NOTE: This post was originally published on my previous blog, Recovering Shopaholic.
It’s been over three months since I gave an update on how I’m doing with my gray hair transition, so I thought this would be a good time for me to fill you in on the journey. I’m now at just about the seven month mark and there have been some changes to my transition plan since I last reported on the process back in August. I’m still planning to stay the course, but it definitely hasn’t been easy! In today’s post, I’ll update you on recent new developments and share photos and thoughts on how my transition is progressing.
Since I’ve written quite a few posts about my gray hair transition, I created a new blog category to make it easy to access this content for those who are interested. If you’re pondering the process – or are currently in it – and would like some tips and advice, be sure to check out my “Going Gray & Getting Out of Hair Prison Follow-Up” article, as it is chock full of suggestions from readers and useful links to gray hair transition resources.
My Solution through the Six Month Mark
When I last wrote about my gray transition, I was at the 3.5 month mark and had about two inches of outgrowth (see photos here). At that point, I had gone “cold turkey” from hair dye and was just letting my roots grow out. Consequently, the line of demarcation (a.k.a. the “skunk stripe”) was quite stark. Fortunately, I was able to successfully camouflage it by applying root cover-up powder, which worked surprisingly well.
The photo below shows my gray outgrowth at five months, along with images that were taken before (bottom left) and after (bottom right) I had applied the powder. Because the top of my head where the powder was added lacked the shine of the rest of my hair, I started wearing headbands or headscarves to cover up at least some of that effect.
The root cover powder worked reasonably well through almost six months of my transition. However, it became increasingly unwieldy and cumbersome the more gray outgrowth I needed to cover. I started to see brown spots on my face after brushing my hair and dark patches on my fingers when I touched the top of my head, and I frequently noticed a dark residue on my pillowcase. I knew it wasn’t a viable option to continue using the powder for the entire process, but I kept doing it in the absence of an alternate plan. As I moved into October, I knew I needed to do something else…
No Easy Way to Transition
There is no easy way to transition to gray hair and all of the available options have their drawbacks. The following image has been posted multiple times by a member of the GGG Going Gray Guide Facebook group (who I’m not crediting here because the group is private). It succinctly encapsulates the three main transition alternatives and their downsides:
I started out with option #1, as the thought of doing option #2 was too scary for me. I also thought my hair would surely break off or fall out with option #3, as it was already in bad shape from my health issues and the frequent coloring I’d been doing for years. However, stopping the dyeing and doing multiple deep conditioning treatments helped to restore my hair’s condition. I also learned about a breakthrough product called Olaplex that helps to dramatically reduce the damage of chemical processes.
Making a Risky Choice
Patience is not one of my primary virtues and the idea of letting my “skunk stripe” gradually expand and work its way down my head was quite unsettling for me to contemplate. So after having a consultation with a hairstylist who was recommended to me by someone else who had made the gray transition, I decided to have heavy highlights done from the line of demarcation down. This was almost exactly a month ago when I was at the six-month point in my transition process.
The stylist cautioned me that I would likely need two or three rounds of highlights because I was starting out with such dark hair and that I would need to wait at least a month between services. After approximately four hours in the salon and a big chunk of change (I definitely don’t miss the time and money commitment of hair coloring!), I emerged looking like this:
As you can see (I tried my best to get accurate photos outdoors), the line of demarcation was much less obvious, but I didn’t like the overall color of my hair. I felt that the highlights looked “brassy” and orange-ish, whereas I was hoping they would be more of an ashy color. I spoke to the stylist about this and went back in to have a few highlights in the front redone and a toner applied to the full length of my hair. Toner helps to mitigate brassiness and even out hair tones – and it made a big difference. It’s a demi-permanent process, so it will wash out over time (thus, it will need to be re-done periodically), but here’s how my hair looks now, a few weeks later:
Even with the Olaplex, my hair was still pretty dry from the highlights, particularly at the ends. Luckily, the at-home formulation of Olaplex has worked like a charm to restore moisture, so my hair feels much the same as it did prior to having the highlights done. Still, I want to wait longer to do another round, both for the condition of my hair and so I can emotionally adjust to the lighter hair color.
The Emotional Adjustment
I find myself missing my dark hair and it feels sad to look at myself and think that I will never have dark hair again. I don’t love my current hair color, but it’s a midpoint on the journey to my natural silver hair, which I believe I will like better. I feel that darker hair and silver hair are better matches for my coloring and personal style than the current in-between warmer shade. Since my skin tone is cool and I almost exclusively wear cool-hued clothing, my hair clashes somewhat with both my complexion and my clothes.
I can’t expect the color to be perfect, but I think the highlights will make the transition easier and perhaps additional highlights will help me to like my hair more as it grows out. I do plan to cut more hair off later down the line, but for now I’m sticking with one to two inch trims every few months. Once I have more outgrowth, I may opt for a more dramatic chop so that I have more “virgin” hair than dyed hair on my head.
I’m still not 100% convinced this is all going to work out, but I have to at least try. I see so many lovely silver heads of hair in the gray transition Facebook groups, but I’m still skeptical as to whether I will look good with my natural hair color. I also worry that my gray hair might yellow from regular flat-ironing, which I can’t see myself not doing. I know there are ways of both preventing this and dealing with it, but it’s still a concern. I’m taking things as they come, but I’m proud to have gone seven months thus far with no permanent color. It’s a relief not to have to “chase roots” constantly like I was, but I do struggle when I see myself with this lighter hair.
Some Final Thoughts
I’m hoping I’ll get used to it and end up loving the gray. So many women in the gray groups do, but I can’t help but think there are many others who either leave the groups (and perhaps color their hair again) or don’t voice their discontent with their new look. There is definite peer pressure in the groups and many of the members are like ex-smokers who hate smoking more than those who never smoked.
A lot of women in the groups write about how hair dye looks ugly and unnatural. Yes, that can be true sometimes, but I wonder if perhaps they’re saying such things to try to convince themselves as much as others. I believe in live and let live and that we all have to do what’s right for us. I don’t want to become a gray hair evangelist, but I do want to encourage people to at least question what they’re doing to make sure it’s right for them. Peer pressure is not a good reason to either dye or not dye.
If I do ever decide to go back to coloring my hair (which I don’t think I will), I hope I won’t view it as a “failure.” Some women in the groups have gone back to dyeing and were very sheepish about it. I think that as long as one makes an informed and empowered decision, it can be the right thing to do in either instance. I feel that even if one goes back to dyeing, it was still a “success” to have given it a go, as it was a way of questioning the status quo, much like with any change we make in life. I’m proud of myself for doing this, especially since it’s not easy and I live in appearance-conscious Southern California. I don’t know how it’s all going to turn out, but we never do with any chance we take in life. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?