Or, I was thinking of going gray but then I found your blog and I knew I could do it.”
I’m not out there trying to evangelize women into the going gray process. I’m just showing up as I am, sharing photos, videos and my experience along the way and this has impacted so many.
Hearing these comments has turned this experience into a movement for me. When I show up, it opens the door for other women to show up and that type of showing up can change the world. So I’m here for it. All of it.
Join over 3,000 women in our private Facebook group; The Gray Book for support, inspiration, camaraderie, strength and chit-chat on all things going gray.
10. The internal transformation
So I’ve saved the best for last. I really thought going gray was just letting my hair grow out. HA! If it were only that easy! The hard part about going gray and loving it is really all the internal growth that happens along the way. Butting up against belief systems and social constructions real hard and working your way through them.
It’s not easy stepping out with 3 months of a grow out and roots shining bright. It’s not easy wearing your biggest insecurity on your sleeve. It’s not easy going against the grain. It’s not. BUT, like my girl Glennon Doyle says in her new book Untamed; “We can do hard things.”
And when we do hard things we create new truths for ourselves. New truths around who we are, what beauty means to us and how we choose to measure our self worth.
It all starts with a couple inches of an external grow-out and ends with miles of internal growth.
This is me 3 years in.
Learn more about going gray!
For more on going gray check out these posts:
- Best Makeup Tips for Gray Hair
- Best Eyebrow Makeup for Gray Hair
- Growing Out Gray Hair: 10 Ways to Go Gray
- 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
LizJune 5, 2020
Thank you for this. I’ve been toying with going grey for several years. My husband is very encouraging. I mentioned the idea to my mother and she absolutely freaked out. For her the idea meant that SHE was getting old. I was 39 at the time. I went on coloring my hair. Now, I’m 42 and the pandemic interrupted my hair appointment schedule. It has been 13 weeks since I last colored my hair and another five weeks to go before my next appointment. I have much more grey than I thought, but now it feels like time to just go for it. Your videos have helped me to feel less nervous. I was afraid of looking unkempt or like the neighborhood witch. You’ve shown me that hopefully neither will be the case. Thank you again!
LisaJune 6, 2020
Hi Liz! You’ve totally got this! My guess is your mom will see how beautiful gray hair looks on you and then do the same – keep us posted! xo, Lisa
AriMay 5, 2021
hi! your face looks really young, with firm and tight skin, and no wrinkles, so the gray hair does not make you look older, not at all. The impression I normally get is that women with gray hair that leave it unpolished and in bad shape are the ones that look old . I am 46 years old and have some white hairs, covered with henna, but I have been preparing my journey too jejejeje. Greetings from Venezuela!
LisaMay 10, 2021
Hi Ari! So excited for you! The more I live with gray hair, the more I realize…my hair color doesn’t change who I am…it’s still just me. I think people are scared to go gray because it will change how they look…and it will to a degree. But it won’t change who you are. Your light. Your soul. Your face. Sometimes I look in the mirror and I don’t even see my hair anymore….I just see me. And that feels good. xo, Lisa
Cynthia MelendezAugust 22, 2021
How do I know when yo use a purple shampoo? I want yo achieve the dark gray look like you. I have dyed dark hair w. My original color was jey black, but I have brown and gray now. How do I get your look? Wish I could send you a pic of my hair right now.
Love your hair.
Lisa FennessyAugust 24, 2021
Hi Cynthia! Join us over on Facebook at The Gray Book! You can post a photo there and get tons of feedback…it’s such a beautiful community filled with women who have gone gray, are thinking of going gray or are in the process right now. I’ll look for your photo there! And a purple shampoo will work to make gray strands brighter…it does not effect brown or black strands… xo, Lisa
AnnetteFebruary 24, 2022
Hi Lisa. I just watched a bunch of your videos and the more I watched the more I went YES! YES! YES! This is my story! Or rather, this is going to be my story.
I’m 46, living in Sweden, have naturally wavy/curly, medium brown hair and spent pretty much my entire life fighting my natural hair type. Hair dye (blonde, black, red, you name it) and my straightener were my best friends for decades until my hair was so damaged that it literally broke off inches from the root. 3 years ago I decided to embrase my curls and nourish my hair back to health, a process that is emotionally probably very similar to letting your gray hair grow out. It’s months (well, years) of trial and error, disappointment and wow!-moments until you reach that point when you finally know your hair, understand what to do and what not and when the compliments are starting to roll in. “I wish I had your curls!”. Yeah, sure you do!, I used to think. Now i finally actually feel proud of my curls.
As a part of transitioning to a more natural hair routine the topic of going gray has crossed my mind many times. My husband encouraged me mulitple times but I kept telling him “I don’t think I’m ready yet”. I Just felt like the combination of my natural waves/curls and the gray would catapult me staight into witch/cat lady territory with dry, unruly frizz and a generally unkempt, unprofessional appearence. Your videos completely changed my mind about that! You really showcase the versatility of gray hair as long as you take good care of it. Your hair looks soft, professional, interesting and, yes, youthful. I see a lot of similarities in your and my hair type and color so your pictures and videos are a realistic glimpse into what my hair would look like at the end of the journey. And I love it!
And Covid actually got me an unexpected 6-month head start. After months of working from home and putting off hair appointments I finally booked a coloring appointment for next week. You know what? Once I’m done writing this comment I’m going to cancel it. I have almost 6 months of regrowth right now (pretty much exactly the same amount of gray and regrowth as in your 5 month pic). I’m pretty much 1/3 of the way already. So why not keep it going?!
Thanks for the inspiration! I’m looking forward to checking out more of your content. ox, Annette
Lisa FennessyFebruary 25, 2022
OMG Annette! I feel like we are all here witnessing your decision and commitment to going gray – so excited for you! Be sure to keep us posted and if you haven’t joined The Gray Book yet on Facebook, be sure to! So much inspo and support there. xo, L