Gray Hair Transition – Three Months and Counting…

It’s been two months since I last gave an update on how I’m doing with my gray hair transition, so I thought it’s high time that I chime in on how that project is going for me.   As a reminder and for those who are new to the blog, I colored my hair for the last time on April 20th.  I initially wrote about my issues with my hair back in May, at which time I had not yet made the commitment to transition to my natural color.  A price increase at my salon and a friend who had taken the plunge to go gray led me to consider my options and it wasn’t long before I put both feet firmly in the camp of baring my silver roots.

Gray hair transition

Gray hair can be beautiful!

The Decision

I decided to stop coloring my hair for several reasons.  For one, I was getting my roots touched up every four weeks and they really needed it after just two weeks. I was only happy with my hair color about half the time, and even then I didn’t love the way it looked.  It was expensive and time-consuming, plus I had become increasingly chemically sensitive and worried about the impact such frequent hair coloring was having on my health.  As time went on, there were more factors in favor of stopping the hair dyeing than there were on the side of continuing it.  It was primarily my vanity and sheer habit that were keeping it going for me.

I didn’t know much about how to transition to gray when I first pondered the idea, so I purchased a book written by someone who had walked that road and joined a few Facebook groups devoted to that topic (including this one and this one).   I soon learned that it’s not really possible to just dye one’s hair gray and that coloring hair on the road to stopping coloring doesn’t work for everyone.   I saw lots of photos of women during their journeys and after their transition was over.  I experienced a roller-coaster of emotions, sometimes feeling empowered and brave and other times feeling like there was no way I’d ever be able to deal with going gray.  I continue to have these ups and downs, but I take it day by day and avail myself of whatever tools and knowledge can make things easier for me.

Where I Am in the Journey…

It has now been 3.5 months since I last colored my hair!  I have a roughly two inch outgrowth of gray roots, as you can see in the close-up photos below (the top one is from two days ago and the bottom one from 3 weeks ago – included because it’s a bit clearer).  I’ve found it difficult to truly capture the color of my gray outgrowth accurately in photos.  It actually looks quite a bit whiter in person, so there must be reflection issues with the camera, although my husband has tried taking the photos both indoors and outdoors and in multiple locations.  This is the best we can do, at least for now…

Gray roots - August 2016

Gray roots – August 2016

Gray roots - July 2016

Gray roots – July 2016

Gray Incognito

Fortunately, I’m able to cover up the “skunk stripe” pretty well – or at least tone it down – by means of a great product I found back in June.  It’s called Madison Reed Root Touch-up Make-up and it’s available at Sephora, as well as via the manufacturer’s website.  It’s non-toxic (no parabens, titanium dioxide, or other harmful ingredients), it covers well, and one container lasts a long time.  I’m not an affiliate for this product, but I would be if that opportunity were available, as I have been very pleased with it.   Here’s how I look like after I have put the root touch-up on my hair:

Gray hair incognito

Camouflaging my gray roots with Madison Reed root cover-up powder. 

Although the website indicates “incredible coverage that stays put until your next shampoo,” I’ve found that I have to touch up my roots at least somewhat every day.  However, in fairness to the product, I don’t think it was intended for two-inch roots!  But I do recommend it to those of you who would like to go a week or two longer between hair color appointments or coloring your hair at home.

I don’t know how much longer I’ll be able to use the root touch-up successfully, but I’m using it for as long as I can to continue wearing my hair down.  Soon I will move on to ponytails, headbands, headscarves, and hats as a matter of course.  I recently purchased two new hats that I really like, including the one in the photo below (the other one is a black fedora).  My husband took the photo as a candid shot, but I liked it so much that it’s now my Facebook profile picture.  I can’t see myself wearing a hat every day because it’s just too hot, but I like the way I look in them and they do cover the “stripe” (although stripes are my signature style, I’m not really a fan of a skunk stripe on my head!).

Covering gray roots with hats

Wearing hats is a good way to cover up gray roots! 

Not for the Faint of Heart

I have to be honest and say that transitioning to gray hair is not for the faint of heart.  Of course, there are many different ways to approach it, including buzzing your hair off, cutting it short, or bleaching it blond.  But since I’m not a big fan of short hair on me and my hair would never withstand being bleached (let alone the fact that it would be a problem given my chemical sensitivity), I’m pretty much faced with the prospect of letting the “skunk stripe” progress its way down my head.  Yes, some women do lowlights or use temporary color to ease the line of demarcation, but I have read horror stories about those processes staining the hair and ultimately lengthening the transition time.

I feel that this is an opportunity for me to both learn patience and detach myself from being so preoccupied with my appearance.  I do believe that I can look good with gray hair, but it will take a total of two years for me to fully transition given my current hair length since hair only grows an average of half an inch per month.  It will take quite a bit of fortitude to stay the course and not succumb to the bottle once again, but I feel that within a couple of months I will reach the point at which I will be “over the hump” and far more willing to see the transition through to its conclusion.  It is freeing not to be “chasing roots” all the time and to have to spend several hours and over $100 at the salon every month.  I just have to remind myself of all of the positives whenever I look in the mirror and see my two-tone hair.

Your Thoughts?

I’m sure I will be writing more about my gray hair transition as the months progress, but now I’d like to hear from you.  If you’ve successfully transitioned to gray hair, I invite you to share any tips or suggestions you have for those of us who are in the process or thinking about taking the plunge.  I already published some readers’ thoughts back in May in a follow-up to my original post when I was first pondering the idea.  A wealth of knowledge is offered in that article, but there’s always room for more!

Have a wonderful weekend!  The next time you hear from me, I will be 50!  My birthday is on Monday and if all goes well, I’ll be out enjoying the day.  But I hope to have a post ready to go live for you that day in which I give an update on how I’m doing with my balance goal for 2016 (see my last update HERE).  I also plan to publish an update on my wardrobe and shopping goals for the year soon, too, but that one will take a bit longer to write given the information and statistics I need to put together.  Until then, I hope those who say that 50 is the new 40 are right!

41 thoughts on “Gray Hair Transition – Three Months and Counting…

  1. I think your gray is a lovely shade of gray. I bet when you’ve completed the transition that it’s going to look fabulous with your skin tone and eyes.

  2. I’m letting my salt and pepper grey grow out too. My roots are dark brown and white, the ends are medium brown. I’ve been using John Frieda Brilliant Brunette Visibly Deeper Colour Deepening Conditioner to even out the tones without going back to dying and I’m not worrying about it too much.

    • I think it’s good that you’re making the transition when your gray percentage is lower, Ruthie, as it will likely be easier for you. Thanks for the product suggestion. I’m not sure if it will work for me since my outgrowth is so gray, but I’m sure others reading could benefit from it if they give it a try. I’m finding as time goes by, my colored hair is fading and is getting closer to my natural non-gray color, but the stripe will always be extreme since I have so much gray. Good luck with the rest of your transition!

  3. I am envious as you are obviously one of those lucky people who are going to look beautiful with gray hair, which I am sure will be complemented by your complexion and eye colour. I for one have that mousy hair and pale complexion which look so washed out. Complete vanity I know, but I shall probably have to retire to a cave for a year when I decide to bite the bullet and stop the dye!

    I do understand that maybe going shorter at the same time is a bit too much for you, but I can just picture you with a beautiful gray, swingy chin length bob! It would make the whole process so much quicker too?

    Good luck!

    • I hope you’re right that I will look beautiful with gray hair, Julia. I have worried that I will look washed out, too, but I’m staying the course and hoping for the best. I likely will cut my hair shorter when I am farther into the transition, but probably not as short as chin-length. Given that my natural texture is wavy/frizzy, having the option to pull my hair back or put it up is very important to me.

  4. Looking good, keep going! 🙂 Fifty will be great, take my word for it. I am feeling more confident and relaxed as time rolls on.

    • Thanks for the reassurance, Tara! I’m so glad to hear that your first months of your fifties are going well.

  5. Hi Debbie. That really is an amazing photo of you! Well done Mr RS!! I think your grey looks a lovely shade. I agree with Julia that you would look fab with a chin length bob (as you know I’ve already sent you a suggested hairstyle). However a shoulder length bob could be more versatile as you still have enough hair to tie back but there is less length to manage during the transition to grey. I noticed that when I cut my very fine long hair into a bob it gave the illusion of much thicker hair. My hairstyle is a graduated bob but on the days I wish to tie it back, I use a ponytail extension piece and pin it into a ballerina bun.

    • I appreciate your kind words, Sharon. I think I might like a shoulder-length bob farther on into the transition, as it would help to get me “there” faster and I could still pull it back. I like your idea of using a ponytail extension piece for updos. I will keep that in mind.

      • You should definitely consider a shoulder length Bob when you get closer. I ‘accidentally ‘ wound up with one when I asked for two inches off (and it was more like 4…) but I ended up loving it. It looks so much thicker and healthier and everyone says I look younger. I don’t think I’ll ever go back. Good luck with your transition! You have inspired me to NOT start dying. I’m 46 and don’t have much grey yet and was struggling with whether to start dying or not but the growing out process sounds even worse.

      • I’m glad you love your shorter hairstyle, Sheila, and I’m pleased that I have inspired you to not start dyeing your hair. It really can be a train that’s hard to get off of and we are rarely aware of that at the outset. I definitely would not start with the permanent color if I had it to do over again, but now I have this difficult path ahead of me. I very likely will cut my hair shorter to hasten the transition, but I still have a very long way to go…

  6. Way to go! I hope when my hair grays it will be exactly the shade yours is, such a lovely color (gray is my favorite color too 🙂 ).

    • Thanks, Tawny. I hope your gray transition will go well, too. Lucky for you that gray is your favorite color!

  7. Debbie, Your hair is looking great. I think you are one of the lucky ones who will have striking gray hair but look elegant and vibrant. As someone who is now about 85% gray, I will be so interested to see if you find that you want to modify your favorite color palette. I seem to favor softer tones of deep hues now. I have come to understand why pastels are so often associated with elderly women: in the arrogance of my youth, I used to think that they were simply experiencing a second childhood–I guess it’s never too late to learn. Anyway, you look fantastic and I hope you are pleased that you had the courage to take the leap.

    • Thanks, Dianne. I hope you’re right about my being one of those lucky ones! I wonder about the colors, too. I’m fortunate in that I already prefer the cool-toned colors, as they are better with gray hair, but it’s possible I may want to wear less saturated shades once I have transitioned over. Time will tell… But in general, if one is lower-contrast, softer tones work better. Good point about the pastels. I have never really liked them on me, that that could change. Yes, I’m pleased I had the courage to do it. I pondered it a year earlier, but my hairstylist talked me out of it.

  8. I started growing my grey out as well. I have darker hair than yours, so had the stylist bleach some and I think the grey is blending in very well. Mine is about 2 inches as well and I can’t wait for it to get longer. I may cut it short once I get enough grey but that is probably more for convenience since I swim so much. I think my hair is a couple of inches longer than yours and I just had 3 inches cut off to make it look better. I also had a Keratin treatment done to deep condition and I love the way it makes my hair look. I have very frizzy thick course hair and this makes it lie nice and flat and smooth. I’ll keep this up even after it becomes fully grey because of the tole swimming takes on my hair. You gave me the courage to go for it with the grey hair grow out so thanks a lot and I can’t wait to see how yours does. I do find that my hair looks best up now and that is how I wear it with the awful heat and humidity we are having right now. I may wear it down more when the weather cools off.

    • Glad to have you along on the gray hair transition journey, BamaCarol! It’s good that your stylist has been able to blend the tones some. I tried a keratin treatment back in 2009 but had a horrible reaction to it. That is when I first learned how chemically sensitive I am and I probably should have stopped coloring back then, too. I’m so happy that my posts on going gray helped to inspire you! Good luck with the rest of the way. If you like short hair and it works well for you, that’s definitely an easier way to go. I will likely keep my hair at least long enough to pull back, so that means my transition will be over a year. As I said, I will learn patience…

  9. I am in this spot also. I have not colored my hair for years and wear it short. I am 63 and I wish mine would change faster, because I love the gray! Yours is a very pretty gray. I have thought about highlighting mine gray.

    • I know that dyeing hair gray is challenging, but if you can make it work, why not, Nancy? I have worried that my hair may not be gray enough, too, but I think it will be at least on top. The back has less gray in it per my stylist, but I won’t see that 😉

  10. May I ask you a question? If you shampoo your hair and don’t condition it, and don’t put the root touchup or any other product on your hair, and then you go out into the sunlight and look at your undid hair in a mirror, does it sparkle and shine?

    I noticed that when I stopped dying my hair, the new growth is actually much more beautiful than the dyed hair, because it sparkles with life, whereas the dyed hair is flat and lifeless and doesn’t sparkle. Indeed, when some people saw my hair in the sunlight they were asking where I got the amazing dye job, and they noticed the sparkling and the multiple different colours in the new hair (which they didn’t know was undyed), and the colour gradation from the top to the bottom (when it grows out more there is less of a sharp line and more of a graded shift). I only wish I had known years back how beautiful undyed hair is compared to dyed. (I do find that conditioner and other products dull my hair though, compared to clarifying shampoo alone.)

    Admittedly, my new hair only has about 3% grey so I’m not sure if there would be the same shining, sparkling effect in the sunlight were there lots of grey, but I imagine that sparkling greys would look even better, like diamonds.

    • I actually can’t answer your question, Wendy, as I haven’t looked at my gray outgrowth in the sunlight. I definitely will next time, though, as you have me intrigued. I know what you mean about colored hair looking lifeless sometimes, as I have noticed that with other women and haven’t been thrilled with my hair color either since I started getting permanent color applied. It’s hard to make it look really natural. I used to get asked who colored my hair all the time back when it was natural (I would sometimes be flippant and say, “God”), but not so much with the colored hair. I really hope my grays will sparkle like diamonds!

  11. Your look is already so much softer. You look very, very good. I can imagine how hard it must be to live with two-tone hair, but hang in there. You’ll look so attractive with your lovely shade of grey. And, by the way, you have the loveliest smile. That’s an adornment in itself!

    • I really appreciate your kind words and encouragement, Renee! I have often been told that my smile is my best feature. I take after my mom and my brother has the same smile, too. Yes, it’s hard to have two-tone hair, but the root touch-up powder is helping to make things easier. I dread the point when I won’t be able to use it anymore, but I will figure out a way to make it through. In the grand scheme of life, two years isn’t all that long and it could go faster if I opt to cut my hair shorter. We’ll see…

  12. I like the grey against your skin color and think it is going to look great. Love the hat and dress combination. Your hair color change will affect what colors look good on you , so probably best to put buying on hold for a few months as far as possible so you can see what colors work best when you have more grey.

    • Thank you, Lynn. Good point about colors in terms of going gray. I have thought of that and agree that I shouldn’t buy a whole lot during this time until I have a better sense of what will look good on me. I’m hoping my favorite colors will still work well. The fact that they are cool-toned increases the chances.

  13. Yep. You inspired me, too. Going for the gray (in my case, salt and pepper.) But I have quite short hair so hoping it won’t take two years. My hairdresser has a plan that started with a small highlight in front. The next time she gave me many more highlights trying to achieve the salt and pepper look. It’s a much softer look and I love it. So does my husband. Few other people have mentioned the change. Do they notice and don’t like it or is it so subtle they can’t put their finger on the change? Hope it’s the latter. Like your idea about hats as I get into the process.

    • I’m so happy that I have inspired you, Paula! I will be somewhat salt and pepper, too, as parts of my hair still have a lot of dark in there. I’m glad your hairdresser is able to help you via highlights. My hair is too damaged for bleach, plus I have chemical sensitivity, which is a large part of my motivation for doing this. The fact that your hair is shorter will make things easier for you. How great that your husband likes your new look. Perhaps others aren’t sure what’s different since it’s pretty subtle and they don’t see you as often. That’s probably the case, but stay the course as long as you feel good about it. Best wishes!

  14. Hi Debbie, I’ve been reading your blog since about June 2016 I think, I found it after also reading the You Look Fab blog and then Googling about what was a normal wardrobe and how often should you wear your items? A commenter there suggested 20 times altogether for each item, so I started tracking that in May. Between that and your blog, I’ve managed to hardly shop since April! I’ve counted my wardrobe, at least 140 clothing items not counting camisoles, lingerie, underwear , socks, tights etc, and 50 pairs of shoes. Haven’t gone there on jewellery! I’ve spent countless weekend hours reading every blog post and all the comments! I related most to the psychology ones which is why I’m finally getting in touch. I’ve been greying since about age 40, slowly, and I have a pixie cut. For many years I kept one bottle of hair dye in my bathroom cupboard as a back-up in case I couldn’t stand the greying, and finally used it age 46. But I didn’t like it- just one colour all over, and not quite my usual brown though had picked the colour that seemed most like my own brown hair. I have not dyed since, and I’m now 55. It is hard sometimes to see women older than me who may look “younger” with their dyed hair, but I really do feel more me like this. Authenticity is important to me. My shopping addiction started age 47 after a very hurtful time of losing my faith due to bullying at my church, so it has been going since 2008. I think I used it to try to make me feel better about who I was, and partly as a reaction to previous guilt about being ” selfish” and spending on me- which I lost, but maybe too much! My salt-and-pepper hair in its pixie cut is very low-maintenance. I spend $29 NZ ( I live in Auckland) on a cut about every 4-6 weeks. And I can show off my many earrings! I have a small face so I think short hair suits me. You are very brave and have really helped me, and I feel for you when you put yourself “out there” in the emotional posts- obviously you’ve helped many, many women, so well done and happy 50th birthday! Sending love all the way from New Zealand…

    • Thank you so much for your comment and birthday wishes, Jenni. I think a lot of people find my blog by Googling about what a normal-sized wardrobe is. I really need to update that post or do a follow-up… I’m so impressed that you have read all of my posts and all of the comments! I’m glad you like my blog and I appreciate your getting in touch to share your gray hair story and about your shopping issues. Congrats on going gray and feeling much more like yourself as a result. I’m hoping for a similarly favorable outcome! I’m sorry you had to go through being bullied at your church. That sounds awful and I can see how overshopping could result from that. I’m glad you are working on overcoming that issue, though. It can take time, so take it one day at a time and forgive yourself and recommit if you falter. I love New Zealand and it’s one of my favorite places! My husband and I went there on our honeymoon and we hope to get back there one day. Best wishes to you!

  15. I am proud of you! And you look good in hats. I like the idea of this experience helping you not focus on appearance. It may be hard, but you are capable. Remember it will not always be this way. The transition will become complete. I think you will be proud then, too. Good going, Debbie.

    • I appreciate your encouragement, Helen, as well as you compliment about the hats. I do enjoy wearing them sometimes. Yes, I know I need to have patience and stay the course. I can be uncomfortable with the way my hair looks for two years or chase roots indefinitely, also spending lots of money and time and risking my health and the condition of my hair. I hope I will have the strength to see it through with the former.

  16. Loving the tonality of the gray, very harmonious with your skin tone and eyes. I mentioned to you before you remind me of Emmanuelle Alt. Something about these photos also reminds me of Audrey (Hepburn, that is). Really lovely, well done! (Sorry for the constant comparisons, can’t help it!! Always seeing connections between things, people, ideas…)

    • No need to apologize for the comparisons, Luna, especially when they are such flattering and favorable ones! I appreciate your kind words very much. I worry about how I will look with gray hair, so it’s nice to read that you feel the tone is harmonious with my skin and eyes.

  17. When you are young, slim and beautiful like you, any colour of hair will do. Not so good for when you are approaching 62 and a fading auburn. My hairdresser said redheads go white usually, but if you keep to a mid length layered bob, that style suits most face shapes. It seems the norm to go quite short when older, but can look severe and mannish. You could get away with that style if you are blessed with a long neck and have a not too “jowly” jawline though.

    • I don’t know if any hair color would do for me, Sue, but I appreciate your kind words. While it’s true that I might look good with short hair, I really do prefer myself with long hair. I’m not planning to go short at this time, but you never know how I’ll feel as my gray stripe gets wider… I think a lot of women are pleasantly surprised at how good they look when they transition to gray. I’m in multiple Facebook groups related to gray transition, so I’ve seen many before and after photos. I pretty much think everyone has looked better in the after pictures, so that could be true for you, to0 (but I understand your concerns because I have them, too!).

      • Certainly, long hair does look more feminine; I got mine to bust length a few years ago. Sadly, I started messing with it, putting layers in then went to a chin length bob, eventually ending up with a severe boy cut. My poor husband hated it and deep down so did I. Found a lovely stylist who sorted me out by giving my hair a soft perm. Because this held its style, I was able to grow it and got a couple of half perms (just on the crown) done over the year. It is now an ear length bob with no perm in it and because I am older with a jowly jawline, will grow it to chin length to help soften my features. Leaving it to the experts too because it always looks much better than my cutting it.

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