How To Go Gray Gracefully

Shades of gray over 50

Barbara Hannah Grufferman explains why she’s testing the gray waters before becoming a full-blown silver fox!

I remember the first time I ever “colored” my hair. It was 1969 – a year when the world was filled with rebellion. I spritzed on a little Sun-In while laying out in my Brooklyn backyard listening to Credence Clearwater Revival. In a matter of hours, my dark blond hair with natural golden highlights turned a vibrant shade of orange to match the Bain de Soleil Gelee’ everybody seemed to use back then (without SPF of course). My mother helped fix it with a little of her “only your hair dresser knows for sure” home coloring kit from Clairol, and it gradually grew out.

Despite the failed first attempt . . . I was hooked.

Was this the moment I was waiting for to proudly and publicly acknowledge my foray into my 50s?

Highlighting has been a part of my life since my twenties. But when the grays started sneaking in – just before hitting 50 – I thought it might be time to rethink my routine. I was trying to figure out a newer, simpler paradigm for the other areas of my life since turning 50, and wanted to figure this one out too. Was this the moment I was waiting for to proudly and publicly acknowledge my foray into my 50s? Should I now wear my graying hair like a badge of honor, courage, bravado and attitude?

Only one name came to my mind when I decided to check in with someone who could give me an honest assessment, and an overview of my options – my friend and superstar of hair care, Frederic Fekkai.

Frederic explained to me that there are degrees of gray. We start out with a few gray hairs. More come in and we get up to about 20 percent, then 30 percent, and eventually our hair is over 50 percent gray. That’s the natural progression for most women. Once your hair is over 50 percent gray, there are three options to consider:

  • Color the roots every three to five weeks (single process) and maybe combine with occasional highlights (double process). This is what the vast majority of women do.
  • Instead of covering the gray, let the gray grow in and apply highlights and low-lights through the hair to blend. This creates depth and contrast.
  • Go gray all the way!

Frederic’s least favorite choice is the “single process” route. Very often women who do this create a single block of color, with very little contrast, which can actually age you. Even if your hair is dark brown or black – which showcases the gray much more than blond hair does – he encourages us to run the highlights and lowlights right through the brown and gray hair, creating a beautiful mix of natural colors. It’s a more modern, fresh look and an interesting way to embrace your hair, and your age, without going completely gray.

But letting your hair go gray is an option that women should absolutely consider, too. If you’ve already been coloring your graying hair, it might take a little longer to get to where you want it to be, but this might be the most bold way to embrace – and proudly show off – your age. Think of Helen Mirren and Jamie Lee Curtis as great examples of women who have let their gray go, and look fabulous.

Maybe some day I’ll go gray all the way.

What it really comes down to is attitude. If you present yourself as being confident, bold, fearless and proud of your age, your gray hair could and should be beside the point.

What did I choose? I’m staying with what I’ve been doing since the gray started coming in: combining my dark blonde hair with the new gray, and some highlights to blend it all together.

Who knows? Maybe some day I’ll go gray all the way. But I’m not there just yet. Right now, it’s the perfect compromise between walking proudly and fearlessly into my new life as an “after 50” woman . . . and . . . holding on to that little piece of my former self.

What do you think about women embracing their gray hair?

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