Hate that Grey, Wash it Away

10 years ago in Seattle

While I was away in Mexico, I listened to BBC Radio almost every day.  I read a lot and by 8:00
each evening, I was ready to listen. A couple of weeks ago, I listened to an interview of Mary Beard, 
a well-known and controversial classics professor who was discussing her grey hair. Mary Beard, in 
the interview, asserts that she is glad to be 60 years old and has no intention of colouring her long grey hair.

My hair has been a journey. I started with dark brown curly hair. My hair was thick and I travelled without styling tools or product. As grey appeared, I began to colour it an auburn shade. As a blue-eyed Celt with red-haired cousins, I was "sort of" believable.
four years ago in Paris
I did not grow up with a mother who "did her own hair".  Maman visits the hairdresser weekly for a blow-out and has an occasional "perm". I knew that, as an ageing woman, I would not want any kind of "wash and wear perm" look. When permanent straightening processes (i.e. the Brazilian blowout)
became available, I was there ready to pay $400 and spend 3 hours in the salon to fulfill a teen-age dream of longer, straight hair. 

I did not require a lot of product and my hair dried straight. If I got caught in wind or rain, my hair stayed straight. Unfortunately, the demarcation line (skunk strip) shows up sooner on straight hair.
Six week colouring sessions were replaced by four week colour sessions. During my first three years of retirement, I was travelling for months at a time. I was constantly in search of a colourist. Paris, London, cruise ships...I was always needing colour. My eyebrows are salt and pepper coloured so they had to be tinted. More time in salons.
my last colour
Finally, in fall of 2013, aboard a 28-day cruise, I had my last full colour treatment. This was it! I was tired of spending time in hair salons and it was becoming evident that, if I wanted to continue to travel, I needed to cut back on some other expenditures.  I had no idea how grey I would be or what I would look like.
The first step is blonde highlights.
Fortunately, I have always found good hairdressers and I am willing to listen and to pay for their
expertise. If you are young or "naturally beautiful", you can probably visit "cut-rate" stylists but I am not willing to take a chance with colour. Karyn Rudance, at Curly Hair Vancouver, is my favourite local stylist. In January of 2014, she created some blonde highlights to help soften the effects of my new growth. I spent 10 weeks in Europe in the spring of 2014 so I was able to "grow out" without much ado.
a Paris blonde
If you spend time in Paris, you might need a colour or cut. In 2012, with my straight auburn hair, I visited my local stylist on Rue St Jacques and I was pleased with the results. However, in 2014, my "growing out" was a little more complex. I didn't want to "cover" but I needed another "blending/blonding". I chose Coiffirst, a prestigious salon in St.-Germain-des-Près for the procedure. 
I have never been in such a beautiful salon! There are private rooms for famous clients and sparkling water is offered. I felt a bit like Catherine Deneuve.
back to Karyn
My Paris hair travelled with me to visit relatives in the Shetland Islands and along blustery footpaths in Cornwall. When I returned to Vancouver, it seemed like a good time to "cut to the grey". It's a really big step! I was frightened that my husband, who despite his boyish face has been grey-haired for 20 years, would prefer the dyed tresses of his musical friends. There are very few women performers with "natural hair".

grey and curly

Today, I have curly, grey hair. I am 10 years older than my first picture. People ask if Maman (84) and I are sisters. I have no problem getting a seat on public transit and last week, the ticket-seller at the movies assumed that I was a senior. There are so few women with uncoloured hair, that I have joined
the ranks of the "almost elderly".  Most of the brightly coloured clothing that I wore as a red-head
has been replaced by softer greys and blues. On the plus side, my last haircut in Oaxaca cost me $12
and I won't be needing a trim before summer. 

"Natural greying" is a slowly growing trend. I notice that, in the two years since I have gone grey, more of my blogging contemporaries have gone the same route. As more healthy, visible women in their 60's choose grey, it is likely that the stereotypes will lose gradually disappear.

 I was interested by Mary Beard's interview on BBC news:


  1. It's a big decision, and one that I too am thinking about. I focus on all the elegant greys around me to keep firm in my current decision to let my hair colour itself naturally. I think the important thing is to think about good colours to wear in clothing and makeup, like you already do. Lovely photos of you, loved seeing your changing looks over the years!

  2. Thank you, Fiona. I think that it is probably all about colour choices and skin care as we age. As more women choose natural hair, I believe that grey hair will lose its "old lady" association.

  3. There is a -- dare I say it -- alluring! confidence in your most recent photo that isn't there in the one from 10 years ago, and while I wouldn't say you necessarily look as young in the latest one, you look at least as beautiful, very much "bien dans votre peau". . . I'm fielding many compliments these days on having dared to go natural and leave the colouring behind, many of those from young women. It's not for everyone, I know, but I do think that the instant association of grey with old-and-don't-care-anymore is quickly becoming a thing of the past. (Of course, I may be fooling myself! ;-)

    1. There is a confidence that we get (or at least I got) as an older woman. The loss of parents,
      of the routine of daily employment and a sense of our own mortality impels us to look at our own lives objectively. What is important, what is not? Only we can make those decisions! I think that, at this age, I care more about a lot of things and less about some other things. When Mary Beard talks (a link from a long ago Mater Knits blog) about destigmatizing "old", I agree. Besides, some of us are just "late-bloomers".

  4. You look very beautiful with your curly grey hair...your journey to natural hair die take you some time but when you were ready to embrace it you took it on with such a positive attitude.
    I played bridge this afternoon after a fundraising luncheon at the club in a room full of elegant women, all with different shades of grey hair...a sea of lovely women of a certain age, dressed very smartly and the accessories were a feast for the eyes!
    We have arrived!

    1. I really enjoy being with interesting and active people "of a certain age". When you started with your bits of "tinsel", did you ever imagine....Everyone has such different bits of shimmer and contrast on their silvery heads! Certainly, grey hair does not mean "I have given up"
      as one stylist told me. I take pleasure in seeing the row of 80-somethings (one is 95) at church each Sunday. All so different, but so beautiful and still meeting weekly to make sandwiches and to knit for the homeless.

  5. I have to agree with Mater - what she wrote is almost exactly what I was about to put down here. Your go-slow process worked for you and I hope you are as satisfied as you appear in the most recent photo. Your hair is lovely and I envy your curls. I have let my straight black hair go grey with not adjustments. It's pretty much salt and pepper and I have no intention of changing that - it suits my skin!

    1. Isn't it funny that we spend time and money to "fix" something that's just fine as it is? I wished for straight hair, you envy my curls and probably what we have is what suits us best. Grey, silver, salt and pepper or white, our natural colour probably suits our skin tones best. A lot of money is made by holding unrealistic images in front of us and by nurturing our dissatisfaction.

  6. Love your grey! My husband, who is an engineer and like so many, notices almost nothing about fashion, when we were out recently, asked me if I thought a person sitting nearby colored their hair. I said I thought they most certainly did b/c they looked to be somewhere in their 60's or 70's. My husband proceeded to tell me how ridiculous it was that people colored their hair to cover grey; a fella he works with does it and apparently it's not a very good dye job..... I gently reminded him that people do all kinds of things to remain youthful and that coloring one's hair is probably the easiest of the lot, except for perhaps using sunscreen or putting on night cream. Myself, I like putting blond highlights in my mousy brown hair, but I do not color my grey. I tried doing that about 5 years ago and I don't think it suited me. I think many of the folks I see with grey or white hair now look wonderful, especially if they have a suitable cut or an updated one. Too many of us are wearing the same hairstyles we wore in high school or our 20's and they, along with the harsh-one-color-dye-job, really conspire to make one look frumpy. If folks wanna color their hair, who am I to say they are wrong? As for me, I color my hair for fun (next will be turquoise blue chunky streaks), not to look younger. Surprisingly, the more fun my hair gets, the younger people think I am.

  7. Hair colour can be fun! It does not last forever.

  8. I think yur hair looks lovely. Here in the UK women do not seem so worried about grey hair. In fact, it can be the other way round. I'm 60 this year and still have my natural brown hair colour, and am sometimes treated to little lectures by women I hardly know who think I must be dyeing it!


    1. Thank you. My 61-year old sister-in-law has brown hair and her grandmother never did get grey. It is genetic.

  9. Giving up the colouring has given me freedom. No more panic attacks re the roots showing prior to an unexpected vacation. It was an easy transition for me. What had been dark brown hair had graduated over the years into a pale multi-toned blonde. I knew that I wasn't fooling anyone about my age so I decided to embrace it. JMO, clean well-styled hair is the best look on anyone. It can be whatever colour one wants as long as it's cared for.


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