It’s been seven years since I decided to stop dyeing my hair.
“When did you decide to let your hair go grey?” I get asked that a lot.
Let’s be clear, I didn’t decide. I didn’t choose to go grey. Why would anyone choose that?
I’ve hated it ever since the first grey hair appeared on my head in my 30s. I’d always taken pride in my thick, curly dark brown hair. It was one of my better features. Starting to go grey early and for it to show up so much was a real knock to my confidence.
And then there’s that phrase ‘let it go’. I hate that phrase. When I hear that, I hear ‘let yourself go’. In a bad way, you understand. To stop caring about how you look. To stop looking in the mirror. To give up.
Yes, in a sense, I did give up. I was tired of dyeing my hair. I felt trapped in a cycle that I couldn’t ever escape. I was tyrannised by my roots. I felt ashamed of the head of grey hair that I was having to put so much time and effort and money into hiding.
Surrendering to the grey
One day, I surrendered. I gave up the fight and let my grey hair take over. It was a gradual defeat: to avoid the inevitable advancement of my roots, I went for a salt and pepper look for a while with lowlights.
I can’t remember how it felt or what the initial reaction was. Apart from my dad’s. He was concerned about what my husband would think, making me feel distinctly unattractive and unlovable – and all the more determined. I was on a mission to prove that this could be done. I was the lone voice in the wilderness, standing up against what is expected and standing for the natural look.
I’ve survived seven years. Seven long years.
And now I’m sick of it.
Now, after all that time, I’m considering dyeing my hair again. The thought entered my head a month ago and I can’t shift it.
‘Don’t do it. Not after all this time.’
I’m guessing that’s what you’re screaming at me now. But you don’t understand what it’s like.
So let me give you my ten reasons why dyeing my hair again feels so tempting right now.
1. Grey hair is SO boring. I’ve tried a variety of styles, some of which I think work with grey hair and others not so much. When I dyed my hair, the best part was choosing a slightly different shade each time. Fifty shades of brown is far more interesting than fifty shades of grey, believe me.
2. I’m sick of being the lone voice. My friends seem to admire that I would have the courage to do this, but wouldn’t ever dream in a million years to go for it themselves. What does that say about me? I don’t want to be the brave one any more. If it was such a great idea, it would have caught on by now.
3. I’m terrified of turning into my mum. Ever since being a child, I’ve been told I look like her. When I look at photos of her at my age, I can see the resemblance. But like most women back then, she aged before her time. I don’t want that for me. When I look in the mirror, I see her, not me.
4. I want to be able to wear whatever I want. I love clothes. I want to be able to wear whatever I want but am held back by my grey hair. I dress young and I don’t want to have to resort to dressing to match my hair.
5. Then there’s my passion for vintage clothes. That’s also curtailed by my grey. Sometimes I try on fab dresses and I literally do look like a little old lady.
6. I get a shock when I look in the mirror. I am young at heart. I’m very active and love adventure. But that face looking back in the mirror surrounded by grey curls looks old. I can’t see past that.
7. I’m sick of getting treated as older than I am. I hate how my kids get asked if I’m their grandma. There was a time when I ordered noodles at a street food bar at a festival and I was given a fork, whilst everyone around me was offered chopsticks – like I would be too old to manage chopsticks!
8. Going grey seems to be the worst thing in the world. Every time I see a Facebook post about someone being horrified at finding another grey hair on their head, my self-esteem crashes. There’s a whole industry built around this fear. What do all those adverts about covering grey convey? That grey hair is the enemy, something to be ashamed of. And yes, quite a lot of the time, I am ashamed of it.
9. I feel ugly. Maybe that’s nothing to do with my grey hair. But maybe it is.
10. I can’t remember the last time someone said ‘I’m loving your hair right now’. And I do try, I really do. I haven’t let myself go. It would be lovely to hear that again.
Having said all that, I’m not going to dye my hair. I have come so far. I’m not ready to subject myself to that tyranny again. My hatred of roots runs far deeper than my animosity towards my current shade. I can’t go back to that now after all these years.
I am still bored, however. And that is why I’m going to try a soft perm cut into a funky style. I will not be beaten by this. Everyone has days when they feel old and unattractive. I’m not the only one facing this.
I will keep finding a way to be me and express myself in what I wear and what I do and who I am.