Going gray? Don’t make this mistake!

September 5, 2023 (updated March 8, 2024) — Written by

Ready to transition to gray hair, but worried about making mistakes you’ll regret? There are endless ways to navigate the going gray journey and it can feel a little overwhelming at the start. To help you avoid the frustration of saying, “I wish I didn’t…”, we are naming the top mistakes people make when going gray so you don’t have to!

By: Lisa Fennessy

Growing out gray hair seems easy. I mean, in a nutshell, you basically just sit and wait for your hair to grow out and then viola (!!) you have a head full of gorgeous gray hair. The problem is, it’s really hard to sit and wait. 

The average time it takes to grow out gray hair is about 2 years—for some it’s shorter and for some it’s longer. So that leaves A LOT of time to jump in there to try and expedite the process, attempt to soften that demarcation line or just make it so you don’t feel like you stick out like a sore thumb ALL THE TIME. And that’s when things tend to get a little *hairy*. 

I personally didn’t want to wait it out either so starting the grow out process was pretty slow. And by that I mean, the day I announced that I was going to stop dying my hair to the world, I also made an appointment to get my hair dyed, lol. That set me back about a month or so which, at that time, I kind of regretted. 

And I’m not alone. I’ve talked to thousands of women in The Gray Book about their going gray experience and so many women have a “I wish I didn’t make this going gray mistake” story. So I’ve rounded up several of them here in the attempts to share some insight and hopefully help you make the best decision for you when the time comes.  


RELATED: Going Gray? Try The Dye Strip Method!

Gray Hair Mistake #1: Not going gray sooner

Like I did above, so many women delay the process because they are scared about what will unfold. But the irony of this is that most women who have grown out their hair gray will tell you; “I wish I grew out my hair gray sooner!” or “Why did I wait so long???”. 

“I get compliments every day about my hair. I can’t believe it. Wish I had done it sooner ! It seems to make my blue eyes more noticeable because people remark about them. I had been dreading that I would look drab.” – Alison

Me, before and after going gray.

The takeaway: If you are on the fence, GO FOR IT!

RELATED: Growing Out Gray Hair: 10 Ways to Go Gray

Gray Hair Mistake #2: Caving to pressure from others

If you decide to go gray, nine times out of ten, someone will have something negative to say about it. The mistake here is actually listening to that person. DON’T! It’s not their hair, it’s not their life, it’s not their journey and they don’t get to slash your glow up tires like that! 

“My inspiration for going gray is my friend Anna. We met when we were both volunteering for our country during the pandemic. I saw her from across the hall and she had the most amazing ombré hair. As soon as I got a break I walked over and told her that her hair was amazing! Fast forward a year plus and she is now my best friend and it all started over her amazing hair. I bowed to pressure from my daughter and continued to color my hair but I was so tired of the constant coloring. Now I am determined and it’s time! ” – TNK Reader

Lisa looking at the camera

The takeaway: Put blinders on and listen to that inner voice that is encouraging you to keep going!

RELATED: 101 Ways to Respond to Rude Comments About Gray Hair

Gray Hair Mistake #3: Coloring your hair again

There are so many images online of women who dye their dyed hair to match their virgin grow out roots. THAT IS REALLY HARD TO DO and you need to seek out someone who is super skilled at it. I’m telling you right now that if you are asking your hairdresser Kendra who works at Cuts of London on Main Street to do this for you…IT AIN’T GUNNA HAPPEN! 

“About 5 months into the transition I made a mistake and dyed my blonde hair gray after 3 months from deciding to not colour my hair any more. The grey dye washed off after 3 washes! – TNK Reader

“My last color was February 19th, 2020. It was a mistake. I was already 10 weeks without color, but we were visiting our grandkids and my hairdresser there already had my color mixed when I sat down in the chair. I was disappointed, so I knew it was time!” – TNK Reader

5 years ago I had my hair stripped and colored gray.  It was awful. – TNK Reader

The takeaway: Set your goals and stick to them. Also, unless your hairdresser is Jack Martin, 99 times out of 100 you are going to wish you didn’t get in the mix with color.

Gray Hair Mistake #4 : Not updating makeup after going gray

I mean, *you do you* but if your hair used to be red and now it’s white but you are still using a red eyebrow pencil…it might be time to freshen up that look! 

“Help?! Did you have to change your foundation makeup color or brand when you stopped coloring? Any tips for finding the right match? I’m 52 and a former brunette, then many years with blonde highlights to camouflage/blend, to this current mess of I don’t even know what to call it.” – Carla

The takeaway: Be open minded and don’t be afraid to try new colors! And if you feel like you can’t do it on your own, ask a friend or seek out a makeup artist or a color stylist for help.

RELATED: Best Makeup Tips for Gray Hair

Gray Hair Mistake #5: Getting highlights or lowlights

During my grow out, I begged my hairdresser to give me some highlights or lowlights or a gloss…SOMETHING to take the edge off. She never agreed because she said my hair is naturally so dark that the processing it would take to get there would ruin my hair. 

She went on to say that she did that for a client once who insisted and it made the client’s hair so weak that when the client put her hair up in a bun at the beach one day, her bun fell straight off. NO THANKS! 

“I recently had highlights added to my non gray hair and now the texture is like hay. Also, my highlights are taking on a new color too ugh not sure what I should do next.” – TNK Reader

“I wanted highlights. My colorist asked if I wanted to “cover my wisdom.” I didn’t know I had “wisdom.” She colored my base color a dark chocolate brown and added highlights. My hair looked good the first time but every time after it kept getting darker and warmer. Last time I asked if she could remove the warmth. It was black next to my skin. I was done with color.” – Kristin

“I had been growing my gray hair out for a year and my stylist convinced me to add highlights to remove the color on my ends with the latest greatest bleach product. Now it is a horrible yellow. I want to cry!” – TNK Reader

The takeaway: Stripping color from your hair WILL make it more dry and more brittle. And adding highlights and lowlights will require a lot of upkeep and might not come out the way you intended.

Gray Hair Mistake #6: Cutting hair super short

Some people might feel liberated by cutting off all the gray in one go, but for others, adjusting to an entirely new look on top of a new look, might feel like too much. 

I had a moment when I was like, “I will probably never get a pixie cut in my entire life so if I wanted to try it, now would be the time!”  But alas, it was a whim and as the days passed, I changed my mind. 

When it comes to extreme hair decisions I suggest getting recommendations from stylists who understand your personal hair goals plus face shapes and what works for yours and your hair texture. 

You can also try some of the hairstyle apps to get a glimpse of your future look like we did here

“I chopped my hair off when I decided to start this journey. Somehow I thought the “line” would be less noticeable if my hair was shorter. Well, that was not the case. I still had the line and short hair. I was not happy with how my hair looked so then I thought bangs might be a good option. Chalk that up to another bad decision. I put the sissies down for 9 months now. If you all didn’t know, HAIR GROWS SLOW. Finally, I feel like I have made a good decision along the way and thought I would share. Most recently, I bought halo hair extensions. They are so fabulous. Just two clips and a band, totally removable and no damage! Now I can have my long hair back whenever I want.” – Tara

But you don’t need to have short hair to take advantage of extensions—check out mine!

the back of a woman's head who has long gray hair extensions
My hair extensions were added to my already long hair.

The takeaway: If you are considering an extreme change, don’t act in haste! 

Gray Hair Mistake #7: Trying a new hair treatment 

We are all searching for that gray hair easy button. This can lead to trying treatments like glosses, straightening treatments, keratin treatments and more. All I can say about this is TREAD LIGHTLY. 

“Have spent the last 15 months growing out the dye and going natural. Another 2 trims and I should be all there!! But a couple of days ago I decided to get a nanoplastia hair straightening treatment to help with the frizz. It has turned my hair green and I am devastated. I have tried ketchup, apple cider vinegar, red food colouring and purple shampoo. Nothing is helping! My hairdresser has taken a couple of strips of hair to do strand tests, to see if a toner will help get rid of it. My hubby says to just dye it brown again and start the whole process again. Am so gutted…” – Tini

“I was frustrated with all the gray frizz so I decided to do a keratin treatment. I feel like my hair now looks SO greasy now and to add insult to injury, it has massively reduced my silver shine. I don’t have a clue what to do.” – Melissa

The takeaway: If you opt for a hair treatment, ask your stylist if they have done it on gray hair before and if they can share before and after pics with you!

Most importantly…

I am calling these experiences “gray hair mistakes” but in reality going gray is not a linear experience. It’s not pass or fail, it’s not right or wrong, black or white or any quantitative measure of accomplishment. It’s curvy and full and rich and all encompassing. 

In my opinion, I believe these “mistakes” are not actually mistakes but stepping stones guiding each individual’s experience. And with that in mind, I hope you find value in us sharing them here and that they offer a way to validate and inform your own experience. 

As always, *rooting* for you!

More support for going gray

Looking for a go-to going gray guide? For more on going gray, check out:

Did any of these surprise you?

xo, lisa in cursive
Going Gray Lookbook Opt-IN

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

    Teresa Greene

    I have medium to dark brown hair. What kind of shampoo should I be using for transitioning to grey?

    1. Reply

      Lisa Fennessy

      Hi Teresa! Are you noticing any yellowing or brassiness on the hair strands that are gray?

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