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Yes, It's Intentional: My Story of Grrowing Out My Natural Gray Hair

a woman with salt and pepper hair pulled back into a ponytail

Author's note - This post was originally published on another platform in 2012 - you may notice a distinct difference in photo quality as data was lost when the blog migrated platforms.

Okay, so we should talk about the hair. My hair, to be exact. I get a lot of questions about it, so I'll give it to you straight. I have gray hair. I am a young person with gray hair. Well, almost. It's not quite done cookin' yet - about another three inches of dye to grow out.

Granted, maybe I'm not young...not like, Justin Bieber young, but young enough. And yes, it is on purpose.  I have been off "the bottle" now for over a year. But unlike other people who kick the bottle, I am not going around and apologizing for it. Au contraire. I'm quite proud of it, actually. Here. Proud enough to post all of these less-than-flattering photos on the internet. Below I've documented the progression.


Transitioning to My Natural Gray Hair

A woman with a very clear two inches of natural salt and pepper gray regrowth after stopping dying her hair
A side view of a woman with three to four inches of grey regrowth after stopping using hair dye
A woman with 5 to 6 inches of natural salt and pepper regrowth after stopping using hair dye
A woman with about six or seven inches of natural virgin gray hair with the dyed ends still visible
A woman with natural salt and pepper gray regrowth of her hair all the way to her chin after stopping the hair dye

So. You are undoubtedly asking yourself why. Why would a young(ish) person want to have gray hair? It is something I get asked a lot. I understand the confusion, really I do....societal norms and all that baloney. But I would also like to remind the public at large that this is haircolor that we are talking about here. I have not made the announcement that I am planning on gaining fifty pounds and taking up chain-smoking, I am simply changing my haircolor. And really, I wish I had a better rationale for doing it than I do, but my initial reason for letting my natural gray hair show really boils down to the fact that I thought it would look cool. Nothing more, nothing less. Pure vanity, people. Really.

This may seem counterintuitive, but let me explain. A gal's gray hair will grow out in a pattern that is unique to her and her alone. I will not see myself coming and going when I walk down the street.  I will look different, unique, and a little bit like I am thumbing my nose at convention. At least, that is what I am hoping.  Is it ego-driven? Absolutley. But I like the confused looks and the double-takes at my head that I get when I walk down the street (and I do get them). They're fun. It's like being famous for a wee second but without having to date John Mayer.

A Supermodel with Natural Gray Hair as Inspiration

The realisation that I could be free of dye and still retain a chic, edgy style (today's mid-blog photo notwithstanding) dawned on me after seeing the August 2010 issue of the U.S. and Italian editions of Vogue magazine. specifically, this photo.

Supermodel Kristen McMenamy with long gray hair, as seen in Vogue Italia,  August 2010 issue

I mean, look at that, people. That is the awesome Kristen McMenamy (you may remember her from the of the first supermodels to do the "no eyebrows" thing). She is well into her 40s.  Whether you love it or hate it, the awesomeness and impact of this editorial cannot be denied. And if you think that one is amazing, get a load of this.

Kristen McMenamy on the cover of Vogue Italia August 2010
A black and white shot of Kristen McMenamy in Vogue Italia, August 2010

That is Vogue Italia (also August 2010), and that is why Steven Meisel is Steven Meisel. Vogue Italia really sets the bar for haute-editorials. This editorial is titled Water and Oil, and it is a commentary on the oil spill that happened right about that time. If you are a fan of fashion photography and you have not seen it in its entirety, you really must, it's breathtaking.

So I thought to myself, I can do that! "Real" women (sarcasm) can achieve this! It's easy. And even better, it's a look that is easy to maintain as we get into our 50s and 60s. No more pink glow off of your roots when you go into the bright daylight with your dyed hair. No more brassiness next to your face. No more wig like, over-styled helmet head from so many colourings. I could hardly wait to get started and, well....basically do nothing to my hair.  Ready, set...wait. It's okay. I was in the military. I know how to hurry up and wait. I'm good at it...mostly.

Communities Encouraging Women to Rock the Silver

And as it turns out, I am not alone at this. There is a whole community online that are doing the same. Check out the Facebook community for Going Gray Looking Great for others just like me. This community was established after the book Going Gray, Looking Great!: The Modern Woman's Guide to Unfading Glory by Diana Jewell inspired the women of the world to ditch the dye and go natural. You should see some of the amazingly beautiful Real Gals and their silvery manes of glory.

So there it is. No major health scare or emotional trauma. No allergic reactions or religious restriction. And to answer the most frequently-asked question that I No,  I'm not afraid that my hair will make me look older, because as Gloria Steinem once said "this is what forty looks like, we've been lying for so long, who would know?."


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