You’ve Decided to Grow Out Your Gray Hair, Now What?

Have you decided to grow out your gray hair? If you’re one of the many, many women who have decided to ditch the dye you have likely seen bundles of before and after photos of women rocking their natural silver hair. But you may not know what to expect in the “and”, that in-between journey of before to after, including dealing with multi-tone hair, bleach, and hair toner went wrong, misconceptions about gray hair, or the straight-up fortitude to see it through. And what about the emotional side of bucking beauty “standards” that propel us to chase youth? Today’s post will hopefully help you have the confidence to embrace your God-given sparkle.

growing out gray hair; what to expect when growing out your gray hair; salt and pepper hair; silver hair

Quarantine Expands the Silver-Hair-Movement

Whether it’s because of salons being closed during quarantine or more women are jumping on the natural hair color trend, the traffic on my blog posts about my journey to go gray has skyrocketed. At one point my Pinterest numbers were up over 300% just from those posts alone. So since we’ve got a lot of newbies around here and it’s been several months since I posted a hair update, let’s talk about what you can expect if you’ve decided to grow out your gray hair.

It’s been just over two years since my last hair color in May of 2018. Honestly, 2018 must have been the year I finally decided to be me. In February I had had my 17-year-old breast implants removed and just a short time later I decided to ditch the hair dye for good.

You can read more about that decision, the process I chose, and the mistakes I made, here and here.

Before and after growing out gray hair; growing out gray hair; what to expect when growing out your gray hair; salt and pepper hair; silver hair

Growing Out Your Gray Hair Can Unmask the Real You

I have called this process liberating and freeing (same things, I know) but it’s actually kind of hard to describe the feeling of what it’s like to buck the system and let the natural gray show. No, it’s not perfect and I wish my salt and pepper strands didn’t yellow on the ends, but my dyed hair did the same thing. And I’m sure some people think it makes me look older but I don’t exactly care about that. 

What I can articulate is that when I look back at photos of myself with dark hair, (and BTW, I thought I was dying it close to my natural color) I think it looks like I’m wearing a mask. It was pretty hair for sure, but in hindsight, I don’t think it looks authentic to me.

I have seen before and after photos of many, many women and I think it’s the same for almost every one of them. Taking off the mask that covers our hair somehow opens up our faces and brightens our eyes to let so much more life out. And I think if you have decided to stop coloring your hair it can be the same for you!

There are some other things you might also like to know or have asked me questions about and that’s what we’re addressing today. We’re covering:

  • Transitioning with Bleach or Hair Color
  • Enjoying the Journey
  • Photos During the Journey
  • Whether or Not to Cut Your Hair Short
  • Accepting Your Gray Hair Fingerprint
  • Busting the “Gray is for Grannies” Myth
  • Compliments and Confidence

Lighten it or Cold Turkey it?

growing out gray hair; what to expect when growing out your gray hair; salt and pepper hair; silver hair
the three month mark with lighter hair but super fried ends

There’s no wrong answer here. It’s your choice and both bleaching and going cold turkey have pros and cons. 

If you’ve read some of my previous growing gray hair update posts you know I did go the bleach and tone route trying to get an ashy, silver tone to blend with the new growth. However, it was a very expensive and long process, two to three appointments that were several hours long and then my hair never held the toner for more than a couple of days. It left  my hair completely fried, it broke off constantly, and required expensive shampoos to maintain.

mistakes made while growing out gray hair; what to expect when growing out your gray hair; salt and pepper hair; silver hair
I cleaned it up for photos but the ends were scorched and toner attempts went haywire!

That being said, when I look back at photos of my “blond” hair, I kind of like the brightness of it. But while it may have made the new growth line a bit less noticeable, in the end there’s still a demarcation line to deal with. So, if hair health is important to you, you may want to just go for it.  BE BOLD…That’s what Nikol from Fresh Beauty Studio did.

Enjoy the Journey

I know. I know. It would be so great if we could snap our fingers and have it grown out but unless you want to shave your head, it ain’t gonna happen. So, be patient and get creative with your hair. Enjoy experimenting with hairstyles, hair accessories, and hats to make the transition more fun. You will get there, I promise!

Don’t Shy Away from the Camera, Even for Big Events

Before, during and after; growing out gray hair; what to expect when growing out your gray hair; salt and pepper hair; silver hair
six months in – after the botched toner attempt and stripping it out

Being a blogger who primarily blogs about fashion, one of the things that caused me to drag my feet from cutting the hair color cord sooner was the notion of having to have photos taken of myself throughout the entire process. I thought people were going to think I looked ridiculous. Okay, I thought I was going to look ridiculous! 

This post was made when I thought I was six-months into the process. But in hindsight, I was more like 4 months in as the last blending appointment was actually in March and she has used a toner on my roots.

before during and after transitioning to gray hair  ||  What to expect when you grow out your gray hair  ||  transiton to gray hair
Always a battle to stay on top of gray roots

But considering the many times my gray roots were showing at the top of my unnaturally dark hair between color appointments, at least my longer new growth looked intentional. I honestly wish I had taken more actual progress photos. These are milestone photos, if you will, and like the photos I’m including in this post today, they create a timeline of the process and that’s not a bad thing. 

You Don’t Have to Cut Your Hair Short

before during and after the transition to gray hair: growing out gray hair; what to expect when growing out your gray hair; salt and pepper hair; silver hair
almost the one year mark

If shaving our head or getting a pixie cut is your thing, go for it. But for those of us without the features or fearlessness to go there, it’s okay to rock the grombre. I suggest regular hair cuts, as keeping the ends looking healthy creates a healthier appearance overall. Just before the one-year marker, I opted for a shorter bob which helped me get those frizzy ends in check.

You can read more of my thoughts on going gray in How to Go Gray without Going In Sane

It’s a SURPRISE PARTY – Get Preconceived Ideas of What Your Gray Hair Will Look Like Out of Your Head

18 months into growing out gray hair; what to expect when growing out your gray hair; salt and pepper hair; silver hair
18 months

THIS is actually something I’ve haven’t mentioned in any other post, but it’s so important. 

The growth color pattern for our natural silver hair is like a fingerprint and no one else has it.

Like you, I had my Pinterest board and Instagram saves filled with silver hair inspiration and dreamed that the day mine would be fully grown out and look like that. Although those photos are helpful for the courage and confidence to embrace your natural gray hair, try not to picture their hair on you. In fact, we can’t even use our silver-headed mamas to create an exact idea of what our gray will look like. 

The growth color pattern for our natural silver hair is like a fingerprint and no one else has it. When I look back at photos of my mom at my age, we might have the same tone of silver and brassy brown undertones, but she didn’t have a silver streak in her bangs. My hair is unique to me as yours is to you.

When you grow out your gray, you will likely feel stronger emotionally because you are making the decision to buck a system that wordlessly tells us to chase youth.

Paula, dimples on my WHAT?

Embrace an Attitude of a Myth Buster

You might be worried about looking older with gray hair because we have long associated it with getting older. And, as lots of peeps don’t go gray until later in life, we can understand how this myth got started. But let’s get this straight; gray, silver, and white are just a few of the colors in God’s entire natural hair color crayon box. 

Think about it though, age isn’t the singular factor that determines our hair color. A guy in my wedding party started going gray in his teens and I recently read about a dude who started graying at the age of 12. I don’t want to dive too deeply into this today because I’m excitedly working on a post about younger women choosing to let their natural grays, silvers and whites grow free. But consider this one final thought for today:

Free yourself and be part of the movement that says, gray is NOT just for grannies. It’s just a hair color! Show the world that your hair color is just that, a color. There are so many factors that age us more than our hair color.

Surprises!

“Your growth scares the people who don’t want to change.”

Source: Unknown

STRENGTH – Surprisingly, one of the biggest changes you will probably experience is emotional. When you grow out your gray hair, you will likely feel stronger because you are making a decision to buck a system that wordlessly tells us to chase youth.

GROWTH – There is so much to be learned about ourselves when we live authentically, especially where our appearance is concerned. I honestly never expected to feel so empowered by my hair. It’s a little CRAZY.

FEAR – However, if you get any negative comments on your hair, realize they are likely coming from a place of someone else’s fear. Changes make other people uncomfortable, especially if they aren’t ready themselves. They can also come from a place of jealously when they aren’t comfortable in their own skin. But even that ultimately comes from fear.

Get Ready For Compliments

I have never had so many compliments on my hair as I have during and since growing out my gray hair and you will likely be the same. Whether they love the color or your courage to be unabashedly yourself, people will be enamoured with you. And it’s not just the women, I’ve gotten compliments from men as well (not that I’m looking). 😉

We got together with a group of couple-friends, including the guy who I used to lead worship with and I couldn’t believe how he went on about my hair. He couldn’t quite articulate it but he kept going back to the word distinguished. Once again, I think it has to do with the confidence to be yourself and remember, confidence is attractive. 

Note:(And just so you know, it wasn’t a creepy conversation and he was talking a lot about women with gray in general. Mr. Dimples was there too. 😉

So no matter where you are in the journey of growing out your gray hair, BE CONFIDENT! You’re not only on your way to gray hair, but to STRENGTH, GROWTH, & EMPOWERMENT!

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Before, during and after growing out gray hair; What to expect when growing out your natural hair color

growing out gray hair; what to expect when growing out your gray hair; salt and pepper hair; silver hair
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27 Comments

  1. LINDA A HARRIS
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    Love the gray. I grew mine out about 3 years ago, and I have not regretted it. It was easier than I thought. I had a very good stylist that would go in and cut some of the color out so they grey would blend in better. Worked very well.

  2. Renee
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    Hey there! I’ve missed your posts 🙂 Hope you are doing well. I love your hair color (but what matters of course is that YOU are happy with it!) I wasn’t following you in 2018, so this Paula is the only Paula I know. Your posts are a delight and they brighten up my day.
    Hugs!

    • Paula
      Author
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      Hi Renee! I’m doing well. I just needed a bit of a break. I was so weary of all the “noise” on social media, I just had to regroup.

      Hugs,
      Paula

  3. I am not ready yet to go grey but I can definitely are me doing it in the next 10 years. At 45and with a 2 year old I am not ready to go natural. I usually get highlight which helps the get blend of when it pops up. My grey is probably more white than grey and this makes me curious to know where my natural hair would look like. I only highlight it once or twice a year. I think a good haircut helps with the transition and I love how your hair looks now and to me it looked great in the transition time period too!
    http://www.chezmireillefashiontravelmom.com

    • Paula
      Author
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      It’s definitely a personal decision Mireille and you should be ready. But I think you’ll like the next post I do on gray hair because I’m going to show case something young women who have gone gray… some even have little kids too. 😬

  4. Great post. It is quite the journey isn’t it. I recently got my hair trimmed, finally..and the gal wanted to straighten it for fun. WOW….when my hair is curly the gray still blends with what little brown is left, but when straight, you can really see how gray it is. I think I like it curly….lol

    • Paula
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      LOL! I love your curly hair! But I bet it was pretty either way.
      😍
      Paula

  5. Sherry
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    Your silver bangs really brighten your face…Beautiful!

    • Paula
      Author
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      Thanks Sherry! I never knew – I’m a calico. 🤣

      Hugs,
      Paula

  6. I had already decided to stop coloring my hair this year (last hair color was in December of 2019) and it’s been easier than I expected, due to the coronavirus lockdown! My natural hair color was almost black, and I had been dyeing my gray roots back to that, and I started to feel like it just didn’t feel right to do that anymore. I decided 2020 was going to be a year of freedom, starting with freedom from coloring my hair. My hair has grown out enough now that it looks intentional, rather than “she just hasn’t dyed her roots lately” and I’m enjoying watching the grombre process. I’m excited to see what my hair will look like when it’s all grown out…I have A LOT of silver. I think your hair looks great, and your posts about going silver were some of my original inspirations for doing it myself.

    • Paula
      Author
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      That’s wonderful Kathy! And have title this year so correctly in so many levels. Although some may have felt stifled and imprisoned, I have found it a year of freedom from so much of what we’ve “made” life to be… busyness to the nth degree. Keep enjoying this journey and finding the joy of just being YOU!

      Hugs,
      Paula

  7. Donna Mallard
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    I was one month earlier than you, Paula, with the decision to go gray! April 2018. And I’d be lying if I said I had complete confidence in how I’d look when completely gray. I was a nervous wreck!! But I’d been coloring my hair for almost 30 years by that point, and the maintenance was killing me! Not to mention how damaging it was to my hair, and how terribly expensive it was. It took about a year to grow out completely because I have short hair. When it was all gray, I’d go by my mirror and have to stop and look again, because I didn’t recognize myself! My colored hair was so dark! But in the 2 years since I made the change, I have fully embraced my different shades of gray and I truly think my face looks happier for it! I’m never going back to coloring my hair and decided that spending more money on a great cut is much more important than spending money on color. Since hairdressers opened back up in my area 2 weeks ago, I booked an appointment with someone new and have fallen back in love with my hair! She’s an artist and I’ve received SO many compliments on her work. This Nana is fully embracing her shades of gray and smiling a whole lot more now! And thanking God for what He meant for me to look like!

    PS- missed you!!!! So glad to see an email from you! 🙂

    Blessings!
    Donna

    • Paula
      Author
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      I so happy to hear that you’re in love with your hair Donna! I think some of the light in our eyes and faces comes from giving over to Gods artistry and ceasing to TRY to do it better. 😘

      Bigs HUGS,
      Paula

  8. Angel
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    I think you look beautiful! I love it ☺

  9. Barb
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    Although I’ve always said I would eventually go gray, 11 weeks during lockdown without a hair appointment was the impetus to let the silver shine now. My hair is short, so it will be a quicker process for me, and I’ve decided to go cold turkey. I’ve had two haircuts and will get another later today, and I should be mostly gray for my son’s wedding in mid-August. I wear my bangs longer, so I’ll probably have some darker tips in front. My hairdresser said she can bleach and dye them gray when the time comes, but I’m a little worried about turning orange! I, too, am sometimes startled to see my reflection in the mirror; I look so much like my mother! Lol I only hope my final color looks as good as yours!

  10. /

    I have been following your hair journey and I love this look on You. You have what I call “Hair personality” and I enjoy your candor. I’m just not ready to let my grays take over what little hair I have left . But as I get older, I get bolder and who knows.

    http://www.madamtoomuch.com

    • Paula
      Author
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      You could totally rock it Neti! But I totally understand, you have to be ready for YOU. 😘

  11. Gina P
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    You’re absolutely beautiful – before, during and after! I’m on my own adventure to see what my hair will finally look like a year from now. Both with growing the gray out and with seeing if the hair I lost will grown back! Since I cut my shorter to help blend it in with the hair loss, I probably won’t have to even wait that year! I think it will be liberating as many women say! Not to mention the money I’m saving! Thank you for all the great information!

    • Paula
      Author
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      You’re welcome Gina! It’s literally like a box of chocolates… you never know what you’re going to get. 😁

  12. Kay
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    I’m so glad you’re back ! I just adore your style, wit and down-to-earth-ness ! I have been following you for a good while now, and I sure missed your inspiration lately. I’m 59 and have been thinking of going natural with my hair. My daughter is my stylist and she is very good. We’ve been doing the dark undercolor with blond highlights, and I really just need to get determined and do it. Your blog is so needed for me and other middle-aged, a little on the plus side ladies ! You look great as always !!!!!

    • Paula
      Author
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      You’re so sweet Kay. Thank you for saying that.
      My stylist had taken her mother from dyed to natural just before me. Her mom basically says the same thing. It’s not the money, because her daughter did her hair. I think we all reach a point when the process is no longer worth the result. In either tune, money, or maybe even authenticity.

      Hugs,
      Paula.

    • Paula
      Author
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      Oh, and p.s. I love your description “little on the plus size ladies”. 😘

  13. I went gray about two and a half years ago. I kept my hair blonde so when I decided to let the gray show I started by having my hairdresser weave in the blonde hoping it would blend it really didn’t. After the second weaving, I decided it was crazy to keep spending money on something that really wasn’t working. I wear my hair very short so the process just took a few months. My perception of what it was going to look like was nothing like reality. I thought I would be more sparkling white like my grandmother and my sister. No, I have my own blend of gray and white and it does look good. People stop me and compliment me on my color.

    • Paula
      Author
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      See? A finger print… or should we say, “a silver print”! It’s something we don’t talk about a lot, but I think so many of us go into the process like you, think we’ll look like our mothers, fathers, grandmothers. But so far, my hair looks like none of them. 😀

      Hugs,
      Paula

  14. So great Paula. It is so liberating and freeing, and I would say 98% of the time I embrace mine with total confidence, especially when I receive so many compliments. Of course there was that time a week ago when (I was wearing a mask), some guy who knew my hubby came in where I worked, and asked if I was Kevin’s mom or sister….I wanted to smack him. Lol. I laughed and said “wife”.

  15. Nancy
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    Gombre, so perfect! I’m at 11 months no color. I was having my hair colored blonde, so it looks very much like yours at the same time frame. I must confess that quarantine has really helped the transition and I live in Arizona and wear a hat much of the time. Already friends and family think I’m brave to do it. I’m just glad that I made this decision and am looking forward to “the reveal”!

    • Paula
      Author
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      Even if it’s not then, “perfect gray” you envision, I know mines not, the liberation is far outweighs the expectation.

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