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.
RELATED: How to Go Gray
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.
RELATED: Best Makeup Tips for Gray Hair
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