Honesty has its advantages. You don’t have to remember who you said what to. You don’t have to back-peddle nearly as much. And when it comes to hair, you don’t have to chase that damn white stripe.
I’m sure transitioning to grey hair is different for everyone. For me, it was my invitation to be a rock star.
I’ve always been bold about changing my hair, and my husband never had to find an “other woman” because I continually was the “other woman.”
I started seeing the little ghostly wisps of silver in my early 30’s, and wondered where would that threshold be? When would I decide to quit coloring my hair and become a silver-haired diva? Maybe another 10 years? Maybe never? Then out of the blue, my head decided for me.
I became extremely sensitive to hair color. When I applied it, it burned like the devil himself was sitting on my head. For days afterward, my poor scalp would be sore and blistered, and would barely recover in time for the next invitation for the devil to cozy up to my striped crown.
This went on for a couple of years. What’s that definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over again and expecting different results? Yeah, it was insane.
Yes, I tried the organic products and yes, I tried products formulated for people who react to specific chemicals in hair colors, but got the same result.
I was just about to try henna, my last bastion of hope, when I came to my senses and realized that it was completely unrealistic for me to think that I would go through the 4-plus hour process every couple of weeks to keep up my roots.
That’s when I decided to embrace the truth, that it was time to quit coloring my hair. And my timing couldn’t be better, because silver/grey hair is totally a thing. Just check out Lady Gaga—this is not your grandma’s grey hair.
The Research Phase
I searched Pinterest, my home away from home, and started pinning pictures of beautiful silver haired women on my Pinterest board, and watching YouTube videos for how people made the transition.
Some women just wait for their hair to grow out. No. No thank you.
One lady wore a wig (which her boyfriend affectionately referred to as “the squirrel”) the entire time her hair was growing out. Another woman went to her hairdresser to bleach out her color, and when the foils came off, so did her hair. It had literally melted into mush.
I’ve been bald and worn wigs before (chemo, long story, different blog), and wasn’t interested in either of those options.
I made a plan with my stylist, Regan James at Liberated Salon in Los Angeles, for how we were going to approach it. Lucky for me, my stylist is also my daughter, and she has a vested interest in my appearance because she has to be seen with me in public.
I’d been camouflaging my roots with L’Oreal Magic Root Cover-up while I was exploring my options, and decided I could probably go about another month at that. I wanted to get as much new growth as possible so we could match it. And yeah, I was delaying the inevitable. Another month and another can of Magic Root Cover-up later, it was time to take the plunge.
The Day Finally Came
First came bleaching. Regan applied the bleach in foils, preserving my patiently-won new growth and avoiding my fragile scalp. She kept a close eye on how my hair was holding up (I told her the mush story and she knew I was a little nervous), and preserved a lot of color on the back of my head, where my natural growth is still much darker. Smart cookie.
Two bleaching procedures, a couple of toners, and a fresh, new haircut later … viola, rock star.
I’ve been rocking the silver for about a month now, and it’s liberating! Not worrying whether my roots are showing. Not wondering if I need to pack hair color on a trip, just in case.
Tips for Going Grey Like a Boss
If you want to go silver/grey without losing your hair or your youth, here’s what you’ve got to do:
Find a great stylist
This is no “plop brown color on your hair and come out brown” process. Bleaching out hair to that degree is delicate.
If you’re in the Los Angeles area, I recommend a consultation with Regan. If you don’t live near Los Angeles, have you thought about vacationing here? A little hair-cation? Seriously, it’s probably the last big bucks you’ll spend on hair coloring, so why not go out with a bang?
Okay, if that’s just not real, then book a consultation with stylists in your area. Ask them if they’ve transitioned people to grey successfully, and how they would approach it. If they have any reservations, find someone else.
Care for your hair
Once your hair is bleached, get a great haircut. Your hair will be a little damaged (you can’t do all that bleaching without damaging the hair somewhat) so you’ll want to get those dry ends off, plus you need to pump up the style to be a true rock star.
Get a good purple shampoo and a great conditioner. The purple shampoo tones and keeps the yellow brassiness from creeping in. The one I use is Clairol Shimmering Lights.
You’ll use it a little differently than just shampooing, to get the toning benefits. Here’s what I do that’s worked great – dampen your hair and apply a generous amount of shampoo. Wrap your head in a towel and set a timer for about 10 or 15 minutes. Then jump in the shower to shampoo your hair, and follow with a good conditioner.
I alternate between the purple shampoo and a conditioning shampoo, to help keep my hair well hydrated.
Step up your makeup game
You don’t have to go hog-wild with makeup (in fact, please don’t), but you do want to look like your silver hair is a choice, not that you’ve given up.
And by the way, can we please get rid of the expression “Grey hair, don’t care”? Yes, we DO care! Very much, in fact.
Grey/silver hair can result in an overall washed-out look. You’ll want to make your features stand out, so you aren’t a blank canvas.
In my blog French Makeup – Less is More, I outline the steps for simple, beautiful, natural makeup, done the French way.
I’ve said it before – I think eyebrows are one of the biggest missed opportunities, especially for mature women who maybe haven’t realize they’ve disappeared or that gravity has taken its toll. You can add expression and dimension to your face, and take years off your look with a little manipulation.
I have absolutely gawd-awful eyebrows. Years of over-plucking and some health issues have left them close to non-existent. But that’s ok – that’s what makeup is for.
Eyes can be done very minimally. A little neutral shadow. Eyeliner. Mascara. Boom. For a softer look, use a thin brush and neutral shadow to line under the eye, rather than a dark, severe liner.
This is a great time to play up your lips with a little more color, whether bright red, warm pink or neutral.
Line your lips with a pencil that matches your lip shade, not darker or lighter. Lining is especially important as we age, as lipstick tends to bleed into those inevitable little crinkles around the mouth. Take full advantage of your lips by lining the very outside edge (almost, but not quite, over-lining). Then fill in with lip color.
If you’re having trouble choosing what eyebrow or lip color to buy, I recommend visiting a MAC or Sephora and have one of the consultants help you with trying different shades. I have especially found the consultants at MAC to be awesome! Don’t be afraid to ask questions or tell them what you’re going for.
Update your wardrobe
To rock the silver hair in a non-granny way, you’ve got to be current but age appropriate. Consider adding some “edgy” pieces to your wardrobe – a leather motorcycle jacket, some great boots, some great graphic T-shirts that you’ll dress up with a blazer or tuxedo jacket.
Quality and cut are key. It’s better to have fewer, really well-made pieces than a closet full of badly constructed clothes.
Hair comes in all different colors and silver is just one more color. It doesn’t need to define you. Or if it does, you can supply your own definition. I’m sticking with Rock Star.
This article was first published on Sixty+Me.com