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Part of me craves colour, particularly in winter. Another part of me is drawn to the shimmering lustre of the absence of colour. I’m not talking about the ethereal glow of untouched snow, as spectacular as that is, but the shining quality of silver filaments as they dance between grey and white, or more simply the natural colour of ageing hair.

I came to hair dyeing quite late. I was just over 30, had recently lost my mother and was not in a happy state of mind. What is more, the grey hairs were proliferating. A head of highlights lifted my mood a little. Five years later the hairdresser talked me into a block colour as the grey hairs were winning out and the highlights were just not covering the signs of ageing. Sleep deprived I acquiesced and regretted it almost immediately. The bore of three-monthly colouring sessions became an absolute chore as I soon realised that all-over colours ‘needs’ touching up every six weeks, then five, four… Only the prospect of months of growing out the dye made me stick with it.

About eighteen months ago I was colouring in my roots every fortnight to cover up the ‘shocking’ white at my temples. I became increasingly resentful of the chemicals I was loading onto my scalp, of the time it took to colour my hair and of the water I was flushing down the drain, not to mention the money. Most of all though, I resented the cult of youth that dictated coloured hair as the only option! (Look around on the street, on television, in magazines… and you begin to realise just how few women sport grey, silver or white hair.)

So a year ago I stopped dyeing all together. There was no big announcement or no easing the way with highlights. I just cut the colour, chemicals and chore out of my routine.

I suspect that in the first few months friends, acquaintances and strangers may have thought “She really needs to get her roots sorted out” but I stopped caring about that by about month three, when I realised just how much colour I still had in my hair. The ‘shocking’ white was limited to the front locks and temples, and actually looked quite interesting. The rest was still dark; admittedly more grey brown than copper blond but dark nonetheless! Had I really gone to all that effort to cover up a few white locks at the front and some natural highlights?

As the months passed, I willed the growth on as I wanted to see more of the white shots and silver strands. They are intrinsically more interesting than the dyed hair. Each fibre seems to refract the light in a slightly different way. And the single strand highlights are more delicate than anything a colourist has ever managed.

A year on most of the dye around my head has gone, with just a few inches left around the jaw and neck. I absolutely love the emerging colours. My hair is now a natural semisolid shade with white locks and silver filaments nestling amongst pewtered brown strands. Most of all I am thrilled that I am embracing my maturing hair on my terms!

Going grey

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This is the second of a series of posts about colour and was inspired by an online conversation I recently had with some lovely knitters about the shades, texture and beauty of naturally ageing hair.

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6 comments
  • Jacqueline Manni December 2, 2015, 6:42 pm

    The greys are looking marvelous! Plural, because as you write, the silvers and pewters, and whites, and ah! So great. I love your shawl too.

    Reply
  • Debra December 3, 2015, 2:52 am

    It looks gorgeous on you!

    Reply
  • Naomi Alexander December 10, 2015, 10:48 am

    Grey really suits you. Before I finished reading the article I was going to suggest using henna (you can get it from Lush in brown, black and red shades) as it is much more natural, good for your hair… but still involves the effort of ‘doing it’.
    My hair is very long (and originally red/auburn) and I’ve been doing my roots with henna for nearly 8 years now (since my mid 30s). The idea of having to grow it all out (and it would take several years) is just too scary!
    Well done for doing it. And a lot less hassle!

    Reply
    • Meg and Gosia December 14, 2015, 11:45 am

      Thanks! I tried the Lush henna way back in my quest for a natural product but alas I had an allergic reaction within seconds. I can’t wait for the grow-out to be done as I want to go long again too. I want to celebrate the silver and grey locks with long wavy hair!

      Reply
  • Janet Holttum January 5, 2016, 10:59 pm

    The natural tones make your features much softer. There is something to be said about aging gracefully.

    Reply
  • Blithespirit March 23, 2016, 9:24 pm

    I’ve just found your blog and have read this post with real interest. I think I recall the discussion about this on ravelry with a few knitters in the Knit British or Brityarn group (can’t remember now) and it really stayed with me. This might sound a bit weird, but participating in the British Breeds swatching and also the nature’s shades KAL has really had me thinking about my own “natural shades”. I too absolutely hate the dyeing process, the time, the mess, the chemicals, the constant worry about it all. I have very dark brown natural hair, almost black and so the white/grey hairs really stand out, but it’s been about two months since I’ve dyed and I’ve made the decision to just stop and embrace my natural shades. I know it will look a bit odd for a while, but I’m going to go for it. So thanks for the nudge – I noticed your new ravelry avatar and you look fantastic with your new shades.

    Reply

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