The Feminine Touch of Gray

Men who go gray gain an air of experience and gravitas — but women who go gray are often seen as “letting themselves go.” Why can’t we go gray too (wonders the girl who first saw gray hairs at age 26)? Today’s guest post from anonymous blogger Siouxsie Law tackles the issue. – Kat

The recent lawsuit filed by a 52-year-old woman who says she was fired over her gray hair makes me wonder whether it is okay to go just a little gray in the corporate world.

There are, of course, some women in the corporate world who have a complete head of stunning silver hair.  This, though, is only occasional.  But what is rarer yet is a woman who is partially gray.

For men it is common.  There are even products designed to let them retain some of the gray to achieve that “distinguished look.”

But this touch-of-gray look doesn’t seem to be an option for women.  Most of us start with a few gray hairs in our 30s.  And many of us choose to cover the gray completely.  We fight the line of demarcation for years, and only dare transition to completely gray when we are much older.

When it comes to going gray for men and women, there is a double standard.  Just watch the commercial for product above.  The ad features a man interviewing for a job.  When he has a head full of gray hair, he thinks he looks too old for the job.  But without the gray, he worries he looks too young and inexperienced.  Meanwhile, a much younger woman (the sexy-librarian type) is the person interviewing him for the job.   The woman doesn’t have a single gray hair on her head.

This probably isn’t too surprising.  Men are encouraged to keep some gray because on them it symbolizes wisdom and experience.  It gives them an air of gravitas.  But on women, gray is often associated with old age, and of not keeping up one’s appearance (recently, Katie Holmes’ gray strands caused a brouhaha).

-------Sponsored Links--------

But graying hair on women can look great too.  And it should be socially acceptable.  Moreover, deciding to embrace some gray at a time (and at an age) when many choose not to do so is a statement of extreme confidence.  It can be a powerful look and if done right, can be completely professional, edgy and youthful.  Plus, if you are lucky enough to start with a few gray streaks, you get the added bonus of looking beautiful and kind of punk rock.

Here are some of my favorite partially gray-haired ladies:

From left to right, Dr. Julia Gerberding (former head of the CDC), Rogue (member of the X-Men), Stacy London (host of TLC’s What Not to Wear); Lily Munster (matriarch of the Munster household); and the late Susan Sontag (author and activist).

Readers, when did you first notice gray hairs — and what have you been doing about them?  Is anyone currently rocking a gray or silver streak (or a full head of gray or silver)?

(Note from Kat: I’d love to rock a silver streak some day or even a full head of silver, but at this point the lowest maintenance option is for me to pluck the grays. I’m always amused when I find a long strand that I somehow missed.)

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  1. I started seeing my first gray strands about two years ago (28), and in the past few months. I’m starting to see more now — not a full silver streak, but I don’t have to go looking for them. At some point I will want to start coloring my hair, but I’m not there yet. I’m curious, for those of you who color over the gray, how much gray hair did you have when you started coloring?

    • I started coloring right away when I noticed that I had enough to be noticeable. I knew my mom had gone totally gray in her 20s and I figured I’d be the same, so why wait? I just didn’t want to look older than I was.

    • Always a NYer :

      I found my first gray hair when I was 16. Completely mortified, I began getting dark red highlights and that covered them for a few years until I noticed them cropping up between the colored hair. My hair is a very dark brown and the hairs I spot now are a stark white. I’m 23 and last year I began having my hair colored with my natural color to wash out the gray. I go every 4 weeks to my hairdresser because it takes every fiber of willpower I have not to pull the grays out.

      Side note, I used to just pluck the hairs I found until a hairdresser told me to wait until they could be colored because a long gray hair that blends into the rest of your hair is better than a short, stubby gray hair that juts out and is more noticable.

    • I started coloring when I caught the first few but I’ve only done highlights and semi-permanent glosses. My stylist told me it was too early to go all the way and that once you start with permanent hair color, there’s no going back.

  2. I began coloring to enhance my natural color in my late-20’s and as a result never realized I had “gray potential” until my first pregnancy at 34, when I skipped coloring, in extreme caution, during my 1st trimester, and was somewhat humbled by the realization that I had miscellaneous gray strands. For me, it’s an easy decision; it’s an appearance and youth positive that’s relatively harmless. My real debate is botox…putting a chemical into my skin seems to be another step entirely. Now in my 40’s, it’s tempting, but I am, at the least, holding off for a few years.
    Having said that, I admire any woman who can go gray with confidence.

  3. Keeping your gray does work professionally. Look at Christine Lagarde and Kathleen Sebelius, to name two.

    • So right. But imagine “to name two” for men.

      It’d be like, “to name two” who *do* choose to color grey. I immediately think of literally just two, Sam Donaldson and Bob Costas, and they are both mercilessly, Mercilessly! mocked for being unmanly and weirdly insisting on looking pathetically old by rocking ‘young’ hair or toupes.

      For a man to color is seen as sad, when a women not coloring is seen as sad.

      BTW, for women, it’s not coloring/not it’s the aging/not. Society would prefer us not to color our hair but not to age. (A new study this week showed we are judged as gross for looking old and judged as shallow for fighting aging.)

      • No lie. It reminds me of how you’re just supposed to be “naturally” super thin, all the time. The dream girl has a movie star body but is always up for pizza and beers, never mentioning concern about her weight or doing anything to manage it. We’re all supposed to be magical.

        • ha! Good point, Monday. I have, literally, only one friend out of hundreds of friends and acquaintances who has that magical quality.

        • Anonymous :

          Right– press images of “actress eating”.

      • Thing is, I assume there are a lot of men out there who either fully or partially dye their hair, we just don’t see it. The only ones we hear about are the ones that are mocked.

  4. I saw my first grey hair when I was 16. By the time I was in my mid-20s they were noticeable to other people, but I didn’t start coloring it consistently (and professionally) until I was in my 30s.

    Two years ago, I stopped coloring, although it took a while: we had tried once before but I didn’t have enough grey, and I just looked mousy-brown and washed out. But now I have a short cap of silver, with some patches of darker hair, and it looks fabulous. I have saved $600/year (or more!), and my hair is much healthier.

    The only down side is that I can’t wear grey tops anymore, or a black-and-white pattern too close to my face; it looks too strange with my hair. But I look fab in bright pink or blue!

    • Woops, and I should say: I’m 46, I went grey for good at 44. I have received nothing but compliments on it.

      … although I did get my first unsolicited Senior Discount at the movies a few weeks ago. I figure the ticket-seller saw the hair and didn’t look any further…

  5. 26 here. Cover my greys. I have very dark brown hair and my greys are white white white as opposed to a nicer steel grey color. So mine go away once every few weeks when I dye my hair.

    • and by 26 I clearly meant I’m 27 and started coloring regularly at 26. I’m going to count this as a typo and not forgetting how old I am lol

    • Anonymous :

      Same. I’m 37, but started going “white” a long time ago and dye regularly. I’m quickly getting to the point where I am going to have to transition from dark brown to a lighter color to better blend. I disagree with your “nicer steel grey” comment, though. I love a steel grey streak, but when I get to the point of going with a full head of white hair, I’m going to love it. I know from seeing my grandmother’s beautiful white hair that I will never regret not going grey.

      • Ditto! My paternal grandmother went completely white in her ’30s… I hope I’m so lucky.

  6. First grays at 19, started coloring “for fun” in my mid-20’s, didn’t take long before it was primarily for gray coverage. 50 now, still coloring (all over color with some foils on top for textural contrast). No idea when I’ll stop – have toyed with the idea but frankly am too vain!

  7. If you’re 26, you’re not a “girl.” A young adult, but not a girl.

  8. Diana Barry :

    I have one grey hair that I can see, but I think it will only start to bug me when there are enough to notice. I am 32.

    I do plan to color it when it starts going grey more (40?) and then reassess at 60 or so.

  9. I’m 39 and noticed my first at age 29, but to date I only have five or six of them. When I color my hair I only go up a shade or two, and haven’t done anything specific to conceal the grays.

    And I’m annoyed that every Touch of Grey and Just for Men hair commercial ends with a young woman giving the older guy the coy “we work together but I’d secretly like to ___ you” look.

    • Or the truly sick one with the widower and his daughters trying to get him a date with a girl in their generation instead of his? Icky.

  10. I’m 27 now and found my first two gray hairs a few days before my 20th birthday. I pulled them out in a panic, but haven’t touched any gray hair since. In the last two years, more people have started to notice the silver mixed in with my dark, dark brown hair. Strangely, I don’t feel that it ages me– since I otherwise look so young, it’s clearly “premature” gray.

    I’ve heard some good-natured jokes about how my job must be very stressful, but otherwise everyone is politely positive about the whole thing. Older women who comment on it tend to tell me I look great and warn me off ever dying my hair, saying it’s “not worth it.” I haven’t made up my mind for good, but for now, I’m comfortable going gray naturally.

    • I’m 43 and stopped covering the gray a year ago. One of the best things I’ve ever done. I wish I had never dyed it. The expense, the harsh chemicals, the time, no thank you. I love my grays and it hasn’t kept me back any. I just got a new job after being unemployed for a spell.

  11. First gray hairs at age 20 or 21, and I’ve been dyeing ever since. Now whenever my roots grow out a bit I am horrified to see it’s a lot of gray (I’m 28). I think it’s fine on a woman in her 40s or 50s, but there’s no need to look 10 years older than I really am. And the worst part is that I still have acne – face of a teenager, hair of a grandma. Ugh.

    I’m a natural redhead and I use L’Oreal Preference. I touch up every 4-5 weeks.

    • Make I ask what shade?

      We natural redheads have the hardest task selecting a choice to cover greys, since most colors just give us “monopause red” color, like, punky henna fire engine red, which is hot looking, but sad if you are a natural redhead and just want to camo greys rather than Make A Statement.

      • I normally use the one called “lightest auburn” and sometimes the one called “light auburn”. Both look natural and don’t have that punky, shimmery thing going on. I have tried the Feria line too but it always looks fake and overly shimmery.

        This is the one I use:

      • Anonabus (allergies) :

        I am a gray red head too and I had to take it to light auburn because when I dyed it red it went blond. When I use a brown, it “pulls out” the red. I have bangs to cover my eyebrows but they are not too too much different. On special occasions I use an eyebrow pencil.

        I started dyeing in college but when I went to law school, people still acknowledged me as a redhead (even though the color I use is technically brown)

        No box dye ever worked, (and I have tried probably all of the reds). So I had to go professional. It’s my only professional thing I do for myself since I do my own nails, wax, etc.

        • My natural color is more of an auburn than a “true” red, I guess. And oddly my eyebrows have stayed auburn, so I only dye the hair on my head. I’ve thought about going professional, but since Preference thus far works so well for me, I figure that if it ain’t broke I won’t fix it.

    • Research, not Law :

      Storing this info away. I’m a redhead and expecting grey any day (I’m older than my mom was when she started loosing her color).

      But did you all go straight to grey? I’ve observed that redheads seem to go blonde first, then white.

      My plan when the day comes is to do a blonde wash – or to do nothing. I come from a family of redheads and have yet to see a convincing dye job that looks natural into a women’s 50’s. Love the term “menopause red!” Conversely, the ones who went natural look natural – and I think more youthful.

      • I never went blonde, but I actually started dyeing after, oh, about my tenth gray hair so I didn’t give it much of a chance.. They’re a very light gray, almost white.

      • Anonymous :

        I never saw blondes among my red and grays…

    • Redhead here, too, and now 51. I went professional and it is SO worth it. I regularly get comments from strangers about how my hair color must be “real” because “you can’t fake that color.” I tell them my stylist will be so happy to hear that!

      If my “grays” were really gray (or white or blonde), I would consider not coloring. But it’s a sort of wimpy, faded, washed-out color. No thanks!

      My mom, on the other hand: dark, dark brown hair that started showing gray early. Now in her 70s, she has beautiful dark undertones with polished steel as the dominant color. THAT I would rock.

  12. I’m 30ish, have colored since greys became too numerous to tweeze and I figured, noticable to others. 10% grey?

    I love coloring but it is oppressive to have to keep up the facade of maintenance, to avoid slips.

    I look forward to going grey someday, with pride and freedom, but I’m sure I’m not to a pretty proportion (75%?) yet. (I realize the proportions are our aesthetic shackles as women and our own creations, collectively, but there you go…)

    I envy free-flowing grey-topped women. I don’t know how to get from here to there.

    I’ll have to wait for the years to catch me up, grey-wise, but the, how does one Do it, stop the madness? How can you tell, when you’re say, 10 years older than I, 40ish, what proportion of grey you have, when you’ve been coloring for 15 or 20 years? I fear the grow-out already, and covet it, down the road.

    • How can you tell, when you’re say, 10 years older than I, 40ish, what proportion of grey you have, when you’ve been coloring for 15 or 20 years?

      Ask your stylist if she/he thinks it would work–they’re the experts. Mine colored just the ends, when we decided to try it, and gave me a cut that did a good job of hiding the grey, depending on how I styled it. And then when it had grown out enough (which was actually super-attractive, with the dark tips over the white roots, it looked very cool), she cut off the color.

      You can tell right away if it looks good–if there’s not enough grey, you just color it all again.

      Or you could go the color-weave strategy, just gradually reduce the amount of hair you’re dying. Expensive, and it takes longer, but it’s a more gradual transition. Me, I went home on a Friday with mostly-dark hair, and came back in on Monday with mostly-white hair, and only one person said a thing about it. ::shrugs::

      • Anonymous :

        Thank you!

        It’s so true that we care/notice our own looks much more than anyone else does. But we do care, so it’s awesome that you found a way to get from here to there, I’m sure beautifully.

  13. No gray hair yet for me (I’m 26) but I don’t plan on dying it when I do. I used to dye my hair black and blue in my younger days and have decided it’s way more work than I want to do. My father is graying nicely, so I’m hoping I’ll do the same. Besides, grey has always been a good colour on me.

    • I saw my first gray strands around 30, and now my hair looks almost exactly like Katie Holmes’ in the linked photo. I really like the look & never considered covering it up.

      The other factor, I guess, was that I didn’t want to end up coloring my hair well into old age (I love my babcza, but mid-80s with dark brown hair? Yeah, right, grannie) or have to worry about transitioning away from coloring when I decided to go from dark to full platinum.

      • Hah–my one grandma had pretty dark hair into her 80s (but was mostly gray by 90). My other grandma told me shed gone grey at 26! So I always worried I’d take after her. These days I dye for entertainment, but have noticed the number of grays increasing, even if proportionally it’s still small.

      • Ha! My grandma stopped coloring her hair in her late 80s. I keep telling her it looks better gray than that weird reddish thing she was going for before, but she frets that it makes her look old. part of me wants to say, Grandma, you made it to 90. You ARE old.

        I on the other hand have been doing blonde highlights for 6 years, and noticed grey after I delivered my son at 30. Now I can see it, but I think it blends with my highlights pretty well. My mom never colored her hair, but I like how my hair looks. At 33, I am in no hurry to inform the world how grey I am (I actually don’t know myself, but I can see quite a bit around my temples when my highlights start to grow out). I have to admit, it freaks me out a bit.

      • Research, not Law :

        I feel the same way! My mom was forced to transition, and it was hard on her, mainly because of people’s reactions. Friends wouldn’t even recognize her. But she’s thankful she did, because her sisters have kept it up and look… well, ridiculous.

      • I had that exact same concern! (In fact, I wrote about my dilemma here a year ago:

        So far, I’ve resisted a full-head coloring, but I did try out highlights this summer. They were kinda fun at first, but now that they’re growing out I feel like I’m in the same boat as before.

        I have a blog friend who went from completely dyed to completely natural silver and she looks fantastic:

  14. I’m 42. I started seeing gray somewhere in my mid-30s (I think), and started coloring them when I was 40 (not because of the age – I went back to school and was doing OCI and feeling a bit insecure about being 15 years older than most of my classmates/competition). So far, my stylist basically does my highlights in such a way as to blend/disguise the gray, rather than coloring them outright (because I’m brunette, I dread getting the gray roots/dark hair line, and have been sticking with solutions that grow out less visibly). I’ve been getting highlights for quite a while, so I’m not sure what my hair would look like in its totally natural state, but so far the gray’s limited to basically my bangs – the front/top of my head. It looks like it might be moving toward a Stacy London/Susan Sontag kind of streak, which I think I’d kind of enjoy, except my hair is lighter than theirs, so the contrast isn’t as satisfying.

    The funny thing is that when this has come up among my friends, we all kind of agree that we think gray hair looks great on everyone else, but we don’t like it on ourselves. I was never averse to coloring, but didn’t think I would do it – until, as I mentioned, I was starting over in a new field, and suddenly started to worry about getting shut out of stuff because I was “too old.”

    • Interesting – I’m about your age and also went to law school later. My grey only started coming in noticeably a couple years ago, after law school. It’s now about 7 – 10% sprinkled all over with a streak at one temple. The grey is true white and the rest of my hair is dark brown, but the streak is not quite as dramatic as Stacey L’s. (That can’t be all-natural, right?) As a younger woman I had never contemplated NOT dyeing my hair, but in the end I decided to keep it grey. I had two reasons. First, I wanted more cred with clients and peers; I may not be a partner, but those greys might help me seem a little more experienced. Second, my life is so hectic, I couldn’t imagine finding the time for upkeep or – even worse – failing to find that time and looking like a mess on a regular basis. Most of the time I’m happy with my choice and I think it can be a bold, confident statement, but now and then, if I look tired or unkempt I think the grey just magnifies that tired/unkempt effect.

      • If I’m remembering correctly, I think I heard Stacey London say in an interview that she had some sort of injury on her head when she was a child and when it healed the hair came back in gray.

  15. No gray yet (at 28). But I am pretty sure I will color my hair once I have them. My mom just stopped coloring her hair and is now totally gray (she is 56, not sure when she went totally gray since she always had it colored.) My grandma was still coloring her hair bright red/orange until she died! But she rocked it! I will probably not do bright red, rather stick with my dark brown.

  16. 26 and no grey yet. I don’t dye my hair at all and have sandy blonde/light brown hair so I suspect grey won’t easily be noticed for a while. For now I’ve decided to never dye my hair, no matter how much grey I eventually get.

    • 42 and no grey yet, though I swear I can feel it coming. I’ve never dyed my hair, so this is out of naivety, but what does dying do to your hair (in terms of feel, health, IDK, whatever)? And if I decide to go the dying route, what exactly is the maintenance routine? (e.g., how often do you have to have your hair colored?)

      • Well, this is just my experience, but: I get highlights to blend away the gray, which (as I understand it) does involve some bleaching of the hair and then depositing color on the lightened strands. So my hair does feel a bit dryer/rougher for maybe the first 2 weeks or so after highlighting – not unhealthily so, it’s just a slightly different texture from natural. I’m lucky in that I have naturally thick and healthy hair, so it recovers quickly enough as I condition regularly and so on. I do tend to use shampoo etc. for colored or dry hair now, which I didn’t used to do.

        As for how often, I’m lazy, so I get fairly subtle highlights and can go 3-4 months before getting them redone (they grow out fairly naturally). But then, so far I don’t get really gray roots that stand out or anything – it’s more like after about 3 months I look in the mirror and realize all those lighter strands in my bangs are no longer blond-ish but are gray! If think if I reach a point where any growth shows up as stark roots I’d stop dyeing – as much as I actually enjoy getting my hair cut/colored, I hate the idea of being a slave to it because failing to do the upkeep means it looks worse than the problem I’m trying to solve. I don’t mind grown-out subtle highlights but I really dislike white roots set off by a dark line where the dye’s growing out, and would rather go gray than do the latter. So really I’m camoflageing my grays rather than getting rid of them completely!

        Since I don’t dye my whole head a different color, I can’t really speak to effect/schedule for that (I have done that, but only with semi-permanent dyes, so they fade out before you get roots anyway. Unless of course you are a very fair blond using a semi-perm black dye – then it will fade to green!)

      • I trust my stylist completely. She has been cutting my hair for 15 years and coloring it for 2/3 of that time as well. I started with only getting the color every other time I had a cut (I wear my hair short, so that was approx 10 weeks between colors), but this year my temples are so gray I decided to color every time.

        Unless I’m going with a new shade (we mix up the reds with the season), she colors the roots and pulls color through the rest of the hair randomly so I get “lowlights” of the new color and the slightly faded color blends in. It ends up being a really natural look.

        My hair feels mostly the same, but my hair is thick, wavy and not at all fragile. My sister’s fine hair actually behaves better when it has a little bit of damage from the highlights she’s been getting since high school. She colors for the texture of it as much as for the color.

  17. AtlantaAttorney :

    I’m in my late 30’s, and I have the occassional gray hair every now and then, but I am blonde so they tend to just blend in. My grandmother went a gorgeous blondish-silverish in her 50’s and I am hoping for the same.

    • My mom has this same look, and I think it looks great. My “grays” are actually white, so I think it blends fine with my blonde highlights.

    • This. I’m still a fairly light (natural) blonde, so I wonder how the transition to silver/white will go for me. No grays/whites yet, but I’m only 25. I feel like a chunk of silver would be odder on a blonde than a brunette, but there are just so few examples in general. I’m guessing I’m more likely to go white or blondish-silverish like you mentioned. On the other hand, my aunt and grandfather went completely bleach white by age 40 (she completely dyes her hair, he didn’t), so who knows!

    • I’m blonde also (though darker than the golden blonde I was as a kid), and didn’t notice any gray until about 5 years ago (I’m 47). I have blondish-silverish happening underneath, and it doesn’t bother me one bit. I’ve never colored my hair and don’t ever plan to. My mom and aunts went white eventually, so I’m betting that’s my destiny too, although my dad’s mom was a gorgeous steely gray in her latter years. I hope to stay more silvery, but who knows.

      My husband, who’s 13 years younger than I, likes my multi-toned hair– but I am a feminist and have major hate for the double standard and the way women are required to be decorative objects who are supposed to please men or else. Screw dat!

  18. I have very dark brown hair, and I dyed it with semi-permanent dye for 10+ years. This year, I decided it was too much work, doesn’t always look good, and was ruining the condition of my hair.

    So, I stopped coloring it for about six weeks, then went to the hairdresser and had him cut it shorter than usual–a short bob, not a pixie. Did this for about 8 weeks, and now I am having low-lights done every 8 or 10 weeks.

    Net result is my hair with some noticeable gray but no roots or noticeable lines. I’ve finally gotten it to the point where I can grow it longer again.

    I love it, my hair is so much healthier and I don’t have to mess around with dyes.

    • Low Lights :

      Can you explain low lights, please?

      • Anonymous :

        Strands darker than your natural, but applied like they are highlights. So not all over color. I’m a natural blond, and I get highlights and lowlights (in a darker blonde and what my stylist says is called “sunset,” which is a coppery blonde.) They just give the hair color more depth, and generally look more natural overall.

  19. I’m 46 and have some silvery hairs here and there, but no full gray patches. I have always had one or two gray hairs, but noticed them “breeding” starting in my early 40s.

    To deal with them, I get very subtle highlights. I ask the stylist to pull as many gray hairs into the foils as he can, but of course he can’t get them all. I find the subtle highlights, which are just a shade lighter than my natural brunette, help the grays blend in more.

    My stylist just yesterday told me they can apply a demipermanent color on the hair between foils at the same time I’m getting the highlights, but that may be more processing than I’m willing to deal with.

    • By the way, I’m so surprised to see commenters mentioning plucking gray hairs. My mom always told me that when you pluck a gray hair, three friends come to its funeral. :)

      I don’t find that to be the case, but I do notice that when you pluck a gray hair, it grows back in standing straight up, particularly since gray hairs tend to be wirier than regular hair strands. That can’t be better than just living with a single long gray hair!

      • Yes, it would never occur to me to pluck! (Besides, at this point it would give me bald patches…)

      • Motherplucker :

        In response to that line from my mother, I would always say “Well good thing I do not have time to hold funerals for each individual hair strand!” What a smarta**. I was later told it’s bad because they stick straight up but that is a myth about them coming faster because of the plucking.

  20. I started coloring my hair at age 38, just after having my third child and committing to attending my 20th high school reunion, which I couldn’t face with baby weight AND gray hairs. There was no way to lose 20 lbs in short order, so away went the gray. Once you start, it’s very, very hard to stop and it’s expensive–but I did get some compliments on my hair at my recent 40th high school reunion. My stylist and I have had several conversation about when and how to “go gray,” but for now she’s still coloring and highlighting me. I will stop (maybe at 60 or 65?) but I’m not ready yet. Besides, my husband has NO gray. I don’t want to look like his mother. Is that a bad thing to say?

    • Anonymous :

      Your story made me smile!

      I’m sure you wouldn’t look older than your hubby.

      My mom, much much older than you, in her 70s, just stopped coloring and loves the natural grey look and the freedom and savings. But she has to ignore Dad’s uncharacteristic (he’s usually a gentleman and thinks she can do no wrong) requests for her to color once more. He wants her to look younger than him…

      Ahh, people.

    • Maybe it’s not a bad thing to say per se, but what’s wrong with looking older than your husband? I AM older – and so what? This is another double standard thing that I wish would go away.

  21. By 19, I had a swatch of gray hair (similar to Stacy London’s in amount and position) that was noticeable enough to be remarked on. But I have naturally medium-blonde hair, so I don’t think it really stuck out that much. I get highlights pretty regularly now and my stylist blends in the gray. I don’t think I have too much gray in the rest of my hair, although I notice my hair starting to get “dull” when it’s time for new highlights. Not sure if that’s from gray or if my hair is just getting darker over time. I can’t actually dye the gray patch – have tried and it just doesn’t hold color. But getting highlights does help blend it.

    I don’t know if I’ll let myself go completely gray, it sort of depends on what color the gray is. My BF has very dark, very thick hair, that does have a fair amount of gray. And it’s a very silvery gray. I joke that if he goes completely gray, he’ll look like he’s wearing a space helmet, especially since his hair seems to be staying quite thick into his 40s.

    • Speaking of Stacy London’s hair – what do ‘rettes think? Is that natural? (The amount of grey and positioning.) Or is it salon created.

      • Anonymous :

        Was probably natural and cool once upon a yesterday. Now her thing and curated and maintained. A very cool thing, too.

        • I heard her talk about it in an interview once – it is absolutely natural, though I’d put money on the maintenance.

  22. Wow. I read this post with great interest, as I found my first grey hair at age 13. It really started picking up in college, but I was out in the sun enough for it most of the time to look like highlights (I have medium brown hair and when I was younger would get some nice golden highlights from the sun).

    If grey hair came up in conversation, I’d mention I was going grey and everyone would say, “oh no you’re not!! we can’t even see them.” When people stopped responding that way in law school, I knew it was all over. Instead, when I mention it now, people look at me like they had wanted to say something and are relieved I brought it up, and say “Why don’t you color it??” I hate that! I’m 28 now, and probably 30% grey I’d say? but I’ve never colored my hair in my life and I refuse to start now. It’s FINALLY starting to coalesce into a streak right at my forehead, so I immediately switched my part to emphasize that bit.

    But I thought for SURE when I read all these comments there’d be another one out there like me – a natural grey! Ladies!!! it’s your attitude and energy that determine how old people think you are, not your grey hair. Rock it and be proud of it!! it’s gorgeous, just like you!

    • I’m with you; to each her own, but I hate the pressure to cover grays. Your streak sounds badass.


    • oops, skimmed these posts too quickly – I do see one or two natural grey commenters up above. sorry to overgeneralize! But I was surprised at the number of people here who seem to think it’s not fair, but then color their hair anyway.

      • I never thought I would cover the gray, until I did. I’m not sure I would have done the same if I’d stayed in my previous career (where my seniority in my career matched my chronological age, whereas it doesn’t now) – although I’d been coloring my hair for years already, just because I liked it. So it wasn’t a big deal to adjust the highlights/color to deal with the grays. I don’t know if I’d have bothered if I’d never ever colored my hair.

    • Anonabus (allergies) :

      that happens to me too. I will be complaining about my grays and someone will say, you do not have gray hair. Then I will show them the spot and every time the reaction is “I’ll be damned, she does have gray hair.” The previous posturing is ALWAYS abandoned. Oh well!

  23. I started noticing the gray in my mid-twenties. By the time I turned 30 I was plucking enough of them that I was starting to worry about bald patches, so I started coloring regularly. Gray is definitely better than bald!

    I’m now 36 and the gray is definitely noticeable when my roots start coming in. I really don’t think I will ever stop covering the gray, although I’m not a high-maintenance kind of girl and coloring is a real pain.

  24. Off topic threadjack:

    What do you think of someone in their mid twenties still rocking out a cartilage piercing? Is it time to retire it? I love the piercing but am afraid it’s too unprofessional and/or tacky for someone nearing 30. Note: I have my hair down all the time, so it’s covered at work.

    • Anonymous :

      I think it looks pretty. I love when women are dressed up in a suit with short sassy hair, and numerous earrings. It is just a little bit a sass peeking out!

    • Makeup Junkie :

      I started getting greys when I was in my early 20s. When I tried to let them grow out (thinking they’d look like highlights) it made my complexion look pretty dull. I think the dull-coomplexion problem is why older ladies wear bright lipsticks, at least in my culture/ethnic group. I much prefer muted shades of lippies so I’ll just cover the greys and hope for the best.

    • On your own time, I think it is a matter of personal preference. Everyone will have a different opinion about whether X is appropriate at a certain age, so you may as well please yourself and at least that way you know one person is happy!

      As for work, if you are in a professional setting, then I think you are mostly limited to earlobe piercings (the exception I think is if you have your nose pierced for cultural reasons, which I think is fine). Also – unless you have M’Lynne’s brown football helmet from Steel Magnolias, my guess is that your hair moves around during the day and it is visible from time to time.

    • I used to have a couple of cartilage piercings (one high up my ear and one in the tragis – little area that juts out into your inner ear) and gave them up for a law firm job. Sometimes I miss them, and wonder whether I could get away with just a small, flat, silver stud in the tragis again. I probably will wait until I’m a bit more established, and then give it a try.

      It also depends on your office – my first law firm was very stodgy and the average age was early 50’s (I’m late 20’s). The age gap was a big enough problem without making myself look like my supervisors’ rebellious teenager. My second firm is younger (average age is probably late 30’s) and works with more start-up firms and individuals, so I think I could get away with it here.

      • How did you heal the piercings? My cartilage and tragus never fully healed in the whole 9 months I had them. :(

    • Anonymous :

      To be honest, I wouldn’t react well to it at work. Of course, that depends on your field and position (public, leadership, sales, hidden at a desk, etc.)

      I would think it was cool at a weekend concert or party. Are they flexible in terms of wearing and removing and re-wearing, or is taking it out a commitment? I would take it out either way.

      I’m your age. I’d move on.

      Treat yourself to a new signature jewelry piece, something personal and beautiful but not so polarizing. Maybe a ring in the style of the piercing you had (Celtic, Mod, whatever it was that you loved about the piercing) and wear that everyday.

    • Research, not Law :

      It depends on the jewelry. I’m 30 and still have my nose piecing. I have a tiny gold ball. Simple, subtle. It’s only come up once, when I started a new job years ago and asked about their policy. I was asked to take it out, never did, and never had it mentioned again. I just learned to stop asking about dress codes! I’ve started twice and new companies, been promoted, etc, without any problem or comments.

      If you maintain a professional appearance and work ethic, I see nothing wrong with a cartilage piercing.

      As background, while I don’t work in a conservative environment, I don’t work in a hip, young scene either. I work mainly with mainstream folks in their 40’s and 50’s. I can’t think of anyone else at my company with a facial piercing. I do not have contact with clients.

    • Absolutely! Love it. Do continue.

    • I have a conch piercing with a 12 gauge steel hoop through it. I’ve had it since I was 18, I’m in my 30s now, and I’ve never gotten any flak for it. I don’t plan to ever take it out, although I hope to spring for a short 14k gold barbell someday – something a little more subtle and refined.

    • For what it’s worth, I’m your age and I think they’re tacky. I try to not let it affect my opinion of people, but I’m sure it inevitably does, even if it is subconscious. I feel this way about most visible tattoos as well.

  25. I got my first greys in junior high…13 or 14 years old. I never colored my hair until just before my wedding last year, at which point my mother informed me that I had enough grey that it needed to be addressed. I am glad I covered it for the wedding, and I experimented with highlights this summer, but I am not interested in the long-term upkeep and plan to go back to my natural salt and pepper.

    Perhaps I will feel differently later, but at 26 the brown still outnumbers the grey and I simply don’t have the time, the money, or the will to fight nature right now. I joke that my greys give me street cred, but I do think there is a little bit of truth to that. Although there is a general preference for a youthful appearance, I don’t think it hurts me as a young woman fresh out of law school to look a little more mature.

  26. Ugh, got my first gray when I was 21. Now at 31, I have graying around my temples, but not anywhere else. I have dark brown hair, and my “grays” are actually stark white. I dye it, but it’s hard to keep up with because it needs to be colored every 3-4 weeks to cover up the roots. A serious pain.

    Does anyone know why premature graying happens? Is it more likely because of stress, genetics…?

    • I’ve noticed my dad getting a white spot in his dark red-brown hair when he started dealing with vitiligo on his skin. In that case, I’m guessing the hair losing pigment is related to the skin losing pigment.

    • I’m pretty sure it’s genetics. My father is 62, and I don’t think he has a single gray hair. My mother has some gray at her temples. At 32, I think I’ve seen one gray hair.

  27. Marie-Christine :

    I started on the grey at 22, so I’ve had plenty of time to get used to it. I had an ankward phase, with a dark yamulka, which I handled by going bright orange. But now I’m all white in the front, salt and pepper in the back, and I think that’s fine. I really dislike the dead-dyed dark hair most of my contemporaries are sporting at my current job. Eeck. And roots are murder.
    Basically, if you don’t want people to think you’re letting yourself go, you need a very good haircut (thank you Anthony :-)) and better clothes than when you were younger. That’s all.

  28. I have dark brown hair that I’ve never dyed. I first started getting stark white hairs a few years ago, but about two years ago I stopped plucking them because I found that the short, wiry hairs sticking out were more noticeable than long ones. Now, depending on how I style my hair, I have two noticeable streaks (maybe 10-15 hairs on each side) at the front of my hair. I don’t mind it, but it does bother me when my bf asks if I am planning to dye it or (more bothersomely, for some reason) talks about how grey HE’S going and that he’s thinking he should start coloring his hair. Sigh.

  29. Natural color :

    I hope no one reacts badly to this comment but I’m almost 55 and have no noticable gray. My hair may be weird because I have what looks like brown hair but the individual hairs are light brown, dark brown, blond and red and so an individual gray hair blends in, but also my few ‘gray’ hairs are more white or clear. My dad didn’t get gray until he was 75 so it runs in the family. It’s funny because I always promised myself highlights when I started to go gray and the joke’s on me because it’s still not time, although my hair is more dim than it used to be.

    • AnonInfinity :

      It’s okay — My husband’s parents are in their 60s and neither one has any gray at all. Mine started going at about age 25, so I’m totally jealous.

    • My mom is in her mid-60s and is just starting to get some gray hairs now. At 33, I hope that I have inherited her hair … no gray ones for me … yet.

    • Research, not Law :

      My mother in law is nearly 80 and has only a handful of grey in her nearly black hair. It also runs in her family. My husband (40) seems to be following, lucky guy.

      Funny story, her sister dyed her hair various colors since young adulthood. She decided it was time to stop in her 70’s and awaited the inevitable head of grey… only to find out she still had a fully head of brown!

    • My husband is 42 and has maybe 1 grey hair. If I were to stop coloring, I’m sure I’d have more. When he teases me about my gray hair, I just tell him that all of his that wanted to turn grey just left his head instead.

    • I have very similar hair to you – it looks light brown from a distance but actually it is lots of different colours which you can see in the light. I play it up by getting highlights and lowlights in those colours. My mom and both her parents kept their natural colour without going noticeably grey until well into their 60s (my mom helps hers along now, but my grandfather’s hair colour didn’t change until he was at least 70), so fingers crossed that I take after her side of the family as far as my hair goes!

      That said, I found my very first grey hair a few weeks ago, and I am 36. It looked very white, which I would definitely prefer to grey. I just noticed it out of the blue, got very curious and looked for more, shrugged my shoulders and decided to observe with interest. :-)

  30. Divaliscious11 :

    Hmmm first grays in high school and used to use a natural color rinse when my hair was relaxed. Now that I wear my hair natural, I do a slightly lighter permanent color, which makes my grays look more like highlights…. I’m 43, but probably will continue to color…..

  31. I also read this with great interest. I have very thick, black hair and found my first white hair when I was 18. Technically I didn’t find it – one of the other altos in my high school choir found it, much to my horror. Then that Christmas when I was home from school I went to get a haircut and my stylist said, “College must be stressing you out, you have 3 gray hairs back here!” Now I’m about to turn 29 and they’ve become too numerous to pluck, fortunately they’re highest in concentration at my temples (if I was a man with short hair I think this would look quite hot), so the hair from the top of my head covers them up for the most part when it’s down, but pulled back at the gym you can see it all. I haven’t started coloring them yet because I am not quite ready to admit to myself that this is it and now I’ll have to maintain this for the next 30 years. I hate the thought of coloring it but this is just so premature and it stands out so much against my dark hair that I really feel it ages me.

  32. Senior Attorney :

    I started going gray (and coloring) in my early 20s. Went gray in my 40s and went back to blond almost 5 years ago, at about 48, after sitting in the dentist’s waiting room reading an article in Newsweek about the power of gray, featuring a whole bunch of photos of prominent women Photoshopped to show how they’d look if they did or didn’t color their gray. Without exception, I thought they looked much better without the gray. I ran from the dentist’s office to the hairdresser and have never looked back. I don’t think there’s any question that I look better and younger with my hair colored. What do you think?

    • The gray washes you out. Good choice of blondes – it looks great.

    • Terrific choice to color. (Said from 40 yo who’s been going gray since her early 20s).

    • Anonabus (allergies) :

      I will go blonde once I am completely gray and I am looking forward to having more fun! I think it looks great!

    • Former 3L :

      Hi! I’m on YLF too! I like your hair better this way!

  33. don't need a boyfriend :

    Wll, my mom had a big elvira-streak in her black hair by 27. I was waiting for mine. Howeer, I am now 53 and have brown hair that is less vibrantly brown than before. My greys are delightfully silver, but wiry. So I am transitioning to having hair with some uncontrolled “body” after my lifetime of stick straight brown hair. The greys are sprinkled everywhere nice and evenly. Sometimes shop girls will complement me on my “Highlights.” I try not to laugh and just say “thank you.” I early on vowed not to dye my hair, watching my mother have oh so strange results with hers. With medical/hormonal changes making me lose alot of hair, I wont take the chance . (I know perming in the 1980s was rough enough on my hair). I am eagerly waiting and wishing to just “be grey” and be done with it.

    I look young. Graduating from college, people (Including my DH of now 27 years) thought I was graduating high school. So in professional careers, it was tough the first 5-10 years until my greys were more visible. With olive sking and few wrinkles, I hate to say it, but the grey was my friend in getting patients to trust me off the bat. Now, it doesn’t matter.

    Enjoy the changes no in our control is my motto … not that I can give up my Type A and controlling personality easily :) My body has other ideas apparently.

  34. I started coloring my hair before I got gray hairs so I’ve just continued with it. I got my first gray hairs about 15 years ago. I’m 41 now.

    My younger brother is fully gray now and has been since his late 20’s. And my grandmother on my mother’s side was fully gray by age 50. My mother’s hair, however, is going white, which I think is really pretty.

  35. Nice to see this post and to hear how others are dealing with their gray. I noticed a few gray hairs at 22 when I started grad school. I thought I was linked to stress and plucked them. Now at 25 the gray is popping up much more frequently in the bottom layers of hair.

    At the moment the highlights I get covers or blends most of these strands. It is difficult to say how, or if, I’ll cover the gray later until I see how it is growing. If it remains subtle and slowly grows in, I may let my low maintenance side show through and not color it. If I get the side patches like my mother, I will likely try to cover that.

    A woman I work with who is in her early 30s is completely gray. It is a very light gray and her hair looks absolutely gorgeous.

    • Lawyermom :

      I can’t believe no one mentioned the “bible” for all those who are thinking of going gray. The book and accompanying website is “Going gray, looking great. Author is Diana Jewell (I think). It has tips on how to do it and makeup etc. I was inspired, did it and have never looked back. Surprisingly, most comments are from younger men!!!

  36. You missed the most fabulous grey-haired woman of them all: Christine LaGarde! She’s IMF Chief, former Managing Partner of a White-shoe law firm and she’s French and fabulous.

  37. Six months ago, my hair stylist told me she had found a gray hair, but it turned out to be frosting from a cookie-baking adventure the night before!

    I was actually excited – my boss at the time was having a hard time seeing me as a colleague, and I thought a few grays might help establish me as a competent almost-30-year-old employee, rather than a 20-something daughter-figure.

    Now that I have a new job, I don’t know what I would do. I like to think that I wouldn’t color it and would work with my stylist to gray as gracefully as possible, but who knows? Maybe it will depend on timing – I think if I don’t have grays until mid-30’s, I will be able to hold off on coloring.

  38. I think it’s interesting that younger people, 20-40 color so that they won’t “look old”. Interesting because IMO no one under 40 looks old because of grey hair. I can understand a 50 or 60 year old dying her hair because she doesn’t want to look old but a 30 year old or a 27 year old??? Really? The skin is usually a dead give away that this is a young woman.

    It’s like when my older family members will comment that my watch is a “man’s watch” and surely I don’t want to look masculine or not want me to get a short hair cut for the same reason …….. my wrists are fragile looking, there’s literally nothing I could ever wear that would make me look like a man and no hair cut either – I’m pretty clearly feminine.

    I don’t have anything against someone starting to color since they started going grey at 15 – but there is no magic that will make a 15 year old.

  39. I started going gray in my late forties. My hair is/was ash blonde but was getting to be more and more ASH! I started adding highlights because I wasn’t ready to be all gray. This has helped maintain a natural look and as I mature I can see how I will just let it be what it will be. It is really all about changes that occur in life and how we choose to deal with them. Our hair color does not define who we are or what we can do but I do believe that there is a different standard for men and I’m not sure why.

  40. I’m 32 and have around 10 hairs. I think I’ll dye when they reach critical mass, but I’d actually love to have a few more for now. I look so young (even with professional clothes, make up etc.) that I still get carded and it would help to have a few more greys showing at work.

  41. I had a few gray hairs at 27, but they started sprouting like mad after I had my son at 29. Damn hormones. For now, I have subtle highlights to blend the grays with the rest, but I really hate how quickly the grays start showing through on my base color. And I hate the expense of coloring even more, but every time I’ve tried to do it on my own I’ve had, uh, less than stellar results.

    • On another note, I know a 50-something woman who has bra-strap length straight gray hair. It’s thick, precisely cut, and looks freaking awesome. Five years ago, she had a generic-looking bob haircut that was clearly dyed. I love it when women embrace their true selves, though I think it takes an amount of gravitas to pull it off.

  42. Going gray. What’s more, LONG and gray. Never happier. But I’m 54, almost 55, and anyone hiring me has got to appreciate my experience, or the fit, as they say, just isn’t there.

  43. The whole genetics thing really is bizarre sometimes. I’m 42 and have never found a grey hair. I got my dad’s family’s hair — and he has no grey at all at 67. The other side of the coin is that that’s the family side I get my total pear body shape from!

  44. My kindhearted husband just started pointing out my greys. My mother colors her hair- I imagine she’ll be upset when I DON’T color mine- it will be obvious she colors hers when we are together if I have grey going on. On that note, my grandmother colored her hair out of obligation to her mother in the some situation. She stopped coloring her hair when her mom did.

    I think grey looks fine on a woman. I think the long white hair looks glamourous.

  45. At 16 found my first one. I have been dyeing it since probably 23 on. I tried doing it myself in college and after one botch, I have gone to a salon ever since. I go every 5 weeks. It’s hereditary, both my parents were 100% gray at 40. I blame the Irish.

    I will never go gray. Ever.

  46. Great post. Those women pictured are fabulous. No gray for me, but I will definitely dye them away when they appear.

  47. I think that part of the reason that women have a harder time going gray than men is because gray hair can look different on long hair, so esp. during the “partial gray” period, it just has the opportunity to look messier, for lack of a better word, than on men who keep their hair short. That said, I love the look of all grays or a dramatic streak a la Bonnie Rait.

  48. Gray hair can look great on people who start with very dark hair and have strong coloring. Those are often the people who start going gray at an early age, and get that funky Elvira stripe.

    I’m medium brown to dirty blond w/o a lot of hair to skin contrast, and I’ve found that my gray hair looks yellowish and washes me out. So I’ll probably dye it for a long time. Costs a fortune, though!

  49. Kilo Alpha :

    I started going gray in my 20’s and knew from my mom and her family that early graying was my fate. I started with semi-permanent color before graduating to permanent color about 10 years ago. I am now in my late 40’s with long dark auburn/brown hair. If I left it uncolored, I would have two thick bands of gray a la Lily Munster. The stripes of gray take the coloring less and thus I appear to have lovely balayage — I get complimented on it all the time. So no plans to go natural any time soon.

  50. I’m 37, very young-looking, and about 15% grey. The rest of my hair is very dark brown. I have decided not to color it. I am lucky that my greys are evenly distributed through my hair and they are very close in texture to the rest of hair. It gives my head a lovely silvery sheen.

    I get compliments on the greys and also comments about how “brave” I am not to dye it. It’s not bravery as much as pragmatism. I’m not willing to start coloring it because it’s hugely expensive and time consuming.

    • Yeah, I think if you’ve already been coloring your hair, changing the grays isn’t that big of a deal – I was already getting my hair colored because I liked the way it looked, so I wasn’t adding any time/expense to my current routine (also, I really like having people do things to my hair – it’s one of my few luxuries – so to me it’s totally worth the time/expense, though I might be weird about that…). If you’ve never colored I can see how it would be less appealing to start just because of a few (or even many) gray hairs.

  51. Praxidike :

    I’m a natural dark blonde and don’t color. No greys at 30. My mother didn’t have any greys when she died at 58, so I don’t anticipate that I’ll get any. My father, OTOH, was fully grey by the time he graduated from vet school.

    If I got them, I doubt I’d care too much. I assume they wouldn’t be too noticeable because my hair is blonde, anyway. But I totally understand the desire to dye them because they definitely CAN age you prematurely.

  52. anonymous :

    My dark brown hair started going salt and pepper in my late 20s. Now, in my 50s it is almost totally white. I have never colored my hair. When I was in my 30s and 40s, people often remarked about how young I looked – I think because they would see the gray hair first, assume I was much older, and then be startled by my youthful skin when they saw me up close. At work, I think I got a lot of respect for my energy and vitality. In my 50s, my body age has caught up with my hair age so I don’t get as many comments but I also do not have to convince anyone of my competence.
    (BTW, men loved my graying hair. I got more attention from men in my 30s and 40s than I ever did when I was younger……)

  53. I started going gray at 20 and quit coloring at 50 when I decided to go to law school (while working full-time, no less, for a Fortune 500 company in a customer facing professional capacity). I knew that running to the hairdresser for 4 hours every 3 weeks just had to go. I was a natural redhead and keeping my red hair was a losing battle: my hair grows really fast and the touch up the roots and fix the highlights stuff got to be a huge time sucking hassle. My hairdresser at the time was supportive and once I got past the tough first couple weeks we cut the back really short and layers to cut off the color entirely and highlighted the front to blend and gradually grow out the front. I am lucky that I have gone mostly white/silver in the front and the minute bit of remaining red gives a slight effect of golden low lights. I get lots of compliments including from the Judge that evaluated my appellate argument (it was her first comment), every hairdresser I have had since then, and random strangers. It was an adjustment for my husband though. And he has no gray hair, of course. But even he has come around to the “gray side” and appreciating how much less hassle it is as well as my hair’s unusual color, not to mention the money I do not spend on getting the color done. So far I have not seen a down side to sporting my natural hair.

  54. Great post. I always liked Lily Munster’s hair. She makes me want to rock a silver streak.

  55. First greys when I was 24 years old, so I started highlighting my dirty blonde hair with platinum streaks. They blend in much better this way – every time I find a grey or white hair I thnk “that one is SO blonde!”

  56. just Karen :

    I’m 30 and dye my hair – without the dye, my hair is 1/3 to 1/2 grey. I dyed it off and on through college and law school until a client of mine in a legal clinic (a man sentenced to 58 years on a crime he maintained his innocence for, and whom a year later had his case overturned and was released) made a comment that I either I looked a lot younger than I was, or I must have had a really hard life because of how much grey I had… I’ve been pretty consistent at dying it ever since. For me, I have a lot of grey, but it is neither restricted to a streak (like it was in my early 20’s) nor evenly spread out – the spottiness just isn’t cute, and I think my hair looks better a more uniform color. I am definitely planning to rock the grey hair once I hit that 75% or more mark :)

  57. I’ve been dying my hair since I was 14 just because I hate my natural color. For the most part I’ve been a faux redhead (ranging from light red, to fire engine red to eggplant purply red) for almost 20 years. I do see a few greys in my roots, but not many. Last time I had it done professionally the stylist said I had very few greys. But I plan on being a redhead forever (or at least until I get bored, go blonde for 3 months and then go red again.)

  58. I started going grey in high school and started coloring my hair to cover the grey in college. I am now in my early 40s and couldn’t imagine *not* coloring, in part because I am 50-60% grey (according to my stylist) and in part because its salt & pepper and not a cool streak. I also change my hair color every couple years (black, red, almost purple, light brown etc), when I get bored. Yes, its a huge pain to get it done every 4 weeks, and expensive, but I am just not ready to be grey. Plus, grey hair, especially long hair, which I have, makes me think of an aging hippy.

  59. Talkin' Texas :

    Grays in my 20’s. Started “highlighting” in my mid-30’s to cover. By late 30’s I started all over color. I have roots done every 5 weeks and color all the way every 10 weeks. Good news, I now have 50% or more gray, so my all over color looks great because the gray hair picks up a nice golden shimmer like highlights and accents my medium brown hair. I would love to go all over gray. My dad was 70 to 80% gray in his 40’s and his hair always looked stunning.

  60. anon for this one :

    I found the first gray hairs when I was about 15 and never did anything about it because at this point I had a fire engine red and dark blue Mohawk (hey, we all have “phases”).
    When I finally let my natural hair grow I already had a patch of gray in my bangs. I just turned thirty and I don’t do anything with it, mainly because a lot of people ask me how I got this “effect” done and who my hair dresser is.
    I might do something soon, tough, because I’m growing single gray hairs all over my head, now.

  61. My natural hair color is med brown, and I began seeing some grey strands in my mid-30s. At that point, I began only with getting some golden highlights so as to blend with the few greys. By late 30s, I was getting semi-permanent color and still a few highlights. Early 40s, I had to switch to permanent color since I have very thick, coarse hair and semi-permanent no longer was enough for a growing % of stubborn grey hair. Through-out 40s, root touch ups only every 4 wks, with highlights touched up every couple of months. (I use Wen products and don’t have issues with color fading.) I turned 50 this year and now get root touch ups every 3 weeks…can no longer go 4 weeks. Don’t know if my hair is growing faster due to my improved healthy eating habits or maybe my hair is healthier due to Wen, or whatever the reason is, but my hair definitely requires more frequent maintenance now.

  62. Sorry, but I will never go gray. My grandmother colored her hair until she was in her 70s and my mom still does at 60. I have had friends in their late 30s/early 40s who have tried to let the gray come in, and all of them eventually went back to coloring. It’s great to talk about “aging gracefully” but when push comes to shove, do people really want to look older than they are?

    I have pretty much always colored my hair as my natural color is a flat mousy brown. I went lighter when I was younger; now that I am getting older I go a little darker. But let the gray come through? No, thank you. I don’t think it would be flattering on me, for one, and I totally agree that it’s perceived differently on women than it is on men.

  63. I had medium, very thick, brown hair originally. In my 30’s, I decided to start highlighting for more color (I looked mousey). That turned into going red–I had always wanted to be a redhead. In my 50’s I had to start coloring more and more frequently to avoid the stripe at the root line and my hair became very brittle as a result. I finally couldn’t stand the texture anymore and stopped. But it took over two years (and very careful touch ups to ensure that I didn’t look too much like a calico cat, starting with doing back to brown hair) before I didn’t cry when I looked at myself. Now, at 60, I have beautiful salt and pepper, long hair that while very coarse, at least can be touched without a feeling of touching steel wool. Do I miss the vibrant red? Oh yes–but it is so good to have natural hair again.

    I think skin actually ages women faster and worse than hair. Face sagging and badly wrinkled, chicken skin on arms. And that’s a matter of genes and sun protection (and getting good sleep–another thing that changes with age)

  64. I’m just starting to get some grey in my dark brown bangs… has anyone tried a “tint” type haircolor to cover grey and give a little overall color, as opposed to full on chemically altering haircolor? I spend so much effort trying to smooth my hair down that the idea of chemically opening the hair cuticle with dye seems silly… but something to weigh my hair down a little and cover grey sounds better to me.

  65. I started seeing grays in my hair during law school in my mid-20s, but just a few hairs in one area that was usually buried. In my 30s, I started coloring my hair with demi-permanent color partly to color the gray but also to give my ordinary brown hair a bit more oomph – with some red tones.

    Two years ago (near my 40th birthday), I decided to stop coloring, for a few reasons. First, it was so darn time consuming to have a 90 min hair appointment every 6 weeks, nevermind the cost. Second, I started thinking about all the chemicals and what the environmental impact might be. Third, my mother in law stopped coloring her hair (at age 70+), and it was a dramatic change – I started thinking when was the best time to stop – and when would there be too much gray to really cover? And finally, and perhaps most importantly, I started to wonder whether or not having some noticeable gray might actually give me more respect at work. I have a rather youthful face, and I felt like it was time to start looking my age a bit more.

    Since stopping, I found out that (1) my hair doesn’t have a tremendous amount of gray (maybe 10%) and (2) my hair isn’t really that mousy without color added – it gets a lot of lightening in the summer from being outside on the weekends. I don’t miss coloring my hair one bit, and I’m even growing out my thick curly hair and plan to keep it long as it goes gray. I think as long as you keep your hair in good condition (rather than letting it dry out too much), you can really rock the gray and look mature AND beautiful.

  66. AccountingNerd :

    wow, I thought most people started getting gray in their late 30s, but it seems like most people on here started much earlier. At 23, I haven’t seen any yet.

  67. Anyone with gray/white curly hair? Did it stay curly? How?
    I expect to go grey quickly in about 4 years (based on my mom). We both have curly hair (not wavy), and her greys don’t really curl – they barely wave. So styling is more a problem, because the grey/dyed hair looks stairght-er as if she had done an eighties puff, and the rest curls (approx. 50%-50%). She’s turned to starighten it, but that only increases the dryness – she’s tried everything to keep them hydrated and curly, but no luck so far.
    It seems that all the famous grey/white ladies out there have straight, or at most wavy, hair. Is there a way to keep healthy curls when going grey?

    • That’s a great question. My father has tightly coiled hair (he’s African-American). As his hair grows between haircuts, the few white hairs he has at 64 stick out past his black hairs because the white hairs are straighter.

  68. I’m 45 and after coloring for 10 or so years I stopped. I got my hair cut short for the summer with a highlight to break up the skunk line. Now all of the color is off and. I have gray at the temples and salt and pepper on top, more dark than light.

    I LOVE it. I loved my natural brunette color, and when I started dying it either looked fake or looked ok for a week or two and then turned brassy and fake looking. I could never get highlights that look right. (I am dark brunette/fair skinned/green eyed Russian/Jewish). Colorwise the silver is more flattering than the goldish/copper highlights ever were.

    I think part of what makes it possible for me to go gray is my sassy attitude :). I wear glasses and I try to choose a funky pair. I’m also a red lipstick person. That all helps to balance out the gray and not look washed out. I also have very young looking skin, but I definitely look older with the salt and pepper. So be it.

    My mom is a redhead who dyes her hair and always will. She is so against me going gray. My stylist keeps giving me coupons for coloring in case I “change my mind.” Different times, different attitudes I say. My husband and six year old son are good with it.

    I’m a lawyer, so the gray doesn’t hurt professionally.

    So I say, try it. You can always dye it back.

  69. I started going gray at 20 – pure gentics, father full gray at 30. At 49 it is now mostly silver. Except for a one time highlighting in my late 20’s I have never colored it. I think that more than the color, what is aging is the texture and I have been very lucky to keep my fine textured hair rather than getting the coarse wiry hairs.

  70. I got my first grey hair in my early twenties, but I didn’t start colouring my hair for about 10 years, when my husband commented on how grey I was getting. He has very few grey hairs, and the ones he does have blend into his sandy/light brown hair – he has the kind of hair that has all different colors of hair so they grey don’t stand out. I have medium brown hair, and the greys do stand out. My husband is also very baby faced, very few wrinkles, while I have a few, although I’m regularly told that I look young. I don’t want to look way older than he does.

    I colour my hair myself with a colour that is very close to my natural colour. I do expect to go grey someday . Perhaps in my mid 40’s? Both of my parents have white hair, so I hope my hair does the same. When my mom stopped colouring I thought she looked way younger than with her dyed brown hair. I hope the same thing happens to me when I stop.

    Its funny because my mom & mil were born in the same year. My mom has been completely grey/white for probably 10+ years, but my mil is probably now just over half grey. Genetics is a weird thing.

  71. My silver hair is commented on often. As long as it’s cut well and shiny, it looks pretty darn good. It took a long time to get here, but frankly, I’d rather see gray in the hair than a gray halo around the scalp from 1-week-past-needing-a-dye-job.

  72. Maggie Dixon :

    I’m 51, and can honestly say I have absolutely no gray — only because snow-white is NOT the same color as gray! :) I’m guessing I’m about 90% snow-white, but I can tell that only when it’s time to color again. I’ve been coloring now for at least 10 years (or maybe 15; I’ve never been asked this before, and honestly don’t remember). Before that, I’d pluck the grays (as they were then) but that quickly got too time-consuming.

    Interesting social comment: in the twelve years I’ve known him (from ages 49 to 61) he went from absolutely no gray hair whatsoever (I have a pic of him taken on the day we met, so I’m sure) to a lovely distinguished gray. He is the most non-vain person alive (example: he cuts his own hair), and the one time I asked him, as a joke, whether I should stop coloring my hair (which I have absolutely no intention of doing until I retire, so who knows when that will be), he told me he didn’t want me to stop coloring it, since it would make me look older than him. (Quite a statement, since I’m actually 10 years younger than he is!)

    Sad, the double-standard has seeped so thoroughly into our society.

    I wonder: could there possibly be a survival-of-the-species, biological component to this preference: that people prefer to see women who are still young enough to be (supposedly) fertile, hence the widespread distaste for gray hair on (most) women? While no matter how old/gray a man gets, fertility is still assumed.

  73. Maggie Dixon :

    Oops: forgot to state that the “he” I referred to in my 2d paragraph is my husband.

  74. At 45+, I always color my hair. I let it start to go gray a couple years ago, until my husband retired, and I decided I wasn’t THAT old yet! But when I first started in my current legal assistant job 5 years ago, and bent over a photo one of the partners was show-and-telling, and he immediately said, “Oops! over 40”, referring to the roots coming through, I was super annoyed, to say the least. (If I had thought fast enough, I would have replied, “And size DOES matter to those of us who are old enough to know better.”) His comment was inappropriate and set the tone for an uncomfortable professional relationship that continues.

  75. I have been a natural redhead (strawberry blonde) all of my life with very pale skin. When I turned 50 my hair started getting lighter and lighter. I am now 66 and very white-blonde. I feel it washes me out and would like a like more color. Is this a wise thing to do or should I just accept the white hair?

  76. Single gal :

    Kat, my hairdresser told me never to pull out a gray hair! Instead, just cut it short. Otherwise, you will end up pulling all of your hair out! (It is hard to grow back.)

  77. My family greys early. We have very thick dark brown hair with lots of body. My dad was grey in his 30’s, my mom, at least in her 40s. I started coloring in my30s, first at a salon, then from the box. I just couldn’t justify “wasting” time in the salon. Had 2d child at42 so, on with the color. Then, stopped at at 53 with lots of grey all over. Yet I started looking older. My youngest began begging me to color my hair. I finally gave Harold a free hand. High and low lights, 3 different layers. I look 10 yrs younger. The layers look normal. People figure the high lights ( no red) are the only coloring. It’s worth the cost.

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