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. 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. Alice says:

      Sorry, this comment goes for Debbie.. I have no idea how to contact her ..I’m seating outside a coffee shop nervously thinking of my upcoming apt to do something with my hair.. !! I haven’t touch my hair in over 3 years I though going white was my answer . I was tired of putting so much chemicals so decided to become a natural girl.. 🙂
      Ayayay my white hairs are patches all over my head looks terrible but my dark hair has never been so healthy.. thanks to Debbies, ordeal my appt will be just for cutting my hair short, then I will decide next step… Thanks Debbie, you did help me!!!! 😇

      1. Debbie Roes says:

        Commenting here is a good way to contact me, Alice, but you can also send me a message via my “Contact” page (https://fulllifereflections.com/contact/). I’m very glad to read that this post helped you. My hair is SO much healthier since I stopped coloring, too. I had no idea how damaging the color was until I stopped it, as I often attributed my damaged hair to my age and health issues. Your “salt and pepper” hair probably looks better than you think it does, and sometimes a cut is all we need to freshen things up when we were thinking we needed color. Congrats on going without color for 3 years and for continuing to make that difficult choice. I hope you’re feeling better about your hair after the cut!

  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.

      1. Donna says:

        I googled asking about using color erase to get much faded brown out and what it might do to my 4″ gray roots. It led me here. I’d like to say that I ate your blog up!! I don’t want to blather so I’ll just say I’m newly widowed and not ok but I want to embrace my gray fully as I’ve used color since I was 19! In your story I myself would’ve done an A line Bob once gray touched shoulder tops. You have such gorgeous face and neck shape. My face is heavier but I love an A line on me. At this time, I’m committed to growing it to my waist ‘ one last time’ to satisfy the old hippy flower child I once was. About 7-8″ to go. I’ll be glad to cut by then as I shed awful! I cannot do the hombre look. Too much hair and the brown dyed part is 2-3 months faded. It looks a bit brassy from such fading. I’m so ready to be done and be all gray. I’m actually thinking about doing a boxed gray I’m seeing everywhere from several companies. You’re brave to have done so much. I wanted to add that the ladies I’ve read here sound wonderful. I will follow your blog because it feels good. I need these stories.

        1. Debbie Roes says:

          I’m glad you are enjoying my blog, Donna. Congrats on getting to the point of having 4″ gray roots. A lot of women give up before that point, so it’s an accomplishment. Sounds like you have a good attitude and are embracing positive change during a very difficult time in your life. It definitely feels free not having to touch up roots every few weeks, although I would do a lot of things differently if I had it to do over again with my gray hair transition (including cutting my hair shorter earlier on). Be careful with using color to transition. While some women do just fine with that, others experience negative results like I did. The safest way to proceed is without color and WITH patience. Best wishes to you and keep reading transition stories and watching videos. It definitely helps with the resolve.

  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 🙂

      3. Janet says:

        Try getting a clear glaze that’s suppose to help

  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:


    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:


    How I Let Go of Dieting and Lost Weight:


    The World Through Unloved Eyes And The Healing That Follows:


    7 Things Your Inner Child Needs to Hear You Say:


    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: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UT-suUWRcJc.

      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…

  18. fooemery says:

    Hi, Debbie: I am going through the gray hair transition as well (decided to just go cold turkey as I was SO tired of spending time in the salon!). I’m sorry you’ve had a rough transition. You look great and I bet your silvers will shine for real in no time! I also like your long hair (I, too, am not willing to cut my hair short to make this transition go quickly).

    I’m starting a gray hair transition blog to document the ups & downs of my transition.
    If you ever want to take a peek and commiserate, I’ll be at katiegoesplatinum.com.

    Good luck with the rest of your gray hair journey!

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      Thank you so much for your comment and for sharing your blog. I just read your most recent post and I look forward to reading more. I think you look great and I applaud you for going cold turkey and just letting it grow. I wish that’s what I would have done, as my transition has been prolonged SO MUCH by my trying to avoid the “skunk stripe” and what you termed “calico hair.” I think you look great now and you’ll look even better when you’re fully transitioned. I’m sure I will, too, and I can’t wait to get there! At this point, I’m just doing cuts every 2 or 3 months and cutting off as much as I feel comfortable with. It’s coming along… I should be done by now, but I can’t turn back the clock and just need to move forward. Best wishes to you, too, and I will be following along 🙂

      1. fooemery says:

        Thanks and good luck to you!

  19. Gi Gi says:

    First of all THANK YOU for sharing your experience! I was at my hairdresser only 3 hours ago for a consultation. Of course she suggested bleach and my hair is porous and frizzy also, so THANK YOU for discouraging me from the process!
    I started my grey journey mid May so I’ve really just begun.
    After reading your story, in which I read and absorbed every word, I have decided to go cold turkey, use temporary touch ups as long as I can, and carefully tied but stylish scarves which will allow my long hair to flow from the bottom.
    I do not believe in coincidences but believe God directed me to your blog. He cares about every little thing that concerns me. You have no idea how many blogs and pictures I have looked at and read over the past weeks but somehow yours has resonated with me. The timing was perfect.
    You heart is as BEAUTIFUL as you and your hair are!!
    So thankful to hear you speak about the importance of forgiveness my silver haired sister!

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      I’m so glad to have made a positive impact on you, Gi Gi. The hope that I could save other women from the difficulties I have gone through with my gray hair transition process is the reason I decided to share my bad experiences and unflattering photos. Reading your comment actually brought tears to my eyes and validated my decision to share my story, warts and all. Congratulations on undertaking this process and deciding to go “cold turkey.” I really do think that’s the best approach for most women, particularly those of us who have dark dyed hair – and especially if that hair is also frizzy and porous (which years of dyeing can also exacerbate). I wish you the very best of look with your journey! It will definitely be challenging, but you will learn a lot about yourself along the way. I hope you will come back and comment to let me know how you’re doing. I will share another update soon, but hair grows painfully slow and sometimes it seems like it doesn’t grow at all! But we will both get there eventually and we will be grateful we did – and we will be FREE!

  20. Stephanie says:

    Thank you for sharing your story. I’m sorry it has been so challenging for you. I’m just starting on my transition from dyed med brown. My last color was June 1. “Luckily” I’m having thyroid problems and my hair is growing super fast (1″-1.5″ of gray so far) but the skunk line is getting on my nerves. I am so thankful that you shared your struggles. It is refreshing to hear real advice about what not to do (or what may not come out as Pinterest-perfect as promised.) I appreciate your honesty and boldness. You look great in all of the pictures and I hope you are all natural soon.

    In my opinion…I am glad you passed on the messy bun. It wasn’t a good match and looked too big. The style was cute on you but I’m glad you decided against this one.

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      Congrats on your decision to “go gray,” Stephanie! It sounds like you’re off to a great start. I have the opposite situation with thyroid problems (hypothyroid) and it feels like my hair grows at a snail’s pace. The early days with the “skunk stripe” are the most challenging. I used a product called Madison Reed Root Touch-up for the first 6 months to cover my gray roots. They sell it at Sephora and Ulta and it covers pretty well. I probably used it for longer than I should have, but I was very self-conscious. When I couldn’t use this anymore is when I got the highlights, but I would advise you NOT to do that. Sure, there are some people who get those Pinterest-worthy results, but there is usually a lot of maintenance and cost involved and you could end up worse off than when you started like I did. I’m glad my story was helpful to you and I appreciate your kind words. Yeah, I’m glad I passed on the messy bun, too, as it wasn’t a good match and isn’t really my style. I haven’t found any extensions that match my hair well, so I’m just growing and cutting and trying to be patient. Best wishes to you!

  21. Daphna Kedmi says:

    Thank you very much for sharing your journey Debbie. You are a life (or rather hair) saver. I have just decided to take the leap and go gray. I am older than you (65) and, of course, I already anticipate the looks and the unsolicited opinions as to how old and neglected I look as my skunk line develops. More than that I dread the mirror, but I just can’t take dyeing any more. I have made the decision and I really hope I will be strong enough to ignore the nay sayers and release my poor and itching scalp and my thinning hair from the excruciating 3 week coloring sessions. My intention before happening upon your blog was to put in highlights to help me with the transition. I have even started to search for an expert coloring stylist in my area. Having read your courageous sharing of your mistakes, I will definitely not bleach my hair. Although I am attached to my mid- length hair and don’t feel comfortable with short hair, I will start the process and if it becomes too difficult I will opt for a short pixie hairstyle. At the end of the day, after reading your blog, it will probably ease the transition and certainly be less damaging to my already thin, frizzy and porous hair. I can’t thank you enough for sharing this.

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      It always makes me happy (and teary-eyed) to receive comments like yours, Daphna. I’m glad that my story has helped you to make a different (and I think better) decision about your gray hair transition process. The “skunk line” isn’t as horrible as you might think. It seems like it at first, but if you can make it through the initial stages, it will get much easier. That’s what I’ve seen from the gray hair transition groups on Facebook and the posts on Instagram. I wasn’t patient and I worried far too much about what others might think. I focused too much on the “negatives” of the journey and not enough on my compelling reasons for making the change. You seem to have some very compelling reasons for stopping the dye, so try to remain focused on those as much as possible. Hats, scarves, and root cover powder (I used Madison Reed and felt it worked well) can be helpful. I’m attached to longer hair, too, but I have gone shorter recently to try to get this over with. Just do a little at a time, as it’s easier that way. I wish you the best of luck! Your hair will be much healthier and you will likely be happy with the resulting look, as most people are. Congrats for taking this step and for deciding NOT to opt to do highlights!

  22. Carla TePaske says:

    I am in the process of the transition. I am a dark hair girl. This is hard, it really is. I am at the 3 month stage. I have felt like giving up, but I keep on. I really appreciated this post! Thank YOU!

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      I’m glad you liked the post, Carla. The 3-month point is very difficult. It pretty much ALL is difficult, but the early phases are hard because that’s when many people give up. It’s especially challenging for those of us with dark hair, but there is peace and freedom on the other side. Even though my journey has been fraught with difficulty, I’m glad I’ve stuck with it and I see the light at the end of the tunnel. Best wishes to you with the process! Headbands, hats, and scarves are your friend and if you can bear to part with length, it will make things easier. You will get there!

  23. Wendy L says:

    Thank you for the save! Your hair and mine have so much in common. I’ve been reading more articles on transitioning to grey than different recipes for cooking chicken. I actually have a consultation scheduled at a salon this afternoon and the female has over confidently stated how she can make this transition easy and painless. Every interaction involved cutting my hair. I’m not ready. My husband isn’t happy with my decision and the ultimatum was, I cut and dye it or leave it long and go grey. ( I may eat these words ). Deep breath here. Everything you did, would have been exactly what I would have agreed to and I would have experienced the same disappointments you have. It would. been a tragic experience. So, from the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU. I’m canceling the appt. buying hats to cover the roots. I usually wear my hair in a long braid and I’ll just deal with it.

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      Wendy, I’m so glad my post has helped you to avoid the kind of difficulties and disappointments I’ve experienced with my gray hair transition. I think a lot of these stylists are well-meaning and they sometimes do achieve positive results, but there are so many variables and unknowns associated with going gray by means of color. Bleaching dark colored hair is risky business (and that’s what is involved in most of these “easy and painless” transitions that we see on YouTube, Pinterest, and the like) and the potential to get brassy, orange results is high. We see the beautiful before and after photos, but we don’t see how that same hair looks a few weeks later or what is involved in maintaining the effect shown. I liked my hair when it was first highlighted and toned, but the toner washed out almost immediately and I was left with orange hair that I hated. If I could turn back the clock, I wouldn’t have done ANY of it and I would have saved myself lots of grief and money. Since I can’t change my poor decisions, all I can do is try to save others from the same type of “hair hell.” I’m glad I saved you and I wish you the best with your transition. It won’t be easy, but it will be rewarding and worth it in the end. Congrats on taking this positive step – and hang in there!

  24. Annette Coetzee says:

    Hi Debbie thank you for this post. I am strongly considering transioning to gray. Now at least I know what I am in for and what not to do. Getting highlights is what I wanted to do! But I have very dark hair so that’s out. You are very brave not just for sticking it out but for posting the entire process. We’ll done you are an inspiration.

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      Thank you for your kind words, Annette. I’m glad you found my post helpful. I wish I had read something similar before making all of the mistakes I’ve made, which is why I decided to post about my journey, warts and all. I wish you the best of luck with your decision and your process. It’s not an easy road, no matter how you do it, but there IS a light at the end of the tunnel. The process has been very long for me due to my many mistakes, but I will get to the end eventually and so will you!

  25. Kellie says:

    I transitioned to grey by letting it grow out and cutting the ends every couple of months. Now that I’ve fully transitioned I’m so happy I did it that way. It allowed me to embrace the grey and say goodbye to my old self. It was a little tuff in the beginning but once it past the crown it got better. Please don’t be so hard on yourself. As women we put enough stress on ourselves with what we think society says we should be. Those of us that are embracing our natural grey are paving the way society thinks and for younger women. Embrace who you are and let go of those negative thoughts, so you made some mistakes, big deal, you learn from them. I wasted years of my life allowing negative thoughts to enter. I started meditating, saying affirmations and slowly my thought process changed. I just turned 49 and I’m the happiest and healthiest I’ve ever been. Good luck with your journey.

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      I think you went about your gray hair transition the right way, Kellie. That’s what I’m doing now and I wish I would have done that from the beginning. Of course, hindsight is 20/20, though! You’re right that women are dealing with a lot of stress around both societal and internal expectations. I do like feeling like a sort of “trailblazer” with going gray at a younger age. I wish it would have been easier, but I wish that about a lot of things in life. Negativity and judging myself have long been issues for me and such things ARE a waste of time, just like you said. It’s not easy to turn those things around, but it IS possible. Congrats on your positive changes and thank you for the kind words and encouragement.

  26. Lexi says:

    I just started growing out my Grey in July 2018 and at my last hair appointment my stylist asked if I wanted highlights and I declined. I am so glad I did after reading your blog. I also had her cut it to a short bob and again to an angled bob. I figure once the grey starts showing out the bottom in the back, it will be obvious what I am trying to do and people will just be like, “oh, she’s growing out her hair!” LOL I am so done with dying my hair. I’ve been doing it for 31 years. No more! I am done!

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      It sounds like your gray hair transition is off to a great start, Lexi! You’re going about it in the right way and I’m happy you declined the highlights. Not everyone will have as disastrous an experience with them as I did, but there’s a good chance of both damage and brassiness from that process. It’s better to just go “cold turkey” and cut your hair shorter like you have. I didn’t dye my hair for as long as you did, but no more for me, either! I may have had a rough road with my transition, but I don’t regret making that decision (it’s just the ones along the way that I regret). Best wishes to you and congrats on your new silver hair!

  27. Melody says:

    I feel for you. You’ve inspired me though. When I first read about your transition I was inspired to try but I wasn’t quite ready. Last Christmas I made a (terrible) decision to get the hairdresser to dye my hair red instead of my usual blonde highlights. Instead of a light natural reddish brown I asked for he dyed it mahogany. It was terrible! And the problem with a bad colour like that is there is nothing you can do about it (despite supposedly being temporary)! So I ditched that hairdresser and decided I was over colour fiascos and it was time to bite the bullet. I’ve now got a nice inch and a half of my natural brown sprinkled with white, and roots of a reddish brown (I did dye over it with henna because after washing it out with harsh shampoo it went a mouldy colour – I don’t like this colour and it clashes with my clothes but it’s much better than before). I’ve got it cut into a short bob. I’m happy with it now but like you I wish I’d done things differently – would have been much easier to grow it out from the blonde highlights!

    P.S. Personally I love the look of the messy bun on you. I think it matches really nicely.

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      Glad to hear that I inspired you, Melody, but I’m sorry you also made a terrible hair decision that you later regretted. I’m sure that most women out there have made such a mistake, so we are not alone (although I doubt many women have made as many hair mistakes as I have!). Good for you for taking a negative experience and turning it into something positive, though! Sometimes that’s what it takes… I think it’s good that you cut your hair shorter, as your transition process will be finished that much sooner. If you like the messy bun look, maybe you can find an extension piece that will match your hair. I found that using a root cover powder helped me during the earlier stages (I used Madison Reed, but there are other options out there), as did headbands. Good luck to you!

  28. Susie says:

    The texture of my hair changed after my hysterectomy. It was horrible, short or long. I now get a Brazilian Blowout three times a year and it’s straight and silky. My hair is dyed gold and I’ve got about three inches of silvery white/gray. I did get highlights once which were fine but am now cold turkey with purple shampoo. My hair grow fast, so I think I’m one of the lucky ones.

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      Interesting how hormones affect hair texture, Susie, but I’m glad you found a way to better manage it. I can’t get keratin treatments/Brazilian Blowouts because I had a terrible allergic reaction to one about ten years ago 😦 Yes, you are lucky that your hair grows fast! Mine is pretty average, I think, and it seems like it’s taking forever! But I know that eventually, I will finally be done transitioning, as will you. Best wishes!

  29. Waymire says:

    Oh hon.. I swear I have no idea how some stylists get their license, let alone stay in business. Anyone should have known what was going to happen when you half lift dark hair and you NEVER lift over dye. I’ve been doing my own for years.. too many disasters at the hands of others. At least yours didn’t wind up green like mine has lol. My suggestion.. cut it into an A line bob, short as you can without layers. It will look gorgeous on you, it’s super easy to take care of, and once you get your natural color grown out, it grows out perfectly to any length “lob” and still looks great. That is what I did growing out a pixie I didn’t ask for (no joke, I went in for a collar length cut and came out 3/4″ at the crown) and I’m still wearing it at waist length. The extra length in the front is not only flattering but its nice for styling, braids, etc.

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      Agreed that there are a lot of incompetent stylists out there, Waymire, and even those who are generally competent mostly don’t know how to help women to transition to gray successfully. I used to get highlights before I had all over dye and that worked well, so I had no idea that doing heavy highlights on dyed hair would be such a disaster, but the stylist who did it should have known! That must have been horrible when your hair turned green! Orange wasn’t pretty, but I think I might have freaked out more about green… That’s great that you have been able to learn how to do your own color. Even if I were going to go back to dyeing my hair now (which I’m not), I would have a very hard time trusting a stylist!

      I recently did another update on my gray hair transition and you may not have seen it – here’s the link: https://fulllifereflections.com/2018/10/06/gray-hair-tag-questions/. I have been gradually cutting off the dyed ends while not going too short. My hair is very difficult to manage and not naturally straight as it appears in my photos (all flat-ironing…), so it wouldn’t work well in an A line bob. I love the look on others, but I think my pouffy hair would look like a triangle! A lob would probably work, though, and I may do that soon to hasten this process. I can imagine you were horrified to get a pixie when you asked for a collar length cut! Between the two of us, we have had quite a few hair disasters, haven’t we? I’m glad you are on the other side of all of that – and soon I will be, too. Thanks for the support and encouragement!

  30. Lori H says:

    Has anybody tried using wigs to get through the transition? I’ve heard they can be harmful to hair but not sure if that’s a fact. My mom wears one all the time and does well with them but she’s 78. I was thinking about starting with one that’s a little lighter than my hair color with gray mixed in then gradually getting more gray over time. Any comments from anyone who’s tried it?

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      Hi Lori, Some women have definitely used wigs to help them get through the transition. I don’t know anyone personally who has done this, but I did see this YouTube video by a woman who did just that: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F6QvXUWhvN4&index=2&list=PLC0rftja1rG3eL1_6Y8Tse5LuIiue82PS

      I considered using a wig, but with the hot flashes that come with menopause and living in a pretty warm place, I decided that I would be too hot. I also looked into hair extensions, but none of the available types matched my hair (it’s too “salt and pepper” and not gray enough). Your mileage may vary, though. I think it’s worth investigating the wig or extension avenue. It could be a good fit for you!

      1. Lori says:

        I didn’t think about the hot flash issue! I’ll check out the youtube video. Thanks for your input!

  31. gig says:

    I decided not to put color on my hair anymore, but my hair grows at snail rate, and it is very fine. I wish someone would invent a type of color that would go in a shampoo that you could use everytime without too much work!! The best to you and thank you for your blog.

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      Congrats on starting your gray hair transition journey, Gig! I hear you on hair growing at a snail’s pace. This process seems like it’s taking forever – and I didn’t do myself any favors with all of the mistakes I’ve made… About your invention idea, that would be great, but color can be so harsh on hair. There are color-enhancing shampoos, but those don’t work so well at covering grays, as they can be so stubborn. I wish you the best with your process and I’m glad you found this post helpful.

  32. Andrea says:

    I am so glad I found this blog, and found some great insight through your struggles and thank you for sharing. I think I have thought about all possible options so knowing some alternatives may not turn out like I would like, I now am leaning towards natural grow out. I am 41, work in a professional atmosphere and am terrified to have a skunk stripe showing at work. HOWEVER, I am more terrified of the continued 4 week coloring I currently do. I transitioned to Henna about 4 years ago however it turned Burgundy so I did another transition to Naturtint box hair color. I truly love how Naturtint makes my hair feel and look, but my hair grows fast and it doesn’t take long for the gray to pop out. Luckily I am at the spot where I am salt and pepper, heavier on the pepper so I feel now would be a better time to begin the growth process rather than waiting for more salt to appear.
    Thank you for your blog, I learned so much by what you shared, and I can almost feel your pain that came with it. I feel anxious just thinking about growing mine out but knowing what not to do will make it easier!

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      Thank you for your comment, Andrea. I’m glad my gray hair transition posts have been helpful for you! Yes, I have gone through a lot of pain with my transition, which is why I have done my best to document my challenges in the hope of helping others not to have to experience as much pain as I’ve had. No matter what, it’s not easy, though! It’s definitely harder when one is in a professional setting and doesn’t want to have to have a “skunk stripe.” I have never tried henna or Naturtint, but I wish I would have used a more natural option back when I didn’t have as much gray. My gray came in pretty rapidly and it’s probably 60% or more now. I think it’s easier to transition when one has less gray, so hopefully that will make things somewhat easier for you. Best wishes to you with the process! If you avoid my mistakes, you’ll finish the transition a lot faster than I have!

  33. Heather Sanders says:

    I am currently two months into my grow out dark tint journey. I found your article really helpful. I took the plunge immediately and went for a short pixie chop. Friends say it suits me, but truth be told I feel like hiding for a year! Same sort of reasons as you re longer hair. The only consolation is that I hope it’s a more straightforward process and then I’m growing a bob in! I loved the messy bun extensions btw 😊

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      Good for you for taking the plunge with the pixie chop, Heather! In retrospect, I really wish I had been so brave. I can imagine it’s a big shock, though, to go from long dyed hair to short gray hair (or short two-toned hair, depending upon when you did the chop). Hopefully, you will get used to the new cut and maybe even grow to like it. There is no easy way to do this, unfortunately, which is why a lot of women continue to dye their hair well into their senior years (my mom is 74 and still dyeing her hair, for example, and my mother-in-law didn’t stop until her eighties and still mentions that she may go back to color). You likely will inspire others to follow your lead through your bravery! I’m glad you found my post helpful and I wish you all the best with your journey.

  34. Karen says:

    Thank you for sharing your story. I wish I had have documented mine as I am transitioning too to embrace my gray hair.
    I am an ex-hairdresser so I did it all myself and I am extremely happy with where I am one year on from stripping out a mahogany colour. I hated my hair for 3 months. It was a tricky process but I found that low lights of a dark brown through the coloured treated parts created an optical illusion and reduced the brassiness. In Australia we have a wonderful product which became my best friend and I add it to my conditioner. It is Brite Organix in silver. Sometimes I add the pastel blue and pink just to change it up.
    I wish you success with your journey and hope your transition gives you your desired results.

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      I’m glad your gray hair transition has been smoother than mine, Karen (I have hated my hair for more months now that I’d like to say!). That’s great that you knew exactly what to do to make things easier. In retrospect, I wish I would have gone with low lights rather than highlights if I was going to use color at all. I really had no idea the brassiness of the highlights could get so bad, as I hadn’t had highlights since my twenties when I had them done on my natural (not dyed) hair. Live and learn, but it has been tough lesson for sure. The Brite Organix product sounds great. There are so many products out there that it’s hard to find good ones, but I’m sure we have something like that here, too. I’m sure I will love my hair when it’s finally the color and length that I want, but it sure has taken forever. The mistakes have made it all take so much longer, but I’m trying to look forward and not back now.

  35. Imogen says:

    Thank you for writing this. I’m 8 months in and my best friend (a hair dresser has been on at me the whole time to “fix it”. I had finally relented and booked an appointment for early Jan. After reading your tail, I now have the resolve to keep going and just let her give it a cut! good luck with the on going journey! x

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      Congrats on making it to 8 months without coloring your hair, Imogen! Those earlier months can be the hardest part and a lot of women go back to coloring then. It’s so difficult to do this because hair grows SO slowly, like a snail’s pace… I’m so glad reading my post has helped you to keep your resolve. Doing regular cuts definitely helps, as it feels good to see the colored parts hit the floor and know that we’re that much closer to the end point. Best wishes with seeing this through to the end and thank you for your good wishes!

  36. Dana says:

    I just found your blog and I can relate to the frustration of the transition process.
    That said, I think you look amazing!! I believe the process is an internal one as well as an external one, and teaches us so much about aging, who we are and what is truly important in life.
    After my second set of awful blond brassy highlights that also ate up six months of growth, I vowed to never let a stylist touch my hair again. Have you tried Overtone brand colour depositing conditioner? For me, they saved my transition! I saw a lot of women online who used overtone to ease the process. The gray conditioner is all natural, covers the fake blonde / brassy higlights in a natural gray colour and for some reason doesn’t tint my real gray hair at all — I basically have a sort of gray-ombré effect that I can live with till it all grows out.
    Good luck with everything 🙂

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      Thank you for your kind words and wishes, Dana. I agree that the gray hair transition process is very much an internal one. It definitely has been for me and I’ve been confronted by a lot of emotions I’ve needed to process along the way. I have tried the Overtone pastel purple conditioner. At first I thought I was happy with it (it’s what was recommended to me by Overtone when I sent them photos of my hair), but it’s hard for me not to get a purplish tinge because my hair is porous. I haven’t tried the gray conditioner because I was told it might give my hair a greenish tinge, but I know that some Instagrammers and members of gray Facebook groups have been happy with it. I don’t have too much more to go now, but I might be willing to give it a try to get me through the home stretch. Best of luck to you, too!

  37. Lynne says:

    Hi Debbie,
    Thank you so much for your article. I am six months into growing out my grays, and was SO CLOSE to getting high/low lights added to help with the brassiness of my previous color. After reading your article, I have decided to just persevere with going natural. My hair is long, and I too struggle with the thought of cutting it short. I have cut it all of a few times in the past and never felt like the same person-strange how your hair can sometimes define who you are. The good thing about long hair that I have found, is that I can just put my hair up in a messy bun and be done with it, and the change in color line doesn’t seem to be so obvious.
    Would love to see a picture of your hair now that it has been a couple of years since you started the process!

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      I’m so glad my article helped you to avoid the often problematic highlight/low lights route, Lynne. I really do believe that going “cold turkey” is the fastest and least damaging route, but of course none of this is easy! I very much identify with what you wrote about hair defining who we are. That’s a big part of why this process has been so difficult for me. It’s good that the messy bun is working so well for you. As for pictures of my hair, you can see what it looked like in August on this post (scroll to the bottom): https://fulllifereflections.com/2018/10/06/gray-hair-tag-questions/

      Because I basically had to start over (save a couple of inches at the top in the front) after my mistake #4, I’m not yet done with my transition. I thought I might be at the end of the year, but I decided I wasn’t willing to cut off the last few inches of color and do layers (I never like my hair with layers). I’m getting cuts every two months, but it feels like this is taking forever! I will do another update soon, whether or not I’m actually “done” yet. Best wishes to you!

      1. Su says:

        Thanks for this blog. I have just today had small T section of highlights and an ask toner. I’m happy and my 1.5 inch virgin growth was not touched. Hairdresser wants me to return for new toner treatment 2 monthly. I’m worried from your blog it will go over my white roots and put me back. Obviously I’d prefer to have toners over next 2 Yrs during transition IF not going to stain my roots.
        Am I correct that you’d not trust hairdresser?

        1. Debbie Roes says:

          I can’t tell you whether or not you should trust your hairdresser, Su. I know that not everyone will have the types of difficult experiences I’ve had with trying to use color to help me transition, but I want everyone to be aware that such things CAN happen. The thing with toners is that they aren’t all created equally and they don’t always fully wash out. Any type of hair processing can affect natural gray/white hair. Things that are supposed to wash out may stain, so it’s a risk. Additionally, it’s very hard for stylists not to overlap the natural outgrowth, so it’s likely you will lose some progress along the way. Another thing to think about is that stylists aren’t accustomed to NOT putting color all the way up to the roots. They may get distracted and have “oops” in a few areas, especially because they are often working very quickly and talking while they work. I really recommend that color NOT be used during the transition process except maybe at the beginning to blur the line of demarcation. But I also understand that it’s hard to deal with the line. There really IS no easy way, as there are drawbacks to each approach. But beyond the difficulties dies FREEDOM – no more expense, mess, time sitting in the chair, chemicals, roots, etc. Eventually you will get there and I wish you all the best.

  38. gtbkd1 says:

    Thank you for posting this! I’m just a couple months into the going-gray journey. I have long, dark, naturally curly hair. Boxed color (and some professionally done color) since I was 18 years old; started graying early. I’m now almost 45. The line of demarcation… ack. It’s such a stark contrast with my hair, as I’m completely WHITE in the front now. I see women doing it and embracing it. Meanwhile, I’m trying to figure out how to avoid it. No one will touch my hair in terms of bleaching to try to match the gray. I didn’t like that answer at first, but I do appreciate that they’re not willing to take the risk of damaging my hair. But the thought of that skunk line slowly growing down my head over the next couple years….. *sigh* I’ll get through it! But seriously, thank you for this. My next call was going to be to a local salon who does Olaplex. I’m not going to call. I think I’ll toy with the idea of adding a little dark to the roots here and there every now and then just to break up the stripe. I have no idea. LOL. I have an appt to get a trim (maybe cut?) next week.

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      I hated the line of demarcation, too, and that set off my long series of mistakes that prolonged this journey pretty much two-fold. I’m glad that no one agreed to bleach your hair. I wish the same would have been true for me. Olaplex was used for my two rounds of very heavy (we’re talking 90-100 foils) highlights, so my hair wasn’t damaged too badly, but the brassy orange color that resulted was devastating for me and MUCH worse than the original line of demarcation. Adding some lowlights now while you’re early in the process can help to break up the line, but I caution you about doing too much of that, as it will set back your progress. Getting regular cuts (I have been doing every two months) and parting with as much length as you can will help a lot. If you’re willing to do layers, you will see the progress faster. I have resisted layers since my hair is so unruly (I know it doesn’t look like it in my photos, but a flat-iron can do a lot), but I think I’m going to do it next time so I can finally be done. Best wishes to you! You will get there and I’m sure you will look lovely and be happy with the end result.

  39. ggause@gmail.com says:

    You are so close! Hopefully once you are done you will forget about all of the “mistakes” along the way. The process stinks, but in all of the photos you have looked lovely. So it wasn’t perfect, but it looks to me that it was an overall success.

    I started the process, then aborted it and started dying again. Now working on starting it again… Your post was very helpful and certainly makes me feel less alone in the journey. I hope I can brave it more gracefully this time around…

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      Thanks for your kind words about my hair and the mistakes I’ve made. As with most things in life, hindsight is 20/20 and most of us would do a lot of things differently if we had it to do over again. From what I’ve seen, it takes more than one try for many women to “go gray,” so you’re not alone in that respect. I’m glad my post was helpful to you! I have two more recent updates on my gray hair transition and I include more tips in both of them. These posts are linked at the top of this one for convenience sake. Best wishes with the process. You are in good company!

  40. djbatten522@yahoo.com says:

    Hi Deb, A recently had a consultation with a stylist about transitioning. She suggested starting with highlights around my face and crown. My hair is dyed med. brown w/strawberry-blond highlights and my roots are white. I don’t have salt and pepper roots and my hair is lighter than yours was….will highlighting still be a mistake?

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      I can’t really answer this question for someone else, especially without seeing them, but I can offer you some things to consider as you make your decision. Have you started your transition yet? Sometimes highlights or lowlights can be helpful EARLY on in the process of transitioning to break up the initial line of demarcation. I think that lowlights are a safer bet for hair that’s dyed darker, as there’s a better chance of them matching the dyed hair and less chance of their turning orange. With highlights, you may end up with THREE different hair colors – the white outgrowth, the highlights, and your dyed hair. This can make the transition harder.

      Unfortunately, however, MOST hair dye will turn at least somewhat orange-ish as it oxidizes (what is referred to as “blorange” in the going gray community), no matter what color it is, but this effect is less garish with the darker dyes. I would only do highlights or lowlights early in the process, though, as these processes can set back progress (it’s hard to avoid some overlap of the outgrowth no matter how careful a stylist is). I got my two rounds of highlights at 6 and 8 months, which was a BIG mistake. I should have stuck it out when I already had that much outgrowth, but live and learn… I also got very heavy highlights, which I would never recommend for anyone who is going gray!

      If you opt to do highlights or lowlights, just do a FEW early on in the process and then leave your hair alone except for cutting the dye off as it grows. There is no avoiding some level of your hair looking “bad,” or at least looking very different from what you’re used to. It was trying to avoid this inevitability that set me back so far. It’s best to do the transition when you’re truly ready and also to be prepared for the reality of the process. It can be a time of a lot of growth if you approach it with the right attitude. It’s a metamorphosis of a sort and it can be an exciting and fun change. I looked at it all wrong and made a lot of bad choices along the way. This is why I’m writing about it, as I don’t want other women to experience the difficulties I have. In my opinion, it’s better to err on the side of doing little or nothing in terms of coloring as part of the transition, but you need to make these choices for yourself. Best wishes to you!

  41. Jules says:

    Well done. Very inspiring. Just considering stopping the highlights and letting my gray grow out. Thank you for writing the blog. Jules

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      I’m glad you found this post helpful, Jules, and I wish you the best of luck with your decision process and maybe growing out your gray hair.

  42. Naomi says:

    Thanks for this blog and sharing all your experiences. You are right that so much of our identity and sense of attractiveness is wrapped up in our hair. Annoying really when men don’t have to do through anything like this! I was always known as the hair growing up (my hair is was naturally like the cartoon character in Brave – big, red curly long…. but I started going grey in my 30s and have used henna for over a decade. Now pushing 47 I know I want to just let it transition to grey / reddish/grey / whatever the strange mix of colour is at the roots! – and be done with the fortnightly henna-ing (SO messy, time-consuming and expensive). Henna doesn’t play nicely with synthetic chemicals so I’ll be doing the cold turkey / pixie cut route I think. It’s good to read that the first year is pretty much awful and just accept that I’m in for a big change and a lot of comments. and a change to being ‘The Hair’ from now on!

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Naomi. Yes, it IS annoying that men don’t have to deal with the whole gray hair transition thing, but many of them have to deal with LOSING their hair, which I’m sure can be quite traumatic… I haven’t used henna to color my hair, but I know it has a lot of plusses and minuses. Good for you for deciding to take the plunge to let go of the color AND your identity as “The Hair” (at least for the short term). I suspect that you will look lovely with silver curls if you opt to have long hair again, and you may actually love the pixie. I wasn’t brave enough to go short, but I do think it’s the easiest way to transition. I wish you the best of luck!

  43. Donna says:

    I started going grey when I was 19. It is in my genes. Right now my 17 year old son who has beautiful jet black hair is striped with gorgeous strands of white hair. I decided at 35 to embrace it and stop coloring. I knew from my mom’s experience I didn’t want to go the “skunk stripe” route. It was going into winter and I worked at home, so I had my husband shave my head with a one inch clipper setting. I was finally able to grow my hair out long without worrying about coloring. I eventually went back to a pixie, but I loved having the flexibility to grow it if I wanted. All was well until about 2 months ago. I was at a graduation party for my nephew and a woman walked up and asked if I was my older sisters aunt. It hit me like a ton of bricks. I caved and dyed my hair an ashy blonde color. I instantly regretted it. It looks like I am wearing a Toupee. The grey grew out quickly at the nape but the top is still blonde. I will probably just shave it again, but it makes me so mad at myself that I left someone elses opinion change the way I felt. So anyone out there who is going grey, my advice is stay the course. If you feel blah, make small changes to your makeup or try wearing a different color palette.

    1. Naomi says:

      Other people seem to have so much sway over our feelings and sense of worth – I’m sorry you had to experience that. I’m sure you look great – it’s society’s perception that grey is ‘old’. Colleagues that I’ve told what I’m doing (I’m not really showing yet as I’m only 1 month in and my curls are hiding the roots) – have said: But you’re too young to go grey! Clearly I’m not as nature decides (sometimes very young like you) that we can go grey at any age!! As a redhead I also have had a lifetime of abuse (even though I loved the colour) and still get shouted ‘Oi! Ginger!’ or worse by youths… so I don’t think a couple of comments about the grey will bother me – I’ve built up a very thick skin!

    2. Debbie Roes says:

      Thanks so much for sharing your story, Donna. You were very brave to go gray using the shaving method, but after all I’ve been through with my stupid hair, I can see how your option is a lot wiser! I’m so sorry you dealt with that experience at the graduation party. It must have been demoralizing. Such things do give us pause, as when I was given the senior rate at a movie theater last weekend (which starts at 60 and I just turned 53!). It’s hard not to let other people’s opinions and actions affect us. I always heard that the 50’s was when we stop caring about what other people think, but that hasn’t happened for me yet… Your advice to focus on colors and makeup when we feel blah is excellent, as it’s FAR easier to change clothes or makeup than it is to go through a gray hair transition process. Best wishes with your second transition. I appreciate your sharing here to help advise others.

      Naomi, congrats on taking the plunge to go gray! People told me I’m too young, too, but a wise woman I knew once said, “I’m not too young if that’s what’s coming out of my head!” So right! Gray is just a color and it doesn’t mean “old.” Sadly, society has given us that message and it’s hard to overcome it sometimes. Luckily, there are a lot more women embracing their natural hair color these days. I have nothing against coloring one’s hair, but I want more women to feel like it’s a choice and not an obligation. Oh, and I dyed my hair auburn for years, so I love red hair. I can’t understand why anyone would make fun of natural red locks, but there’s no sense to people’s behavior sometimes… I wish you strength and fortitude for your transition!

  44. Amy Mumm says:

    Thank you very much for sharing. I am 6 months in this transition. You have really helped me. I’m going in for a second trim and will take a good bit if my length off. Was thinking of asking for toner but have changed my mind. I do love the picture of your messy bun.

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      Congrats on starting your gray hair transition and staying the course, Amy! You’re at the hardest point in the journey, but if you hang in there a bit longer, it will get easier. Trimming on a regular basis helps, as it feels good to see some of the color fall to the floor and to have a greater proportion of your hair be your natural color. I’m glad you found this post helpful and I wish you the best with completing your transition and being free of the hassle of color!

  45. Clair says:

    Thank you so much for this post. I am in the process of trying to transition from years of dyed dark hair to my (now) natural white/grey – it has been awful! All pictures that I’d seen seemed to show a seamless transition that took one, maybe, two trips to the hairdressers. I, on the other hand, am booked in tomorrow for my fourth appointment in less than two months! I’ve cut off as much as I am happy to but still have a way to go, just hating the white/grey roots and the brassiness of the rest of it. Have seriously considered cutting it into a pixie crop but just can’t cope with the ‘growing out’ stage. I am just pleased I’m not the only one and that it is normal to take a while to sort out. Just worried that I’ll ruin my hair in the process!

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      You’re very welcome, Clair. I agree that most pictures of transitions make the process seem so easy, but it’s not for everyone (or even probably MOST people). While it wasn’t easy for me to post such unflattering photos of myself, I did want to show the other side of what is usually presented online so that women would be aware of potential problems that might occur. I hope your appointment last week went well. Once I stopped trying to use color to make things easier and just went with regular haircuts, things went more smoothly for me. If you’re open to a “big chop,” that’s often the easiest way to transition. I went shorter than I wanted, but nothing too drastic because I have difficult hair (it looks straight in the photos, but that’s all flat-ironing). As for ruining your hair, Olaplex 3 (can buy on Amazon) helped a lot after I did the heavy highlights. My hair bounced back and it’s in much better condition now than when I colored it all the time. Best wishes to you with the rest of your transition!

  46. Hi Debbie,
    I truly enjoyed your story. I turned 49 last week, and I have been coloring my hair for about 10 years. This is my 2nd attempt. I was due for a color last month. My hair was dark brown, so needless to say, it looks horrific right now, but I will live.
    I had my cry, letting go of my youthful hair color, and accepting my next stage in life, why fight it. As of Aug 19th my husband and I are empty nesters. Our 2 youngest son’s joined the army this summer. It’s been a year of transitions and some. I can’t change anything, so why change my hair color. Blessings❤

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      Congrats on taking your first step towards hair color freedom, Catherine! It’s not an easy journey, but it’s well worth it in my opinion. It sounds like this is a good time for you to take the plunge from what you said and you seem to have a great attitude. For many women, it takes more than one attempt, so you’re not alone there. I wish you the very best with this transition and with the other transitions in your life!

  47. Tamethyst says:

    Hi Debbie, I’m extremely grateful for people like you who write about your own personal experiences with this process. I’m 31 and decided almost a year ago to let my grey hair grow out. I couldn’t stand the demarcation line so I’ve decided to use semi permanent hair dye. It says it last 28 shampoos but I wash my hair twice per week and it gades within 3 weeks. I was wondering why you haven’t tried semi-permanent dyes? Xo

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      I just saw this comment in the Spam folder and approved it. Sorry about that – I was out of town. Regarding semi-permanent dye, it doesn’t always fully wash out. It CAN stain a person’s hair, especially gray hair. I have known – and known of – a few women who used semi-permanent dye and basically had to start the transition process over again because that dye didn’t wash out. That’s basically what happened for me with what was called “toner,” which is also supposed to be something that washes out. That’s why I wrote about porous hair in this post, to warn women to be careful of using products that might not wash out even though the manufacturers are touting them as “temporary” colors. Hopefully your hair isn’t porous like mine and you won’t have any such problems, but it IS a risk that I wanted people to be aware of. Best wishes to you and kudos on being willing to go gray at age 31! What a great example you’re setting for other women in your age group!

  48. Lorrie says:

    Wow! You’ve been through the wringer! I’ve opted for the pixie crop (I know the easy option) and was thinking of toning my hair or something, anything really, but after reading your blog, I’m going to stick on a hair band and brave it out for a few months. I want to say a MASSIVE thank you! Firstly for taking the time out to write this blog and secondly for making it so informative and helpful, I think there’s a lot of us feeling the same so please don’t forget to show us the grand finale, love Lorrie x

    1. Naomi says:

      Hi Lorrie – Your comment is so timely to me as I went to the hairdresser yesterday and said – go shorter (I’ve been cropping for a few months and now that it’s 3 months since colouring it’s a mess!) – I was looking at pics of Elizabeth Taylor and Ava Gardner in the 50s – they had what is referred to as a bubble or circle cut (similar to The Italian cut) 3-4 inches crop – and because I have curly hair it still looks OK (?!) – with a scarf tied around my head – and big earrings! Roll on May/June when I should be all my natural colour and can start growing it again. Good luck everyone with the transition!

    2. Debbie Roes says:

      Lorrie and Naomi, I think you both have the right idea with going for a short haircut as you transition. My mom transitioned this year and her journey was SO much more painless than mine, as she has short hair and didn’t use ANY color during her transition. You both seem to have a great attitude, so I think you will do well. Yes, rock the scarves, headbands, and big earrings! This transition isn’t for the faint of heart, but it DOES end – and it will end much sooner for you than for me and many others who opt to keep long hair and/or use color during the process. I’m glad this post was helpful for you, Lorrie! Yes, I have been through the wringer, but it’s a silver lining for me that I have been able to help others by sharing my hair woes. I have done a few other updates since this one, but will post more on this topic again soon… Best wishes!

  49. Lisa says:

    Thank you for sharing. This helps me a lot as I am contemplating the journey. Wish me luck 🤪

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      I’m so glad you found this post helpful, Lisa. I know that it’s tough to contemplate embarking upon a “going gray” journey, so I want to provide as much food for thought as possible to help women both to make the decision and to get through the process as seamlessly as possible. I wish you the best of luck with your decision and your transition, whenever you decide to do it!

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