I started going gray at a really young age – I want to say 17 or 18. I probably wouldn’t have noticed, but my mom (who is a hair stylist and has been cutting my hair since I was in high school) found it lurking on top of my head during a haircut. At the time it was more of a novelty – I plucked it out and went on my way.
My natural hair color is a really dark brown – there are strands of auburn in the sunlight but mainly just dark brown. Because of that, gray hairs really show up against my dark hair, and over the years I noticed more and more gray. I kept plucking them out until it got to the point that I couldn’t keep up and/or would have gone bald if I plucked every gray hair I saw.
In high school, my mom really advised against me coloring my hair and I took her advice to heart. I can remember her doing at least one henna treatment on me – it brought out the red/auburn shades that I really liked – but mainly I just avoided hair color until my gray hairs started to really bother me. I was probably in my late 20s or early 30s by then.
I started coloring partly to lighten up the dark brown color and add some red, and partly to cover up the few gray hairs that I had. It got to the point where I just really preferred myself with hair that wasn’t so dark, and I started keeping up with the color fairly regularly.
When I switched to a more natural hair care regime back in 2010 (called the ‘Curly Girl’ method – you can read about it at http://www.naturallycurly.com ) I was concerned with my hair color routine. I wanted to go with something a little less harsh, so I switched from the drugstore brands I was using (Clairol, Garnier) to Naturtint, which doesn’t have ammonia. Because of the no-ammonia thing, it’s not really useful for lightening your hair much beyond two shades lighter, but that was fine with me. It’s been fabulous – no bad smell, less harsh on my hair, and I really like the color I’ve been using. (I use 5C, Light Copper Chestnut – my hair doesn’t get as light as the picture on the box, because it’s so dark to begin with, but I get a lot of red strands throughout my hair where the gray is now, so it’s a good compromise.)
I generally go about six weeks between colors, sometimes more. I kinda lost track this last time and realized it had been a while since my last color and I didn’t have any Naturtint on hand. I order it online; it’s cheaper than buying it in the store (I can only find my shade at Whole Foods and it is much more expensive there than online) and I don’t have to pay sales tax, although shipping usually negates the tax savings. Anyway, by the time I got the hair color ordered and in-house, I was sorely in need of a root touch-up.
You’ll almost never see me comb or brush my hair, except if it’s wet and has conditioner in it (I use a Denman brush, if I use a brush at all, in the shower). But before I color my hair, I do go through it with a large-tooth comb just to get out any tangles and to hopefully dislodge any styling products that are still in my hair. As I did this last week, I stopped short and looked closer in the mirror. I pulled my hair back from my face, holding it in a ponytail, as I inspected what nature had wrought.
My face was completely framed in gray hairs. I always wondered, when people would talk about wanting to color their grays and would get asked what percentage of their hair was gray, how you would know. I mean, I color my hair, so how do I know how much of it is really gray? Well, based on what I saw in the mirror, I realized I could probably stop coloring my hair and have at least 50% gray hair within a year, most likely.
This really gave me pause. I mean, I’m not ready to stop dyeing my hair just yet; I’m only 48, and I envision waiting until I’m in my 60s to go gray. But I know, probably in 15 or so years, I’ll start letting nature take its course. If I had lighter hair, I might just keep coloring it. I think it looks more natural on someone older with blonde hair, not such a stark contrast. But I think I might look a little strange as a mature lady with obviously dyed dark auburn hair.
As I thought about this, I commented to Dave, “Think how weird I’m going to look when I go gray. It’s going to almost be like going blonde!” I mean, talk about a completely different shade than I’m used to. The auburn that I use is still really close to my natural color since there’s no real color lift in the hair color I use. But gray instead of dark brown with auburn highlights? Wow! It makes me wonder if I should start coloring my hair a much lighter shade of brown as I get closer to 60, to make the difference not so obvious when I finally go gray. Give myself a chance to get used to seeing my face with lighter hair framing it, you know?
I think gray hair is pretty; I just hope when I do bite the bullet and let my gray hair grow in, my hair is evenly gray and not mostly brown with a big gray patch, or just gray around my face and nowhere else. I envy all those older male actors with dark brown hair who seem to just get that perfect salt and pepper blend of gray and dark brown as they age. My mom was horrified when I told her I’d probably just let it all go gray someday, but I think she thought I meant sooner rather than later.
Someday I’ll be the short lady with a head of wild, curly gray hair…but for now, please pass the hair color!
My hair color — if you look closely at the top, by my part, you can see some of my dark brown uncolored hair too.
* Not a sly reference to the naughty books, by the way…this is actually the title of a Monkees song. :-)