When I was around fifteen years old, my first gray hair was spotted by a high school friend. I didn’t believe her until she plucked it out and dangled the full silver strand in front of my eyes.
I was shocked and confused. How could I, a high schooler, have a gray hair? I tried to shrug it off as SAT stress and hoped it was just some weird natural occurrence.
That did not prove to be the case. Random grays rapidly started sprouting on the crown of my head over the next few years.
Plucking the random stragglers was no longer an option by the time I was a senior. With the encouragement of my mom, I started dyeing my roots and continued to do so through my early twenties.
The whole thing pissed me off to no end. I felt like my genes were betraying me. Furthermore, continuously dyeing my grays was an added expense that few people in my age group had to deal with. It felt like I would have to dye my hair forever.
Around the time I turned twenty-three, I started to reflect on my silver situation in a deeper way. Why did I despise my gray hair so much?
I quickly realized that hating on my gray hairs did not originate from me. It was the environment and culture I grew up in that created that opinion.
On a personal level, I grew up with a mom who really cares about her looks. She wears makeup to the gym, has participated in a lot of trend diets, and has been dyeing her grays for as long as I can remember. This is the behavior I looked up to for a long time and it deeply impacted me.
I don’t blame her. Society as a whole sent her similar messages about gray hair when she was growing up, and it continues to do so today. Beauty companies produce plenty of commercials advertise root touch-ups to banish those dastardly grays. In entertainment, shrewd, old, witchy women often have gray hair while young, “pretty”, and good women never do. In general, older women are far less represented on screen than older men are.
Aging is seen as an all-around negative thing, particularly for femmes. In our patriarchal society, women are often valued when they are young and beautiful. Gray hair on a woman has no place in the male gaze.
This widespread view pushes women to do everything in their power to look as young as possible and businesses profit from it. Compared to plastic surgery, dyeing hair is one of the less expensive and less invasive ways to do that.
No wonder I hated my own grays so much!
I decided to challenge my own perceptions. I wasn’t ready to let nature take its’ full course, but I was curious as to what I would look like with gray hair. Just as the granny hair trend started to take off, I took a major bleach-filled leap.
I first tried dyed gray (a heightened, more pastel variation) in Spring 2016. My friends and family loved it and so did I.
Obviously the hair in the above headshot is not at all natural looking. I wasn’t going for that, I wanted it to be funky and different.
That dye job definitely gave me a little perspective though. I got to see my skin next to icier tones for the first time. My eyes really popped with my new hair-do. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked the silver tones framing my face.
After a few more hair experiments (including a beloved and quintessential pixie cut), I decided to take a break from dye entirely in mid 2017. I wanted to see what my own natural gray would look like mixed with my dark brown hair.
It was shocking to realize just how much of my hair was gray as it began to grow in. The majority of my crown is gray while I still have a bit of brown on the edges of my scalp.
Growing in hair is generally annoying, but I quickly fell in love with my silver strands and regretted covering them up for so long. I adore how my hair seems to twinkle under light, and going without dye for so long has left my hair in really health condition.
People often stop me in the street to inquire about where I got my hair dyed, and it’s always fun to tell them that it’s natural.
My gray hair is a physical feature that I really love now. I may not stay gray forever (who knows when the wild hair color bug will bite me again,) but for now I’ve fully embraced my hair’s changing pigment and look forward to seeing how it continues to change.
Please remember that your so-called flaws do not have to be viewed as such. Each little quirk about you, whether it be physical or related to your personality, makes you magically unique.
It’s up to you and you alone on how you choose to present yourself. Don’t be pressured by outside forces to do something to your physical appearance that you don’t want to do. You’ll feel like your most authentic self when you listen to your inner voice and go from there.
My inner voice nudged me to accept and celebrate the gray haired goddess within me, and I’m so glad I finally listened to it.
As I continue to grow my gray hair, I’ll post tips on maintenance. If you’re growing out your grays, what are your tips for keeping it shiny? Leave a comment below.