19 Months Dye-Free – YAY, for Gray!
I’m 19 months bleach and dye-free, and though the journey has been long, I’m loving it. I’m almost fully transitioned! And, I’ve learned a thing or two about How to Grow Out Your Gray Hair without Going Insane. Whether you’re just starting to think about ditching the dye or bleach, you’re in-process, or your new year’s resolution is to grow out your gray but you’re dreading those awkward, ugly days, I got you Girl. You can do this and I can help!
GRAY – The Color of Liberation
Growing out my natural gray hair has been one of the most liberating things I’ve ever done, followed closely by having my breast implants removed. Maybe because each event has allowed me the opportunity to more fully accept and love the outside of the woman God created me to be.
Inwardly, I have found a level of comfort in my own skin (and hair) 😉 that I’ve never known before, and I think it shows. My husband recently commented that I get more compliments on my hair now that I ever have.
In fact, just today at my grandsons preschool two different women commented on it and one was a young mother hoping her hair would come in gray like mine!
I wonder if it has as much to do with a vibe of genuine confidence as it does with my hair color?
That being said, the transition process isn’t all “good hair days” and compliments. It can get ugly, and your resolve might wobble, but I have a few tips that might help you through the hard days.
To Cut or Not to Cut
When it comes to coloring your hair to help lessen the transition, you have several choices, and there’s no wrong one, it’s just what works for you. See how I did it here. The same holds true for cutting your hair during the process.
The Big Chop
Regardless if you choose to leave your hair long, go for a major chop, or shave it off, it’s a bold move. Leaving it long means you’ll have a demarcation line for longer, but you won’t have a new style to get used to.
I chose to keep my hair long during part of this process, and then recently, we started cutting it shorter. Even with the lightening process, I was going to have a demarcation line, whether it was longer or just above my shoulders (the shortest length for me), so I just waited to cut it until it was nearing that mark.
And while cutting it short or shaving your head is a short-cut (no pun intended) to all-natural hair color, it’s not always the best choice for our frame of mind. This leads us to “Which is the best choice for you?“.
the times I have been the most depressed about my transitioning hair color were when I had a haircut or bang length that I did not find flattering to me.
Make sure you get a haircut you love
This process hasn’t been as harrowing as I thought it would be. However, the times I have been the most depressed about my transitioning hair color were when I had a haircut or bang length that I did not find flattering to me. If you have the features for a short “do” go for the chop. If not, keep or get a hairstyle that you love and which flatters you.
No matter what length hair you decide on, keep those ends trimmed and fresh looking, no razor cuts or shattered ends. Your hair will look healthier because nobody wants to look like a old mangy dog. 😉
*You might also like to see my one-year progress.
Patience and Perseverance
Transitioning to gray hair is a long process depending on how long your hair is, and you can’t lock yourself in your house for the duration. You will surely have a social event or two, and even if you’re not a blogger, there will be events when you have your photo taken. It won’t always be easy to keep going, and you may have social or life events when you are tempted to reach for the bottle again. Let me encourage you – Have PERSEVERANCE!
Commit and Don’t Waver
My first major social event was a family wedding 5 months into the transition process. I was a little worried about what people would think, but it was more worrying about photos of my “streak” in someone’s wedding album – FOREVER.
But then I realized that nobody was going to fixate about me and my hair. Do you look at your wedding album much?
I recently saw photos of a friend who had been transitioning to gray hair but gave in and colored it for her daughter’s wedding. Okay, I know this is a big EVENT. However, I hated to see her months of patience and progress undid for a one-day event, but everyone has to do what feels right to them. If you want to maintain your transition progress during significant life and photographic events, here are some ideas for you.
Tips for Staying the Course during Major Life & Social Events
Hats – Think like royalty and try a cute hat if it fits your social event, like a wedding or party. Of course, going into the fall and winter, we have all sorts of choices to wear hats every day if we want.
Alter Your Hairstyle – A curly or wavy hairstyle helps break up the demarcation line and can also make your ends look like a trendy balayage color.
Updo your “do” – Have a stylist create a flattering updo to take the emphasis off your part area.
Hide it with a headband – If you only have a small amount of outgrowth, a headband can be effective at concealing it.
Consider a good wig – For some reason, most of us don’t think of wigs as an option during our transition. But for not much more than what you would pay to have your hair dyed for the event, you could have a very flattering and realistic wig. It won’t take you back to square one, and you’ll have it for other activities, or maybe you can pass it on to someone who needs it for medical reasons.
If you’re still on the fence about growing out your gray hair or if you’re somewhere in the middle of the process and you’re just not sure you can handle it, here are a couple of thoughts that might help you stay the course.
you won’t really know if you like your gray hair until you are fully transitioned for six-months or so
It’s Mostly Mindset and Time
I read somewhere that you won’t really know if you like your gray hair until you are fully transitioned for six-months or so. That might be because we need to give our hair the time to grow into a style we really love, especially if we’ve cut it shorter than we prefer in the transitioning process. We also need to get used to our natural hair texture and how it will or won’t perform.
I’m probably a hair-trim or two away from being fully transitioned. However, the majority of my hair is all-natural, virgin hair. While I’m loving it, I’m having to learn how to style it all over again. So I’ll end with a few tips, tricks, and products for styling natural gray, white or silver hair.
A few things to keep in mind about silver/gray hair
The hardest thing about having hair untouched by the dye is that you have to get used to your hair’s natural texture. Some may find it wiry and uncontrollable, while others, like me, will have little to no natural body.
Gray or silver-white hair is porous and very susceptible to chemical, heat tools, and environmental stressors, which is what causes it to yellow very quickly.
Products and Styling Tools for Gray or White Hair
Because of these changes in the color and texture of your hair, you’ll likely find the products you previously used are no longer effective or even safe for your hair.
It’s best to find gentle products and those that don’t contain sulfates and harsh chemicals.
Purple shampoos and masks are great at keeping your silver hair from looking yellow. But because they deposit tint onto the hair, they can build up on your hair, so I don’t use them every time I wash. You also might find they work a little better if you use a gentle clarifying shampoo first.
Everyone will favor different products based on their hair health, texture, and length. But I’ve included a list of the shampoos, conditioners, purple toning products that have made the cut and are currently in the front row in my bathroom cabinet. I’m still on the lookout for favorites though.
Limit the amount of time you spend using heat tools. If this isn’t an option, at the very least, turn down the temperature. (I’ve turned mine down, but it still might be causing the yellow cast on my hair because of overuse.) And always use a good heat protectant.
Before or After?
In my mind, my after picture wins! To me, it feels like the way I was always supposed to look.
When I look back at myself with colored hair I think it’s pretty but it looks fake compared to my natural hair color. My lighter hair is less harsh and brightens up my face. Perhaps I look older, but I don’t mind. I’m 54 years old with 6 grandkids and I’ll never look 30 again nor do I want to.
I hope this has helped you over a rough patch during your transition to gray hair. Or maybe it has created the inspiration you needed to break-up with Miss Clairol knowing you have options to help with the awkwardness of the transition process.
Oh, and if you’re already a full-fledged Silver-Sister, do you have any tried and true products you love? This girl needs to know.
And if you need just one nudge to let the dye go…
Permanent Hair Dye and Breast Cancer
The choice to go gray is personal, and no one can dictate when you’re ready. But, if you’re thinking about it and need a push, a recent study published in the Journal of Cancer tracked 46,709 women ages 35-74 over eight years suggesting permanent hair dye is heavily associated with breast cancer. White women have an 8% increased risk. Still, the results are particularly concerning for black women with a 60% increased risk of developing breast cancer than those women who didn’t use permanent hair dye. More info here. While more testing needs to be done, with my mother’s history of breast cancer that has now metastasized I’m declaring – I’m opting out – forever!