My Transition to Gray Hair

A 6-month Hair Color Progress Report

Forgive me, Hair-Colorist. It’s been six months since my last hair color.  Well, it’s been a while since I talked about my transition to gray hair. When I last wrote about it, I was still vacillating as to when I would actually stop using hair color on my naturally gray hair. If you follow me on social media (and please do) you already know, that I did it! I’ve started the slooowwwww process of letting my natural hair color grow out.

I didn’t go cold turkey and just ditch the dye completely though. At least not at the first. I’m going to show you my progress, share my thoughts on the decision to lighten my hair in order to create a more subtle outgrowth line and show you where I am in my transition to gray hair today.

My month progress report on transitioning from dying my gray hair to growing it out. | Transitioning to gray hair | Grow out your gray hair

Would I do it the same way again? What would I do differently? Do I like what I’m seeing? Have I freaked my grandkids out with drastic hair color change? Do I feel older? Let’s find out.

I Can See Clearly Now – I’m a Calico

My last official hair color to cover the gray was January 20, 2018. I didn’t make another appointment with my colorist because she was busy and distracted on that particular day. Following some miscommunications with her, I never did get my next appointment booked. Since I had surgery a month after that appointment my hair wasn’t my top priority anyway.

I was long past my usual 4 – 5-week hair color schedule when I finally had a new hair colorist lined up and I thought, why not just go with it now.  I had in my mind though that I wanted to blend, and by blend I mean lighten, my colored ends in with my new growth.

As you’ll see in the photos below, where my hair is “gray”, it’s really white and where it’s dark it’s really dark. And then there are other areas that are a mix of salt and pepper. I’m quite like a calico cat! Meow!

I had the notion that I would come away from these blending appointments with a silver, white, and dark balayage streaks that would make my own natural roots make sense. But a Pinterest worthy mane is hard to come by. Follow me and see the hairstyles that inspire me.

Operation Grow the Gray Progress Report

At this point, I have had two appointments to “blend” the ends with the new growth. During each appointment, my new growth has, supposedly, been left untouched. And lastly, I have had a toner put on the ends to cut the yellow undertones. I’ve also had about 4” of crunchy ends cut off.

Here’s a photo timeline to date:

Transitioning to gray 6 month progress | Blending in gray roots as you grow them out | Going gray

What I’ve gained in adding a subtly to the outgrowth of gray hair, I’ve lost in progress. I’ve learned it’s a marathon!

Would I do it the same way again?

In hindsight (the best sight), I don’t think I would have lightened my hair so drastically. Although the lighter color will create a more blended line with the whiter hair, you can see that I’m very dark in the back. So that demarcation line will be markedly obvious. It might just border on that skanky, “I bleached my hair and now I can’t afford to recolor it so I’ll just grow it out” look.

Next, bleaching my hair so drastically (and it still wasn’t enough to get me to the level where I could actually go silver) has FRIED my hair. I have always had soft, silky hair and although silky hair has its own style challenges, I LOVE the healthy hair! But now having hair that is breaking off to the point that I see tiny hair particles flying off when I brush it is a little soul crushing to me.

And last, even though there has been clear communication between my colorist and me to leave the new growth untouched, I feel like I’ve lost a little progress at each “blending session”.  You can see in the photo chart above that I haven’t made a ton of progress. You can also see exactly where most of the outgrowth was lost.

It was certainly not intentional, but it’s been close to 6 months since my last official hair color and I feel like I would be farther into an already long process had I left it alone.

So my final answer to that might be – no.

Going to extremes to grow out gray hair | 6 month transition to gray hair progress report

At 20 weeks I had a full highlight and was toned with permanent color

What would I do differently?

IF I could back all the way up, I might actually go cold turkey off of the hair color and simply opt to tone out the brassiness of the color treated ends for a few appointments. I say a few appointments because inevitably, any treatments you do to your hair get into new growth. That’s fine when you don’t have a lot of outgrowth and aren’t trying to grow it out. But when the outgrowth is halfway down the hair shaft, this will result in a weird sort of ombre’.

Looking back I would have definitely NOT done the second blending session. The day before, I had actually thought about canceling the appointment because I thought that I could probably live with where my hair was at that point.

But I didn’t cancel and at that appointment, my hair was full-on “highlighted” (bleached) and toned with a permanent color it to give an ashy tone. The ashy tone was beautiful but it didn’t last for more than a week. 🙁 It was at that time that my hair sustained the most damage and I lost the most progress in transitioning to gray hair.

Do I like what I’m seeing?

The chemical color:  Having been a lifelong brunette, I’m still getting used to myself with lighter hair. The color is supposed to be ashy/silver in color but whether it has been a demi-permanent toner or permanent color my hair has not held onto it for more than a few days and reverts back to a yellow, bleached blond tone that jacks dimension other than the new growth coming through.

The natural “calico” regrowth: Yes, I LOVE the white color in particular and am getting super impatient to have it entirely grown out. Last week at my haircut appointment my stylist and I started talking about a “Plan P” (a.k.a. pixie or short haircut). (Cue: Kevin McAllister hands to cheeks screaming face 🙀) That’s far down the road, if ever. But the white streak in my bangs will be grown out first and I’m already imagining if I could train my bangs toward the opposite direction so that it’s more visible.

Growing out gray hair | Lighten hair to blend roots as your growing out your hair | Transition to gray hair

Have I freaked out the grandkids with my drastic hair color change?

Not really. Even though there a kid or so who is a bit OCD. A couple of them have noticed. But it’s more like an “oh, your hair” in passing. What can I say? They are males and they don’t really care. Plus, I’m the one with the most treats to give so they don’t mess with me. 😉

Do I feel older?

At this point in the process I don’t feel older nor do I feel like I look older. When my hair isn’t colored or highlighted it has no natural body or lift and on one particularly hot day I was a sweaty mess with my hair flattened to my head. I wasn’t feeling like the best version of myself. But that could happen whether my hair was colored or not.

What have I learned in the process?

I’ve learned that the process of growing out gray hair is a marathon and not a sprint. Other than shaving your head, there are no shortcuts. (no pun intended)

Transition to gray hair | Gray hair | 6 month progress growing the gray hair out

Final Thoughts on Transitioning to Gray Hair

Since I started growing my naturally gray hair out, I have noticed many more women doing the same. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, everybody’s journey is different. This is my choice and I’m not trying to influence you to do the same if it’s not for you.

However, if you’re on the fence or have already started transitioning to gray hair, I hope this progress report will be an encouragement to you. I’ll do my best to update you on a more regular basis and not wait another 6 months.

I had thought about getting a few lowlights put in my hair in order to make the really dark hair blend a bit better and avoid the skank look back there, but at this point in my transition to gray hair, I’m not planning on any more chemical treatments. I want to get this process going.

I’m excited to see the full handiwork of how God painted me.

Be YOU!

Paula

Follow me on Instagram to see the progress in more real time.

Growing out hair color | Transition to Gray Hair | My 6 month progress report on growing out my naturally graying hair

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34 Comments

  1. Victoria Lewis
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    I transitioned from coloring my hair about 20 years ago. I now have had silver hair for about 18-19 years, and I get many compliments on it. Two years ago, when I turned 60, I wanted to shake things up a bit. I now get purple and blue highlights. I have a great stylist, and the look is both subtle and edgy. I love it! If I could post a pic of it, I would 😁
    I totally support getting away from the chemicals contained in hair dyes, and embracing who you really are!

  2. Jodie
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    You always keep it so real Paula!!
    I stopped dying my hair cold turkey when I retired over 4 years ago. Not that I had a ton of grey, but luckily it looks more like highlights (sorta).
    Are you on the Going Grey Gracefully FB page?? I find there is a lot of great inspiration there. As for feeling older? I think it’s the whole package of “us” that does that. Since we keep up with the hairstyle (I think that’s huge) and modern clothing—it’s not an issue!!
    We will see if I change my mind as I get more greyer???
    XOXO
    Jodie
    http://www.jtouchofstyle.com

    • Paula
      Author
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      Jodi,
      I agree that dressing youthful, and being on trend are keys to pulling off any hair color.

  3. Shawn
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    Hi Paula! I also have decided to go this direction. However, I went with the pixie cut and no color at this point. I am not opposed to adding a toner at some point though. It’s funny how different people react to the news that you want to do this. I wonder if they think you are just “giving up” and not wanting to take care of yourself anymore. Not at all!!! I fully intend on continuing to rock a bold lip and a great edgy haircut. Praying for perseverance for the both of us!!

  4. Kim
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    My daughter told me that she doesn’t plan to ever cover her gray so I might want to consider that for the future. How will we look standing next to each other? hahah! I think about it, but I keep touching up my roots to cover the gray! You inspire me, tho!

    • Paula
      Author
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      I’m not sure Kim, but I THINK I might have more gray than my dad does… so that’s going to look kind of funny. 🤣

  5. Diane Sundberg
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    You are so “real.” I really enjoy your blog. I haven’t colored my hair, and it’s growing out to grey gradually. I think it’s easier that way, rather from dying to grey.

    • Paula
      Author
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      I totally agree with you Diane! Once again hindsight would have been not dying it in the first place… but my younger self didn’t think she could handle it. But then I git to the point it just didn’t feel authentic anymore.

      Hugs!
      Paula

  6. I’m in the process of growing out multiple chemical treatments – relaxer {straightens my hair} and colors {blonde, blue, pink, and purple}. Needless to say, my hair is a hot mess and I mean that quite literally. It’s hot here in Louisiana and I’ve been reduced to wearing my hair in a ponytail. I want to cut all off, but The Hubs HATES short hair, so I’m growing it out. And, like you said, it’s a long process.

    I’ve enjoyed watching your process/progress on Instagram and am encouraged by you.

    • Paula
      Author
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      Thanks Daenel! It will be so liberating when it’s all grown out. I got my bob cut right to my chin once (and I was much thinner) and my hubs didn’t care for it. Truth is, I didn’t either.

      And I guess since we’re both so HOT right now, wearing a wig is out of the question too. 🤣😂☺️

  7. LisaC in Dallas
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    I have short hair so when I decided to go gray last fall, my transition was only about 3 months in duration. Since then I’ve experimented with hair products and new colors next to my face. I don’t feel older and I am so glad I made the leap. As you said, everyone’s journey is different.

    • Paula
      Author
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      I’d love to be done in 3 months! But I’m just afraid that I don’t have the face (bone structure) for short hair. Especially since I’ve gained weight. ☺️ But we’ll see. I might just get brave one day.

  8. Debbie
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    I am going through almost the exact process only mine has been going on for much longer. I began going gray in my twenties and had been coloring it for almost 25 years when I decided to go gray. My natural hair color is also dark brown so I went blonde about 5 years ago so the gray roots would be less noticeable. I could never get a silvery blond no matter who colored my hair and always ended up with the yellow look. Long story short, I haven’t had any color put on my hair since November and am just going to have the line between gray and blonde until it’s all grown out. I wish I would have done this years ago.

    • Paula
      Author
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      Hi Debbie!
      I’ve been coloring my hair for nearly as long as you have! Twins!!!
      I actually started the lightening process and some toning with my previous colorist a year or more ago but like a lot of stylists they are kind of resistant to it. I’d like to know who the stylists are who are doing all these beautiful silver gray transformations on the young girls we see on Pinterest?!?!

      Like you though, I’ve come to the conclusion that there really is no other way than to see that demarcation line. With lighter hair, it may be more subtle but really it’s just as noticeable. 😘

      Hugs!
      Paula

  9. Susan Marinelli
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    Hi Paula! This subject is near and dear to my heart, so commenting on it was de rigueur! I stopped coloring my hair a few years ago, like five I think, but I can’t really remember how long it’s been. It is only after I stopped coloring that I noticed how much it was damaging my aging hair, i.e. making it frizzy. Horribly frizzy. My gray grows in front first; it is practically white above my temples, the back, not so much. So I was streaking primarily the front, and it started to break off, leaving me with what looked like gray pubic hair IN THE FRONT!! It was so awful, I had to have it shaved off. Now, I do no chemicals of any sort, and it is much healthier and happier hair, and a lot less frizzy.

    It is, however, a marathon, as you say. I was without the dreaded demarcation line in a year or so, and I haven’t looked back. I get compliments on my gray hair, and use that “bluing” shampoo to keep the gray more vibrant.

    • Paula
      Author
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      Pubic hair! 🤣😂🤣 Sorry, I know it wasn’t funny at the time, but it made me chuckle.

      I’m so glad you are rocking your natural hair color and have hound liberty in it. I feel like the more women embrace natural the more we can change the perception that gray means old. I’m anxious to be done with the grow out, and be onto embracing my best self.

      Hugs
      Paula

  10. You did a great job of sharing your grow out journey, Paula. I have to say that I love you with the lighter locks. I’m a dark blonde and have highlighted my hair since high school (my mom was a hairdresser) I’ve got a lot of gray coming in and I also have a beautiful gray streak in the front like you that comes across as blonde. I’m ready for more gray to hopefully totally forgo the highlights. I’m lucky though because I can get away with 2-3 times a year. Looking good friend!

    • Paula
      Author
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      Thanks Lisa! The lighter is definitely growing on me. When I look back at photos of me with darker hair now, it looks weird.

      Hugs,
      Paula

  11. I’m so glad you are sharing your grey journey! I grew out my grey about 8 (Really?) years ago. People frequently tell me I look younger with grey hair, than I did with it colored, and my hair is so much happier and healthier. I used semi-permanent home coloring for quite a few months during the transition, and then went for the pixie. You couldn’t pay me to color again…

  12. Hi Paula,
    I love this post and how you’ve taken us with you on your journey to go naturally, beautifully grey. I’m toying with the idea myself.

    Xo, Jonet

  13. Wanda
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    Hi Paula, I often wondered how everyone else handled it! I was caring for my terminally ill husband, living way out in the country and never seeing anyone when I decided embrace my grey. It was awful as I had been dying my hair brunette for years. I had all white on top and all brown on the ends. Finally, it grew out enough I could go the pixie route and I’ve never looked back. Now I go to the colorist to get my hair as white as I possibly can. I am lucky because instead of a grey color I am mostly white anyway. I even get super white hi-lights put in to boost it even whiter. I love it and I love never having to worry about roots. I don’t feel I look older and I have gotten many compliments on how it looks. More power to your marathon!

  14. Kathy
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    Hi there! I just found you when I started looking for help on going gray. Unfortunately, at 52 – after at least 25 years of coloring my hair blonde from brown – I’ve developed a sudden but severe allergy to hair dye, even the more “natural” ones, so I don’t have much choice, and cold turkey it’s going to be! (Although maybe that’s for the best?) I’m glad I found you, love your sass and style! I came for the hair but I’m staying for the rest! 🙂

  15. Kate
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    I just did my roots today after not doing them for 6 months. I love the brightness hair colour gives me (natural redhead) I go to an Aveda Salon as I am allergic to a lot of chemical processes but Aveda is plant based and my hair is very healthy and natural. I talked to my colourist today and told her she won’t see me for a while, I’m going to try going natural…..not so much because I like the idea of grey hair but its SO expensive to do roots every 6 weeks. So I am wearing knitted hats in winter and in summer I will wear a bandana or summer hat to see if I like it. She suggested a shorter cut and some white/grey highlights to help the transition. Can’t wait to embrace it once and for all.

    • Paula
      Author
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      Hey Kate! Good for you. The cost is a definite factor in our decision to go natural. I’ve been working on a post that will be published very soon and I’m sharing some ideas to help you get through the hard days of growing it out. It’s not easy, but if you commit to it, see it all the way through before making a different decision. They say that you should be fully transitioned for six months or more to really decide if you like it. 😉

      Hugs,
      Paula

  16. Sandy
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    I am in a similar boat as you but you have more hair and body than me. I saw the long processes done on transitioning to gray that were posted on Pinterest and asked my stylist to just take me all the way gray. Well I ended up platinum blond which I hated and looked way worse than the highlights I had been doing for years. I also am a natural brunette and had been continually asking for lowlights to be help me feel more natural. Long story short I decided to bite the bullet and go natural the really long way. Then here comes corona and I couldn’t get anything done if I had wanted to lol. I think at some point I might just go ahead and say pixie it and let’s get this over with! I use my purple shampoo to try and tone down the brassy blond but mostly I just clip it back with barrettes and stay away from the mirror. I too have grandsons and they could care less. The beautiful processing they show on Pinterest to going all over with a beautiful gray are quite misleading I think. It must work for some I guess. I feel I wasted a good bit of money trying to do that to end up worse than when I started if I had just let it go on its own.

    • Paula
      Author
      /

      I totally agree. They never show the “after-after” of those gray dye makeovers. I think it’s interesting that once you start the process of just letting it grow natural, you begin to notice all the women who are doing g the same. I love mine and I hope you do too. Now, when I see photos of myself with colored hair, it looks like I was wearing a mask. Now I see the true me.

      Hugs,
      Paula

  17. I’m so glad I found this post! I’ve 95% decided to let my gray grow! It’s been sooooooooooooo long since I have dyed it, thanks to COVID and I’ve realized how much I hate the process of the upkeep {especially the days where you can start to see the growth before you get it done} and think I am really ready to go gray. But I just turned 49 and have a 13 year old child so am a wee bit worried about looking/feeling older. And I cannot decide HOW to do it. Just go for it and let it keep growing with no hairstylist help?

    • Paula
      Author
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      Good for you Katherine. You can always go back if you don’t like it but I’m betting you’ll love the freedom. Honestly, there’s no wrong choice wither you lighten it or grow it out cold-turkey it really all depends on how dark your “pepper” is or how much of your hair is actually gray. I didn’t have luck with ashy toners sticking to my bleached out hair, so in hind sight I wish I would have gone cold turkey, but again, if you commit to it and wear whatever you decide with intentionality and pride, your confidence will be attractive.

      Best of luck and a big hug,
      Paula

  18. /

    My hair brown but I’ve been coloring it blond for 40 years, I just turned 62. I didn’t do my roots for about 3 months and at the same time I was letting the length grow (short to shoulder length). I finally did my roots mostly because I need volume. I’m not sure if I want it all grey but it’s interesting to watch it grow. I found your story and pictures really cool. Thank you for sharing

    • Paula
      Author
      /

      Hi Donna!
      I definitely miss the volume too but it’s been a great time to play with styles to see if I can “make it work”. I’m currently grown out my bangs and it’s SO HARD. I probably couldn’t have done both at the same time.
      That being said, YOU have to be ready to make the transition and there’s no one right time for everyone.

      All the best!
      Paula

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