Growing my hair out gray has been one of the scariest and most rewarding experiences. Documenting the first 18 months with photos, products I used and more!
By: Lisa Fennessy
One day I caught myself fantasizing about going gray. Not in the sense that it was a utopic scenario. More like, I caught myself wondering what I would look like gray.
Keep reading for more of my going gray story or jump to my going gray before and after pictures here!
IN THIS ARTICLE:
- My going gray pics (0-18 months)
- How long does it take to fully grow out gray hair naturally?
- My daily haircare product staples
- Six ways to grow out gray hair that is colored
- Going grey cold turkey (my experience)…
- The hardest part about going gray
I have always been obsessed with my gray hair since I started growing them in at 19-years-old…and not in a good way.
I used to pluck them all out with my Tweezerman’s but when I couldn’t keep up, I started hitting the salon every 2 months, which turned into 6 weeks which eventually turned into every 4 weeks as the years passed.
Over the past 20 years, I figure I’ve spent almost $17,000 and just about 30 entire DAYS in the chair getting my hair dyed. And I was a die-hard. Let me tell you, with the conviction of a thousand men and in my deepest heart of hearts I just knew I would NEVER stop dying my hair. NEVER.
These are just two of the benefits I’ve discovered while transitioning to gray hair but I’ve detailed out 18 more in this video!
Then one day, I saw this beautiful woman in a restaurant in Hingham, MA. (Stars on the harbor to be exact – for all my South Shore, Massachusetts friends).
The day I decided to go gray naturally
Anyways, she struck me because her face looked so young and her hair looked so…gray. And she was… BEAUTIFUL! Beautiful skin, a joyful smile, cute sassy curly hair – and she seemed, happy. She was enjoying a bottle of wine, dinner, and a few laughs with her hubs.
In that moment, she kinda blew my world open.
And then something came over me. I couldn’t help myself. My legs got up and started walking right toward her.
The next thing I knew I heard myself say, “Hi! My name is Lisa. Your hair is gorgeous. How did you do it? Was it hard? Did you have to cut your hair? How about hats? What did your friends say and HOW OLD ARE YOU!?”
She was 45, it was hard at first but then it got easier. Her kids didn’t like it but now they are indifferent. And it’s been 3 years and the best thing she ever did.
This woman changed my life. It took my curiosity from back seat to turn up the music, put it in cruise control and roll down the windows because MAMA’S DRIVING!
This woman had such an impact on me and she will never know it. After I saw her, my thoughts started changing and instead of thinking “I wonder….” I started deliberately thinking; “What if?” and “When?”
And just as thoughts get louder and louder the longer you sit with them, it got to the point where I couldn’t turn it off. So one day I casually mentioned to my husband, “Maybe I’ll stop dying my hair.”
I’ll never forget what he said because it was the final push I needed. He looked me right in the eye and said, “You should totally do it.”
So the following month I made a hair appointment and…dyed my hair. Hahaha!
I don’t know why I did that. I think I just needed one last time. It’s like the boyfriend you broke up with but you get together with that one last time just to kind of make it all final.
I think I needed it to really solidify that I made the right decision. To give myself the opportunity to officially say goodbye. It’s was almost like I wanted to create and opportunity to commemorate the experience, really give is space, honor every part of it.
And then let it go.
And then…I let the growth begin.
How long does it take?
For anyone planning on growing out gray hair or for anyone wondering how long it will take, I would say to plan on a solid 2 years for the grays to grow past your chin. This will give you a long bob type of hairstyle.
But that being said, it’s not 2 years of hats, scarves and hiding. I would say it’s a solid 9 months to 1 year of “making due” and then another year of just waiting it out.
I documented the cut I got at the 2 year mark in the video below. I call this my “final cut” because it’s where I cut off all the remaining dyed bits of my hair marking the first time in over 20 years that my hair was 100% it’s natural color. Check it out…
My daily nontoxic haircare staples
It’s been a lot of trial and error to see what products work with my gray hair and my new gray hair needs. After three years of caring for my grays, these are the top 5 products I keep going back to and they are what I recommend for anyone going gray.
- BRUNS purple shampoo is the most natural purple shampoo on the market formulated with nourishing hair ingredients and no nasties! Read my full review here.
2. EVOLVh’s SuperFinish Polishing Balm defrizzes, adds moisture, softness, shine, strength, prevents breakage, splitting and is a UV protectant that helps avoid hair yellowing. More here!
3. Innersense Hydrating Hair Masque to keep my hair conditioned, strong and hydrated.
4. Josh Rosebrook Hairspray to hold down the flyaways.
5. Dyson Supersonic Hair Dryer for the fastest hair dry. Less drying time = less damage. Check out my review of it.
How to grow out gray hair that is colored
There are SEVERAL ways you can grow our your colored hair to your natural gray hair. Some of these approaches include:
1. Bypassing the entire grow-out by either shaving your head or getting a cute shortie or pixie cut.
2. You can dye all of your colored hair gray to blend in with your gray roots. This is more of an option for lighter-haired people. I tried to look into this but my colored hair was too dark to lift to gray. My hairdresser said we would have to lifts my hair so much it would turn brittle and break off so…I took her word for it.
3. Try low-lighting or highlighting your hair to blend in your new growth with your existing hair color.
4. You can try Balayage which is lightening your ends. This will help that demarcation line seem less stark.
5. If you have wavy or curly hair, rock it! I have wavy hair and I chose not to blow my hair out straight during most of my grow out to help make the demarcation line appear less prominent.
6. And then there is the “cold turkey” method which I personally chose to do. Cold turkey is when you simply do nothing and grow out your colored hair to it’s natural gray. This “sit and wait it out” method worked well for me.
RELATED: For more, check out 10 Ways to Grow Out Gray Hair
The scoop on going gray cold turkey…
Overall I would say months 2-5 are probably the hardest because you walk around looking like you missed a hair appointment. It’s like being pregnant in your first trimester where you just feel fat but you don’t look pregnant yet.
I was really emotional at this stage which you can see documented in this video. I had a lot of thoughts to work through as I tried to make sense of this time in my life. Maybe you can relate.
But once my grays grew in long enough to where I could almost tuck them behind my ears (around 6 months) it starts to look intentional rather than questionable and at that point it all started to get a bit easier.
Of course you can wear cute hats, scarves and headbands. Braids, pony’s and buns are super cute too. But really the hard work is just waiting.
While you are waiting be sure avoid these common pitfalls while going gray. There’s not a lot of rules when it comes to growing out your dyed hair to gray but these are 5 things NOT to do for sure.
The hardest part about going gray
The hardest part about going gray for me personally was deciding to go for it. Once I made up my mind that I was going to go gray, I just had to lean into perseverance after that.
Perseverance got me through the first 5 months or so and then it was less about perseverance and more of a waiting game.
Honestly, once you decide to go gray and you get through the first 6 months or so, it gets so much easier!
That being said, the best thing you can do to help ensure your success is find some support. This can be your sister, mom, friend, husband, wife or finding anyone else who is going gray to connect with.
If you don’t have any of that, consider joining The Gray Book. This is a private Facebook group designed to inspire, create community, share insights, spark conversation and provide solidarity. Thousands of women have found success in this positive and supportive community, we would love to have you join us!
More info on transitioning to gray hair
Now I can say that going gray and loving it is a reality. For more information on going gray naturally, you can follow along here where I’ve journaled about my experience along they way.
I thought I was just growing my hair out but little did I know I was growing and changing on the inside too. This has been a true transformation both inside and out.
- Gray Hair Inspo: Braid Styles 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
- 10 Things that Surprised Me About Going Gray
- Are Gray Hair Extensions Worth It?
Going gray before and after pictures (and every stage in between)
View my “final cut” video here!
Commonly asked questions about going gray
Depending on your hair type, it will probably take about 2 years for gray hair to grow past your chin. Check out my first 18 months here.
The hardest part about going gray was actually deciding to go gray in the first place, committing to the process, and just starting. Groups like The Gray Book helped so much providing support and inspiration.
There are many ways to go gray including getting a cute pixie, blending grays with lowlights and/or highlights, shaving your head, getting extensions or going cold turkey. More ideas here!
Jennifer L.December 16, 2022
I feel like my hair went gray really fast over the course of last year and it is making me feel old! Like every time I walk last a mirror or look in my rear view mirror I am like, holy cow! What happened to my hair! I have never worn make up and now I feel like I might want to because the grey just makes me feel washed out and bland. It is hard! I have never even considered dying my hair until now. I love reading your article. It gives me hope that I might find a way to live with it!
Lisa FennessyJanuary 1, 2023
Hi Jennifer! Yes! There is a way to feel good about your hair and we would love to support you. Come join us on The Gray Book where there are a ton of before and after pics and so much support. xo, Lisa
SarahDecember 22, 2022
Your hair & you are gorgeous. I’ve been debating going gray for a few years now, and now on the brink of turning 40 I feel ready for so many of the reasons you mentioned but one of my biggest reasons in my hair is so dry and brittle. It’s shiny & lovely after I color but that fades and then I need to color again. Do you find your virgin gray hair healthier? I’ve changed so many bad habits, use hood clean products, I don’t over-brush, I always use a clip no hair ties, I wash my hair 1-2x a week because it’s dry, I use masks on my hair – I can only think this dye is damaging my hair.
Lisa FennessyJanuary 1, 2023
Hi Sarah! I totally hear you. I know my hair is healthier now but it’s not like it’s 1000X healthier. It’s a little healthier. I know what you mean about after dying your hair, it tends to be more shinier. I miss that! One thing you can consider is getting a clear gloss dye applied. This will give you that shiny feeling but without the added color. Just an option! xo, Lisa
LizJanuary 21, 2023
Your hair seems to grow EXTREMELY fast. Judging by your pictures it looks like an inch per month! I’ve been growing mine out for 6 months and it’s only just now covering the crown of my head. What do you eat???
Lisa FennessyFebruary 24, 2023
Lol, nothing special! I don’t know why it grows so fast!