Full Life Reflections

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

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 the end of the year, when hopefully I’ll be able to cut off the remaining colored ends and 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 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!

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

  1. Claudette says:

    Oh my gosh Debbie, I dont have time to read this now, but just glancing through… that photoshopped photo is gorgeous… you are almost there… hang on… the prize is worth the wait. Yippee!!!

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      Thank you, Claudette! I hope my hair ends up looking as good as the Photoshopped photo when I’m done. I will be SO relieved when I finally get there!

  2. Kit says:

    Great post! I’m sorry it has been such a long process for you. You are very beautiful! I envy your gorgeous skin and smile. The “messy bun” extensions actually look good to my eyes. 🙂

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      Thank you, Kit. I really appreciate your kind words. The contrast between my hair and the “messy bun” extension was more apparent in person, but maybe I was too perfectionist about it. I’m still going to keep looking for extensions that might work.

  3. Tonya says:

    I’m sorry that you have struggled so much through this process. I think the messy bun looks really cool actually!
    The one thing that kept going through my head as I read this is what if you changed your story? Instead of telling yourself that you did everything wrong and were “stupid” what if you said that you had amazing perseverance? That even though it was really challenging you didn’t quit? This kind of ties in with your last post on negative body image too, but I remember a conversation that we had once when I told you that I wasn’t sure how I had turned around some of the ways I thought badly about myself. It was because I changed what I was saying to myself. If we keep telling ourselves that we’re xxxxxx, that is going to be our reality. It doesn’t matter if it’s true or not. So why not make it something good?

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      I really like your re-frame of the situation, Tonya. I DO feel proud of myself for not quitting, especially since there was a poll in one of the FB groups about gray hair transition and most women there said that it took them a few times to actually finish the process. I am definitely stubborn and sometimes there are good aspects to that! I agree that my negativity around this process is related to my poor body image and that my self-talk really matters. I need to work harder at shifting my narrative because it’s not easy going through life being so hard on myself. Thanks for sharing your powerful insights on this situation.

  4. Kim says:

    Great post, Debbie! I’m sorry for all your struggles through this grey hair transition. Like Tonya, I think that bun looks pretty cool! There’s a light at the end of the tunnel now. Can’t wait to see you rocking that braid!

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      Maybe I need to revisit the bun since others are saying they like it… I’m sure they still have them. Yes, I’m finally seeing a light at the end of the tunnel, which is why I said that I have only fully committed recently. I WILL have that braid one of these days!

  5. Ruthie Critchley says:

    It sounds like a long and hard road. I’m impressed with your courage in sharing the journey to help others. I’m sorry to hear its been so tough for you and hope the shorter healthier hair is working better for you now.
    I took the route of just stopping colouring my hair and didn’t do anything extra to it, bar have lots of layers cut into it and wore it in a more textured and wavy way. Its a bit shorter than I wanted but I’ve got rid of all the colour after 2 years. I have a very natural look and relaxed dress sense so that greying/textured/curly look has worked OK for me. (I can imagine for omeone with a classic/refined look such as yours would find this more challenging) I’ve had to soften down my clothing colours and got re-analysed by Imogen Lamport on her excellent 7 steps to style programme which I absolutely love. I’ve added more texture into my clothing to reflect my hair, slubbed fabric, things with a fine pinstripe or fleck, all work more harmoniously wih my 2 colours hair than smooth flat fabrics. I’m enjoying the freedom form dye and lovely healthy hair. I do find the greys are even more unruly than the browns and I’ve slightly lightened my spectacle frames also.
    For me its been part of a journey into my next phase and being more comfortable in my skin and embracing my style.

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      Congrats on finishing your gray hair transition journey, Ruthie! I agree that it’s probably easier with more textured hair and a natural look overall. Your process sounds a lot less stressful and agonizing than mine has been and you must be really happy to have it all behind you now. In terms of colors, I’m finding that I can wear more muted tones than I used to and I’m also more drawn to them. I could never wear pastels with the super dark dyed hair, but now I like the way I look in some of them. I also feel that I look better in gray than I used to (I had pretty much given up that color before). How great that you did the 7 Steps to Style program – I’ve heard good things about it over the years. Sounds like you’re doing well. Thanks for sharing your process with us here.

  6. Terry says:

    Ouch, I’m sorry that you’ve had such a painful transition but glad you stuck with it. I too have dark hair and have been growing out my gray since July 2016. On the positive side, your natural color is gorgeous and dramatic, your hair is growing quickly (mine is only to my ears after almost two years. Gah!), and it’s nice and thick. Before you know it, you will have Pinterest-worthy hair. It is very kind of you to share your struggles in order to help others.

    1. Terry says:

      I forgot to mention my own gray transition issue. Most of my clavicle-length hair (maybe 75%) is still dark brown, fine and smooth. The half-as-long grays, on the other hand, are white, coarse and rippled. At first, they looked like curious antennae waving at passersby. Now, the grays form a bramble halo that just looks bad and I have NO IDEA how to smooth them out without using heat. (On an unrelated note, the rabbits have made a buffet of my back yard and are so shameless, they have hopped right up to the living room French doors and are staring at me. While chewing my flowers. My Lab is ignoring them. I am outraged AND I have brambly hair. This is the age of my discontent.🙄)

      1. Debbie Roes says:

        Nice to know that a reader and regular commenter is on this journey with me, Terry, but I’m sorry you’re also struggling with it, albeit in a different way than I am. Yes, it seems like hair grows extremely slowly during this transition! I remember thinking my hair grew super fast when I was getting it colored every 4 weeks, but perspective sure does change. The average growth is half an inch per month and I think my growth is about that, but I have seem some in the Facebook groups whose hair grows like a weed. One day – and hopefully not TOO long from now, both of us will be done – and I can’t wait! I know that gray hair texture can be different and difficult. I don’t really notice because my hair texture has ALWAYS been difficult to manage… I actually think my hair texture has improved since I’m not using permanent color so often, but it’s still far from ideal. Thank you for the kind words about my gray hair. I do like it myself, so I’m encouraged that I will be happy when this is finally done. I hope you will be, too.

      2. Terry says:

        Just a follow-up in case someone else has a similar problem to mine: it turns out that gray hair is dryer and more brittle than naturally colored hair. Until now, I have always used volumizing shampoos and conditioners on my fine, oily hair, but switching to a moisturizing shampoo/conditioner and adding a spray de-frizzing oil has made a huge difference in smoothing down the formerly bramble-like silver strands. I’m MUCH happier with my graying hair after making this easy change.

        1. Debbie Roes says:

          Thanks for coming back and following up, Terry. I’m glad you have found some products that are making your hair more manageable. I have always had dry and difficult hair, so I’m not sure it’s WORSE now that I’m transitioning, but I’m always open to trying new products that can make things easier. If you’re open to sharing the brand of the spray de-frizzing oil you’re using, I think it would be helpful to others (including me!). It’s wonderful that you are happier with your hair now, as this is a very slow process (I know you mentioned that your hair grows slowly. Mine doesn’t grow that fast, either, plus the mistakes I’ve made have derailed my progress and it feels like I will never be done). We WILL get there eventually and we can celebrate! I hope you will comment again to let us all know how you’re doing. Best wishes!

        2. Terry says:

          Sure, it’s the Living Proof No Frizz Instant De-frizzer.

        3. Debbie Roes says:

          Thank you, Terry! I will check it out and hopefully others will see your recommendation and do the same 🙂

  7. Sally ORourke says:

    Hi Debbie

    I have been a long term reader of all your different blogs and have read all your articles and have emailed you personally once before, as I am a very private person and don’t want to share my experiences on the internet.

    I identify with many of the things that you have gone through over the years and how you feel about yourself and have had many of the same issues, bullying because I am tall, not feeling good enough, not feeling worthy of love, hating my body, eating disorders, first anoexia, then bulimia and now binge eating, trying to make myself perfect by looking good and thinking if I buy the right clothes and accessories that I will fit in and people will like me, but it doesn’t work.

    I turned 50 in January and I am struggling like you, because my once great looks, hair and body are now letting me down, i have put on weight and none of my clothes fit and have got into a viscous cycle of dieting and binge eating and I hate my body. My scalp is very sore and itchy and feels like it’s burning and I keep scratching it. I have spent a fortune on different hair products but my doctor said it is psychological and caused by stress. I also have lots of migraines. I have very low self esteem, feel worthless and hate myself. I don’t feel I am valued at work anymore and have been pushed aside by the younger generation. I don’t have children or any friends and am not close to my family. My only rock, is my loving supportive husband.

    I have been suffering with stress & anxiety, which became depression and have been on antidepressants for a year now. Whilst they help me to get out of bed each day, they are not solving the underlying problems, so after me resisting it for a year, i finally agreed to let my doctor refer me to see a psychotherapist, as I recognised that I could not get better on my own, I needed professional help.

    My counsellor is using the Internal Family Systems approach with me:

    https://www.selfleadership.org/about-internal-family-systems.html

    It turns out that all my problems stem from various issues in my life whilst growing up, my parents are both divorced and remarried 3 times and that left me feeling abandoned, unwanted and not loveable and I was replaced by the arrival of new children.

    In counselling we have identified that there are different parts of me, that have all developed over time to serve a purpose, but they often act out and feel unloved and lead to destructive thoughts and behaviours of eating disorders, compulsive scalp scratching when stressed, over shopping, trying to look perfect and negative thoughts and self hatred. We are trying to understand what each of them need and trying to heal them. As what they really need is to be loved, as we work on that, I am starting to love myself for the first time and my destructive behaviours and thoughts are gradually reducing: My Self, which is calm, curious and compassionate and is the one who realised I needed help and bought me to therapy. She is the loving, caring, compassionate side of my personality which only My husband, or my very close family & friends get to see, as this is my vulnerable side and I don’t want her to get hurt My Protector (Manager) who protects me from the outside world by creating rules & high standards to try to make me fit in and be accepted. She represents the side of my personality that like rules, order, structure and being in control. This is the side of me that sets high standards about what I should look like and sets rules about what I should eat in order to lose weight and be in my ideal weight range My Naughty, Impulsive Teen (Exile), who I try to hide and excile as she doesn’t like being told what to do and acts out by disobeying my rules and binge eating on all the snacks that I have told her not to eat. She felt that her Dad left her because she was not good enough or loveable enough. She needs love and is acting out to get attention. Here are some other articles I have read which have helped me:

    Embrace The Parts Of Your Personality You Don’t Like:

    https://evolutioncounseling.com/embrace-the-parts-of-your-personality-you-dont-like/

    How I Let Go of Dieting and Lost Weight:

    https://www.huffingtonpost.com/andrea-wachter/how-i-let-go-of-dieting-a_b_6420254.html

    The World Through Unloved Eyes And The Healing That Follows:

    https://www.healthyway.com/content/the-world-through-unloved-eyes-and-the-healing-that-follows/

    7 Things Your Inner Child Needs to Hear You Say:

    https://tinybuddha.com/blog/7-things-your-inner-child-needs-to-hear-you-say/

    How To Heal And Re-parent Your Inner Child

    https://lifelabs.psychologies.co.uk/users/3881-maxine-harley/posts/17933-how-to-heal-and-re-parent-your-inner-child

    I am still a work in progress and still on antidepressants and going to psychotherapy, which I am finding really useful, but it is a slow process as each time we discover something new about myself and I am then given homework to work on myself, which we then discuss next time.

    Whilst I read and could identify with all these articles, i didn’t know how to change things to make myself better and it is only with the help of the psychologist that I am gradually making progress.

    I hope that some of these articles are of help to you and I know that you hold a Master’s Degree in Counselling Psychology and may think that you can heal yourself and are using this blog as one of the ways to do so, but, as I have found, it is a sign of strength and not weakness, to finally recognise and admit that as this has been going on for many years, what you have been doing isn’t working and you too may benefit from seeing a psychologist.

    I wish you well in your journey and look forward to hearing your progress and hope that you too can heal in time.

    I hope that you take my comments with the love that they are intended, as it was not easy for me to bare my soul to you in this way, but I thought it may help you.

    Best wishes Sally

    >

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      Hi Sally, I remember you writing to me before and that we had a lot in common. I really appreciate your taking the time to reach out to me this time around, too, as well as your willingness to share about your own struggles with self-image, eating disorders, depression, and anxiety, especially since you are a private person. I’m glad you have found something that is helping you to overcome these challenging issues. A few readers have mentioned Internal Family Systems therapy recently and now that you have described it, I realize that a therapist did use this approach with me a bit back in 2008. Sadly, I wasn’t able to continue with her because she moved out of the area, but I can see the value of this type of therapy for people with issues like ours.

      I have thought that blogging about my struggles might help me to overcome them while also potentially helping others in the process. Sadly, however, when I read some of my earlier posts (like “You Don’t Have to Try So Hard” that I linked to in this post), I’m struck by the fact that my same issues remain years later. I am not against getting help and did see a therapist for a few months back in 2015, but it’s expensive and difficult when one doesn’t have insurance that covers this type of treatment. That has been my impediment more so that a resistance to doing it. A lot of the treatments I’ve been doing for my health also haven’t been covered by insurance (I’m thinking that maybe you don’t live in the U.S., but the health system here is a mess and insurance has gotten prohibitively expensive) and that has been a big financial stress on my husband and me.

      I’m not sure what I’m going to do, but I agree that I need help. It’s terrible to continue to struggle with such negative self-image, depression, and anxiety. I do my best, but it’s not easy, as you well know. I do think I’ve made SOME positive changes, but certainly not enough… I look forward to reading the articles you linked here and to exploring Internal Family Systems further. Again, I appreciate your caring and your reaching out to me. I’m glad you posted a comment on the blog rather than just sending me an email, as I believe others will also benefit from what you shared. I wish you continued healing and an improved life!

  8. Jane says:

    Wow, the gray looks great. You really do have good skin as someone mentioned.

    I’ll share a mistake I made that will affect my looks for the rest of my list. A year ago, I was struggling with some skin issues and went to get Fraxel done because the doctor said it would correct it. Welp, not only did it not correct it, I now have all these pinholes in my skin that just won’t go back to normal. Luckily the doctor used a small handpiece so the holes are not visible unless you’re very close to me, but even from a distance I look like I have huge pores. I spent $1,200 for this process and it really ruined my skin. My doctor won’t speak to me anymore. It feels good to talk about it.

    In a way, I’m lucky. I never was a looker anyway, so it doesn’t bother me as much as it might bother someone else. But I’ve noticed that every time I try to do something to improve my looks, it just backfires on me. So I have decided to do absolutely nothing. We’ll see how that goes! Hahaha.

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      Thank you for the compliments on my hair and skin, Jane. I also appreciate your sharing a mistake you made regarding your looks. I was actually in a test for the use of Fraxel on melasma (brown patches on the skin) years ago during which I got 5 treatments on just the right half of my face. I didn’t think the results were dramatic, so I didn’t get the left half of my face worked on, even though they offered to do it at the end of the trial. I’m really sorry to hear that you got those pinholes on your kin from the Fraxel. I’m glad they aren’t visible when one isn’t up close to you, but I can imagine it’s still difficult and traumatic for you to see this. I’m glad you felt safe opening up about this here. It makes me angry to read that the doctor will no longer speak to you! The stylist who put the “toner” way up high on my head was upset at ME after I expressed disdain over what happened. At the time, I didn’t know it wouldn’t wash out, but she never apologized for this effect. That’s a big part of why I’m still angry now… I have no idea what you look like, but I agree that those who haven’t identified a lot with their looks have an easier time with aging and the negative effects of various procedures. I think your choice to do nothing is a wise and safe one.

  9. Claire says:

    Awwww Debbie! I remember thinking about the grey transition that would be going on as you took your blogging hiatus, and hoping that not feeling so “on display” with the blog would help ease things for you, so I’m really sorry this has been such a trial. It is pretty amazing to think that you haven’t colored your roots in over two years! I also think the extensions look like fun, although that one piece looks like it could feel kinda heavy to wear? Maybe you can still find something you like. Anyway, your hard fought progress is showing. Your new growth (even the toned stuff) is looking pretty cool. Thank you for sharing this with us. Hang in there, woman! xo

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      Claire, it was definitely easier not to be blogging throughout all of the “comedy of errors” that has been my gray hair transition, especially since I did get some critical and/or unsupportive comments on my earlier posts. Yes, that one extension piece was pretty heavy and not really my style. I used to have a long ponytail extension that was also heavy to wear (when I had auburn hair), but it was fun to use it once in a while. I would definitely feel more confident if I could find something that would help make my hair look more uniform in color. I’m going to keep looking… Thanks for your compliments and encouragement. I appreciate the supportive group of readers who have followed me to this new blog. Blogging is a lot more positive and relaxing than it was on Recovering Shopaholic and I’m glad I came back.

  10. Kimmy H says:

    Hi Debbie- I don’t mean to belittle your feelings about this, but I think all your photos look great. You are so pretty, and the problems with your hair might be more obvious to you than to others? In any case, thanks for sharing and good luck with the process.

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      Thank you so much, Kimmy! I’m sure I am seeing things in a much harsher light than others are. I am definitely very hard on myself and don’t see myself as others do.

  11. Heather says:

    I’m sorry it’s been such a rough transition. I know it will still take time, but I wanted to let you know that I think the gray hair around your face looks beautiful with your skin tone. In the picture where it’s pulled back in a ponytail and then the ones with the extensions, you look like a gray hair model. I think the gray with your cool coloring is striking. I hope you’ll show pictures when the transition is complete.

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      Wow, thank you so much for your kind words, Heather. I agree that the gray is better with my skin tone than my previously dyed auburn hair. I will definitely show pictures when the transition is complete or maybe even at the 2.5 year mark (since I think this will take 3 years at this point, at least if I want to keep relatively long hair). I’m not totally sure what I’m going to do in terms of cutting, but I do know that I won’t go back to coloring again and that part is a relief.

  12. Wendy says:

    I also had a series of hair dye fiascos last year that had set me back a year’s growth. It started with a bad hair cut. Then I started to read people’s transition into going grey by dying their hair and ashy color to help with the transition. Well… all went down from there as you can imagine! I will spare you all the steps I went through but I was left with a really ugly brown color and decided I just had to live with it and stop trying to fix it. 3-4 months after the fisacos, I seeked out a wonderful hair dresser that gave me a very layered hair cut that made my varied colored hair look good. It has grown out very nicely and has allowed my length to remain the way I’m comfortable with.

    If you’re thinking of attempting to ‘fix’ anything during the growing out process, I highly recommend getting a shaggy layered cut that keeps the length that you like but also taking away a good amount of the dyed hair that you’re hating. I know it has helped me greatly. I think you would look amazing with a heavy long fringe!

    Just a few thoughts to share with you. Hang in there lady!!

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      I’m sorry to learn that you have also gone through some hair fiascos, too, Wendy. This going gray business isn’t for sissies, that’s for sure! I’m sure that dyeing hair gray works for some people, but even when it does, it’s a ton of maintenance with regular toning. My hair is so porous that toner barely lasts at all, but the color mistake has held like crazy for reasons I still don’t understand 😦 I got to the point when I realized I would just have to live with color I don’t like because trying to fix it just set back my progress and prolonged everything. Eventually we will be done, but it sure does feel like FOREVER! I’m glad you found a haircut that makes your hair look better and is making your grow-out easier. I don’t like my hair with layers because of my texture, but I have layers now and probably will until I’m fully transitioned. Once the top layer gets long enough, I will have all of the color cut off while still keeping a decent overall length. No matter what, it’s not easy, but I will sacrifice some length and layers in order to be done. Thanks for sharing your process and offering advice. Best wishes with the rest of the journey!

  13. GingerR says:

    Glad to find you back again. I was a regular reader of your other blog and when you took your break I quit checking it, but I had been wondering ow the hair grow out was going, so I checked back.
    I’m glad to read your account. I’ve been considering the highlight/grow-out. It looks great on Pinterest posts,but you never get the full story there!
    I think I will go with the “big chop” strategy, someday, maybe when I retire. IN the meantime I’ve been trending lighter.

    I think the light in the messy bun picture must be different than your other photos because it looks elegant, at least in the photo. Overall I think your growing out hair looks good. The lighter colors silver/black is flattering to you. Once it’s finally over I think it will be striking. You get a virtual pat on the back for not giving up and coloring your roots!

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      I remember you, Ginger. Good to see you back commenting again. Yes, the Pinterest posts are usually the “best case scenario.” Some people have good results with highlights, but it is risky for sure. I think the “big chop” is probably the easiest way to go. As for me, this will be behind me eventually and I believe I will like how my fully natural hair looks. The messy bun photos were taken outdoors, so they should be pretty accurate. When my hair is all pulled back like that, it looks a lot more gray than when it is down. I should probably pull it all back more often… I will do at least one more gray hair transition update later this year.

  14. Maggie says:

    Hi Debbie, Thank you for updating your readers on your transition to gray. It seems to me that you have two concerns with your hair – the color and the texture. I can see that this would be a lot for any hair stylist to handle. The only way to really test any process is on real hair so I suppose one could test it on a hidden section of hair.

    I wondered if you had considered changing the part in your hair and just dyeing those roots to match earlier in the process. This way you could change your part to show the gray when you are ready. Also, I wondered if you had considered adding some extensions in gray either with your current length or cutting it shorter. I think you would great with a shoulder length bob but I understand the attachment to long hair. Also, you might want to consider lightening your eyebrows just a little to go with your new hair color.

    Whatever you do, you look great so thank you again for sharing!

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      Good to see you commenting on this blog, Maggie. Yes, I have two major concerns with my hair which have been a challenge for both me and the various hairstylists I’ve gone to. I wish I would have done the “part change” method when I started my gray hair transition process, but I only learned about it much later. For others who may be reading this and are curious about this, here’s a great YouTube video that explains the process:

      .

      As for extensions, I’ve been trying to find some, but thus far have only found colors that don’t match my hair very well, as I still have a fair amount of brown in my natural hair color at this point. I’m going to keep looking, though… My hair is currently quite a bit shorter than I would ultimately like and it also has layers. Bobs don’t tend to work for me, as my hair can look like a triangle with it’s difficult texture, especially when it’s humid out. I do like the look on other people, though, and if my hair were naturally straight and not so thick, I might go that route, too. I don’t think I want to lighten my eyebrows, but I am using taupe powder to fill them in now instead of the medium brown that I used before. I think it’s a softer look. Lots of changes to consider with this process, but some of them are exciting and fun. I will definitely celebrate when I’m done, though!

  15. Kimberly says:

    Oh my! Thank you for your courage and your perservernce. I wish I read this transparent and heart-wrenching blog a few weeks ago. The night of my 62nd birthday I went to sleep with thinning brown hair cut in a short bob and a month’s worth of white/gray skunk growth. The next day I awoke to short ORANGE hair with the same white/gray regrowth. I was aghast! The trending theory is that we may have had some kind of a chlorine flush in our city water system.

    Three years ago I was diagnosed with multiple autoimmune dissorders. Since then, I have been on a dedicated journey to regain my health. The first step was changing my diet and eliminating gluten, dairy, soy, legumes and nightshades. The next step was eliminating as many lifestyle toxins as possible without giving up breathing! One of toxins I eliminated was hair dye. Up to that point, I had been dying my hair brown for about 35 years. Two years ago I started using a “Non-toxic” product called Hairprint, which is a plant based product that takes about 4 hours to “restore your natural hair color” but can only be applied to new growth, which means you have to coat your previously dyed hair with shea butter or it turns it almost black.

    A few days after my sudden ORANGE assualt, I reached out to my doctor and began a research binge reading and watching everything I could get my hands on to try and figure out what happened and how to fix it! I used purple shampoo for the first week, then went to an “Organic Hair Salon” to see if they could help. I wanted to let my grey hair grow out, and do something about the ORANGE. The “designer hair sylist” said we could lighten the Orange hair with highlighter using foils, and then add a toner. I would have to do it in a few stages (several weeks) to allow my hair to rest while we attempted to blend my new growth with whatever I had now. So, last week I had my orange hair highlighted. After the first process it came out yellow with white/grey roots. Still looked aweful to me, but little did I know how much unhappier I would be the next morning.

    The day after the highlighting/toner event I awoke to what I first thought was a bright red scalp and a lot less hair to what I ultimately realized was that what use to be white/gray roots was now pink to red roots and yellow thinner hair. I called the salon back and she told me to come in the next day so she could look at it. Yep. Pink and reddish roots where the white hair use to be to go with my new dryer fuzzier yellow hair. She had no idea what could cause that. In fact, two other sytlists came over with bewildering looks on their faces. So now, I am trying to deep condition this hair and try to practice grattitude that I still have some….hair.

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      Oh, Kimberly, I’m so sorry you have also been going through a lot of challenges with color and your gray hair transition! I appreciate your openness in sharing your experiences here, as it may help others to avoid such difficulties. We often ready about these “seamless” gray hair color jobs and see photos on Pinterest and elsewhere of beautiful dyed gray hair, but many women go through nightmares with it like you and I have. You must have been horrified to first wake up with orange hair and later a bright red scalp and hair loss. I applaud your positive attitude, though, especially in light of what you’ve gone though. I hope you will be able to bring your hair back to life and find a way to get through the transition in an easier way.

      That’s really scary about the chlorine in the water, but I did notice my hair looking brassier after washing it at my mom’s house recently. I have a shower filter at home and have for years, but my mom doesn’t have one. When I washed my hair at home and used a blue hair masque (for brunettes) on the dyed parts, that helped, so maybe that’s something you could try. The one I used was called Perfect Brunette Masque by Pravana, but it’s quite potent and I recommend using only a small amount (and maybe mixing it with other conditioner) and not leaving it on very long, at least the first time.
      Aveda’s Blue or Black Malva conditioners are also good to try, but it’s good to be cautious with the latter, as it’s quite potent. Clarifying shampoo (I like Sunday Shampoo by Bumble and Bumble and Sun Care by Aveda) can also help to remove chlorine and other types of build-ups.

      A few people recommended Hairprint to me, but I haven’t tried it, mostly because I wanted to go gray and I read that it can only be applied on natural hair. It’s a good option for those who want to avoid harsh chemicals, though. Like you, my main reason for stopping the dye was health-related and I did notice improvement in some of my symptoms over the two years since I’ve had dye on my scalp. Even the more “natural” hair colors still include harsh chemicals and some people are more sensitive to them than others.

      I wish you the best of luck with your journey and I hope you will comment again to let me know how you’re doing. I really do feel for you and what you’re going though.

  16. Melody says:

    Wow, I think you look great! I actually love the messy bun. You look beautiful in all of these photos and the grey is really elegant.

    I used to have blonde highlights but wanted to try something different and dyed my hair a “natural light reddish brown” with a semi – what the stylist actually used was a horrible very unnatural dark mahogany which faded into a mouldy colour. I can emphasis with your pain of horrible colours and knowing there is nothing you can do but wait. Hair makes such a difference to our look! I’ve now found a natural henna colour that I like which blends in the grey (and the remaining regrowth) but doesn’t completely disguise them, that’s what I’ll stick to until I’m as brave as you to go completely grey.

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      Thank you so much for your kind words, Melody. I was able to find a few gray extension pieces – messy bun and ponytail clip – that match my hair better (the color difference in the messy bun photos was more obvious in real life), but I still like wearing my hair down the best. I really look forward to finally being done with this process after so many pitfalls along the way.

      Hair dye can be very unpredictable, especially for those of us who have porous hair, which often results from dyeing it often (I was getting my hair dyed every 4 weeks to cover gray, with permanent color at the roots and demi/semi through the length and that was a lot). While I was coloring my hair regularly, sometimes it would end up too dark, too red, or spotty in parts, which was frustrating, but nothing was as traumatic for me as what happened last September. I agree that hair makes a huge difference to how we look – it’s like an accessory we wear every single day. I’m glad you found a color that works for you. It sounds like when you do decide to transition to gray, you will have a much easier road than I’ve had!

  17. Mary says:

    Thank you for this article.. I am 4 months into my transition and every day I wonder what the heck will I look like with all this white/silver??? Are people staring at my “ skunk line”?? I use that temporary spray but its getting harder to hide. But after reading your article I am going to get a couple of inches cut and speed up this process just a bit. You are beautiful and I love your hair!!! Thank you for sharing your journey, the good as well as the bad !

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      I’m glad you found this article helpful, Mary. Congratulations on taking the plunge to transition to your natural hair! Where you are in the process may be the most difficult time and it’s close to the point when I decided to do the highlights. I think doing small (or larger – if you’re up for it) every few months is the way to go and it’s what I’m doing now. Every time I get some of the color cut off, I feel a lot better and I’m that much closer to being done! Thank you for your kind words and best wishes with the rest of your journey. I’d love it if you would comment again when you’re further along. I will likely do another update in a few months or so…

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