GOING GREY IS A REBELLION
The first statement I ever made with hair colour, inspired by Annabel Lwin of Bow Wow Wow, involved shaving the sides of my head and dyeing the remaining ‘mohawk’ strip of hair blue. It was quite a statement for Stoke On Trent (where I lived) and possibly the reason I was turned down for a Saturday job at BHS. That and not being able to do the mental arithmetic for the cost of four pairs of men’s socks.
For the next three decades – college, moving to London, working as a magazine beauty editor and then a freelance journalist whilst raising my family – I wore my hair long, dark brown and fashionably low-lighted or, more lately, kept greying roots at bay with a regular hit of L’Oreal Castings ‘Iced Chocolate’.
And then I hit 50 and it occurred to me that colouring my hair had gradually become less about looking fashionable and hot, and more about not letting the world know that 40% of my hair was now white. On a practical level I was wary of the itchy scalp I experienced every time I dyed my hair. On an emotional level I felt like I was hiding from the world and from myself – and I was curious to know who I was missing.
I know turning your back on hair dye is not for everyone, but it felt right for me.
My lovely hairdresser didn’t flinch when I told him my plans for my hair but he did point out that we had quite a journey ahead of us if I didn’t want to look as if I had – and here we whisper – ‘let myself go’ in the process.
“You’re very brave!”* was the most frequent response from friends as my grey roots became more and visible. I took this to be girl code for “What the f*** are you doing?”. My children expressed their reservations, and I felt it best not to ask my partner what he thought. But at the same time I liked tapping into my long dormant rebellious spirit, and not quietly disappearing like women over 50 are apparently supposed to. I’ve never liked been told what to do – or how to be, for that matter.
In all the growing out process took around three years and for much of that time I wore my hair short (this time inspired by a photo of Miley Cyrus) to rid myself of the dyed ends more quickly. Now my hair is a natural blend of white and dark, below shoulder length and my new hair inspiration is Sarah Harris at Vogue. There is no other word for her mane of glossy, waist length grey hair than ‘gorgeous’. And then there are the scores of women on Instagram page Grombre, proudly showing off hair of every length, texture and shade of grey.
It’s not about giving in to grey, it’s about reinvention.
I know that my grey hair does not make me look younger, but it does make me feel individual, stylish and empowered. It is soft, shiny, easy to manage, and the lovely natural highlights would cost a small fortune to recreate every six weeks. And I like the feeling of knowing I am being myself, take it or leave it.
My children like it. My partner likes it. And I was recently told that it makes me look like “a very confident woman”.
I’ll take that.
How to do grey hair in style:
1. Focus on condition and regular, stylish hair cuts to complement your new colour and show off the natural shine and softer texture.
2. Virgin grey hair can turn a tired yellow shade with too much UV exposure, so invest in a blue toned shampoo to keep it bright and white. Mine is hidden away behind some toilet rolls – not because I am ashamed of having what is essentially a blue rinse in the bathroom, but because it also works on blonde hair and, at £10 a bottle, I don’t my teenage daughters to get their hands on it.
3. Any change in hair colour will have an impact on your wardrobe choice, and going grey is no exception. So get out of your comfort zone (wearing black, in my case) and enjoy experimenting with both bright colours and softer pastels.
4. Red lipstick looks absolutely killer with grey hair – and believe me, absolutely NO ONE will think you have let yourself go.
5. Take all the money you have saved on hair dye and go on a fabulous holiday.
* I’m not brave. It’s only hair.
Words: Adele Mitchell adelemitchell.com