To Grey, or Not To Grey

Silver hair isn’t always an accurate indicator of age. Some start greying in their teens, and others can count on their fingers the number of grey hair they have even as they turn sixty. Still, its association with ageing is hard to discount. Will that ever change?


Photo of woman with grey hair by christian ferrer on Unsplash

Recently a doctor asked my age. When I replied, I noticed him strike out the number he had first written, a 2, and replace it with a 4 without missing a beat. He didn’t comment that I looked younger than my years, but the implication was hard to miss. Perhaps this was a well thought-out strategy to perk up patients! Whatever the reason, I left feeling so good, my flu vanished almost as soon as I stepped out of the clinic. 

It isn’t just me though. Women in general look younger than their counterparts from a generation ago. What has changed? Although we hear words like diet and exercise bandied about, the fact is our diet of processed foods is unhealthier than that of our predecessors, and they exercised just as much as we do – in the form of physical labour. There is however, one thing we have that they didn’t have easy access to: natural looking hair colour.

Indeed, that doctor had no idea how much grey lay concealed under a coat of gleaming brown.  

A few days ago I chanced upon an article in my social media feed that spoke about the harmful effects of hair dye – nothing I hadn’t read a hundred times before. But what surprised me were the comments following the article – comments from friends, many of which expressed a desire to ditch the dye, but couldn’t bear to imagine what they would look like when the greys were out. After all we all grow old far too quickly for comfort, and don’t want to see daily reminders of the years gone by in our mirrors.

I started experimenting with hair colour way back in my teens. Those days, I did it for fun. Today, I colour my hair because I have to – or so I think, and get a root touch-up once a month like clockwork. If I’m lax about my appointment and let the roots grow out, my husband is quick to point out that he loves me even though I’m so ancient. I throw him a dirty look and rush to the salon, where I spend the better part of the morning seated, gulping green tea and skimming through magazines while my hair undergoes the transformation which will keep me looking a few years younger, for a few weeks longer.

Of course, a root touch-up isn’t all it takes. I’ll be back at the salon a week later to get a hair-spa or that dye will cause whatever’s left on my head to fall off. And let me not forget that a trim, manicure, pedicure, waxing and threading are all pending. My entire life seems to revolve around keeping hair in some places and removing it from others! It almost seems pointless to go back home.

No wonder then the thought of ditching the dye seems so tempting. Think of all the time I’d save, not to mention the fact that my hair would be in better condition, and I wouldn’t be putting truckloads of nasty chemicals on my scalp every month. But can I picture myself walking down the street with white hair, looking like a woman who’s ‘let go’? For the general impression is, nothing says ‘letting go’ quite like salt and pepper.

However, that’s not necessarily true. Millennials are actually colouring their hair grey – a bizarre trend one would expect to die as quickly as it surfaced but it keeps going from strength to strength. A part of me is tempted to jump on the silver haired bandwagon, give my tresses a break from all that dye, let my roots grow out, and see what happens, while another part reminds me that it’s one thing when Ariana Grande and Rihanna go silver, and quite another when a woman ‘of a certain age’ goes grey.

If colouring our hair is painful, so is stopping it. After all bit of hair colour keeps us looking the age we’d like to think we are. Plus, we may look horrendous with grey hair – or it may even look good! Who knows?

They say you never know until you try it, but the problem is, you can’t just ‘try’ going grey. It takes commitment! It takes at least a year of gritting your teeth while white roots grow out. Many shave off their hair and grow it out so they don’t have to deal with the dreaded white stripe. And once the greys are out, whether or not you like what you see, this much is certain: no one’s going to mistake you for a twenty – or even thirty year old again.

However, is that really so bad?

4 thoughts on “To Grey, or Not To Grey

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