The time has come to discuss the quintessential gray hair question to end all quintessential gray hair questions.
But first, here is a slightly unflattering, hastily made infograhic of me pondering "the question."
(Ok, it's not quite an infographic. I know that.)
To go gray or not to go gray, THAT my friends is the question!
You might be surprised to hear that I, the girl with the gray hair, am not a champion of gray hair for all.
Yep. I feel kind of badly about it, but I don't necessarily think the decision to go "au natural" with one's hair is the best choice for everybody. At least not in some situations.
One of the things in life that I value the most is honesty. And if I wasn't being honest with you on this blog, then I'd feel like I was doing a disservice to my wonderful readers, whom I love very much might I add!
I honestly love writing here and cheering each other on. I DO think gray hair can be just as great as blond or brown hair. Everything that I've posted on How Bourgeois about going gray has been the truth, but I've just never talked about my opinion on making the decision, especially at a younger age, and taking the plunge to gray!
So today, for those of you on the fence, or those of you who have taken the leap and are now second-guessing things, I hope that this post can provide a bit of food-for-thought, and help you to make the right decision for YOU. Because the bottom line here is that there really is no single "right choice."
HAIR DYE OR NOT, I SUPPORT YOU!
What follows are four basic gray hair truths that I've come to believe after several years of not coloring my hair. They're over-arching thoughts that are really helpful to keep in mind when trying to make the decision that fits your needs.
Next I present my four top reasons to not color your hair, and then my three top reasons for continuing to color your hair. See where you stand on these points. They're meant to get you thinking and to help you navigate the right choice for you. GOOD LUCK!!!! \(^-^)/
SHOULD YOU STOP COLORING YOUR HAIR AND GROW OUT YOUR GRAY!?
Let's start with FOUR BASIC GRAY HAIR TRUTHS:
#1.) Life isn't fair. It's not fair and it's rude. Totally. People judge other people on their looks ALL.THE.TIME. That doesn't make it right. It just makes it constantly stupid.
If you're like me, and your main motivating fears do not revolve around your appearance, then the decision to go gray, will be a lot easier. Because IT'S ONLY A HAIR COLOR and there are 52, 000,000,000 other, way more important and meaningful things in life!
This is not to say that caring about your appearance can't or shouldn't be important. (HELLO! Have you seen how long it takes me to get ready in the morning??) It just means if appearance perfection is not one of your deal-breakers in life right now, then going gray will be much easier. (And by the way, it's only natural that your deal-breakers and most important things change, ebb and flow with life. Ask me ten years ago if I would have been ok with being gray?) This is only human.
When I decided to stop coloring my hair, I'd come to a point where the allergic reactions from the hair dye were horrible, but also, luckily for me, I wasn't concerned about my appearance being my most perfect. Instead, a good enough, reasonably good, appearance, that was ok with me. Just doing my best. That was enough!
Are you at a point in your life where appearance perfection is top of your list? Or, right now, is it maybe a little father down?
#2.) Actually, no matter what you decide, you can always go back. Even IF you choose to grow out your gray hair, if you don't like it in the end, you can always go back to coloring your hair. A STRONG word of advice though: YOU CAN NOT TELL WHAT YOU WILL TRULY LOOK LIKE WITH GRAY HAIR FROM THREE INCHES OF GROWTH. JUST GIVE YOURSELF SOME TIME. BE BRAVE, THEN DECIDE IF YOU LIKE THE NEW COLOR OR NOT.
I HATED myself with three inches of gray hair growth. I hated it at ear length. It wasn't until months later, when my gray hair hit about shoulder length, that I could really see that it had the ability to look ok. It wasn't until then that I could compare my eye color and skin color to my new hair color and feel more settled.
#3.) NO MATTER WHETHER YOU CHOOSE TO COLOR YOUR HAIR OR WEAR IT GRAY, NOT EVERYONE WILL LOVE IT AND NOT EVERYONE WILL HATE IT! That's the thing, just like any other personal preference or opinion, some people will like how gray hair looks on your and some won't. It's not helpful to worry a lot about pleasing others. It just gets so complicated!
For example, if I'm being honest, if I really really had to guess, I would guess that more Men than not, would say they that would prefer a woman who is blond or brunet or a red head over a woman with gray hair. BUT, that's not to say that some men don't like a silver fox or two!
Once I was at a wedding and a man came up to me, complimented me on my gray hair and said, just like this: "THAT'S HAWT!" (Then he made a little howl.) So, some people will dislike your gray and some people will like it. You can't make the decision based on how you think people will feel.
Another example, I'm getting a lot of traffic these days from a site called "Mumsnet." HI MUMSNET! I LOVE YOU !!! :)
I tried to resist seeing what all the traffic was about, but I couldn't help myself! Once again, it was another thread about going gray, and just like last time, there were some lovely Moms who liked my gray hair and a couple who VERY politely commented that they preferred me as a brunet! Which, by the way, I COMPLETELY agree with them! I WISH I was still a brunet! (At least sometimes.) I am at peace with my gray hair, but sometimes a 36-year-old girl just misses her old brunet self. I get it! :)
That's the point though, we all like different things. Our hair color, no matter what it might be, can't please them all. Please keep in mind what makes YOU happy. Also, another honesty moment, the one exception, I think it's nice to at least discuss with your significant other if gray hair on you, verses colored hair, makes a huge difference in their book. You might be surprised to find that they're quite supportive of your happiness and health, and it can never hurt anyway, to have good, open communication.
4.) NOT ALL GRAY IS CREATED EQUAL. Ugh, I think this is the most difficult of the basic truths. This is another really not fair, luck-of-the-draw kind of truth I've come to believe. Just like some people have beautiful feet (not me), and some people don't (me), some people's gray hair suits them, and some people's gray hair doesn't.
There is no set rule on what constitutes "good" gray hair, but after years of thinking about it, I feel as though a lot of this has to do with your amount of gray hair and the "pattern" that it grows in, and the fit of your shade of gray with your coloring. You'll know good gray when you see it, and gray hair that drags your down when you see it too.
For example, is your gray a fairly consistent color, or do you just have a few silver scragglers? Are you a bright white, or a duller shade of gray? And, how does your hair color mesh with your particular eye and skin color? For me, I actually feel lucky that I had a TON of gray! I think if I just had a spattering of gray hair on top of my naturally dark brown hair, it might end up looking unkempt on ME. No everyone, but me! Also, I have blue-gray eyes and fairly pale skin. My shades of gray blend pretty ok with everything else, so in that respect, things were alright.
Bottom line of this one is that you need to figure out if your gray looks good on you. Be honest with yourself, and definitely give this aspect some thought and consideration!
Ok! Now that the basics are out of the way, let's talk about some reasons why you might want to stop coloring your hair, and then some reasons why you might not want to stop coloring your hair.........
I MIGHT WANT TO CONSIDER GROWING OUT MY GRAY HAIR IF...............
1.) I HAVE AN ALLERGY TO HAIR DYE!
Oh man. This is not just a good reason to stop dying your hair, this is an IMPORTANT reason - for your safety!
I'll never forget the last time that I went to the salon and had my hair colored. It was a more "natural" dye, but even so, mid-processing, my eyes began to water and burn. Then the headache came on. By the time I left the appointment, my red eyes were super puffy and I kept the headache as a souvenir for TWO DAYS! And, it wasn't any surprise. Over the past few years, my reactions to hair dye became more and more severe. I learned that this is the way that allergies often work. Look at what MedlinePlus has to say:
"Although first-time exposure may only produce a mild reaction, repeated exposures may lead to more serious reactions. Once a person has had an exposure or an allergic reaction (is sensitized), even a very limited exposure to a very small amount of allergen can trigger a severe reaction."
Yep. Exactly. So, you can see that not only are allergies to hair dyes a pain in the head, they can be dangerous! By the way, I have sensitivities to several chemicals, but the most common hair dye allergy is in response to (PPD) or p-Phenylenediamine. This ingredient helps hair dye stick to the hair shaft. That's why it is in up to 98% of conventional hair dyes, even many of the more "natural" products.
You CAN search out and find truly harsh-chemical-free hair coloring products. These days, many upscale salons now offer PPD-free, natural based hair dyes. I consulted quite a few salons actually, but they were honest, and with my amount of gray hair, about 80% gray, the natural dyes, in their opinions, were just not meant to cover a person with so much white hair. Also, you think your conventional dye is expensive........
You can also use henna as I did. Henna is SO COOL! But, it's also messy, and smells like wet grass, and you have to sit with the henna "mud" on your head for HOURS. If you're like me, once in a while you'll end up with white hair turned green, or white hair turned as red as Ronald McDonald's hair after a while.
I really, honestly spent YEARS researching natural alternatives to hair dye for somebody like me, with more than a few strands of gray. There just isn't a ton that you can successfully use for a long time.
So, if you are having allergic reactions, please know that there is life after dye! There is nothing as lovely as not having a hair dye headache every three to four weeks. There are good things that come with letting your gray hair show! :)
#2.) YOU DO NOT WANT TO PUT SO MANY CHEMICALS, SO OFTEN, ON YOUR HEAD!
After the allergy, this was my biggest reason for letting my hair go natural. For some time there has been speculation that using hair dye increases a person's risk of cancer. Namely, dark hair dye, and hair dye that used a tar derivative ingredient before 1980. Do I think that hair dye causes cancer? I don't know. D o I think that using hair dye every three to four weeks can be harmful.....? Perhaps. We just don't really know. One of my favorites, the Harvard Medical School educated MD and Naturopath, Dr. Andrew Weil even says that there is not enough evidence that hair dye causes cancer, BUT he does go on to say that he discourages the use of artificial hair colorants because he finds them suspect. That many of the more than 5,000 ingredients that are currently being used in hair dyes, have been found to be carcinogenic to animals, and that our scalps have a rich blood supply. This makes them efficient at absorbing chemicals and then carrying them throughout our body.
You can read the entire piece here.
So where does that leave us in regard to chemicals and hair dye? Well, I know that it's not helpful to panic, or for me to be an alarmist. I know that it is not completely understood which chemicals are harmful and in what doses. I also know that my INSTINCT tells me that many chemicals are probably not-so-great, and that the right choice for ME, is to cut them out where I can.
I know that I was using a lot of hair dye often, and I was putting it on my scalp, and that if I could eliminate those particular ingredients, then I'd be happy! I also knew that with most beauty products, it's not so hard to find a nice, natural alternative. In fact, can be fun!
So, if you have a personal desire to steer clear of as many chemicals as possible, or even just the monthly hair dye, then I feel like this EASILY reason enough to stop coloring your hair and to go with the gray!
#3.) YOU DON'T HAVE THE TIME OR DON'T HAVE THE MONEY TO DYE YOUR HAIR. OR, YOU JUST HATE THE HASSLE OR MESS.
These reasons speak for themselves. If you really really hate dying your hair and you are READY for a change, or if you don't have the time or extra money, then sure! Stop! If the trade-off is worth it to you.... having gray hair instead of the annoyance of a monthly dye job, then I'd say it's a worthwhile "YES!"
BIG caveat though.....later on, there will be an argument for the ONE time when you really should just color your hair, even if you hate the hassle or need to squeeze the time and money in. More on that soon!
#4.) IF YOU ARE A
MASOCHIST, JUST KIDDING! IF YOU ARE READY FOR A CHANGE, SIMPLY LOOKING FOR A "NEW LOOK" OR SOME MORE AUTHENTICITY! IF YOU'RE TOTAL INTO THE GRAY THING AND READY, THEN THIS IS A GREAT TIME TO GO FOR IT!
And now, reasons to NOT stop coloring your hair..............
I MIGHT WANT TO CONSIDER CONTINUING TO COLOR MY HAIR IF...............
#1.) I'm just going to go ahead and get the most shameful, reason not to give up dye out of the way. The elephant in the room reason. Guys, I'm really sorry about the following, but I think it might be true, and I only want the best for you.
IF, you are not allergic to hair dye, and if you are not set on avoiding the chemicals in them, and even if you are sick of the time, money and mess, but you are SINGLE AND LOOKING FOR LOVE, then I think.....maybe, especially if you are a "young gray", you MIGHT want to consider continuing to dye your hair. Or even if you're not looking for love, but you meet all of the criteria and your significant other is strongly disliking the gray.
I'm sorry, that was complicated and maybe a little bit controversial, but, SADLY, if you are a young woman who would love to find love, you might have an easier time with men, if again, sadly, you are not gray. It's just a hunch. I could be TOTALLY wrong! I'm putting that out there. But, gray hair, especially at a young age, it sets you apart, and not always in a great, youthful, beautiful way. Don't get me wrong, gray can be so gorgeous! But, culturally, it doesn't signal "youthful."
This is a difficult decision, because again, we're only talking about a dumb hair color here, but it's life. If you want to take your chance on finding a dude who loves gray hair, then I totally high-five you, you are my HERO! Because you are brave! And no doubt there are men out there who dig the gray. For sure! You just have to find them. I suppose though, the awesome part about finding someone who loves your gray, is that it means they love you for you, and that's fantastic!
Or again, I could have it all wrong. I think when men have gray hair, especially the "younger grays", that's like a super-duper cute bonus feature. I love gray hair on men! So maybe more men like gray hair on women than I dare to think. One would hope!
*I'm making a quick edit here! This point has been worrying me since I wrote it earlier today and I would never ever want to offend anybody. For the record, I want to be perfectly clear that I'm not in any way saying that young women with gray hair do not attract men. Not at all! What I am saying is that I wonder if being more "conventional" in your looks.....(i.e. not having gray hair)....makes it easier to meet men. Does the gray scare men away? I don't know the answer! I just wonder and worry about it! This could apply to so many "conventional" and "unconventional" looks. Please know if you are a young person, (like me) with gray, never feel less beautiful. I was just coming at this angle from a societal perspective.
#2.) You don't have a strong desire or reason to go gray.
Going gray isn't easy. People will stare at you. You'll probably have an unsightly "skunk stripe" for MONTHS. It's not something you do for fun or on a whim. I've never met anybody who was able to make it through the first few months without a super strong dedication to seeing this out. If you're not 100% into the idea, and you don't have a health/chemical/money/time reason, wait until your heart is all the way in it.
#3.) You don't want to risk looking older.
I don't want to risk looking older, but I have allergies and I'm suspicious of chemicals. But, if I wasn't those two things, I would keep coloring my hair because I really don't want to look older! Gray hair ages most of us. It's just how it goes. I try my best to moisturize my face and wear a more youthful hairstyle, etc...but I'm sure it's going to be an uphill battle. If you're worried about aging yourself, you probably don't want to go gray.
Phew! So there you have it! My rambling rational on hair decision making.
Remember to not take it all TOO seriously. Life is about learning, trying new things out, finding what fits us best, what makes us happy and healthy.
I can't tell you how much meeting and talking with all of you through this blog had enriched my life. Writing about and sharing my personal journey into gray hair territory has been one of the most fulfilling things that I have ever done. I look forward to many more hair posts and many more new friends and lots of encouraging and support as we've always given to each there. It's amazing, and makes my heart SMILE!
Until next time.....Good luck with all of your hairy decisions!