Privilege Blog

Just In Case You Wanted To Try Long Gray Hair, A Personal History

This is the story of how one woman takes care of her long gray hair.

But first, some personal history for anyone new to this blog.

  • I’m 59. And a half, as of March 2016.
  • For cultural context, i.e. to explain in part why I’ve been comfortable going gray, I’ve lived most of my life in Northern California. We love our counter-culture and Mr. Natural. Whether you want to go gray or not depends in part on how it looks on you, but mostly on how it feels where you live.
  • I was born quite blonde, my hair darkened in my 20s.
  • In my early 40s, when I worked at a startup in San Francisco, I cut my hair short and and had it dyed all-over blonde. A “tint,” they called it.
  • Let’s fast-forward through a transition to highlights, followed by a period of highlights and lowlights. Aargh. I began growing out the blonde out again when I turned 55.

Growing It In And Out

Here’s a photographic history of my hair color.

At 6. That’s me in the front, my sister in green, my brother to the right, tow-heads all. We could pause, and get nostalgic over milk in Dixie cups, but not today.

Carnochan Children

At 25, in India. This was 1982, when on the whole, young women didn’t color their hair so often as now.


At my 40th birthday party, right before I went back to work full-time, 10 years after the birth of my first child. My hair had never been dyed.


I still have that bench, it’s gray now too.

I cut my hair and went blonde again at 44. I was working with young people at a dot-com, my hair was going to say either, “Old hippie,” or “age-undecipherable manager.” My choice was clear. Soon after the cut, they promoted me to vice-president. Coincidence?

At 45+. New company, still a vice-president. Badge to enter the New York Stock Exchange on the left, company marketing materials on the right.

Hair For Executive Women

I retired for a couple of years. My hair grew long. I kept coloring it, but the effort got more and more annoying. I went back to work. And finally, in this job, grew out the gray. At this stage of my career, it wasn’t going to be hair that broke me.


For light ash brown with highlights, the growing-out border looked odd but not bizarre. As long as I put my hair into a ponytail, the effect was perfectly acceptable. I kind of liked the stripe.

Granted, I was working for a San Francisco company full of young people with tattoos. In a more conservative environment I would probably have asked my hair person to cool and lighten the dyed ends to reduce the contrast. Would also have gotten more frequent cuts, and kept my hair a little shorter.

I should add, writing a style blog, posting all kinds of outfit pictures, made the transition easier. I realized that when commenters told me they didn’t much like the new hair, I didn’t mind. And far more people liked it than not, as has proven true in person. I receive more compliments on my hair now than when I was young, probably because it’s unusual, possibly because it strikes a chord of polite rebellion and people like to congratulate independence.

At 57, all gray, blown dry.

Lisa Carnochan of Privilege.3_cropped

I remarried. I retired again. This time mostly for good. At 58, hair straightened for date night. Oh the summer light.


I’m quite happy with my hair now, and don’t miss the blonde at all. You will have noticed, however, that I’ve never been one for “done” hair, I’ve always been happiest with a natural effect. Gray, as a result, probably came more easily for me than for someone who embraced hair formality.

Caring For Long Straight Gray Hair

First of all, I wash my hair once a week, at best. I wear it in a braid most of the time, so I doubt anyone ever notices the cleanliness or lack thereof. This means I have very little hair damage for someone of my age. I leverage that for shine and bounce on demand.

Basic Washing

  • Lavender shampoo and avocado conditioner. I buy these at Whole Foods. The shampoo smells gorgeous, lathers just enough. The conditioner is thick but not greasy. I have no desire to try anything else.
  • The “Wet Brush” (I bought it, so I have it, so I use, but I’m not sure I’d buy it again)
  • Microfiber towel (this is very useful to stop the drips)
  • Air dry (this has helped my hair stay shiny, and minimized breakage)

Daily Wear

Gittin’ Fancy

  • L’Anza heat protector. I use this after a brief pat dry, seems to add body, and is said to protect from heat. Obviously.
  • T3 hair dryer. I’ve had this dryer for quite a while. Expensive, but lightweight and effective. I hate holding dryers up, so am happy to minimize time required.
  • Rounded boar bristle brush. Use this when blow drying. The boar bristles really do hold hair well.
  • ghd Classic hair straightener. Easy. Hair looks wonderful afterwards, even if not quite as good as when excellent hair guy does it for me.
  • Aveda “Brilliant” Shine spray to finish. This stuff is really amazing. Actual shine in a bottle. I use it only for dressing up, however, as it will weigh hair down eventually.

If anyone reading has tips for curly gray hair, or growing out darker hair colors, I’d love to hear your stories.

I’ve been happy with both the aesthetics and the politics of my decision. Sure, I look older, but I like that my hair is now consistent with my face. I like the color palette I can wear with gray. And I feel that my hair reflects the approach I want to take to life, at nigh-on 60, authentic but sufficiently dignified, low maintenance but pretty enough when I feel like making the effort.

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80 Responses

  1. When I moved to Wales, we didn’t have automatic hot water and the bathroom didn’t have heat. I stopped washing my hair every day (but not bathing) and felt that my hair was a lot better for it. I wash it about every three days now, and it’s best on the 2nd day. I am getting some grey around the temples and much to my stylist’s chagrin, I refuse to colour it, because it’s a slippery slope.

    And you look mahvelous!

    1. @pigtown*design, Thank you my dear. And my stylist must now content himself with cutting and straightening – I must say, he’s now quite a fan of the long and the gray!

  2. I think your gray hair is lovely–thick and shiny. I very much like your comments about gentle rebellion. It’s funny: I worked with two women who went completely gray in their 30s. One never colored her hair; the other returned for a visit in her early 40s with brown locks. As for me, I’ll probably never have much gray hair. My mother, at 75, has mostly dark-brown hair with a sprinkling of white, and I seem to have inherited her pattern. The trouble is that our espresso color is less flattering against our pale Celtic complexions as we age, so I’ve taken to lightening the roots just a bit with plain Hydrogen Peroxide from the drugstore. Medium brown is much more flattering, and I find the white hairs around my face flattering, like highlights.

  3. We ARE on the same wave-length this week, Lisa. I’m thinking about what to do with my hair as I approach my sixtieth. Just considering the options, you understand. I wrote about “Going Grey”, a day or so ago…and mentioned a couple of bloggers my age who were grey and fabulous… thinking of you and Mater. So I can’t wait for people to comment on your post to see what they do, how they do it etc etc. Thanks for this.

    1. @Sue Burpee, I’m on the same page! at 59 1/2 I’m doing the low-lights so that it can grow out naturally. Well, as naturally as possible.. It’s time!

  4. My long hair was high and low lighted forever. I cut it off in 2011, still with the high and low lights. Then in ’14 thinking it was time to go long and grey I let it grow out. It is now past shoulder length. It looks more brown when I wear it down, but have two skunk stripes of grey at my ears. It is as every hair dresser I’ve been to has remarked, ‘you have the straightest hair’ so I have zero tips on curly hair, grey or otherwise.

    You look fabulous, in any era!

  5. Great post!

    I’m still having my hair colored: a permanent base with highlights and lowlights. I’ve recently noticed that the darker parts were actually darker than my hair had ever been in its natural state. I asked my colorist to take the base up lighter. As a result, at the moment, I’m a little patchy and piebald, and look kind of like a tortoise shell cat. But it makes for a less dramatic demarcation as the gray grows out.

    I’m going to keep dyeing for a while. First of all, if I still lived in New England, gray hair would be more customary. But I live in Chicago, and my peers all color/highlight.

    Also, my husband is seven years younger (POPPY IS A COUGAR) and I have this nightmarish vision of him waking up one morning and thinking “OMG! I’m married to a crone!”

    1. @Poppy B., Thank you. I totally understand the regional hair color, tortoise cat and all:). I always wonder, does gray really make us look older? I guess so, but, good thing some people like older women!

  6. Perhaps I should collate my several posts and photos tracking my move to grey, since I have the curls, which, you’re right, make the whole approach different. I did a chop last year to cut off most of the aplied colour, and let the roots grow in while traveling. Then cut the rest of the colour off last October, shorter than I really like but worth it to clean up and see what we were working with. Added just enough highlights (two shades, light caramel and a medium-to-dark brown) for some definition and depth. We’ve agreed that next visit, my stylist will refresh those highlights and meanwhile she’s just trimming for shape while I try to grow into a chin-length inverted bob and let the curls get long enough to add some wildness, which is my preference — I’m a bit too 50s-perm for me to feel completely happy right now, but I’ve still enjoyed the process. Curiosity satisfied and liberation in feeling and exercising choice, right? You look gorgeous — a model for greying!

    1. Ugh, applied colour, not aplied. Shouldn’t be rushing away without editing but I have a Granddaughter to collect from preschool and need to buy supplies for cookie-baking before that. . .

    2. @Frances/Materfamilias, Cookie baking is much more important than the correct number of “p”s. I would love to see you do a similar post, you have the exact hair I was thinking of, and you’ve had a couple of different lengths etc, and have such a tangible personal style. And thank you:).

  7. Love your hair. Love your look.
    I’ve always had dark hair so the constant coloring has gotten tiresome and sometimes feels like I have put shoe polish on my roots. Too dark.

    I am growing out some grey.
    Haven’t committed to the entire head yet but we’re heading there.

    Thanks for this story!

  8. Your hair looks great and fits you and your life.

    I sorta kinda tried to grow out the gray last year, and wasn’t thrilled. Too dark around the face (the gray is coming in on the top of my head). Plus, the lack of highlights affected the texture, and it went all limp and pathetic. Looks like I have a few more years of highlights ahead of me. Fortunately I only need to have them done about 2 times a year.

    1. @Jean S, Two times a year, just highlights, I can totally see how that would be tolerable. My gray grew in first, as you can see, in a broad stripe near my face, and I like gray with my eyes, so the aesthetics were OK by me. It would have felt very different if the gray didn’t suit me.

  9. Grey hair seems to look good on women with fair skin . It really doesn’t suit everyone and on my mother , moreover was a sign of giving up hope (which it would also be for me) . It is pleasing that less women feel they must colour forever – I’m all for more choice – but why I wonder is grey hair becoming more acceptable whereas wrinkles are still wrinkles ? We do still tend to commend each other for looking youthful , after all .
    At present I colour my hair and often don’t bother with makeup which is supposed to hide the wrinkles . I’m 62 .

    1. @Rukshana Afia, For me gray is a sign that I am now and have always been myself, no matter what efforts I make to be otherwise;). So not giving up at all. I am sorry your mother gave up. And to be honest, I have my wrinkles too and haven’t done anything about them other than a good slather here and there. I was thinking as I read these comments, I focus my efforts to remain youthful, and desirable, on fitness, which leaves room for wrinkles and gray in my identity.

  10. Your hair is beautiful. I am 57 1/2 and am going gray, but my hair is still mostly dark. I came close to growing it out again but have decided a short/long layered look fits me and my hair better. It just covers the tops of my ears and is short on top with longer layers at the sides, which allows it to curl a bit when the weather is warmer and more humid. The messiness also accents the gray highlights. I think it has taken me until now to accept that I like my hair not only undone, but intentionally mussed.

  11. I am always happy to see someone’s gone (or better still, stayed) natural as she progresses through the decades. As a teen, my straight dark brown hair with auburn highlights was admired. That all morphed into shiny silver, and at 72, it’s still admired.

    Many contemporaries are certain that whatever their color choice is now, their own unexplored version of grey won’t be attractive, and therefore don’t even try. For me as a New Englander, a low ponytail works fine – the smoothness shows off the silver. Luckily, I need do nothing other than shampoo with OTC stuff every 3-4 days. Wish it were thicker, though.

    Now, those silver hairs in thinning eyebrows…that’s another story….

    1. @DGW, New Englnnd and Northern California have a lot in common. I can see the low silver ponytail, and I applaud it. The eyebrows, yeah, so far a powder eyebrow pencil is working for me, but on house days occasionally I think I look as though snow has fallen on my forehead;).

  12. I love your hair. The length is perfect and the color suits your skin tone. Air drying is the key to healthy hair at any age. The hair elastics from Neiman Marcus are going on my wish list, so thank you for the link. I like the tube with the brightest colors, naturally.

    My confession: I have hair privilege. I will never need to grow out a dyed color because I’ve never had to dye my hair. I’m 62. My hair is the same color (dark blond) and texture (fine and straight) that it was in my twenties, with the exception of a few frizzy gray hairs which drive me batty right after my hair gets washed. It’s the one area where I won the genetic lottery: my parents both went gray very late in life. My father at age 94 is still a salt-and-pepper gray.

    I’m more fussed about my eyelashes and brows, frankly. They’ve always been thick and much darker than my hair, even as a child when I was still a lighter blond. My eyebrows are not as thick now but they’re harder to control. Worse yet, my lashes are slowly turning white! Thank the goddess for mascara…

    1. @Wendelah, Happy to find you some fun hair elastics! And your parents are clearly passing on all kinds of good genetics, from hair to long life. White eyelashes, ah well, mascara:).

  13. Your hair is gorgeous! If I had hair like yours ,I would let it au naturel ( when you correct my” if clauses”,you’ll know what I mean :-))
    I was always natural blonde ( almost white in preschool),in forties with some highlights,last couple of year I colour it few shades brighter than my own hair ( full circle again)- I have a few grey locks only near my face ,so it gets even this way.
    I like longer hair (spent few summers with short hair-bad advice about maintenance-longer hair in pony tail rocks and short hair was mouse disaster for me )
    I wash it once a week (Paul Mitchell,Redken before,Keune)-and think that washing your hair every day is very bad for hair health-, get it blow dried and after a day or two wear pony tail
    During summer months my hair lives life of its own- curly and natural! Do I like it? No-but I surrender!

    1. @dottoressa, Thank you. I think it’s very kind of you to let your hair run free in summer and I agree, long hair is much easier to maintain than short, unless the short is all the way to boy length.

  14. I somehow felt emotional watching you grow up in pictures! They tell a story of a full life lived over time. Especially the picture of you as a child looking so happy, was just so beautiful to see.

    It’s so cool to see the process of someone’s change and acceptance through their hair. Enjoy your well-earned happiness :)

    1. @Danielle, Oh thank you. What a lovely thing to read this morning. I feel that I’ve got friends out there I’ve never met. <3

  15. I’m “in process” as we speak. I finally tired of the time and expense of coloring. It’s kind of gotten past the “landing strip down the middle of my head” stage. But there’s still quite a bit of color left at the bottom from past dye jobs. I don’t like it, but it’s an exercise in patience. And I KNOW with deep certainty that going gray is what I want to do. Oddly enough, the ones I’ve received most resistance from are my parents. Perhaps not odd, since it is a visual reminder of their own mortality. You are an inspiration, Lisa!

  16. Love the picture of you and your siblings.

    My hair is midback length and really should be trimmed. I have always been low maintenance when it comes to hair, purely due to laziness. Now, with mostly gray I find I am quite happy with it since I never tortured it as a young woman and have apparently good hair genes, it is quite thick. At 66 it is nice to relax about gray hair and wrinkles. I feel sorry for those who need to maintain a certain look.

    I have those hair elastic and like them. Good for thick hair. I buy mine from Amazon. Might be cheaper than Neimans. Packaging looks the same.

    Was wondering if you preferred a particular lavender shampoo? I like Kiels amino acid shampoo.

    Good post!

    1. @Mary anne, Thanks! And glad you liked the sibling photo. It’s one use of my favorites. The shampoo is John Masters Organics. And I’ll check Amazon to see if they carry those elastics for less, thanks for the tip. It is so nice to relax about gray hair and wrinkles, as I said above I realize I focus my desire for youthfulness on staying slender enough, and fit. This is still vanity, but vanity with health benefits;).

  17. Lisa, your hair looks wonderful.
    In the graying hair department, I’m envious of blonds whose natural color has contrasts less with incoming silver, and for whom silver can also appear as highlights. At 57, I’ve been coloring my wavy brunette chin-length hair since for at least 10 years (sometimes less well than others). I’m not even sure about my exact hair color: probably 20 percent gray, except at the temples, where its closer to 100 percent. I’m starting to think more and more about letting my hair grow in naturally, but my family and work both mitigate against it for now. My mother (now 76) still colors her hair, and I suspect I’ll face some family distress if I don’t follow course. Also, I’m still working (as an attorney), and probably will do so for another 5 years, as I remarried last year and now have a full-time stepdaughter in early high school. I’m not sure I can consider growing out my gray hair until I retire, since the daily and increasing contrast will be dramatic and I’m not sure I’m ready to face the comments from my opinionated colleagues. Finally, I broached the idea with my new husband of letting my hair grow out to its natural color. At first, he wasn’t very enthusiastic, but I think the idea could grow on him.

    1. @Natalie, I imagine your husband would come round. Colleagues, lawyer colleagues? Aargh;). And your mom, ah, haven’t our mothers always made statements about our hair, starting with how good we looked when it wasn’t in our face…

  18. I’m right there with you on this one Lisa. I am still coloring my hair, but not to cover the gray (white) but to blend it with my brunette hair. My stripes would be VERY high contrast. At some point I will stop–I’m just waiting for more gray/white.

  19. Lisa, I love your hair, style, and most of all, perspectives and insights! I’m 61, retired, grew up a dark brunette, my hair is wavy, and looks thicker than it is. I have been mostly a SAHM, but have had stints of teaching, first before kids, then most recently 8 years during in my fifties. I started coloring all over by 30, appalled by the steady appearance of white hair (thanks Mom and Dad). If I had to do it over, I’d leave it alone, but that’s proverbial hindsight. By mid 40’s I added highlights for a more natural look, by 50 needed low lights and highlights, plus an at home root touch up in between every two and a half weeks. Still worth it, I believed! By 59, I’d had enough of the expensive, upkeep time, and honestly, two weeks after my lovely stylist worked her magic, the magic was mostly gone. Still below the shoulders, I started growing out the gray determined to endure. But several months and inches in, I was diagnosed with cancer. Yes, it all came off. Fast forward 8 months. I get to start from scratch! I ditched the head coverings a few months after chemo ended, and channeled Annie Lennox. I passed through a few more “pixie” stages. I’ve never had so many compliments on my hair. It’s silvery white to gray and I’m letting it grow to shoulder length. Lovely stylist keeps it looking sharp at each stage. I use Aveda Malva shampoo. Yes it is purple and keeps it shiny and bright: highly recommend. I add a dab of whatever conditioner, use a bit of product, and that’s it. For more “polish” I give a quick blow dry with a round bristle brush. I’m thrilled with the health, ease, beauty of my natural hair, and how it makes me feel like myself. Like you, I enjoy my new palette, and my complexion looks brighter. I’m my age and it’s ok.

    1. Kathleen, I loved reading your post. And I guess getting to start from scratch is just a glimmer of a silver lining. I hope you are doing well. I also used Aveda’s Blue Malva (purple) shampoo and love it. I have also used the Blue Malva conditioner and, at one point, looked in the mirror and I had become a “blue hair”! Now, I know to use the Malva products judiciously.

  20. You are the poster child for grey hair looking fabulous. I, on the other hand, who never intended to color my hair was talked into trying it before turning grey by my hairstylist and never looked back. That was a while ago and I have no idea how I would look with grey hair. I just know that the texture would be limp. The coloring has the added benefit for me of adding more volume. Also, I am not liking how grey looks on my mother. However, she is 92 and that would just be weird not to have grey or white hair. I suppose I will have to face that some time down the road. I recently turned 67.

  21. I LOVE your hair, Lisa. It looks fantastic. I am in the process of transitioning and having highlight and lowlights but it’s very slow and I still feel like I have a lot of colour and my friend has short hair and it’s all grey. Patience!

  22. Hmmmm. I’m 57 and was lucky to have a mother and grandmother who allowed themselves to go gray. They both had beautiful hair and went prematurely gray. Both had lots of compliments on their hair.

    I thought I’d do the same, but evidently I have different genes. My hair is still by far mostly brown with some silver woven in – mostly at the hairline around my forehead and temples. Very straight and shiny. Since the hairline silver has gotten more noticeable, people have started complimenting me on my “highlights” and seem surprised when I say it’s just gray hair. One person said it looked more beige than gray.

    I’m not sure if my hair is somehow reading as “not gray” because I look younger than my age or because it’s somewhat long, or both. To me it is silver!

    I really don’t care for the idea that a woman should feel she needs to dye her hair just for her job. I think it’s nuts and the more women do it, the more it’s expected.

  23. I’m going to let my hair go grey – someday.
    When I do I’m going to start swimming for fitness. One problem with colored hair is that it doesn’t mix well with pool water.

  24. Your hair looks great, just like the rest of you!

    I was lucky to have lovely auburn wavy hair when I was younger. I kept “enhancing it” back to that colour for many years. I stopped colouring my hair a few years ago. When the grey was long enough I had it chopped all off to have a spikey cut. That was Dec31st 2012 and I haven’t regretted it. Now it is longer; when I make the effort it is some what styled like Robin Wright’s hair. Sometimes I leave it in its natural wavy state. Wash every 4th day or so, always looks better on the 2nd, 3rd day.
    I think it is fabulous to have the options, whatever one is content with!

  25. I think you look great! No gray hair yet for me –and if I’m lucky enough to take after my dad, none for at least another 10-15 years, –but when the grays start to appear, I don’t think I’ll be bothered to dye. But that’s me talking now… who knows how I’ll feel when I see the first gray?

  26. It just occurred to me in reading this post, that you defied “conventional wisdom” in that you were home with your children for 10 solid years, and then went back to work and became a vice president early on!

    And we’re always hearing that you will pay for staying home with your children, which I think is an overblown threat.

  27. My first thought is how beautiful you have looked at every stage of your life and hair. I’m 75 and let my hair go grey around 20 years ago. I saw a friend with grey hair and it looked so beaufitully soft against her face. That did it. Stopped coloring my hair. I think I’m the only women with grey hair in Beverly Hills. Ha!

    After breaking my wrist I started going to a blow dry bar to get my hair washed. They convinced me to let my hair grow long. I’d kept it short for many years. I thought it was more arty looking. Now I feel like Beverly Hills housewife getting my hair blow dryed onced a week. I love it long but don’t have the skills to do a great blow dry. Yes, I change makeup to compliment my complexion next to my long hair and I buy clothes that work with my hair also. Yes, I look older but maybe better. I always get compliments on my hair color and love the freedom of not dyeing it.
    So you go girl you look gorgeous!

  28. Have never coloured my hair ever. When I was very young it was a natural blonde that turned strawberry blonde in my teens with blonde streaks from the sun. It was long when I was young but then had it cut short during my working life. Have now gone back to long – just a bit longer than yours. it’s naturally wavy but I blow dry it straight though not as straight as my hairdresser can. Even though I’m quite a bit older than you it has only a very little grey – mostly just around my ears but the hair from my central parting falls over the top and covers this. There are are a few fine grey streaks scattered here and there but there are also still blonde streaks in hair that’s like a cross between a light toffee colour and a darkish tawny sand. So the grey is hardly visible except to me. Because it’s never been coloured it’s in good condition, thick and shiny and still quite silky. At one stage a few years ago I asked my hairdresser to colour it but she absolutely refused and said she liked it the way it was. Some people order me to tell the truth and admit it’s coloured – but it’s just natural and will keep it that way and accept the grey as it comes. My granddaughters like to play with it – they brush it and style it in French knots and pony tails etc. They’ve ordered me not to cut it. We all have long hair together.

  29. My hair was pure copper as a young child. It got much darker as I grew up. After one too many comments about how I looked pale and tired, I have been coloring it back to the copper shade since my freshman year of college. Now at 58, I see a few strands of gray here and there when a color touch up is due. Not sure what I will do as it gets more gray, but I suspect I will emulate my great grandmother, who is reported to have said she would never have gray hair as long as they kept making “that henna color dye”. (Her second husband was 20 years her junior.)

  30. How marvelous to read your post and the comments from friends everywhere. Just 10 days ago I committed to “saying no” to the colorist. I had the salon dye my colored chestnut hair blonde and then ash gray. The idea is that I’ll slowly let my natural gray blend in with the ash color and finally I will be authentically, genuinely whatever the Gene Pool has in store for me.

    For me, it wasn’t about the economics or the fuss of the constant coloring and matching the eyebrows and obsessing over my roots. I just finally decided, at the age of almost-53, to be who I am in the strongest sense of that phrase. I will still bathe and shave and choose good clothes ;) but I’m finally getting comfortable with myself on the inside and am choosing to express that on the outside as well. It’s been a long wait. And I’m so happy to be where I am now.

    Your writings inspire and comfort and cheer me on. I’m very grateful that you share yourself with us in the way that you do.

  31. If my hair was all the same color all over my head, I’d stop coloring it, but silver in the front and brown in the back isn’t a look for me.

  32. I didn’t realize we were the same age. My “half birthday” was last week.

    I grew out my grey a few years ago. My stylist highlighted with peroxide to make the growout less horrendous. Now my hair is nearly white in front, grey in the back.

  33. Your hair is stunning! I’m 51, colored for about 20 years before going natural at 45. My hair is short & curly. I wash about every 3 days, apply a cream gel with my fingers, and air dry. I haven’t used a brush on it in years, a comb only occasionally to distribute conditioner, blow dry a handful of times a year, and no heat styling tools. I love it, and I get a lot of compliments on it. It couldn’t be any easier. Only issue is having to get regular trims, and it’s not always easy to find a stylist who’s good at cutting curly hair.

  34. Lisa, I have followed your grey transition with great interest. I have dark brown hair and started dying it about ten years ago to cover the grey. Unfortunately, I am one of the few people who is allergic to the ppd in hair dyes. My colorist is putting blond highlights in that are foiled so as not to touch the scalp. The gold mixes with the silver and I have never been so happy with my hair color. I am going grey in style. I am 54 with long, thick hair.

  35. You carry of grey hair beautifully Lisa. So does Vicki Archer, who I had lunch with last spring in Provence. I’m lucky. I’ll be 72 in August, am blonde and don’t have a grey hair yet. Knock on wood I suppose, but it must be quite a big decision whether to embrace your grey hair or stay blonde.

  36. Lisa, thanks for another great post. I turned 60 two weeks ago, putting me about a half-year ahead of you. My brown hair started to go gray in my late 20s, thanks to genes inherited from the prematurely graying members of my father’s family. Because my father and one of his sisters had beautiful gray hair I decided at the time not to cover the gray. At 60 my hair is white around my face, grading to salt and pepper in the back. I wear it in in a bob that falls a little below my chin. It’s still thick and moderately curly. Eyebrows are holding steady so far.

    Hair gets washed about twice a week with whatever sulfate-free, not-too-smelly shampoo I can pick up at Target. I wet and condition it daily with Deva conditioner. My hair gets combed when wet in the shower but not after that. I haven’t owned a hairbrush in years. Because the curl is fragile and falls out easily I use hair products for curly hair daily (Deva and Carol’s Daughter) and use a dryer with diffuser to “set” the curl. I get a good cut every 6 to 8 weeks from a hairdresser who stopped suggesting color a long time ago.

    I’m lucky to work in a field where a glamorous or young appearance confers no advantages. I work in front of the public and am complimented almost daily on my hair color. Also: SF Bay Area. If other people think I’m older than I am because of my hair, well, whose problem is that?

    I think YOUR hair is lovely.

  37. hi! first – i have to heartily agree with you on the effect of peer group& location & just what a person sees around herself every day. i love that you acknowledge that.
    second – I’m asian american & although I’ve been happy with my stick straight black hair for most of my life – the grays are starting to come in – just 1 hair is so visible against the black. so far I’ve been plucking – a race i know I’ll lose- since i dread the in between stage. if only they would just cooperate & grow in like a nice stripe…

  38. forgot to add – i ♡ your blog for.your honesty in such areas. in a way it’s easier to share these things with people who are not your day to day friends. ..

  39. Hi Lisa,
    I let my hair go natural in my 40’s. But I kept it in a short to medium length bob. After I saw your long hair a few years ago, it inspired me to grow mine out and it is shoulder-length now. Like you, I get lots of compliments on my silvery white hair color. I do get it straightened about 3 times a year as our climate is humid. Such easy upkeep. Love being able to do a pony tail for travel and busy days. Wash it about 2-3 times a week. I love your natural look and style of dress.

  40. I cut my hair super duper short and then let the gray grow in, cutting off the faux brown as it did. Never looked back……

    I had a longish brown bob for ever, and it was easy to throw it up in a pony, but I knew I couldn’t spend the rest of my life tethered to a blow dryer.

    I look older with dyed brown hair than I do with natural gray, at least that’s what I tell myself.

    Wash it every day, since I work in a city and take public transportation and ick. Put some hair stuff in and go.

  41. I ride the subway every day — I thus have the opportunity to observe hundreds of women on their way to and from the office. Lately, I’ve been focusing on their hair. IMO, the reality is, dyeing your hair does absolutely nothing to conceal your age. No one is fooled, as there are far too many other clues — skin, eyes, hands, legs, feet, posture. I find dyed hair ages the person — the color is often wrong, too much a solid cap of too-dark color or needing a touch-up or too warm/cool for the woman’s skin tone, or doesn’t match her eyebrows. So… why dye?

  42. You look fabulous at all stages. I love the grey, and the length of it.

    At nearly 40, I have gone for a shoulder length bob for the first time in my life. (I’ve done pixie and long, but not really in between.) It’s suiting me, and I’m appreciating the lack of maintenance. No greys yet, and I remember seeing my mum from behind in mid forties and thinking she looked like a teenager.

    Love how we each have our own personal, and important, hairstories!

  43. Yes! This is exactly why i went gray I grew up in a small hot sweaty southern city and growing up i most recall my grandmothers hilarious criticisms on sunday church mornings (already 98 degrees) she would piunt out dye haired people The comment was ” looks like they dipped their heads in a shoe polish vat” That did it!! Nothing looks so phony Especially if youre sweaty!!!

  44. I love both length and stripe of your hair. As someone who is going grey with a degree of enthusiasm, I think the key to doing it well is to acknowledge the texture of grey hair. It isn’t the same – once you have that under control it all becomes easier. You have also put your finger on the real nugget: if you have never been a hair colourer, why would you suddenly start? It’s like taking up lying as a life choice. I’ve never really had to think too much about my hair and I can’t bear the thought of starting now. A good cut, a good shampoo and conditioner and away we go.

  45. I’ve come over from Materfamilias, fascinated by the grey debate, and now after reading all the comments here, fascinated by the regional variations in the US, and also the influence of mothers and grandmothers. I’m in the UK – Scotland – and I’m not aware of regional differences in attitudes. That may just be me not being attuned, or living in Scotland, or working in a university where the colour of your hair is not an issue. Perhaps in London there might be pressure for a woman to dye her hair, but I think there’s also quite a bit of French influence here in that if you have a great cut it looks elegant rather than anything else. A lot of British women do dye their hair, but I have never seen that as pressure on me.
    I went grey in my mid 40s, after being a dark brunette. I had colour put in once, just out of curiosity, and hated it, hated the process, hated the chemicals, hated that it was going to grow out so quickly and that I would be condemned to shelling out money to pretend that my hair wasn’t the colour it was. I should add that going to the hairdressers bores me rigid. My hair is very thick, straight, shiny and healthy, and I like to have it well cut, but if I could detach it and come back later when it’s done I would be very happy. So you see that the whole colouring fandango was a bit too much. I’m now 56 and there’s no way I would ever consider dyeing my hair. I have never thought it makes me look old. I had my children in my early to mid 30s, so being a mum with younger children in my 40s has kept me young, and I run, hill walk, garden, go to the gym. Very interesting to hear people talk about the influence of mothers and grandmothers. My mother died when I was 32. She didn’t dye her hair, but always had it well cut and styled, and I don’t recall that we ever had a conversation about hair colour – there was always something more important or fun to talk about. She certainly had no ‘attitude’ about it. My maternal grandmother came from a very poor, hardworking, deeply religious background in the fishing villages of the north east. Life was about survival. Any woman dyeing her hair would have been thought scandalous, and besides, there was no money for stuff like that. My paternal grandmother on the other hand was from an upper class landed family – think a smaller scale Downton Abbey – and again dyeing hair would have been considered ‘fast’. Both grandmothers had lovely long, shiny grey hair done in an elegant bun. I’ve no idea what my daughter will decide – I might ask her to see what her view is. In a nutshell for me grey hair has nothing to do with how old a woman looks or feels.

  46. I am a natural brunette, 62 years. I gave up dark hair/dying because with menopause my face became very washed out and the dark color just made it worse. So I used dark blonde color and had my hairdresser add lots of chunky blonde streaks. It was a great transition so that as my gray and white roots grew in it mixed all together and just looked very highlighted-never had the skunk problem. I also wear a very curly, trendy bob and get so many compliments when I’m out that it gets a little embarrassing. I used to wear autumns tones, but now stay away from yellows. My lips/cheeks look better in plummy tones. And the best colors to wear are all the colors in my hair- white, cream, gray, silver and just a little black. Et voila!

  47. I love this. Hair is such an enormous part of our identity, and I’ve loved reading about how yours has changed over the years! I found my first gray hair when I was still in middle school, and on my 30th birthday noticed that my Sontag-streak had spread from being a streak on my left side to being a rainbow across the whole of my scalp.

    I’ve never dyed it, and I’m not sure I will, but I am conscious of whether it ages me and how much I’ll want to be aged as my career progresses. We shall see!

  48. A little over a year ago my hairdresser had to unexpectedly, due to family illness, travel out of the country for a short while, and I was, at the age of 75, on my own after coloring my hair since I was 18. Deciding to wait for his return before coloring again, I let it start to grow into its natural color. And to my great surprise I found that natural growth to be pure white! Now a year later my hair is a gorgeous white. I get compliments on it daily, and surprisingly a great many of them come from younger men – lots younger. And it has proved to be much more complimentary to my skin tones now. I have found that taking care of my complexion so I don’t have sunspots has proven to do a much better job of keeping me looking younger than hair color ever did. Your hair is gorgeous. And to all women who are contemplating growing into their natural glory – give it a try.

  49. Great hair!I’m 62 & just into my 4th month of letting my “silver slivers” peak through. I know its the right time for me as negative comments don’t bother me at all but rather embolden me to “show them” when the process is all done. Following another lady on youtube video by just colouring my part for a couple of months while gray/salt/pepper coming in everywhere else. Your hair is gorgeous & I personally think gray is a very regal colour as those women who have battled & won the transition seem to carry themselves more regally – or maybe that’s just my hope when this is all done! In any case, you are most encouraging – thank you!

  50. oh wow! this is how to do it. I was not happy when my mom and my sisters would color their hair ever since they have grey hair. Months after they color their hair, it was very depressing.. they have an even hair color and it looks ugly as ever! I was happy to read your article. thank you so much!

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