Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Grey revolution

Last year the 32-year old Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, was seen sporting grey roots at an event shortly following the birth of little George. And what a hoo-ha this created.

More than 10 years ago I remember the bashing that Hilary Clinton got when she left her hair au natural (I remember reading an article in TIME! magazine... geezz). There's more discussion about her hair (up, down, colour, length) than there is about what she does.

Men go grey. Hair disappears from the top of their heads (and can end up running down their backs instead). But that's ok. That's 'distinguished'.

Women... women have been discriminated in the workplace and even fired for going grey and refusing to continue to colour their hair...

Consider that 95% of women colour their hair... going grey isn't very popular (but it is gaining momentum!).

I found my first grey hairs at 21. By 28 I had quite a lot, so much so that after a few not-very-complimentary comments I leapt into a dye bottle, keeping my hair colour as close to my golden brown natural colour as possible. I've never really approved of the process, but I did it anyway.

My hair grows fast and I have a pet hate - visible roots. On myself and on other people. I had to dye / touch-up every four weeks. By the time I turned 34 I had a lot of grey. And I'd had enough of the hamster-wheel.

It really was a "Fk-it! I am who I am" moment when I decided to stop dying. And I haven't looked back.

I went to my hairdresser, told him my plan to stop colouring. We chopped my long hair short to cut out as much of the colour as possible. And so began a process that took about eight months. Every few weeks we would chop out the colour until it was all gone and my hair was completely un-coloured.

My mom got onboard too. She had been colouring for years and figured that she couldn't have a daughter with grey hair while she kept up the illusion of colour. She also cut her hair short and together we went grey.

Sure, my face looks different surrounded by a predominantly grey colour compared to the warm golden brown of my pre-grey days. It's something you get used to - much as we get used to looking different as we lose hair and gain weight.

Releasing myself from the dye bottle was intensely liberating. It was like the life-altering moment in my first adventure race when I stood on top of the Drakensberg with a map in my hand and realised that I had the ability to cross mountains and get myself from A to B by any route that I chose. I could also choose to just be me and to be comfortable with this.

This past weekend I had a good conversation with two guy friends, both in their early 40s. We haven't seen each other for years. They were asking me about my decision to leave my hair grey. Both were very curious - and supportive.

Strangers too - mostly older men (like my dad's age or older) - occasionally stop me in malls to commend me on leaving me hair as it is, especially as my face is younger than expected. It's a contrast to have 'old' hair and a young face.

Just because your hair goes grey it doesn't mean that you're old. You've just got grey hair; like auburn, red, blonde or brown. Grey is a colour too.

Here's my theory... Most men are probably A-ok with their wives, partners, mothers, sisters and colleagues going grey. It is us, women, that is the bigger problem. We bound the feet of little girls to trade them off to men, we strapped ourselves into corsets to achieve teeny-tiny waists and we still squeeze our feet into high heels... and we (women, media) put pressure on women to dye their hair - maintaining an illusion of 'youth'. It's only when more women stop dying that grey will become more accepted.
  • By the time most women reach 40 they have a good degree of grey; not all, but most
  • Unless you're regularly going to a professional (and even if you are), it's very clear that your hair is dyed
  • That darker shade you keep choosing is hard on your face and makes you look older; too blonde has the same effect
  • After three or four weeks we can all see your roots and just how much grey you have
  • Lots of wrinkles and dark hair... they don't go.
Maintenance is intense - and expensive. A very attractive friend (same age as me) spends a bundle each month on maintaining her coloured tresses. And the more grey you have, the harder the maintenance challenge.

Today I took another step in my Grey Revolution. I added more.

Grey doesn't grow through nice and evenly. You get more on your temples or more on your crown. And hair doesn't go grey overnight. It takes years.

My mom, who has more grey than me, tried a tinting procedure a few months ago. She was my guinea-pig. Our hairdresser pulls strands of hair through the holes of that swimming cap thing. The hair is bleached and tinted grey. Because it is so finely distributed it doesn't show 'roots' and can be left without maintenance. You don't have to touch up or repeat, unless you want to enhance the grey further, which my mom did a few weeks ago with great success. The addition is subtle and if I hadn't told you about this, you wouldn't notice a dramatic difference. You still won't. It's just that the grey is a little bit more evenly spread.

At the salon there were a number of older women there, all dying their grey away. When we were done, they looked at me approvingly and with wistful eyes. They've probably been dying for 30 or 40 years!

The challenge is to transition. From coloured hair to natural hair.

Here are some ideas:
  1. Take advantage of the CANSA Shave-a-thon to shave off all your hair for a good cause. If your hair is long enough, donate it to CANSA's wig makers.
  2. Cut your hair as short as you dare to get rid of the colour and keep trimming regularly until all the colour is out. Headbands are wonderful accessories.
  3. Speak to your hairdresser about using highlights or low lights to break up the solid colour, steadily letting your own grey blend in. My hairdresser is pro-grey - I'd be happy to pass on his details.
  4. Use demi-permanent dyes, which don't fully cover grey. As it fades your natural colour will come through.
  5. Plan a six-month long adventure. Cut your hair short and spend six-months travelling.
Going grey revolutionises your life and liberates you from self-inflicted restraints. It works for me.

Here are some worthy reads:


Gustavo said...

Well done... I love natural hair (grey hair).

You look AMAZING!


Unknown said...

Hi Lisa,

just found your blog and all the fabulous content! I was
looking for a gaiter pattern... then found your post on transitioning to grey. I have started the transition after ten years of dying, using the method you describe. I can't wait for it to be over. The only con is that curly hair that has been treated is super dry and needs lots of product!!! It'll be over soon :))