Full Life Reflections

Striving for happiness, peace, and fulfillment in a chaotic world

NOTE:  I have done more recent updates on my gray hair transition HERE and HERE. Also, click here to view all of my posts about this topic.

 

It’s been well over a year since I last gave an update on my gray hair transition process. Although I was on a blogging hiatus for ten months during that time frame, I wasn’t in a hurry to address this topic once I started up this new blog. In truth, I have been dreading writing this post. No, I haven’t gone back to coloring my hair every four weeks like before, but I have made many mistakes along the way. At first, I wasn’t going to write about this at all and I even considered deleting my previous gray hair transition posts. However, I ultimately decided to write this difficult update in the hope that I might potentially save even one woman from going through what I have.

do's and don'ts for gray hair transition

I have done more don’ts that do’s during my gray hair transition…

I’m publishing this post on the two-year anniversary of the last time I colored my roots. I should be done or almost done with the transition process by this time (hair grows an average of half an inch per month), but I’m not. The reason I’m not done transitioning stems from my not being in the right headspace to take on this journey in the first place. I wasn’t ready to fully embrace the process because I was afraid of looking bad and receiving strange looks or negative comments from others. Ironically, those fears only served to make things worse for me, as you will soon learn. The type of deep-seated insecurities I wrote about back in 2014 led to a series of missteps that have made the going gray process harder and significantly set back my progress.

In today’s post, I give a recap of the steps I have taken during my lengthy gray hair transition process. I also share some not-so-flattering photos of my hair at various points in the journey. Warning – this is a very long post that I considered breaking into two parts, but I think it works better as a single long essay. If you’re not interested in the topic of gray hair transition, feel free to skip this one, as I will be back next week with a different topic.

Painful to Write About

When my gray hair transition posts were on Recovering Shopaholic, they were among my most viewed articles. After I decided not to delete them, I moved them over to Full Life Reflections because they are a better fit for this new blog’s focus of striving for happiness, peace, and fulfillment in a chaotic world. I know there are many women who are considering growing out their natural hair, so I’m going to share all that I’ve done wrong in order to potentially save them from making similar mistakes. There is no one right way to “go gray,” but I think I’ve taken just about every wrong step a person can take along this path.

Because I’m not done yet and I have many regrets, this is still a very painful thing for me to write about. I think most of the critics and trolls from my last blog haven’t followed me over here, so hopefully I won’t be raked over the coals for my stupidity, but I’m taking the risk because I wish I had read this type of post myself two years ago. I have cried many tears and although I know that it’s ultimately “just hair,” I care a lot (too much…) about what I look like. It’s been hard to go through this process, especially since I have a tendency to be extremely hard on myself and accept too much responsibility when things go wrong. If you opt to comment, please be kind, as I have already flogged myself more times than I can count for the way I have mishandled this.

There is No Easy Way to Transition

I shared the passage below in my last update and while I believed these sentiments back then, I’m even more convinced of their veracity now.

3 choices for gray hair transition

It’s not easy to transition to gray hair, no matter what you do! 

There is no easy and painless way to transition to gray hair. It’s not for the faint of heart and anyone who opts to do it will need to compromise in one way or another. Even women who aren’t particularly vain struggle with letting their natural hair grow out. After all, our hair is like an accessory that we never take off and it either complements or detracts from every single outfit we wear. “Going gray” is a big commitment no matter what and one needs to be in the right frame of mind before starting the process. I wasn’t, although I believed I was at the time. In truth, I never fully committed to this journey until quite recently, believe it or not (more on that in the sections that follow).

My First Big Mistake – Highlights

The last time I did a gray hair transition update was in November 2016, when I had recently gotten a full head of highlights to try to camouflage the line of demarcation, aka the “skunk stripe.” That was my first big mistake. I know that some women have used highlights successfully during their transition process, but I’ve learned that it’s both risky and challenging to highlight dark dyed hair, especially hair that’s as porous as mine. The results are often much better on either natural hair (whether dark or light) or lighter dyed hair.

I started out with dyed dark auburn hair and the highlights left me with brassy, orange-ish hair that clashed with my cool complexion and cool-toned clothing. It wasn’t at all the effect that I desired or was expecting. The line of demarcation was definitely less noticeable, but I soon learned that there are worse hair looks than a “skunk stripe.” Not only did my newly bleached hair clash with both my complexion and clothing, it didn’t harmonize at all with my salt and pepper outgrowth.

before and after my first round of highlights

Before and after my first round of highlights – brassy even with toner

The stylist who did the highlights said that the brassiness was there because she couldn’t bleach my hair light enough the first time, for fear of my hair breaking off (which is a real danger, as vividly illustrated in this video). Even though she used a breakthrough product called Olaplex to dramatically reduce damage from bleaching, it was still risky to use as many foils (close to 100!) as she did. She told me that I would need one or two more rounds of highlights in order to eliminate the brassiness.

My Second Big Mistake – More Highlights

I didn’t know what to do at that point. I was already eight months into the process and had spent quite a bit of money on the highlights. I was extremely unhappy with how my hair looked and I wondered if I should just dye it as close to my natural (non-gray) color as possible and start over. In retrospect, that would have been a better way to go, but instead I opted to get a second full head of highlights in December 2016. The end result was lighter, but still a far cry from an ash blonde shade that would complement my outgrowth. Sadly, it still looked very warm-toned, especially after the short-lived toner applied after the highlights washed out. I went back in for more toner, but it never lasted more than one or two shampoos, so I gave up on both toning the highlights and that particular hairstylist.

after my second highlight and two weeks later

After my second round of highlights and two weeks later – toner didn’t last

As time went on, my hair got brassier and brassier. In February 2017, I was referred to a color correction specialist for a consultation about fixing my hair. Sadly, he told me that all of the processing had left my hair too damaged to do what was necessary (more highlights, as well as lowlights) to produce a more pleasing result. My hair just couldn’t handle any more bleaching at that point. Unsure what else to do, I tried to just keep letting it grow out, but I hated the brassy color with a fervent passion.

brassy highlights - February 2017

By February 2017, my highlights had gotten very brassy and looked quite orange! 

My Third Big Mistake – “Toning”

By April 2017, I couldn’t stand my “orange hair” any longer, so I visited a stylist who uses organic color to see if there was anything she could do for me. She tested a toner blend on the colored portions of my hair and it did a great job of neutralizing the brassiness. Because it was a darker toner than that used after the highlights, I thought it might have some staying power. I loved the effect, but sadly it only lasted until the next time I washed my hair. The expensive and time-consuming process was washed down the drain and the brass was back. I returned to the stylist and she toned my hair using what she called permanent color, but it didn’t last either and I was left with the warm tones once again.

 

before and after toner

Toner helped to eliminate the brassy, orange color of my hair.

toner faded after just one wash

Unfortunately, the toner quickly faded – this is before and after just one wash!

Not long after these disappointing processes, I was contacted by a former stylist out of the blue on Facebook. I told her about the problems I was experiencing with my brassy highlights and she offered to help me. She tested a few formulas on my hair and found one that worked well and would last for at least a few weeks. In order to save me money, she applied the “toner” at the shampoo bowl and I left the salon with wet hair. I liked the way my hair looked after this process and my plan at the time was to continue doing it until my hair grew out enough to cut off the brassy highlights.

Why Not Just Cut it Short?

You may wonder why I didn’t just cut my hair short to get rid of the orange. It may have been the “lesser evil,” but I didn’t think so at the time. While it isn’t obvious in my photos, I have very difficult and unruly hair. It behaves better with some length and weight to it. It’s not curly enough to look good worn “natural” and I have a lot of frizz, so it works best to wash it infrequently and flat-iron it straight. I shuddered to think about how unmanageable my hair might be during a pixie grow-out process.

Also, having long hair is a big part of my identity and I was already struggling a lot with self-esteem issues related to life transitions and menopause. I thought that adding short, gray hair to the mix might have been too much for me to handle along with aging, body changes, and hormonal weight gain. That may not have actually been true, but that was my thought process at the time. In retrospect, I should have been more willing to compromise and at least cut the brassiest bottom portion of my hair off. But as is often said, hindsight is 20/20.

My Fourth Big Mistake – Lubricity

Now we come to the final mistake I made with my gray hair transition. I mentioned above that I have unruly and frizzy hair. I have tried various chemical straightening treatments over the years and they either didn’t work well or caused an allergic reaction. I was hesitant to try anything like that again, but last summer I heard about Lubricity, a new naturally-derived system that a chemist in Louisiana had developed for his young daughter’s unmanageable hair. I investigated this product further and asked my hairstylist if she thought it might be a good option for me. We agreed to try it in late August at my next toning appointment.

But before I get into this, here are some photos of how my hair looked in July/August 2017, when I was still getting toner every three weeks. You can see that I have a lot of nice outgrowth on the top of my head and underneath. The side view shows how long my roots had grown out, although the color is somewhat obscured by the presence of toner. The ends were still quite brassy, though, and I wish I would have been more willing to cut those off and sacrifice some length. That way, I could have had the toner done less frequently or stopped it altogether.

my hair in July 2017

This is what my hair looked like in July 2017 – pulled back and wearing a hat. 

august 2017 front and side views

Here I am in August 2017 – you can see the outgrowth more clearly in the side view.

A lot of things went wrong with the Lubricity process. First, the stylist applied my toner after the Lubricity instead of before it as was recommended. She said she did this to be cautious, but after blow-drying my hair at home, I noticed that it had a light purple tinge to it! The stylist offered to fix it for free a week later (to give my hair some time to “rest” between processes), but it ended up looking worse after that. She got rid of the purple, but my hair was left looking almost completely reddish-brown, with only a few inches of gray roots on the top of my head instead of the eight to nine inches of regrowth I should have had by that time. Like she’d done previously even after I had asked her not to, the stylist applied the toner too high into my outgrowth. I was concerned because it looked like the toner wasn’t completely washing out or fading between my appointments (as you can see in the August side view above). The stylist assured me that it did indeed wash out with the “detox shampoo” she used at the shampoo bowl, but I never saw that effect myself.

The Lubricity did make my hair more smooth and manageable, but I also had an adverse reaction to it with a sore throat and severe congestion. Although those symptoms passed after several days, the “toner” did not fade as I washed my hair over the following weeks. I started to panic and tried using clarifying shampoo, dandruff shampoo, and even dishwashing detergent, but nothing removed that color.  I tried to get to the bottom of it, but neither the stylist nor Lubricity accepted responsibility for the result I got (although Lubricity did refund my money). My gray hair transition process was set back by many months and there was nothing I could do about it except cry, which I did many times.

Needless to say, I was very angry at that stylist and am no longer going to her, but the damage was done. I continued to try to get the color out of my hair for months, to no avail. All that happened was that it faded from brown to red to orange to gold. I stopped taking pictures of my gray hair transition process and considered aborting the whole journey over a year and a half into it. But I ultimately didn’t want to go back to coloring, so I had to cut my losses, dry my tears, and carry on. You have no idea how much I wish I could turn back the clock and avoid getting Lubricity and the supposed color “fix.” I deeply regret doing those processes, as well as both rounds of highlights and the toners that either didn’t last long or were supposed to wash out but didn’t. I also regret trusting multiple hairstylists who I thought were helping me but often ended up making things worse (even though that wasn’t their intent). And finally, I regret trying to use color to aid in my journey to stop coloring. I should have known that was a bad idea from the start.

At the Two Year Mark…

So here I am today at the two year mark, roughly eight months after the Lubricity fiasco, and I’m carrying on with my journey. If I pull back the top section of my hair, it looks pretty good, as the staining was mostly confined to that layer (probably because that’s the most porous part). I have had three haircuts in the past eight months and have gotten a lot of the brassiest parts cut off. My hair is shorter than I’d like it to be at present, but I’m finally willing to make some compromises I wasn’t willing for earlier on.

If I put my hair in a ponytail, it looks very “salt and peppery” now. Last month, I went to a kiosk at the mall to try to buy extensions that match my hair to help ease the process. They tried a few variations on me, but I didn’t think they matched my outgrowth well enough to buy them. I’m actually not as gray as I thought I was when I first started growing my hair out. I did ask them to take photos, though, so I’m including those below (I’m not sure I’d want to wear that puffy of a “messy bun” anyway…).

trying out extensions in March 2018

I tried to find extensions in March 2018, but nothing matched very well. 

When my hair is down, it doesn’t look all that different from the photos above from last July/August, but the ends are now more gold than red/orange. Of course, my hair should look a lot different than it did eight months ago, so I have to make up for quite a bit of time. I’m upset and demoralized about this, but what can I do? Eventually I will be done transitioning, but it’s going to take much longer than I thought.

The Goal in Mind

At Christmas time, I asked my stepson to Photoshop a picture of me to show what I’ll look like when this long, arduous process is finally over with. This photo isn’t a perfect rendition, but it has been helpful, as it allows me to visualize the end goal and keep my eye on the prize.

what I will look like when it's all grown out

The end result in mind (my stepson’s Chinese Crested is on my lap)

I think I will look great when it’s done – and I can’t wait!  At this point, I’m planning to keep doing small cuts until all of the remaining color is gone, but I’m not sure how long that will take. Then I will start growing my hair long enough to have a gray braid that cascades over my shoulder (kind of like this). It may take me until late 2019 or 2020 to accomplish that goal, but it will happen!

The Bottom Line – What I Would Do Differently

I would do many things differently if I had this to do over again. If I were to offer any advice, I would recommend the following:

  • Don’t do highlights, especially if you have dark dyed hair or highly porous hair (here’s how to tell if your hair is porous).
  • Low-lights to help break up the line of demarcation early in the process might be helpful, but just do this once or twice and then stop using color altogether.
  • Cut off as much as you’re comfortable with as soon as possible. If you struggle with losing length, just do small trims every couple of months as your hair grows out – those little bits add up over time!
  • If you like short hair or are willing to experiment, this is probably the best way to make the transition, as you will be done much sooner. I have read about some people who ended up loving the short hair look and kept it for a while.

Many women try more than once to grow out their natural hair and that’s okay. Sometimes we think we’re ready and we’re really not. If you want to keep coloring your hair until the day you die and you have no adverse effects from it, then more power to you. This is an individual choice that each of us has to make for ourselves. I’m still glad I decided to do it, even though I’ve done so many things wrong. I’m still proud of myself for taking this step and I think my health has benefited from not putting harsh chemicals on my scalp every four weeks. My nerve pain has dramatically improved and because I’m chemically sensitive, I think not coloring my hair anymore is the best choice for me. Yes, I have continued to use color during this process, but I haven’t put it on my scalp for two years now, which is at least one thing I’ve done right.

I’m going to try not to beat myself up for this anymore and I’m going to try to forgive myself for the mistakes I’ve made as well. I know I also need to forgive the hairstylists who I still harbor anger and resentment towards. Actually, my next post will be on the topic of forgiveness, so stay tuned. Hopefully, it won’t be quite as long as this essay!

192 thoughts on “Gray Hair Transition – Don’t Do What I Did!

  1. Marilyn says:

    Well today I stepped into the same disaster. I am upset beyond belief. I had highlights initially and really loved them. My grey was coming in and I loved it. My stylist convinced me against my better judgment ( having read your blog earlier) to integrate the front grey. I said NO nothing on the grey in front because i love it as is…but somehow she did it anyway. I don’t even know what color to call it its so incredibly ugly. I am not ready to cut my hair off and so I think I’m just going to have to live this one out and not let anyone touch my hair with color again no matter how ugly the fading is. I am so mad at myself for ignoring my instincts and for allowing this person to cross the line when my instinct against it was so very strong. Hats, scarfs and who the hell knows what else. Oh yes, self compassion. What else to do right?

    1. Naomi says:

      It’s amazing isn’t it, when you are sat in that hairdresser’s chair you suddenly seem to lose all your power and go with what they want to do and not what you want. I am growing out henna, which is a bit of a blessing because as soon as I tell them the red bits are henna they just say: Oh, yeah… gonna have to let that grow out. (Henna is great for your hair but does not play well with others! – and most hairdressers are only aware of henna with compounds, not body-art completely-natural henna, which folks have been using for thousands of years) – but I feel so bad for you. It’s probably not as bad as you think it is (lookswise) but it’s that anger you feel at having been pushed into something you knew you didn’t want. After going shorter and shorter, I had a pixie-cut today (and still lots of red – it’s taking ages to grow out) but feel like I’m over the hump now (5 months since last henna application) – hopefully by March I can start the regrowing phase. Long silk scarves (wound round my head) and big earrings have been my friends though! Good luck. You’ll get there. Big virtual hugs from a fellow going-grey-er !

      1. Debbie Roes says:

        Thanks for sharing your compassion and words of wisdom with Marilyn, Naomi. Those of us who are struggling with this process need to stick together and you gave her some excellent advice. Yes, it’s probably a blessing for you that you couldn’t apply dye over the henna in your hair, as you didn’t fall prey to bad highlights like Marilyn and I did. But I know the process is still challenging for you. Glad to hear that you’re over the hump now, though, and good for you for taking the plunge to get a pixie cut. You will be done THAT much sooner as a result. Wishing you all the best with the remainder of your transition and keep rocking the scarves and big earrings!

    2. Debbie Roes says:

      Marilyn, I’m SO sorry that you have experienced something similar to what I went through. I think a lot of stylists don’t really know how to help women navigate this process, as it’s a relative new thing to go gray (especially at a younger age). I hated the color of my hair, too, after my highlights went brassy, but like you I didn’t want to cut my hair short.

      Doing regular cuts will help (even if it’s just an inch at a time), as each time you get some of the brass cut off, you will feel a bit better. Depending on the color of your hair, either purple or blue shampoo can also help to tone down the brassiness, but it’s often necessary to leave it on longer than usual and/or to apply it to dry hair (it can also be very drying, so you’ll have to condition well afterwards). Hats and scarves are also useful tools to help you get through, and self-compassion is critical.

      It’s not your fault this happened to you! Yes, you willingly sat in the chair, but it’s natural to trust a stylist, especially if we have gone to them for years. We think they will know what to do and I don’t think they acted maliciously or wanted to leave us with a brassy mess, but it’s wrong for them to do a process that wasn’t requested, as it sounds like happened to you. Please try to forgive yourself and move on. I know full well how hard that is and how difficult the entire process is. You WILL get through it, even though it will take a while. There is peace on the other side of a gray hair transition. Wishing you strength and fortitude and an end result that you’re happy with.

    3. Kamie says:

      You just wrote my story!!! This exact thing happened to me 2 days ago – I’m literally sick to my stomach , I keep telling myself WHY!! WHY did I do that I had come so far to now being set back!! I read and read so many stories of how you can do this and how you can do that to transition to gray/silver – I going old school – I’m gonna find some cute scarves and hats ( thank goodness spring/summer are coming up) . Like you I wish I had read this article 2 days ago – I’ve cried and cried but now I have to accept what it is and move forward naturally.

      1. Debbie Roes says:

        I’m so sorry that you have had a similar experience to both Marilyn and me, Kamie. I can really identify with the sick to your stomach feeling you describe, as well as the crying. I think that going “old school” is the best approach and the scarves and hats will definitely help. I know it’s hard to accept such a rough setback. It took me a very, very long time. But the good news is that hair DOES grow and eventually you will be past this difficult time. I wish you strength along the way. Keep remembering WHY you’re doing this, as it will help you get through to the other side. Also, take things one day at a time. I know it can sound trite, but that’s really how I made it through.

    4. Monica says:

      Thank you all for sharing your struggles. I am crossing over to month 7 mark and can appreciate everything said
      about the going full on grey dilemma. I think it will take me a full year and a half, maybe two years and I plan on just biting the bullet and let it come it on it’s own. Actually, I went straight to shiny white instead of grey, so I am intrigued on how it will ultimately work. Thank you for the humbling comments and keep in mind it is only hair.

      1. Debbie Roes says:

        It sounds like you have a good attitude, Monica. Good to you for taking the plunge and just growing your hair out cold turkey. The more outgrowth you get, the more you’ll be able to envision the end result. If your outgrowth is shiny white, I’m sure it will look beautiful!

  2. Gigi says:

    Thanks for documenting your journey!! It does truly help to see what others have gone through and to assist in making some decisions about your own hair. I am currently in the process of going gray. About 9 months in, I had a rinse applied. It was supposed to wash out in 8-9 weeks, but never did. It was one of those decisions I made because I was going away and really wanted to look good, but I regretted it in the end because it didn’t wash out as expected. I can see where it faded a bit, but that’s about all. So, it’s been about 6 months and I really need a haircut. The ends are dead and the bottom color is turning really light. So my plan is to go and get about 4 inches cut off and then do some low lights. I definitely do not want to that rinse again. So thanks again for the great info on what to do and not do. Oh and by the way, your hair is looking great!!!

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      I’m so glad you found this post helpful, Gigi. I’m sorry you experienced something similar to what I went through with that rinse that didn’t wash out. I think these rinses and toners will wash out of some women’s hair, but for those of us who have more porous hair, they can hang on for dear life and really set back our progress. Part of why I wrote this post was to warn women of what MIGHT occur for them. I hope that after you get your haircut and low lights (be careful not to do too many of those, as they can turn brassy for some people), you will feel better about your hair. Although some women get very “zen” about the transition process, it’s tough for a lot of us and since going gray hasn’t been very common until more recently, there isn’t a lot of consistent help and guidance out there. I hope the rest of your process will go more smoothly and that you love the finished result. Thanks for your kind words about my hair. If you’re referring to the photo at the end of this post, that was a Photoshop that my stepson did to help me see how my hair might look in the end. I posted more recent photos at the end of this post: https://fulllifereflections.com/2019/02/20/gray-hair-transition-changing-the-narrative/ It’s not as gray as I had hoped, but I’m grateful not to have to chase roots and that the brassy dye is gone now.

  3. Kelly Graham says:

    I would like to see someone that’s growing out there gray that’s not young like these women ! They all look
    To be in there 40 s and there gray or graying looks good on them !! Where are the lady’s in there 60 s like
    Me !!???

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      I’m in my 50’s, Kelly, but thank you for saying I look like I’m in my 40’s. There are many women of all ages who are transitioning to gray hair these days. If you search for “gray hair transition” or a similar phrase on Facebook and Instagram, you will find lots of groups and accounts to follow and you’ll see lots of women over 60 as well as those of us who are a bit (or a lot) younger. Best wishes to you with your transition, if you decide to take it on.

    2. Patricia Lucas says:

      Indeed. Many of us only start to consider transitioning after 60 or 65 (even later for others). As a 40-55 year old still deep in career mode colouring is likely and practical. Please show OLDER women in this process.

      1. Debbie Roes says:

        This is not a gray hair transition blog, Patricia. It’s my personal blog on which I write about many different topics. I did a handful of posts on my gray hair transition process to try to offer some perspective and advice for those looking to go gray, so the stories and pictures about “going gray” here only relate to me (I’m 53). But Katie of Katie Goes Platinum has featured a lot of transition stories from women of various ages. You can check out those stories here: https://katiegoesplatinum.com/category/silver-hair-transition-stories/ Best wishes to you!

  4. Sue says:

    Thank you for “taking one for the team” and sharing the mistakes made along the way! I’m researching options and I can’t decide if “now” is right. I turned 60 last month and I always thought my age would determine when to gray. I have dark brunette hair while my mother and two older sisters were blonde so their experiences are not very helpful. I’m going to follow your advice and do an one of two low-lights in the beginning and chop off hair from shoulder to chin length. “If you can’t be a good example then at least be a terrible warning!” Thank you again!

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      You’re welcome, Sue. I’m glad that my mistakes have helped to save others from doing what I did. Yes, it’s a difficult decision to make. It took me a couple of years to be ready to make the leap, but I still didn’t know what I was really in for. It’s definitely harder for those of us with darker hair, as the contrast is far more pronounced. If you cut your hair shorter and don’t mess around with highlights or toners like I did, your transition time will be decreased. Yes, I was a “terrible warning” for sure, but now you and others won’t be and I’m grateful for that. Best wishes to you and may you have strength to see the transition through. There is peace and freedom on the other side!

    2. Rhonda says:

      I am a stylist colorist an have read this. The whole process is different for everyone depending on porosity length etc. We are now discovering ways to go grey now that is so much easier. Dont give up. Talk to a stylist that will work with you for a few weeks. It’s never something g that should be done in one day and olaplex has turned out to be the best thing to use with lightener. We have classes and new cir lines to make this process simpler and cir removers and e excellent 5 minute toners and color shampoo. This is new for hair pros too, so remember that.

      1. Debbie Roes says:

        Thanks for your comment, Rhonda. I’m glad that more stylists are learning how to help their clients successfully transition to gray hair. I worked with quite a few stylists throughout my process and none of them really knew what to do. The stylist who did my highlights used Olaplex, which helped to prevent damage to my hair, but the brassiness still happened. I wish that the porosity issue would have been brought up and discussed. My whole purpose for writing this post and my others on gray hair was to make sure women are aware of potential issues so they can make more informed decisions. I know that many women don’t have the types of issues I experienced when they used color to help them transition, but it’s important to know what CAN happen. I think that doing patch tests can help to prevent disasters, but that also adds time to the process and requires patience. I wish I would have done that, though. Live and learn… Hopefully in time, no one will have to go through what I did as stylists learn more about both techniques and potential pitfalls.

  5. Lauren says:

    Hi! I came across this article (and your blog) while researching my options for growing my grey hair out. I’m so glad I read this! I was planning on getting some highlights to blend into my ‘skunk stripe’ (a very white stripe, yikes!) but my hair is dry, frizzy and fragile. I’ve been dying my hair since I began going grey at age 20 – I am now 40 and am sick of keeping up with the dye and having my hair chemically treated.

    Anyway, thanks so much for the great post, and the valuable info. I am now going to just deal with my ever-growing white stripe and get trims as needed. 🙂

    1. Naomi says:

      Good for you. I wouldn’t even recommend cutting it all off – unless you know that it suits you. I went for the pixie crop (via, bob and shorter) and am now trying to deal with curly hair that is too short to curl! Solve one problem (getting rid of most of the colour) and end up with another one! Good luck with your transition :o)

      1. Rhonda says:

        Use a flat iron. It will surprise you.

        1. Naomi says:

          Hi Rhonda. Thanks for the tip – I think a flat iron is what we call straighteners here in the UK? Sadly, I can’t use those because I do Curly Girl Method – for nearly a year now, so my hair is in pristine condition (no SLS, no silicones, no heat, ditched the hairbrush etc) and one of the things keeping me going is the knowledge that I might be able to get through 2020 without the need for any trims – so hopefully I can grow the full 6 inches (12 months) – although it won’t look that long – curls = shrinkage!

    2. Debbie Roes says:

      I’m glad you found my site, too, Lauren, and I’m happy that you found what I had to say valuable. A lot of stylists will recommend highlights, but that often results in THREE-toned hair rather than just TWO-toned hair, and the highlights will often turn brassy. My hair was also very dry, frizzy, and fragile, but it’s SO much healthier now that I’m not longer dyeing it every four weeks. I actually have much better hair than I thought I did, and you may find the same.

      I found that gradual cuts were the best way to go, like an inch or two every few months. That allows you to see progress and celebrate more dyed hair being cut off without the type of huge adjustment that Naomi mentioned. Some people are very adventurous with their hair and have no problem doing the pixie, but I knew it wasn’t for me. The color change was enough! Best wishes to you with this process. I hope you learn new things about yourself along the way and end up with lovely silver hair in the end.

  6. Libby says:

    Appreciate these tips! I have naturally ash or dark blond hair and have highlighted sometimes low lighted it for years. It’s below my shoulders. I have been noticing more brassiness in between color treatments recently – I go every 6 weeks. I brag to my adult kids “there’s no grey!”
    Well, I’ve been actually wanting it to go grey and tonight I’m officially seeing grey in my temples and a few strands! I’m 52 and with an olive complexion.Have 4 grown adults kids and 3 grand kids. My mother had gorgeous silver hair. Is it impossible for a good stylist to “transition “ me through this process?
    I always assumed I would start weaving grey/silver into my hair until it all grew out.. but are you saying even with blonds it doesn’t work that way?? Like you, my nice hair is part of my identity- Like you, cutting it short would be a disaster!! Too frizzy—
    Help what’s my next move? Highlights lowlights silver or just play it safe?

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      If you have blonde dyed hair and not a lot of gray, Libby, your transition should be relatively easy (as these things go). I don’t recommend highlights because what they usually do is add another color into the mix such that there are then THREE colors (natural gray, dyed hair, and highlighted hair) on your head instead of just two. To keep highlights light and ashy can be challenging, as they have a tendency to skew warm, just as a lot of all-over colors (single process color) do. This doesn’t happen to everyone and it happens in degrees, but it just adds more complexity to the transition process.

      There ARE talented stylists who can help women transition using color (check out Jack Martin on Instagram – he did Jane Fonda’s hair for the Oscars and has a lot of other examples in his feed), but even then, the maintenance can be challenging and expensive (not to mention the expense of the initial process, which can take 7-10 hours or more!). I think that “playing it safe” is the way to go for most women. If you’re blonde with not a lot of gray, it will be easier and there won’t be much of a line of demarcation. You don’t need to cut it short. Just do more trims than usual to get the dyed pieces cut off. Hope this helps! Good luck with making the best choice for you.

  7. Biddy says:

    You’re an inspiration! Thank you for sharing your journey, and helping women like me avoid tough and expensive pitfalls. I am off to the hairdresser this week to break the news to her that I am letting my greys grow. I vow to be strong in that chair, and hope to come away with toned down brassy bits and a choppy short bob!

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      Biddy, thanks for your comment and congratulations on making the choice to let your natural hair shine! I’m glad that reading about my journey (and many mistakes…) was helpful for you. It sounds like you have a good path laid out for yourself and are resolved in your decision. The fact that you’re going to go shorter with your haircut will help to make the process easier. It will still have its challenges and ups and downs, I’m sure, but before too long you will be free of hair dye and hopefully happy with your natural silver color. Best wishes!

  8. Susan D says:

    Why do we all have to go through this? I did something very similar about five years ago, and I had short hair at the time. But I really wanted to be done coloring, and to go gray. I also fell prey to a (very young) hair stylist who convinced me that it would be one long day, and it wouldn’t be GRAY, but more silvery almost blonde…and I have very dark, almost black hair. And a cool complexion with olive tones thanks to my Italian half. It was horrific. Not only did I not ask enough questions, but she gave me absolutely no tips for how to manage it and care for it. The next day I looked like I had a yellow hay bale on my head. I was completely mortified, and I had no idea what to do. The other very sad fact is that my husband HATED it. He liked me with dark hair, and preferred it long as well. We were living apart at the time due to my Army obligations, and every time we talked on the phone, he mentioned how much he disliked it. I couldn’t take it, and I caved. I had it re-colored and switched stylists. About a year later, I decided to go cold turkey, and had my stylist cut it to an extremely short pixie. It was AWESOME! I was really happy…but again, he was not. He hated the length and the gray. Alas, I caved again. I colored it for his “Christmas present”. Then I grew it out. I am now a long haired, dark haired woman turning 54 on Wednesday, and I am noticing my hair thinning, and I am pulling it out by the fistfuls. Luckily, it is very thick naturally. As I talked with him yesterday with a box of home color on my head (I can’t afford more than once a month professional), I told him that it’s super expensive, and bad for my hair, and I only do it for him. I have grown to really like my long hair, but I am thinking about going cold turkey. I am so desperately tired of coloring my hair.
    So – all that being said, thank you so much for reposting this. I think you are stunning in all your pictures, no matter what level of hell your hair has taken you to. I wanted you to know that I made the same mistakes, and am getting ready to pay the price for them yet again, with an epic skunk stripe.

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      It sounds like you’ve really been through the ringer with your hair, Susan. I’m sorry you’ve struggled so much and that your husband hasn’t been very supportive of your desire to “go gray.” As for the stylists, I think they all mean well, but transitioning to gray by means of color is a tricky thing to do well, especially if one has porous hair. I never expected that my hair would turn orange and it was difficult to deal with. It would have been nice to have known that the possibility existed, as I may have (hopefully) opted against the heavy highlights. Going “cold turkey” is definitely challenging, but I’m now convinced that it’s the best path for most women to take. My hair was breaking off and falling out due to the frequent dyeing as well, and it’s now MUCH healthier than it was back then and I don’t lose nearly as much hair these days.

      Most women have stops and starts on their way to embracing their natural silver hair, so you’re not alone. Mine weren’t intentional, but I take responsibility because I sat in the chair and paid the stylists money to do what they did. I still wish I would have known better, which is why I shared my experience here. I wish you the best of luck this time around and I hope you and your husband will both be able to embrace your natural hair. It’s hard when one changes the color and the length dramatically at the same time, but hair DOES grow back and you’ll likely look stunning with long silver hair. Happy belated birthday and thank you for your kind words!

      1. Naomi says:

        I’m not sure if we are allowed to suggest other sites, but I joined Curly Silvers on facebook (there may be other sites that just cater to going grey – being curly has its own issues!) – but I’ve found so many supportive women with suggestions on styling products (for curly hair) and general sisterhood of ‘keep going, you can do it’ – it’s been really helpful

        1. Debbie Roes says:

          Naomi, Of course it’s okay to suggest other sites! I want women to have as many helpful resources as possible to assist them in their transition process. Thank you for offering this resource. It’s great that there is a specific group tailored to women who have curly silver hair, as I know that there are additional challenges for that population.

  9. Susan Roe says:

    Debbie,
    Awesome that you took the time to share your story to prevent anyone else from doing the same steps to get through this transition. I have brown, auburn, and grey, not much, but a light glow around my face. I usually mix up a teaspoon of color and accelerator from a Natural Instincts box 6g and paint just my front part where most of the grey is because I start to look tired when it comes in. But the greys also can look like highlights after I do the Natural Instincts. Do you think I should continue now, or let the face framing greys come in. I have long hair that I always wear in a bun or braid. I don’t blow dry or style. And how did you resist those ‘weak’ moments when you think ‘Oh, I need to color it’. i’m not sure what to do.
    thanks Debbie!

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      Susan, Only you can decide whether or not you should continue to color your hair. It sounds like you don’t have a whole lot of gray, which would make for an easier transition if you choose to go that route. Since you’re just coloring around the hairline, you likely won’t have the dreaded “skunk stripe” that most people feel is unsightly during the transition. If you wait to transition for many more years, your transition may be more difficult, which is one thing to consider (but is only one piece of the puzzle). As for how I resisted the weak moments, it was easier for me than many because of some of my reasons for stopping the dye – my increasing chemical sensitivity and the compromised state of both my health and my hair. I’m convinced that the hair dye contributed to my health problems and it also caused my hair to break and split. My hair is a lot healthier now and my health is also better (although I did a lot of other things in that regard, so it’s hard to know how much stopping the dye contributed). A few words of advice if you do decide to stop coloring and have those weak moments… Get in touch with your “whys” – those reasons why you opted not to color your hair anymore. Also, institute a sort of “waiting period,” i.e. tell yourself that you can color again in a month (or a few weeks or whatever you decide) if you still feel the same way. Often, our impulses pass and getting back in touch with our reasons for transitioning (be it money, time, health, authenticity, or whatever) can help with that. Good luck to you!

  10. Lindab says:

    Enjoyed your blog very much. I last colored my hair (permanent color) on Feb. 6. With the quarantine going on, I have a pretty good start on going gray naturally. I am tempted to use some “Fanci-Ful temporary color but don’t know if I really want to tempt fate and have to start all over. I have natural very dark curly hair which I started coloring in my late 30’s (and am now over 70). I switched to “dark beige blonde” about 5 years ago. I think I will just use your blog as my inspiration to hold the course. And when I emerge from exile, my friends will be amazed. Of course, I really need a haircut!

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      I apologize for my delayed reply, Linda. I’m glad you liked my blog. I’m sure many women are in the same boat as you are with potentially starting a “going gray” journey unintentionally. I wonder how many women will decide to keep going even when they’re able to color their hair again. I know some women have successfully used Fanci-Ful temporary color to ease the transition, but there’s always a chance that the color will stain and not wash out completely (like what happened to me with the “toner”). I hear you on needing a haircut, but at least we’re not alone in that regard… I wish you all the best with your transition. Maybe you’ll find that some of your friends are taking the same course when the quarantine is over 🙂

  11. Jennifer McCandlish says:

    I have been reading your blog since “shopaholic” and find it very helpful and insightful and honest. This topic in particular is of interest to me because i have been transitioning my hair naturally (I’m 57). My long brown (bra strap length) hair has grey strands in it which I don’t mind. I haven’t colored it for 5 years so the look is very natural. The thing is, most women I meet, ask me why I don’t color my hair and tell me I would look more youthful. This is not helpful or even kind. My haircuts are few and far between, because as Naomi said somehow we lose all our power when we get in the chair. I don’t like making small talk with a hairdresser and I feel subject to bamboozlement because I don’t know anything about coloring or hair. My point is I am going naturally grey with age but other women, strangers even, make the most unkind comments. My brother, on the other hand, has a head of beautiful silver hair. So jealous.

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      I’m so glad you have found my blogs helpful, Jennifer. I apologize for my delayed response here, but better late than never! It can be difficult to swim against the tide in all areas of life, and embracing natural hair when most women use hair dye is no exception. I don’t necessarily think that dyed hair looks more youthful, but that’s the narrative that we’ve been given for many, many years, so that’s what most women believe. If you check out the “going gray” groups on Facebook or the similar accounts on Instagram (there are MANY), you’ll see a lot of lovely before and after photos. In almost all instances, I feel that the “after” look is more attractive and often more youthful as well. Dyed hair CAN look harsh and unnatural, although that’s certainly not always the case.

      I know it’s hard to sit in a stylist’s chair and feel powerless. I’ve been there many times myself… Pretty much all stylists offer consultations, so it’s a good idea to do that before committing to anything. Of course, at the moment, most of us aren’t able to get hair appointments (I desperately need a trim myself), so this is a good time to investigate options and decide what you want. Only you can decide what’s best for you, but remember that it’s YOUR hair and YOUR choice! Try not to be swayed by others’ opinions, as you’re the one who will need to live with your hair whatever you choose. Fortunately, however, no hair decision is permanent. I wish you peace and clarity.

    2. Joann Amodeo says:

      Hey Girls! I am also 57. For the last 10 years I’ve been wanting to go gray. I told myself I would wait until my kids are out of high school. That milestone hit in June 2019. Finally in January I dyed my hair for the last time because in February my dermatologist told me that I had a basal cell carcinoma on my arm. This is my second time with skin cancer – the first was melanoma. That was the push I needed so no more chemicals on my head!!! My hair is chin length and the color is medium chestnut – according to the box. I am going cold turkey. It is easier with everyone in lock down here in Long Island NY. All the social gatherings I was invited to have been cancelled – so I don’t have to worry about how I look. I love the gray that is coming in! My sister and Mom have been very encouraging. I even see new growth – that is super exciting for me since my hair is so straight and fine! I really don’t care what people think about my choice to go gray or the way it looks while it grows out. That has not always been the case for me. It’s very surprising that I feel that way. From what I’m reading from everyone the journey is very important – I can see why. You find out things about yourself that you would never know. So own the transition and embrace it. You don’t have to explain why your hair looks a little unconventional today – tomorrow people will be complimenting you on it! Stay strong girls!

      1. Debbie Roes says:

        Congratulations on your decision to put your health first, Joann! You seem to have a wonderful attitude, which will serve you well in going through what can be a difficult process (but isn’t for everyone, especially if you have the right attitude going in). I think you’ll find that your hair is a lot healthier – and possibly thicker, too – after all of the dye is gone. My hair doesn’t break and split and fall out nearly as much as it used to. I haven’t had a haircut in four months now and it doesn’t look THAT bad. If I were still dyeing it, the ends would have been completely fried without a trim for this long. I wish you all the best and I hope that when you start to socialize more, those around you will be encouraging rather than negative. I really had very little negativity. Most of the negativity was from myself, but you seem to be very positive, which is wonderful!

  12. Bonnie Kilgore says:

    Debbie, Thank you for sharing your journey with us. I’m still deciding if I want to go grey, my current 1 inch outgrowth is mostly white and I’m going to let it keep growing until my company’s work from home order is lifted. I’m still thinking about doing very chunky highlights to go an overall salt and pepper look, but I’m going to consult with several stylists before making a final decision. If none of them are comfortable with bleaching the highlights enough to take them to white, and if I still think I want to go grey, then I’ll just let it all grow out and deal with the demarcation line and hide the outgrowth with hats and scarves. Thanks again for sharing.

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      This is a good time to ponder whether or not you want to go gray, Bonnie. Since many of us would dye our hair every month, we’d only see about half an inch of outgrowth and it can be difficult to get a sense of our natural color with such a small stripe. Highlights to help one go gray can be risky, as I showed in my pictures, but there ARE stylists who can successfully help women transition that way. One person to check out is Jack Martin (@jackmartincolorist on Instagram), who was responsible for both Jane Fonda’s and Sharon Osbourne’s hair transformations earlier this year. He often outlines his complete process with before and after photos, which can help guide stylists to help their clients using those same or similar steps. He’s in Southern California (where I live) and if I knew about him a few years back, I would have gone to him for help with my hair. I’m sure he charges A LOT of money, but I paid a lot of money for the mess that I ended up with (sadly)! I wish you all the best with your decision and with the process if you decide to “go gray.”

  13. Sara says:

    Thank you for your personal account of your struggles, I’m am starting the process, I’ve been dyeing my hair monthly for years now and occasionally considered letting it just grow out. I started going grey in my 20’s and now in my 40’s, I just find going to the hairdressers a chore not a pleasure. Due to the lockdown and my hairdressers is currently closed I now have nearly 3 months natural grey so thinking lets just go for it! My hair is long like yours but I am happy to have it cut to a shoulder length bob when I can. I have supportive friends and another friend who just says it looks terrible, she’s just extremely honest at times!
    I was sorry to hear people had been unpleasant to you and hurt your feelings, good luck with the rest of your going natural journey,
    Sara 🇬🇧

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      I’ll bet a lot of women are either starting their process now, Sara, or are considering it, especially since the shutdowns have given them a head-start. Like you, I started to view going to the hairdressers as a chore once I had to do it on a monthly basis (it got old – and expensive!). It’s good that you’re willing to part with some length, as it will go much faster that way. That’s too bad that your friend made that comment. The grow-out time can be rough, but hopefully you will start to like your natural color more once you see more of it (and your friend might just come around, too). I wish you all the best with growing your hair out. Yes, I had a rough road, but I’m very happy not to have to “chase roots” anymore, plus my hair is much healthier as a result.

  14. Sue Murray says:

    Thank you SO much for your essay Debbie! I really needed your story and I’m so glad I found it. It’s 2 months past my last dye job thanks to sheltering in place. I decided to go for it because I’m curious about what my real hair and the real me looks like. You validated my gut feel for putting up with the demarcation Skunk line (my hair is pretty dark brown). I’m even thinking about a pixie cut since I have had short hair before – if not pixie, then a shag. Ironically, I’ve grown out my hair to past my shoulders (the first time since jr high!!), so my next cut will be dramatic. You are a beautiful woman and I hope you’re getting more comfortable with your hair now. Hair is such a personal identity thing. I’m turning 60 in July and I’m afraid this is all part of a grand transformation for my life. Fingers crossed!

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      I’m glad you found my essay inspiring, Sue. I think a lot of women are wondering if now is the time to go gray as a result of the extended shelter-in-place and salons being closed. If you’re willing to do a pixie cut, that will make your transition a lot easier. My mom did that (her hair was pretty short anyway) and I think she was done in about 8 months. Thank you for your kind words. Yes, my transition was difficult, but I’m still glad I did it. My hair isn’t as gray as I’d hoped, but that will happen in time. I will be doing another update soon (there were a few after this one – linked at the top of the post). I agree that hair can be a big part of our personal identity. I’ve heard it said that it’s an accessory that we wear every day, so if we’re not happy with our hair, that can affect how we feel in all of our outfits. Happy early birthday to you! My husband turned 60 last year. It’s different for me, but it still gave him some pause. He’s doing well with it now, though. I think the milestone birthdays can help us to better evaluate what we do and don’t want in our lives. Best wishes with your hair and your grand transformation!

  15. Mary Louise Hastings says:

    I had an appointment with a hair stylist to give me some highlights to soften my demarcation line, but now after reading your story, I am cancelling this appointment and just going for a haircut. I like the look of my grey roots and find that I have a natural whiter strip of hair growing in that looks very sophisticated. I am thinking of using Clairol Natural instincts dark brown color for a couple of months to soften the demarcation line. It is supposed to wash out completely after 28 washes. Hopefully it works as advertised.

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      I’m glad my post helped you to decide against highlights, Mary Louise. They can be tricky and if your dyed hair is dark, there is more potential for them to turn brassy because the color often isn’t lifted enough in one go. Lowlights are less risky and can help at first with the line of demarcation (but I would only do those just in the beginning and then just let your hair grow out). As for semi-permanent color, they are supposed to wash out, but a close friend of mine had to start the process all over when the color did NOT wash out of her hair. I’ve read of other such accounts, too. It’s a risk, but it does work out for some women. I just want people to be aware of potential pitfalls because I was not aware and struggled a lot as a result. Good luck to you! If you’re able to part with length, that will speed up the process. I wish I would have been more willing to do that myself.

    2. Bon says:

      I use Natural Instincts light brown as my regular hair color. It absolutely does not wash out. It just gets a tiny bit lighter after several shampoos. I’m using the Covid-19 lockdown to let my gray roots grow out. I’m 67 and curious about what my natural color is at this age. I have had several friends tell me that I’m going to look much older if I don’t dye my hair. I figure that I will finally look my age and that may or may not be acceptable to me when I look in the mirror. I’m getting lazier as I get older and I’m really tired of coloring my hair every 3 weeks but I might not want to be the old lady in my group of friends who continue to dye their hair. Only time will tell. This reply was a little like free association but I simply wanted to let Mary Louise Hastings know that Natural Instincts does not wash out with shampoo.

      1. Naomi says:

        I belong to a going grey group (on facebook) and I have to say that everyone looks younger than their previous self once their natural colour is all the way through. The growing out phase is tough – and is the bit that you’ll feel ‘ages’ you because it kind of feels like you’re not ‘taking care of yourself’ – when actually, by being natural you’re probably taking better care of yourself! I’m nearly 48 (and nearly 10 months into the going grey) but the pics I see daily of folks online (aged 20s to 90s) – their skin looks so much nicer and more radiant (ie youthful) once they have their lovely silvers showing. It’s just my opinion, obviously, but I think natural silver tones brighten your skin and make you look more youthful – that’s certainly the case for me (as the grey is coming in) I’ve stopped wearing make up – I just don’t need it anymore! Good luck whatever you decide to do with your hair. It is just hair, after all !

        1. Debbie Roes says:

          Naomi, you have a wonderful attitude and perspective on going gray. Thanks for sharing your insights here. I agree with what you wrote. I still wear make-up (and actually find I need lip color more now), but I think my skin looks much nicer now with my natural color. Since you’re at the 10 month mark, things should be getting a bit smoother for you and you should have a much better sense of what the finished product will look like. The Facebook groups, YouTube videos, and Instagram accounts can be helpful tools along the way and I recommend them to anyone who needs support.

      2. Debbie Roes says:

        Thanks for sharing your experience with Natural Instincts, Bon, and good for you for taking the plunge to go gray – or at least give it a try. I agree with Naomi that pretty much without fail, the women I’ve seen who have gone gray look better and often younger as well. I know it can be difficult to be the only one in a friend group who has gone gray, but perhaps you might inspire a friend or two to follow suit. In any event, it doesn’t hurt to give it a try, as you can always dye your hair again if you don’t like your natural color (that is, once all of the salons re-open). Best wishes!

  16. Whitney says:

    So happy I found this post. I been thinking of using COVID-19 as the turning point for my decision to go gray… from medium brown. (I needed to color every three weeks and at about 2 weeks needed to use a brown powder or spray for the roots.) I figure I’m a few months in to growing out already, so why not give it a try? I’ve approached it as an experiment of sorts. I had been considering getting highlights, but am now thinking twice about it. One thing I have done, which I really like… I bought a can of L’Oreal Colorista in Silver. I sprayed a light coat all over my hair to see what I might look like after going gray. What I realized is that this could be a good tool for easing the transition. I’m not saying I would use it every day, but maybe more for when I’m going out to social events where I wanted to look a little more polished. Even with just a light coat, it eases the look of the gray versus the brown. It is a bit messy – I spray it outside – and you do get a fine bit of silver on your hands if you touch your hair. I wash my hair every few days and it stays in for the most part during that time. I’ve just bought Clairol’s Color Crave Hair Makeup in Shimmering Platinum to try out as an alternative. It goes on wet and has to be dried, but this would probably be less messy to use and might stay in better. This is basically just doing the reverse of covering the roots with brown and it works great, of course it does require more product than just covering the roots… but the cost is pretty minimal compared to salon coloring. I wanted to post this in case it was useful to anyone. It’s a simple, non-permanent option that can help the process. I’m expecting to go through some potential rough spots during the process, but I feel like this option can help me feel confident and allows me to have fun with the color in the interim.

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      I think a lot of women are using the recent lockdowns to start their gray hair transition. In fact, gray hair blogger Katie Goes Platinum recently wrote a post geared toward this group, with lots of tips and resources: https://katiegoesplatinum.com/lockdown-gray-hair/ I hadn’t heard of Colorista silver spray, but it sounds like it could be a good tool for some. I tried one type of silver spray during my transition (I forget the brand name now), but the effect was far too subtle and the smell of the product bothered me. The Color Crave hair makeup sounds like a good tool, too, especially for special occasions.

      You seem to have a good attitude about the process of going gray. Yes, you’ll likely experience some rough spots, as it IS a big change, but you’ll also likely learn a lot about yourself in the process and hopefully you’ll be happy with the finished product. Wishing you all the best!

  17. connie TOLER says:

    I am in the process of going gray. I am in the 3rd month and it is extremely difficult. I am very glad I found your website as you and I have similar coloring and hair. Also, I have given some thought to doing all of the things that you have done, i.e., highlights, lowlights, straightening, etc. My hair is about the same length as yours and I, too, have no desire to cut it as it becomes more unruly/curly/frizzy/etc. When it’s long it is just more controllable. The died portion of my hair is getting more brassy as the brown seems to be disappearing. Its just not in a good place right now. I have no doubt that if I was able to go to a salon right now, it would be dyed. However, I can’t without risking my health and I’ve been thinking about doing this for a long time so I am determined to do this. Thanks for your inspiration. The skunk line is getting old tho.

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      I’m glad you’ve found my blog helpful, Connie. Congrats on your decision to transition to gray hair. Health was a big part of my motivation, too, but it was obviously a different time and there was no pandemic to push me to make the switch. Hair dye does tend to become brassy with time, but highlights add another wrinkle to the issue, as you’ll then have three-toned hair rather than just two-toned hair. Using blue (for dark brown dyed hair) or purple (for light brown or blonde dyed hair) shampoo or conditioner can help to tone down that effect, but results definitely vary. I found that it didn’t help a whole lot with my hair, but others have reported otherwise. Cutting a bit more of the dye off every 6-8 weeks will help you to see the progress (obviously, after salons re-open and you feel safe going there). It’s not an easy process, but it is surely worth it! If you avoid some of the mistakes I made, it won’t have to be a very lengthy process. Good luck to you!

  18. Deborah Barwick says:

    I am in the second month of transitioning my high lighed, low lighted, blond base colored hair to gray. Many thanks for sharing your experience as it offers me a guide on what to do. I will be patient and not look in the mirror to often.

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      You’re well on your way, Deborah. The first months are the most challenging, so you’re wise to not look in the mirror too often. My obsession with every subtle nuance of my transition definitely didn’t serve me. I wish you strength and fortitude for the journey. I hope you love the end result and learn a lot about yourself along the way.

  19. Alma says:

    It’s a big decision to undergo the graying process. Fear for the unknown? I turned 60 this April 2020 and with the COVID pandemic and staying home, stopped coloring my hair. Am liking the gray color, hence I decided to stop coloring. Am having thoughts of whether to do it cold turkey or have it bleached. I have been reading about the process (every now and then) and am thankful that I have come across these narratives to help me with my decision and these are: to go gray naturally, have a monthly haircut ( I keep a shoulder length hair) and to be PATIENT. need a lot of it. Big thanks lady. Am moving on wards to this journey..

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      That’s great that you’re liking your natural color, Alma. I know the grow-out process is long and it’s natural to want to try shortcuts. Such methods can work out well for some people, but I just wanted to make sure that women going on this journey know about potential pitfalls. I think you’re making the right decision to just continue growing out your hair and get regular haircuts. You’ll be done faster this way and your hair will stay healthy. Happy to help and I wish you the best on this path!

  20. loretta says:

    Just found your blog and would like to say Thank You for reminding me that my choice (just letting the gray grow and NOT trying to cover it up, ever) has been the right one. And although I know you “hate” your hair . . . I think you look lovely!

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      Thank you for your kind words, Loretta. I’m glad my blog has helped you to feel better about your decision regarding your hair. I don’t hate my hair anymore – this post was over two years ago! The saying about time healing all wounds held true here, as my hair grew and I got all of the brassiness cut off. It was a long road, but a worthwhile one.

  21. Tammy Johnson says:

    I just googled the transition process and came across your blog. So glad I did. I just started the process of transitioning to gray. I went to a stylist 3 weeks ago. We went over all the options and ultimately decided to do some low lights only on the crown so I don’t have so much demarkation. However, after thinking about it and now reading your blog, I’m not sure I want to continue doing that. I will need to do it every 8 weeks and that will get incredibly expensive. Plus, I don’t want to keep adding color. I might try to find a layered shorter hair style (my hair is at my shoulders now so not long, but not short) and then once I’m totally gray (1-2 years depending how short I go and my hair grows fairly fast) I can grow it back out if that is what I want to do. Stay well and be true to you!

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      I think a lot of women are finding my blog (and especially this post) via Google searches, Tammy. I’m sure the low lights you got helped with the initial part of your transition. I don’t think it’s usually a good idea to continue doing that process after the first few months, as any processes we do can add time to our transition (in my case, it took MUCH longer than it would have anyway). If you can embrace a shorter, layered style, you’ll be done a lot quicker. It’s great that your hair grows fast! Best wishes with the rest of your journey and I hope you stay well, too!

      1. Tammy says:

        That was my thought as well. I’m going to talk to my hair dresser again when I go in again. Thanks for the encouragement.

  22. Patti says:

    So here we are – taking the plunge . . . this may be the best thing to come of our home confinement, I had been considering for quite awhile but my natural hair is nearly black and I like to jazz it up as well… I add panels of deep reds to it! I feel as if I will be blah!! However, I also have to consider I live with debilitating migraines and my dr’s tell me that not soaking my head in chemicals every few weeks can only help reduce the number of headaches. I eat organic, try not to clean with too many chemicals, live on all sorts of essential oils so natural next step right? Drop the monthly chemical bath on my head! I’m 56, my hair is starting to thin, I’m not digging it. But what about my flash, my panache, my je ne sais quoi??? I discovered a conditioner that deposits a temporary color , makes your hair healthier with each use and they have soft pastels for if my new hair once grown out is really light I can try on a seasonal shade that is soft and unless I keep using it will go away without harming or causing a whole begin again situation. They have much brighter colors but I fear they could stain and well we would then be talking starting again. I have tried the Rose gold on my white at the temples, barely a noticeable difference and after 2 shampoos completely gone! I also got something they call the remedy for fine hair – it is just a conditioner that adds some shine and smells great. This makes me happy because I can still go through with my grow out go gray plan and do so with the knowledge that my having playful hair will continue.they even have a silver which I may try to help hide the line of demarcation while enhancing the gray (I think) without actually coloring anything and not having the drying everyone seems to mention of the blue shampoo..
    I was searching how to go gray gracefully and came upon Katie goes platinum, which led me here…. I’m in, I’m a little nervous but I’m going to do it!! I will start posting progress on Insta tomorrow (@semisweetgirl) – my sisters granddaughter is going to cut my hair, Oh if anyone is interested the product I was talking about it is called oVertone and the site is overtone.co

    1. Marcia says:

      Thank you for leaving the name of the product you are trying. I just bought some products from them, they haven’t arrived yet. I am also trying to grow out gray hair, from a brunette color. My hair started going gray in my 30s, and I left it that way well into my early fifties, but then caved in to dying it, to what was my natural color in youth. But it looked great when I was younger. And now I am tired of dying every 3 weeks, spraying with color to cover the skunk line. And in isolation, much easier to do. Just hoping that a pastel color from overtone will make it more attractive, as when I finally gave into coloring, my hair was so completely white I looked like I had a halo on my head. Thanks to all who have commented and been so helpful. Wishing us all luck!

      1. Debbie Roes says:

        Good luck to you, too, Marcia! Yes, it’s so tiring to dye our hair every 3 or 4 weeks, only to have to start covering up roots a week after our color appointments. I hope the Overtone is helpful for you. Just be careful with using high heat on your hair, as a YouTuber had to re-dye her hair a year and a half in when a very hot flat-iron discolored it (this is the video that explains what happened: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PS9YenHjxBs&list=PLHFFQj78rSN6WSpJSeXMHSPBXeZHhOOHY&index=22&t=0s). I’m sure it was probably a very rare occurrence, but I believe in warning people, which is why I wrote this post in the first place! I hope you’ll be very happy with your natural hair!

    2. Debbie Roes says:

      Congrats on taking the plunge, Patti! I also suffer from horrible migraines and they haven’t been as severe since I stopped dyeing my hair (and some of my other health issues also improved). I’ve read that the darker dyes are the most toxic (as you can see, I also dyed my hair quite dark). I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised that the condition of your hair will improve without the frequent dye. My hair is a lot healthier since I stopped dyeing it. It’s good that you found Katie’s site, as she has a lot of wonderful resources. I know a lot of people love Overtone. I used their pastel purple conditioner to help cut down on the brassiness of the dyed part of my hair as I grew it out, but I haven’t used any of the other colors. I will check out your Instagram from time to time to see how you’re doing. Good luck!

  23. Cpalm says:

    Thank you for sharing your journey. As a 34 year old, transitioning to full silver, I am so grateful to have a community of silver sisters that are willing to share lessons learned in their own lives. I find myself researching ways to soften the transition but the more I learn the more I’m beginning to think that cold turkey is the best way to go. BTW – I think you look so beautiful with your silver hair.

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      Thank you for your comment and your compliment! I think it’s wonderful that more and more younger women are transitioning to their natural silver hair. Are you familiar with Erica Johnston on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/user/fittmama)? She’s 40 or 41, I think, and she looks fabulous with her silver hair! She actually just did a video today on looking youthful with grey hair. I do think that cold turkey is the way to go when transitioning, but it’s an individual decision and we all have different experiences. Most women won’t have as many issues as I did, but since I wasn’t aware that such things could happen, I wanted to help other women to better understand potential pitfalls. Wishing you all the best with your journey!

  24. Suzanne says:

    I’ve recently decided to stop coloring my hair. I found your site while researching for tips about handling the process. I want to thank you so much for your honesty and vulnerability. I know it is now two years later , but I want you to know that I have benefitted from your willingness to share your experiences. Thank you. (i truly thought you looked lovely in every picture.)

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      Suzanne, I appreciate your letting me know that this post benefitted you, and I thank you for your kind words. I’m glad that my sharing my experience has helped other women. Good luck with your process of going gray! It’s not easy (although it’s not usually as difficult for others as I was for me!), but it’s definitely worth it for the freedom, the healthier hair, and the time and money saved!

  25. Linda says:

    I am on month 4 in my journey to silver. I am anxious to see the end result, but realize this is a long process. Thinking about going shorter with my curly hair. I do appreciate the information…..the do’s and don’ts are so helpful! Thank you

    1. Naomi says:

      Hiya – a curly girl here. If you are 2c-3a (like me) I’d recommend leaving at least 6 inches of length all over. (Shrinkage!!) I really didn’t like the pixie cut I got. It was the worst of both worlds – too short to style easily and too short to make proper curls. Nearly 6 months now (since the crop) and It’s much easier to deal with now I have an additional 2 or 3 inches (and some curls back!) Good luck with your silver journey. In some ways it’s a bit easier for us curlies (less of a demarcation line) – although hair gets very dry and thirsty!

    2. Debbie Roes says:

      Congrats on your decision to embrace your natural silver hair, Linda! Yes, it can be a very long process, but it’s worth it! I’m glad you found my post helpful. Naomi gave you some excellent advice on going gray with curly hair. She had to learn some lessons the hard way, just like I did… She made a good point that the demarcation line is less noticeable with curly hair. Moisture definitely helps with all types of hair. I know it’s often said that gray hair tends to be drier and more wiry, but I haven’t found that to be the case. My hair is actually softer and healthier without the dye, and I hope you will find the same thing to be true. Best wishes!

  26. Kim says:

    I think you looked just fine—great even!-the whole time. I’m 52 going through premenopausal and 3 mos into transition. Interesting story! My thoughts are this though: forgive others for their mistakes (hair stylists are imperfect too) but most of all forgive yourself first.

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      Thank you, Kim, and congrats on taking the plunge to transition! I wish you the very best along the way (with both your hair and with menopause – I went through both changes at the same time – it was a lot, but I’m in a much better place now). Your words about forgiveness are very wise! I actually did a two-part post on that topic immediately following this post. I think a lot of hairstylists don’t really know how to best help women to transition to gray, as it was common to just color one’s hair well into old age for many years. I forgave all of them a lot easier than I forgave myself, but time and finally finishing with the transition process helped a lot with that!

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