On January 3, 2017, I decided I would never again dye my hair to cover my grays. I prefer to make my own body/care choices without public scrutiny. But I have found the decision to stop dyeing my hair to be an empowering action. To share my story, as others have inspired me with their stories, might help someone else decide to ditch the dye.
I dyed my hair for about two decades. I found my first gray hair in my early teens. By age 25, my hair went on its own silver adventure. I decided to use henna, and for a while I just LOVED henna! It both dyes and conditions your hair. Henna dries like mud on your hair, and when you are finished (about 2 hours later, after you rinse and rinse and rinse…), your hair is super soft and glows. For about 10 years henna worked great. It layered over the gray and added interesting color and texture. But as the silver adventure continued into my 30’s, it became more and more difficult to use henna. It didn’t quite cover those white hairs as well, it took way too long, and frequently left my hair more orange than I was happy with. It became too difficult to use and easier for me to look into other dye options.
When looking to switch to hair dye, I wanted to make sure that I was purchasing dye as natural as I could (no ammonia or parabens, etc…). I did the best I could with the “safe” options, but the fact is, there is no safe hair dye. And the majority of companies test hair dye on animals. It never sat well with me, but I felt stuck in my choice. I was just too young to be gray! I played with a variety of colors over the years: brown, black, mahogony, chestnut, even blonde! But for some reason, Silver never seemed like an option. I didn’t have gray role models in my life for a long time. My own 80-year-old grandmother only stopped dyeing her hair a few years ago. But as a yoga teacher in a rural location for the past 10 years, I have had the honor of teaching many “Silver Foxes.” I always admire their luscious grays and I started to realize that Gray, or Silver, was actually a good option and letting my hair go gray didn’t have to mean “old.” Ditching the dye would mean I could stop using products I hated and stop making unnecessary waste. I could also accept my true hair and not feel like I had to cover it up because it wasn’t good enough.
I don’t want this to feel like a judgment against anyone who still chooses to dye. I get it and I understand where you are coming from. I believe you have to feel ready to take something like this on, otherwise it will be a miserable experience. Anyone who truly enjoys dyeing their hair should not be judged or pressured to change. But I do think we need to reconsider the idea that gray means old and unattractive (I have an interesting story about being hit on in the potato aisle in the grocery store specifically because of my “beautiful strong gray hair”… I had to decline as I am happily married). Gray = Old is only a mental construct, and not an actual reality. I had gray hair in my 20’s—that is not old. I have also heard that people express fear that it would be more difficult for a woman to get hired, or even to keep a job, if she has gray hair. I don’t think this true, and it certainly isn’t a reason to continue dyeing one’s hair. It is sexist discrimination and it needs to be challenged. My answer is: Go boldly gray. What if our suffragette ancestors thought it was too difficult to work for voting rights? We have to be brave, take a stand, trust in ourselves, and begin.
Now, after 2 years (and many headbands, tears, hats, and a few pixie cuts…) my luscious silver locks are flowing and I have never been happier about my hair. It is thicker and softer than it ever was with hair dye. So if you love the dye, feel empowered to keep it going. If you don’t, you should feel empowered and supported to ditch the dye and let yourself go gray. There are many support groups and videos on social media that can help you in this journey, and some beautiful women to use as your “Silver Fox” inspiration (such as Yasmina Rossi and JoAni Johnson) . But the journey has to start with trust and love for yourself.
Also by Angie: Simple Homemade Seitan Strips
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Photo: Angie Follensbee-Hall