It was very busy in the shopping centre that Saturday. The lovely woman standing in front of me told me in hushed tones that she was about to reveal something only her husband knew.
‘This morning I sat on the bed and cried at my white roots’, she whispered. ‘Then I asked my husband to colour them in with a black marker pen’.
Is grey hair really so shameful?
As a once dark-haired woman and someone who coloured her hair for more than 35 years before embracing my natural grey, I’ve come to realise that revealing grey before you’ve officially ‘given up’ on looking and feeling attractive is one of the last unspoken beauty taboos.
Having reached the stage where colouring my hair every two weeks and never being satisfied with the flat, lacklustre ‘Paul McCartney brown’, I was open to suggestions when my hairdresser said enough was enough. But surely grey hair was just one step away from elasticated waists and wide-fitting shoes, a badge that said I was ‘out of the game’ and an admission of defeat in the war we’re all exhorted to wage against ageing? My hairdresser’s wise words rang true: ‘You have to change what’s in your head before you change what’s on your head’.
My white hair that had spent years hiding under the dye, was finally revealed in all its glory.My number one recommendation if you’re contemplating flying the white flag is a great hairdresser who knows you, knows your hair and has a passion for transitioning clients to grey.
Mine encouraged me to think about it as an exciting new colour that I could have fun with, one that would bring light and radiance to my face and one that I could dress with for great dramatic impact. She was right – some twelve months later, after a gradual process of going lighter and blending shades of light ash brown into my hair as the grey grew through, the white hair that had spent years hiding under the dye, was finally revealed in all its glory.
The next surprise was the reaction from others, from horrified shudders and exclamations of how ‘brave’ I was, to comments about how ‘cool’ it was (usually from younger women) and outright curiosity about how to do it. Then there were questions about how I’d overcome the psychological barriers instilled into us about – heaven forbid – looking my age.
But the truth is that looking and feeling great is not about trying to look young. I am not young – I am 56 – then again I am not old either. For me, it’s about energy, vitality and the confidence that comes from being comfortable in your own skin. The added bonus is that I’ve never had as many compliments about my hair in all my life!
Here are my top tips for going gorgeously grey:
* Don’t go it alone. Find a great hairdresser who is pro-grey to help you transition.
* Don’t try and ‘colour strip’ your hair, the result won’t be pretty!
* Go for the ‘slow blend’ or go ‘cold turkey’ – and if you do the latter, consider a pixie crop.
* No dye doesn’t mean no style. Get a great cut and keep it fresh and modern, or if it’s long, keep it in shape.
* Don’t be grey all over – keep definition in your eyebrows and colour in your face!
* Choose cool shades, gun-metal greys, aubergine, pink and jewel tones in your clothes and avoid fussy details and retro floral prints.
* Hair without pigment is porous and picks up dirt and colour, so choose hair-care products specially formulated to keep white and grey hair its dazzling best.
And finally, my journey to grey led me to look for products that worked, that smelled gorgeous and made me feel positive and upbeat about my colour choice. When I couldn’t find a range that ‘spoke to me’ in a way that matched the way I feel about my grey hair, I decided to create my own – White Hot Hair. So that’s why, that Saturday, I was in my ‘pop up’ shop, gently encouraging that lovely lady to finally put down the black marker pen.