I’ve been pondering the idea of letting my hair go back to its natural color, which at this point in my 60+ life is a medium to dark brown with lots of gray ‘highlights’.
It would be quite the dramatic change from my auburn-haired look, that’s for sure. And if I’m going to go down that road, I want to approach it from the aspect of going gray gracefully, at least as much as possible!.
So I decided to do some research on the subject of what is typically done when transitioning from dyed hair color to natural, and also spoke with my hairstylist about my hair specifically.
Of course, red hair can present some unique challenges, she said, and each situation is unique. I’ll share more about that conversation below.
Is there actually a way to make this transition in a graceful, relatively painless way? Let’s find out together.
By the way, if you click on a link and then make a purchase, I may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thank you!
What Causes White Hair
It’s normal for our hair to change color as we get older. Our body has millions of hair follicles, or small sacs, lining the skin. These follicles generate hair and color, or pigment, cells that contain melanin.
As we get older, the hair follicles lose pigment cells, and that results in white hair color.
The hydrogen peroxide used in permanent hair coloring may also be a factor in our hair turning gray. A 2009 study published by the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, hydrogen peroxide naturally occurs in our hair follicles, and as we get older, it builds up. This build-up blocks the production of melanin, our hair’s pigment. Hmmm…something to think about.
There are other factors that can contribute to white hair, including vitamin deficiencies, genetics, certain types of stress, some medical conditions, smoking, and chemical hair dyes.
Going Gray Gracefully: Steps to Slow Down the Graying Process
If the gray and white strands we’re seeing on our little heads is because we’re getting older, we need to either cover it up or let it shine!
But, if the graying process is due to a medical condition, a diet that’s lacking in antioxidants (hint: eat your fruits, veggies, olive oil, and fish), or a vitamin deficiency, addressing any or all of those concerns can help correct or slow down the graying process.
For the smokers who may be reading this post, aside from the fact that quitting the habit may help you to live longer, researchers have also found a link between smoking and loss of hair pigmentation.
There are a number of natural remedies to consider that eliminate the chemicals found in hair dye:
- Curry Leaves – a centuries-old process of combining these leaves with hair oil and applied to the scalp. It can slow premature graying in black hair.
- False Daisy or Bhringaraj – the juice of the leaves, when boiled in coconut or sesame oil and massaged into the hair, can keep it from becoming white early according to some reports.
- Black Tea – can help make hair darker, shinier and softer by steeping 3 to 5 tea bags in 2 cups of boiling water, cooling, then adding to clean, wet hair.
- Copper – if your copper levels are low, it can lead to premature graying, so keep these good sources of copper in your diet: beef liver, lentils, dark chocolate, almonds, and asparagus.
- Sage and Rosemary – an infusion of the two poured through hair after shampooing can darken hair, but not cover gray.
Update: I did it!
Since publishing this post, I made the decision to plan for and go through the process of taking my hair back to its natural color…in an afternoon!
See how it turned out, and my experience going gray in a day.
Going Gray Gracefully
Stay committed to the process
Making the decision to go natural and gray is the first step, and although it’s a huge decision, it is just the beginning of a process.
Depending on how you go about the transformation as well as the length of your hair, it could take up to a year before your natural hair is fully grown out.
If your hair is short and layered, you could make the transition in a little as 6 months.
Blond hair can be easier to transition than darker colors, with highlights weaved into the hair to mingle with the former color.
Adjust the Color
When you first decide to make the transition to gray, adding some subtle color can help make the transition more seamless.
The general recommendation is to go a little lighter with color, to help the roots grow in a bit more gracefully…all part of our going gray gracefully plan, right?
If your hair is darker, a stylist might weave in some lowlights to allow the gray to come in. This process might be repeated every 10 to 12 weeks while your natural hair is growing in.
Depending upon your current hair color as well as natural color, a color remover might be used, or color pigment remover/reducer, it is most commonly called.
This process involves removing the pigment from the hair and can help transition to the natural color quite quickly. Your salon stylist would most likely be the person to administer the product, and it can be repeated several times if needed.
Get a great hair cut
One sure-fire method to speed up the process of going gray gracefully is to get your hair cut…short. Let the natural roots grow out as long as you can, then go for a short style.
That would definitely be a transformation. But, if you’re willing to take that step, daring for some of us, you might fall in love with the new hairstyle as well as the natural gray, and find that your natural look is enhanced!
Here are some examples of short hairstyles that could work for you, courtesy of therighthairstyles.com:
Treat your hair well!
Be gentle with your aging hair as it is transitioning to a natural gray.
If you’ve used a shampoo that is made for color-treated hair, stop using it. Shampoos that are not marketed as color-protectors may help strip away the color that is in your hair, which is what you ultimately want to do.
The texture of your naturally gray hair will be different than the hair of your younger days. It’s probably going to be more coarse, frizzy, and dehydrated.
Be sure to use moisturizing products to help keep it shiny and silky. I currently am using the Jhirmack pair of shampoo and conditioner on my natural gray hair and I love how it treats my hair!
Your salon stylist may also recommend a keratin and hydrating mask, for a glossy shine.
Change up your makeup
Our skin tone can take on a completely different look when we go naturally gray, depending on what our hair color was previously.
If you use eye makeup, consider soft gray, charcoal gray and purple shades, or even navy blue.
For the cheeks and lips, pink, dusty rose, or coral generally work well with gray hair.
In general, peaches and pinks will give you a better result than beiges and tawny shades.
One hint that I learned was to keep your eyebrows close to their natural color or light brown, for a more youthful look.
Bottom line? Don’t assume that what you’ve used in the past will still enhance your appearance. Experiment with some different colors and shades, to see what looks best on you.
Is going gray gracefully for you? Is it for me?
I went to a site by L’Oreal to see what my hair would look like in a shade of gray. The choices were limited, but it was still kind of fun to upload a photo and see an instant transformation.
I think my natural color would be darker with streaks of gray. My stylist told me that I would probably have a chunky white streak in the front of my hair, which could be interesting.
So, back to the question of going gray gracefully. Is it for me? I’m not sure yet. There is a part of me that identifies with the auburn hair and I don’t know if I’m ready to give that up.
If and when (and it is most likely ‘when’) I make that decision, my stylist said that she would recommend a color pigment remover for my hair, to remove the red. A couple of treatments would probably do it, maybe three.
Depending on how it looked, she may recommend some highlighting of the lighter gray while my natural hair grows in.
It’s a quicker way to natural for sure, using the color pigment remover, and that is what I think I would do. I don’t want to draw the process out any longer than I have to!
I don’t know if I would go for the short hairstyle, either. I’d have to wait until I see what my hair actually looks like in a more natural state before making that decision.
How about you? Is your hair it’s natural color right now? Are you thinking of letting it go gray? We’d love to hear your thoughts!
Resources: Medical News Today, Chicago Tribune, TheHealthy.com, PrimeWomen.com, SixyandMe.com
Like this post? Share it!
4 thoughts on “The Art of Going Gray Gracefully”
I have just begun this process. Ugh. Not sure if I will be successful in ‘toughing it out’ until my hair is totally natural again but going to try. I am probably 30% gray, a lot of ‘highlights’ (love that) mixed in my medium brown hair. Will continue to check in with you to see what you have decided. My stylist recommended a glaze to help with the transitioning period. Good luck!
Hi Leslie, thanks for the encouragement! I will be curious to see how your growing-out process continues and will stop in to check with you, also. 🙂
To be clear, color removers only remove the artificial pigment and then the hair will most likely need to be toned or glazed. Highlights, lowlights and glazes can help to ease the transition, but in order to get back to your natural color, at some point you will have to STOP COLORING your hair.
Thanks for clarifying that point, Mark.