Growing Out Gray Hair: 10 Ways to Go Gray

February 19, 2021 (updated August 29, 2022)

If you’re thinking about growing out gray hair, here’s lesson numero uno: There’s no “right way” to go gray. Learn this one upfront and, sister, it just makes everything easier.

woman with wavy gray hair

By: Lisa Fennessy

IN THIS POST:

Also, while we are at it, let’s call out the other elephant in the room: Going gray is really hard. Full stop. 

But guess what? Going gray is also not necessarily a linear experience. 

For some women, it’s highlights and lowlights. For others, it’s a big chop and for others still, it’s fun accessories, extensions or playing with color. 

All ways of going gray are valid and beautiful

It’s important that women support each other during this very personal experience—no matter what path each woman takes (including the path of choosing to dye or not to dye). 

Growing out gray is not a place where “right and wrong,” “black and white” or judgmental thinking thrives. 

Thriving here means finding the strength to move forward, and finding acceptance within yourself. It’s about taking risks and fostering growth. It’s about seeing (actually seeing!) the beauty that lives inside and out.

So, in the name of empowering women, changing our collective mindset and opening up possibilities for each other; here are 10 ways to go gray.

RELATED: 6 Things I’ve Learned from My NARM Therapist


10 ways to grow hair out gray

1. Highlights

Highlights and lowlights are a fun way to transition. They soften the grow-out line and they provide an “ease-into-it” approach. This typically works better for women with light brown or blonde hair. 

side by side photos of a woman before going gray and in process
Photo courtesy of Jackie Schindler Moffatt.

Jackie Schindler Moffatt explains how this method helped soften the line between gray hair and dyed hair. “The first time I went in after deciding [to let my hair grow in gray], my stylist suggested instead of a full color we just do some blending. Just did a few strands, no color since, and I feel like that has made a subtle difference in how my hair has grown out. It helped blend that demarcation line.”

side by side before and after photos of a woman from blonde to silver
Photo courtesy of Lisa Callow.

Lisa Callow says, “How fabulous is my hair?!! My absolutely amazing hairdresser and friend wove silver highlights through my existing blonde to brighten my hair!! It feels so silky smooth!! I’m obsessed!!” 


2. Shave your head 

Yeah, we just went there. And we did it in style too. 

side by side before and after photos of a woman who buzzed her hair to go gray
Courtesy of Kiva Sherr.

Kiva Sherr shares how it felt after shaving her head to expedite the growing out gray process. “Two weeks of growth! It’s been interesting and wonderful. The biggest challenge is my whole sense of self and style changing. I’ve been standing taller and allowing myself to feel all the feelings this has inspired. No hiding behind hair anymore.”

Woman with her shaved head gray hair
Photo courtesy of Eleanor Ensing Verkoeyen.

Eleanor Ensing Verkoeyen agrees: “I couldn’t handle the bronzy color growing out with my natural color showing more and more clearly underneath. I love my natural color and I love the buzzed look, not at all regretful!”


3. The big chop

You can also do a big chop without bringing it down to a number 1 all around. 

Black woman with short, curly gray hair.
Photo courtesy of Twyla Jackson via Pinterest.

4. Try extensions 

Throw in some extensions and call it a day. Like, why not? If you’ve never had extensions, you know you always secretly wanted to anyway. 

side by side before and after photos of a woman with gray hair
Photo courtesy of Sabine Simon.

Sabine Simon adds, “I wanted to keep my hair long but I also didn’t want to have grey roots for a long time. I thought about it for a while and this idea hit me one day. The braids are my first step for going grey and I’m excited for what’s to come.”

Woman with gray hair extensions
Photo courtesy of Carol Love.

In the midst of the pandemic, Carol Love says, “I’m kinda over the DIY hair-at-home situation. But these twists have saved my sanity.”


5. Balayage 

Why not take the reins back like and see which end gets there first with some on-trend balayage?

Woman wearing highlights and gray hair before and after side by side
Photo courtesy of Lisa Parker Gresham.

We love the look of dying hair at the bottom gray for a couple of reasons. First, it’s edgy and fun. And second, it draws the eye away from “work in progress” roots and anchors it on those intentional ends. 

Lisa Parker Gresham muses, “I was on the fence about whether or not I should just cold turkey stop all hair coloring or if I should just do fun balayage hair with toners while the gray comes in.”

RELATED: How To Go Gray


6. Cold turkey 

And then there is the grin-and-bare-it method that most women “in the biz” refer to as going “cold turkey.” Some consider this the hardest way to transition, but we think it’s one that will surprise you the most.  

Going gray cold turkey woman hairstyle
Photo courtesy of Cindy Verret.
Woman with gray hair going cold turkey
Photo courtesy of Julianne Statnick.

Cindy Verrett is rocking her grow out like the best of ‘em! And Julianne Statnick screams it from the rooftops like, “Almost 19 months growout! I LOVE this journey!!! Smooth sailing from here!!!!”


7. Braid it

Braids just make everything better. Dimension and depth shine through in ways we never knew possible. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE.

before and after going gray of a woman with long curly hair
Photo courtesy of Kateřina Kortusová.

And while you’re at it, why not throw in some purple extensions like stunning, 52-year-old Kateřina Kortusová. 😍

RELATED: Gray Hair Inspo: Braid Styles for Gray Hair.


8. Try a toner 

Whether it’s an at-home toner like Overtone or one from the salon, this is a great way to bridge the grow out gap. A toner provides an overall wash of color making hair look more gray/silver as well as softening (if not erasing) that pesky “line of demarcation.” 

Woman with gray hair and overtone
Photo courtesy of Susan Mello.

Susan Mello is all-in explaining, “This is my second highlight and third toner.” She says she anticipates needing one more highlight in about 4 months and then she’ll be done!  

RELATED: The Best Natural Purple Shampoo for Gray Hair


9. Rock some accessories—obvi 

Whether it’s some fresh new glasses, red lipstick, a matching headband or a fun hat….just do it girl.  

Woman with gray hair wearing a hat and fabulous glasses
Photo courtesy of Tari Walsh-Kelley.

Tari Walsh-Kelley could have written the book, “Winter Fashionista! Hats, scarves, thigh-high boots, leggings, leather gloves (or matching knit gloves) and berets.”

side by side before and after photos of a woman with long hair growing out her gray
Photo courtesy of Irina Duncan.

Irina Duncan says, “Thank God for hats!” while running errands.

a woman sitting in her car with natural gray hair
Photo courtesy of Gabrielle Bass.

Gabrielle Bass is rocking those glasses AND pearls. Get it, girl!

a side by side before and after of a woman growing out her gray hair
Photos courtesy of Shyanne Hall.

Shyanne Hall is celebrating a snow day in style. 

side by side before and after photos of a woman who grew out her natural gray hair
Photo courtesy of Barbara Mariani.

And Barbara Mariani looks dope all around from cut to glasses to accessories. Yes girl. YASSSS. 

RELATED: 5 Going Gray Don’ts 


 10. Wear it wavy

A great way to blend new growth with dyed hair is to put some bend in it!  

Kristi Ellis Harris, Alicia Vander Kooi, and Nikki Soward Corey know what’s up!

Woman with gray wavy hair
Photo courtesy of Nikki Soward Corey.
side by side before going gray and after going gray of a woman with wavy hair
Photo courtesy of Kristi Ellis Harris.
woman with gray wavy hair
Photo courtesy of Alicia Vander Kooi

Questions people asked me when I was growing out my hair gray

And if you’ve decided on “a way to go gray” it helps to know what comes next. Here are some questions you might get (and have to answer) when you start growing out your hair gray. (I sure did!)

The reason why this is helpful is because it allows you to think about an answer before you get asked a question like this. I got knocked off balance so many times because I was offended or shocked or just didn’t know what to say. But when you’ve heard it before, you do know what to say, it’s a way LESS STRESSFUL of a situation. 

Did you dye your hair like that? 

I remember being in the middle of my grow out with my hair half grown in natural and half dyed and I would get this question once in a while from random people. And I find it to be the oddest question. Like, do you really think I dyed my hair half brown starting at my ears?? NO! 

How old are you? 

Also another odd question because, WHO ASKS THAT?! But they do. This question will come up regardless of your hair color, but it stood out to me like a sore thumb when I got asked my age WHILE I was growing out my hair to gray. This process can be a super vulnerable experience so when someone asks about your age when you are in the middle of it, it hits HOT. Be ready with an answer and it will help you from seeing red. These days when I get asked that, I like to say, “About half way.” 

Can I see your ID? 

REALLY STEVEN?! I mean, I’m not going to act like I hate this question because I don’t. But at this point I’m like, you just want to see my address don’t you?


More questions you might get asked while growing out your hair gray

And because I didn’t want to stop here, I asked The Gray Book (our private Facebook group for women who are interested in going gray) for more ideas. We posed the question, “As you are growing out your hair gray, what question do you get asked over and over?” And this is what they had to say…

1. “’Do you know you are gonna look just like your mother?’ (She is 30 years older than me and lovely, but not quite my goal…)” – Joanna

2. “In the beginning….I got a lot of ‘really?’” – Em

3. “I always get asked ‘is that your natural hair color?’ The women that ask me are all shocked, but in a good way.”

4. “OMG, I love your hair! Who dyes it for you? 😂🙈” – Betina

5. “Is that your natural hair color or does someone do that for you?”

6. “I didn’t get asked one question, but then again, being 70 helped. Oh, I did get asked if I got a highlight.”

7. “Why did you start dyeing your hair gray?”

8. “What color is your hair actually?”

9. “My husband and I were in an elevator the other day and lady got on. She looked at me, smiled and asked, ‘are you enjoying your journey?’ I’m sure I gave her a weird look at first because it took me a second to realize she was asking about my gray. She had beautiful long natural gray dreads. I said, ‘yes, and I love your hair.’ And she complimented mine too. I think that’s my favorite question I’ve been asked.”

10. “I get people asking me what my husband thinks about my choice to go gray. 🤷‍♀️

11. “‘Why do you look so much older than Dad?’ 🙄😆 My 10-year-old talks about how gray I am every day, my husband is 4 years older, but has jet black Asian hair with very little gray. No one else minds.” – Kelly

12. “‘Why are you letting your hair grow?’ That was my number one question….” – Araceli

13. “Are you going to highlight your hair to blend the gray?”

14. “I’ve been asked, ‘what do the kids say?’ as I’m a teacher.”

15. “If I want the senior discount. I’m 43.” – Sharra

16. “When I’m with my two teens, I get asked… ‘Are you Grandma?’”

17. “The only questions from women that are consistent are ‘How did you know you were ready?’ & ‘How did you know it would look good on you?’”


Or, you might get no questions at all

There were also MANY members of our 20K+ Facebook group, The Gray Book, who said they never got a single question about their hair while growing it out gray. The takeaway? Don’t be nervous about what questions you’ll get! Just be prepared in case you do.

And for more inspiration, support, friendship, and solidarity around all things going gray, be sure to join us in The Gray Book!

xo, lisa in cursive
Can I have long grey hair?

Yes! If you’re transitioning to gray hair naturally, there are a myriad of options to let your gray hair grow.

Should gray hair be layered?

Layers are a great way to add volume and texture to your hair, so if you feel like you need a little extra volume – go ahead!

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!

42 Comments

  1. Reply

    Katherine

    Really love this blog – all the women look way better with their natural grey they have an energy of empowerment and healthier shiny hair ! My hair is now in such bad condition from constant root colouring for decades that I am driven to grow it out and see what’s up… so inspired by all the photos I’m going to go to the bathroom and at least cut my hair a bit and get it in good condition and give it a tone. By the way, Redken shades EQ Gloss = a great toner and Shades Cream = worth checking out xx the gloss is a good one to use first bcos it is translucent and blends . 🙏❤️

    1. Reply

      Lisa Fennessy

      Amazing! Wishing you the best of luck Katherine! And join us on Facebook at The Gray Book for more support! xo, Lisa

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