Wednesday, June 26, 2013

To Grey or Not To Grey

Without a doubt being a grandmother is one of the best things that has ever happened to me. It's one of the things that makes getting older tolerable. However, no matter how excited I am about being Grams. I am not particularly excited about looking like a grandmother.

This past weekend, I celebrated my 59th birthday. The thing is, I don't feel 59 years old. When I think about my own mother at the same age, she seemed much older than I feel. I think part of it may have been the lack of hair coloring.

"There's a reason why forty, fifty, and sixty don't look the way they used to, and it's not because of feminism, or better living through exercise. It's because of hair dye. In the 1950's only 7 percent of American women dyed their hair; today there are parts of Manhattan and Los Angeles where there are no gray-haired women at all.”  ~ Nora Ephron in I Feel Bad About My Neck

As I have reached this age, my hair color has become a dilemma. It's not that I mind coloring my hair. I started coloring it when I was in junior high school, somewhere around the age of 13. Really! Since then, I have always colored my hair.

I started out by going blonde. My natural hair color was a light brown with red undertones. But it was the 60s and, as teenagers on the Texas coast, we practically lived in the sun and on the beach or at the pool. By the end of every summer, my hair would naturally acquire some blonde highlights from sun bleaching and chlorine. I often boosted the effects of the sun by squeezing lemon juice on it while I sat in the sun. It was all very "surfer girl." Although, I've never been on a surfboard in my life, everyone wanted to look like a beach babe.

When the school year started and my blonde started to fade, I tried Sun-In. It seemed like a good idea, but you may not know that, if your hair had naturally red tendencies, it made your hair an appalling shade of orange. At least that's what it did to mine. But, I didn't give up easily, I kept trying it for several weekends thinking it would get lighter and blonder. It did not. It only got more orange. Determined to be blonde, it was then that I bought my first box of Clairol. After all, the question in advertising was "Is it true blondes have more fun?"

For some reason, in my senior year of high school I suddenly decided to go brunette. I think it was the "For Brunettes Only" hair color that had just come out. Me as a brunette was particularly shocking for my friends and classmates. Truth be told, it was probably the closest to my natural hair color most of them had ever seen. It was odd to me too, so I only did it once.

My 17th birthday and one of the last times anyone saw my natural hair color.

Shortly after high school I started frosting my hair. I kept my hair frosted for around ten years. The technique involved using a crochet hook to pull pieces of hair through a plastic cap then applying bleach only to the part that came through the cap. Frosting required the help of another person for the back. Usually, one of my sisters would do the honors, but after marriage, Patrick would lend a hand. I would pull the front and sides and he would do the back. This led to some oddly striped looking designs in the back. The art of subtlety was lost on him. Generally speaking, frosted hair was similar to what they call highlights today, but usually had more contrast.

This is me in 1975 with frosted hair.

By the time I turned thirty, I embraced my inner redhead and went auburn. For many years, L'Oreal made the perfect shade in their Preference line called light reddish brown. But, suddenly a few years ago, they discontinued my preferred color. Since then, I have changed brands and shades many, many times trying to find just the right color again. Most recently, I've been using Olia by Garnier. The color is Light Natural Auburn and I really like the results. It covers the grey better than anything else I've used and the color doesn't fade.
This is my most recent color - Light Natural Auburn.

Anybody who sees me regularly knows that I'm pretty dedicated to keeping my roots done. My niece didn't even realize until recently that I have always colored my hair. Here is where the dilemma comes in. When I first started coloring my hair, I had to touch up my roots every eight weeks or so. In my 40s, as I started to grey, it became every six weeks. But now, I have so much grey, I'm having to color at least every four weeks and it grows so fast that it probably should be every three weeks. It's become very high maintenance.

So, while I'm not working this summer I've been letting my hair grow without coloring it. I'm letting it grow for a couple of reasons. First, I want to see what color it actually is and how much grey I have. Second, I think it's probably time to consider some other kind of hair coloring so I'm not getting so much contrast as it grows out.Third, I'm going to think about letting it go natural although I am afraid that will make me feel old. And, my older sister Bylinda has forbidden me to stop coloring my hair. She says if she's not grey, her younger sister can't be grey.

At this point, it's been less than six weeks since I colored and I already have about an inch of roots showing and there is a significant amount of grey. The rest of them are much darker brown than I remember my natural color.

My hairline and my roots with six weeks of growth. The grey doesn't really show up much in the photos.

So, my fellow grandmothers, do you color, highlight, tint or have you elected to go gracefully grey? I would love to hear from you. Should I stay with the coloring or just let it go grey? Tell me what you think and I'll let you know what I decide.


  1. My MIL always died her hair red, for some of the reasons you mentioned, she decided to go all gray. I wasn't so sure about the decision, but the end result was amazing! She actually looked 5-10 years younger with the gray! She's older than you, about 65 when she made the switch, but I am now fully conviced that at a certian age, it's better to go all gray. I set my sights on 60 for that one! Good luck in your decision. At least you know it's an easy fix :)

  2. I stopped dying when it became too labor-intensive. I think I was around 50. Now, I wear it in a short spiky style that I hope doesn't scream"old." It's easy and that suits me.

  3. Like you (only 5 years older!) I have been playing with hair color forever! And I don't see that stopping anytime soon! I went *really* blonde when I was about 19 -- talk about high maintenance! Those roots had to be touched up almost weekly! Waaaay to much work. Now I am just a bit redder than my actual drab brown and I like it. My little sister (51) announced she was going to go natural -- she has a lot of grey. I will not be following in her footsteps anytime soon! I am curious to see how long she lasts -- it has only been 6 weeks. You have to keep us posted on what you do! Good Luck!