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 up-front and, sister, it just makes everything easier.
By: Lisa Fennessy
IN THIS POST:
- All ways of going gray are valid and beautiful
- 10 ways to grow hair out gray
- Questions people asked me when I was growing out my hair gray
- Questions real woman have gotten asked while growing out your hair gray
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.
10 ways to grow hair out gray
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
Why not take the reins back like and see which end gets there first with some on-trend balayage?
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.
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.
And while you’re at it, why not throw in some purple extensions like stunning, 52-year-old Kateřina Kortusová. 😍
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.”
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!
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.
Tari Walsh-Kelley could have written the book, “Winter Fashionista! Hats, scarves, thigh-high boots, leggings, leather gloves (or matching knit gloves) and berets.”
Irina Duncan says, “Thank God for hats!” while running errands.
Gabrielle Bass is rocking those glasses AND pearls. Get it, girl!
Shyanne Hall is celebrating a snow day in style.
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!
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!
Yes! If you’re transitioning to gray hair naturally, there are a myriad of options to let your gray hair grow.
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!
MaryFebruary 20, 2021
All the ladies going gray are beautiful! I am on the journey as well.
Thanks Lisa for paving the way with grace.
Love to all.
LisaFebruary 21, 2021
Thanks for reading Mary! Rock those grays girl! xoox, Lisa
Michele SFebruary 27, 2021
I am not sure how much longer I can get by wearing my winter cap, so I finally have an appointment for my first real “cut the majority of my leftover old color off” on Monday. Platinum silver au natural here I come. Thanks for your insight!
LisaFebruary 27, 2021
Hi Michele! That’s awesome! Enjoy this huge step, you’ve worked hard for it! xo,Lisa
JanetMarch 1, 2021
Hi I’m also doing the cold turkey bit, I’m in the UK so a Brit’s doing it 😎 I have to say it’s going to be a long slog and my boyfriend is in Dorset (South England) and I’m in the North of England at present so it’s going to be a bit of a shock for him! Love seeing all the cuts and words of wisdom and I’ll be very glad when I’ve got this year out of the way! U are all fabulous ladies
Janet UK ❤️
LisaMarch 2, 2021
Best year ever to go gray! Enjoy it friend! xo,Lisa
DianaMarch 1, 2021
My final highlights were just before covid shut down the salons in March 2020. I went cold turkey! I wore a baseball cap all summer. Now my hair is 1/3 white (at hairline), 1/3 brown (nape) & 1/3 auburn highlights on the ends. My sisters, neices & daughter have all encouraged me throughout this process. I love my sparkling white hair.
LisaMarch 2, 2021
Yes Diana! So glad you are loving your experience! xo, Lisa
MaryApril 26, 2021
I am undergoing chemo (did not lose my hair but thinning slightly) with all the chemicals I HAVE to take coloring my hair felt wrong. Hope my self esteem can handle the grey. I have not had color since last November (6 months) so I am well on my way. I love the body that color gives me. I think I will miss that the most. I believe the secret is a cut cut…..I willl be 69 net month…..it’s time.
LisaMay 10, 2021
Hi Mary! Hope you are feeling well. I’m excited for your going gray journey. It has its ups and downs but if you can make it past the first few months, it gets easier. Try adding a little blush or some lip color for added color if you feel it’s right for you. That can help add color back into the face when it’s no longer in our hair. xo, Lisa
DianeMay 19, 2021
Q: Are there down sides to using toners? I’m wondering if toners have potentially harmful chemicals that can be absorbed. I’ve been growing out my gray since I stopped coloring in 11/20. I was asked to officiate a wedding ceremony this summer and want to look polished so I’m considering a new cut and asking the stylist about toners when I’m there but don’t want to backtrack on the progress I’ve made.
Thanks so much !
LisaMay 20, 2021
Hi Diane! I haven’t looked into toners much BUT many of the women in The Gray Book Facebook group have had luck with washout sprays…they are great for a short amount of time and then wash out. I totally hear you on the backtracking…so much hard work, we don’t want to go backwards! ; ) xo, Lisa
HelenJune 5, 2021
Hello from the UK, Lisa,
I was just googling about how to approach ditching the dye and your website came up. So glad it did. Today marks Day 1 and I’m going to try going cold turkey.
I’m off to have a read of everything you have here about skin care and make up, now. Thanks for doing this.
LisaJune 24, 2021
Hi Hellen! It’s been a few weeks now, how is it going?! So glad you found us! Be sure to join The Gray Book on Facebook too for more going gray inspo! xo, Lisa
LisaJuly 5, 2021
I’m spazing. I am going with the shave head method, down to a 1. I live in a super cold climate in winter I can rock amazing hats, my hair grows like a weed and is thick as anything. I am tired of coloring. I started graying at 23! I’m now 53, enough with the color! Stark white here I cam. It really is pretty when I let it go a few extra weeks. I can’t wait to start this journey
LisaJuly 18, 2021
Hi Lisa! BRAVO! I’m so excited for you…I wish I tried this method when I had the chance..there is something that feels so liberating about it. So glad you are enjoying your grow out! xo, Lisa
RooJuly 29, 2021
I was letting mine go silver for years when I decided to try henna a few days ago. It was supposed to be a light brown mix, but what was white hair round my face looks like a new penny. I HATE it! Fortunately my hair grows quickly and is curly. I’ll be wearing a headband for a couple of months, then going for a cute short cut. Uggg! I should have stayed with my natural color! Cheers to those of you making this transition!
Lisa FennessyAugust 6, 2021
“A new penny” lol😂 So sorry that happened to you. But you would have always wondered if you didn’t try. Best of luck with your grow-out – sounds like you are READY! xo, Lisa
BrendalynneAugust 1, 2021
I started coloring my hair a bout 30 years ago and I’m just plain sick of it. About 9 months ago my hair stylist suggested that I let the gray grow underneath first then go from there. As the gray started growing no one knew it unless I showed them, but I knew I was loving it! Now after 9 months underneath growth I’ve become brave enough to let about inch wide strands grow out on each side in the front and more underneath around the front. Basically now I am parting a circle of hair on top of my head and clipping (with hair clips) the rest out of the way. I am only coloring the roots of the pony tail. As soon as I feel the front is blended with the underneath part, I will stop coloring altogether. It’s a rather long process but what else do I have to do right? I hope this makes sense. It’s kind of hard to explain without showing. I know that I’m absolutely loving it way more than I anticipated. I can’t wait to be 100% gray!!
Lisa FennessyAugust 6, 2021
Yes! I’ve seen this method too, thanks for adding it in. It’s like dying a portion of your hair so you can part it and it still looks colored or you can part it the other way and see all the natural grow out. Will at that technique in here. Thanks girl, so glad you are having success! xo, Lisa
Julia RobertsSeptember 21, 2021
I had my grey all grown out (mostly) and had used the highlight method. Unfortunately when I moved back to Maui where my friends hadn’t seen for a few decades, everyone was shocked and commented on how much older I looked. I had been so stoked on my white hair, and then totally regretted it. I hated being a blond for my transition time because I honestly felt I was treated differently than I was treated as a brunette. ( I’m sensitive to these things and have Native American heritage, so being blond meant facing a certain amount of discrimination within my community.) Finally it was just too much, and I went back to the bottle. I now have dyed dark brown hair again with white wings at the temples. It is going to be so much worse going grey again now that I am a brunette. I am super bummed and would love a little support. My finances prohibit me from the overpriced salon here at this time, so I’m feeling forced into the cold turkey method. Sigh… sniffle…
Lisa FennessySeptember 27, 2021
So sorry Julia! It’s okay. Sometimes going back and coloring your hair again helps to really drive the decision to go gray home. Sometimes it’s what we need to move forward. This is okay! Come join us over at The Gray Book on Facebook – so much inspo, support, encouragement, before + after pics and more…xo, Lisa
Gloria MillerDecember 21, 2021
Thanks to all the women who shared their stories. You all look wonderful! I have been thinking about going natural for a long time, but just can’t decide how to do it. It seems like watching grass grow would be easier. I recently went a shade lighter with my color, and plan to add highlights. My concern is that I fear my natural color will be a different tone. I that happens, I may just have to shave my head and go on a long RV trip! He, he, he.
Lisa FennessyJanuary 2, 2022
Hi Gloria! All of those options work ; ) It’s so scary to take the first steps but once you do, get ready for some major self growth and gifts along the way. They say with great risk comes great reward and I think that can be so true for going gray! Keep us posted! xo, Lisa
JennJanuary 18, 2022
Hello, Lisa, and Happy New Year!
I’ve been thinking about letting my hair go to its natural gray (white??) for a long time. And, like you, I colored it the last time AFTER I decided to let it go! LOL! So, now my decision is for REAL!
I’ve been doing at-home color since I was 38, after my daughter was born, and now I’ll be 70 at my next birthday in April! I’m very ready!
It will be a major change since my natural color was dark brunette, almost black. I hope my friends aren’t too shocked! I think I’ll go with a shorter cut but also let it come in naturally. I love how it looks now, at about 2 months.
Thanks for all the love and support from you and your readers.
Just call me a Natural Girl!
Lisa FennessyFebruary 6, 2022
YES JENN! So excited for you! Be sure to keep us posted, we want to know all of it! How you are liking it, what you ended up doing and how it’s changed you. 2022 is going to be YOUR year! xo, Lisa
KirinaFebruary 8, 2022
I work in a Bougie office – not sure if cold turkey or adding wild colors will work. Maybe I can use toner. So many decisions. plus the economy – what if I had to find another job with all grey? I’ve experienced ageism where I live.
Lisa FennessyFebruary 11, 2022
All of those considerations are SO REAL. Be sure to keep us posted Kirina! xo, L
BetsyApril 4, 2022
I’m 70 and have had thick long dark blonde hair forever. Colored for 25 years close to my natural color. After a 9 day fever from covid in November I began losing my hair in January. It is now 2/3 gone, finally the loss has slowed a lot. My gray is 2 inches grown out and it’s sometimes difficult to go out with my stripe and thin hair. So opposite of how I’ve always looked.
Tomorrow I go for a shorter haircut and to find out what else to do. I won’t be able to color my hair at all anymore as my scalp is too sensitive. Maybe I can put some pink on the ends at least while it grows out. A forced move to gray has been a push as I know I’ll look older. I’d planned to keep my hair long and blond forever. Nice to see so many beautiful women making the transition and feeling the support.
Lisa FennessyApril 9, 2022
Hi Betsy! Congrats on going gray ; ) How did your haircut go? Are you liking it? xo, L
HarrietApril 23, 2022
I’m loving my gray curly hair and it’s coming in beautifully. But it does required a lot of patients and accepting a different look..
Lisa FennessyMay 8, 2022
Hi Harriet! It really does BUT that dwindles over time as you get used to your look you wont need as much patience and you might even grow love and admiration for it…give it time friend. xo, L
Betty HendersonJune 7, 2022
If women would accept that graying is natural and is beautiful and just let it happen naturally, you would not have to worry about how to grow it out. I have loved my white hair much more than I ever did my brown hair. God knows best!
Lisa FennessyJuly 5, 2022
It’s amazing what going through this transition has done for me mentally. I couldn’t agree more! xo, Lisa
MichelleJuly 25, 2022
I can’t help but notice that all the women featured have STYLE! I am only 2 months into my journey but I’m super excited! I’m so tired of spending money and time to hide my natural color. I recently got some highlights/lowlights to soften the line of demarcation but that’s it! Thanks for all of the inspiration!
Lisa FennessyAugust 6, 2022
Hi Michelle! How did the highlights and lowlights come out?? xo, Lisa
VirginiaAugust 8, 2022
When we were locked down during the pandemic for several months, my grey grew in around the temples and my hair was a dirty blonde colour on the rest of my head. Prior to the pandemic I had highlights and always have been blonde. I didn’t like the dirty blonde so got my highlights done again .
Now I’m considering letting the grey grow . I’m 83 and all my friends around my age and even younger are grey. I guess my hair should match my face that has wrinkles. I just don’t want to look even older .I don’t feel old . What do you think, should I do it or continue the highlights? Thanks for any advice,
Lisa FennessyAugust 29, 2022
Hi Virginia! Have you joined The Gray Book yet on Facebook? So much support there. You could even post a pic and ask the group and everyone can weigh in. It’s the best! xo, Lisa
KathylynaOctober 2, 2022
Hello LISA:) This is the fifth time im ‘saying” im “going grey”. Waiting for the “last” 2 boxes of dye to be used up. Have denim tinted white/grey/brown, and black hair! Time for uniformity, thickness (where are you?), and improved scalp health. Hair is mid back length with an undercut(under ponytail). Working in Healthcare is super EASY to camo til the day I retire from here! Scared and anxious at the same time. Any ideas with the undercut? extend it further around the ears to speed up the process? Otherwise, going to braid and wear scrub caps the rest of my life! Uuuuugh………
Lisa FennessyOctober 20, 2022
Omg lol, love this comment. I found that most of my hair is NOT GRAY underneath…so in my case an undercut would not have helped. But for you it might. Love that you have scrub caps as an option, I mean, how perfect is that?! lol. Hang in there! xo, Lisa