A part of you wants to be a beautiful young heroine, even at forty-something. But there is a reality that intrudes: your graying hair. The hair of the heroine is always sunset red, or raven, or golden. Never silver.
As we navigate our daily lives, many women over forty wrestle with the reality of a gray head in a youthful workplace. We look in the mirror and struggle with what these grays mean in our personal lives as well. Early in my forties, after a decade of hiding the gray, I wondered when and how I would make the transition from colored hair to gray. Throughout the years, my stylists agreed that I’d have to cut my hair or go through years of the awkward line as I let my gray grow out. My friends were dead-set against the idea. I set a date out to the future … when I am sixty, I will submit to the scissors and gray hair.
I was fifty-two, with long, wavy hair, but was heavily graying down the center of my head like the bride of Frankenstein. Dramatic, sure, but not what I wanted. My hair started to resist—and I mean fight hard—the color I was laying over it. What was I going to do? I’m not sixty yet. To make it worse, I had been pushing the date back in my mind … sixty-five. I will go gray when I am sixty-five. My hair was terribly off schedule. Yes, there are amazing women with silver hair. But I am single and support myself, and I worried enormously about the effect of gray hair on my career. I was afraid.
And then it happened, the phenomenon that would usher in a new age for me: granny hair. Women in their 20s and 30s are having their hair dyed gray. On purpose. I saw gray hair, silver hair dipped in lavender, silver ombre, biolage, and pure silver.
The idea struck me in a moment really. Crystal clear. I decided that I wouldn’t wait for this thing to happen to me. I didn’t want to fight my hair anymore. I would create it. This decision felt amazing to me. I was going to reinvent myself, and to pull it off, I needed to embrace it. Confidence is beauty, and I let go the worry about my career.
Decision made, I had consultations with several colorists. I knew that Drew was the one for me because she stressed my hair’s health, and unlike the others, she would make the transition in two steps.
Because the first step to going silver is to lift—meaning, bleach—the dark brown in my hair, the two-step process was enormously comforting. I didn’t want fried hair, and bleach can and will do that. The night before my appointment, I put coconut oil in my hair.
I was a little nervous the next day. Drew bleached the brown hair in small sections, taking them down to the lightest shade she could. Next, she added the toner that removed the yellow tones. The results were lovely: subtle smooth streams of silver and light and medium browns ran throughout my hair. My daughter said it looked like different types of metal. No awkwardness. And I would never have to touch up my roots again. I was free.
Drew gave my hair five weeks to recover from the first process. Then, she lifted more of the darker brown and added the toner. This time, she added a silver dye that created depth and shimmer.
Finally, since I am in a creative profession, I envisioned a classic shade of lavender for my hair. Drew carefully painted in icy lavender with the caveat that it would last only a week. Perfect. A week was a taste I could psychologically manage.
I love that moment when they flip your chair around for the big reveal. I was in love with what I saw: beautiful, shimmery strands of silver, light taupe, and lavender throughout. It was lovely, tasteful, and unusual. Perfect.
The length and health of my hair was preserved, and I can relax a bit. No more touch-ups at the roots, but I still need to tone out the yellows. Products such as toning shampoos help retain that gorgeous silver.
My decision to go gray wasn’t just about going gray. The power in the transition to gray is in the reinvention of yourself of which the silver is one small part. I am renewing myself—growing. This is what gives it the power, I think. So I am embracing the entire process. My health—off to the gym. My career—what more can I learn? My personal life—I need new photos for my dating profile. I am enjoying rediscovering me. The power in creating, versus waiting for something to take you, is exciting, and what better place to start creating than with yourself?