Style and Styling

Growing Out the Grey

A Tale of Many Colors!

Happy day, dear reader!

I get a lot of questions about my hair. I don’t mind them. I love my grey, but for years it was a love-hate relationship. It’s interesting that since I’ve gone natural, I receive compliments on my grey almost daily. Sometimes the compliment is on the color itself, and sometimes on the “courage” to go there.

It wasn’t so much courage as frustration and obedience that brought me there, which I wrote about in a previous post. Some people will tell me, “I wish I had never started coloring… I’m trapped.” I’ll tell you: “No you’re not!” Today, there are many ways to go about “growing out the grey”. Today, I’ll share a bit of my transition sans skunk stripe or dramatic hair damage. At the time I wasn’t blogging, so it never would have occurred to me to document the process. I wish I had better pictures of the journey, but I’ve never been a fan of having my picture taken. Great irony in that!

Note: This great grey shift took place before the grey dye trend when all kinds of pretty young things decided to make grey hair fashionable! I don’t know if the dye technology was even available at the time… Now, people who want to go grey can do so with some fancy footwork by a really good colorist. If you are in a hurry, and don’t mind the time, money, and chemistry, professional coloring is certainly one way to go!

OMGoodness! We WERE young once!

The Great Hair Saga

When I was young, I played with my hair color frequently. Not because I wanted to cover my grey, but because I fancied myself a redhead, or darker brunette, or whatever whim was of the moment! After a permanent coloring disaster in my 20’s that required expensive “correction” by a professional, I shied away from commitment, and chose semi-permanent color for any future color flings. I stuck with something that would wash out in about a month.

Here, I was in a red phase. My natural color was near this value, but a cool brown rather than warm. Soon after this picture, we had two more children in short order, and coloring my hair when pregnant didn’t seem like a good idea. Then, with three littles, time and money became more of a priority than hair color, so color happened sporadically, but always with semi-permanent color. (Still commitment-phobic!) Coloring was never a regular thing. I didn’t mind the grey. It was sprinkled about, and mostly looked like highlights. Then, to quote Charles Dickens, “The years performed their terrible dance.” and by the time we moved to England, my hair looked like this…

There’s a LOT of grey in here! All that shine? That’s grey!
October 2003

In England, being the oldest mom in our social circle got the better of me. I had a little more time on my hands; a hairstylist at our church worked from home, so I dipped into the highlighting and lowlighting pond. It didn’t need much maintenance, the price was right, and our boys could be left alone for the two hours it took to drive, have her take care of my cut and color, and get home. Getting my hair done was freedom and girl time!

Poor Notre Dame! You can see all the warm highlights in my hair… Not sure why I look so stressed.
September 2006

After we returned to the states in 2007, the maintenance became a burden. I was having my hair highlighted every six weeks to two months. I liked the look of the highlights and lowlights, but the upkeep on this side of the pond was killing me. Too much money. Too much time. I wanted out, but I couldn’t stand the idea of growing out the stripe, especially as my natural hair color was cool and full of grey. Vanity and practicality were in a full fledged battle. I hemmed and hawed when the stylist mentioned that it was probably time for me to start coming every five weeks… What was a middle-aged girl to do?

Thought process: Previous home hair coloring adventures taught me that the grey doesn’t take up dye like the rest of the hair and comes out looking like highlights. So why wouldn’t that work to grow out my grey? If I colored my hair with semi-permanent color, the highlights, lowlights, and greys that were being “covered” would result in different shades. If I could just keep using semi-permanent for a year or so, trimming off the permanently colored section as it grew, I’d eventually be “all natural” colored over with semi-permanent color. (Serious mental gymnastics there.) At that point, I could let the semi-permanent color wash out and be left with my natural color. Right? It would only take about a year, and a box of dye each month to six weeks. What did I have to lose?

Not a great shot, but you can see how the back is still mostly brown.
Spring 2012

Practicality won. I never made that next hair color appointment in (late fall ) 2008. I bought a box of home color, and never went back. A few weeks later, the salon and my stylist moved to a location even further from my home; I took that as a sign that I’d made the right choice… Finding a new colorist is always a challenge, and now I didn’t have to!

In early 2009 , the transition got a boost (?) when a friend was diagnosed with cancer. Hair seemed so freaking unimportant. In solidarity, when she started chemo, I cut mine off. Short. Really short. Short enough to scare some people. A few thought it ugly and drastic. (I overheard a student and her mom talking about the mistake that was my new ‘do.) I didn’t care. It wasn’t their business, nor was my reason for cutting it. And I never looked back.

January 2013
Isn’t that young lady in blue gorgeous?

What do I love about my grey? I love the shine. I love how soft it is! I love that there’s no maintenance. I love that it’s mine. I love the self-acceptance that came with not hiding anymore. I never even knew I was, until I chose to stop. I love that it says $%&# you to those who think that the only way to be beautiful is to grasp at youth. I love that it’s exactly the right color for me! (His plan and my DNA make that so.) Is that enough reason to keep it? I say yes.

That may sound militant, and I am. For me, myself, and I. It’s a purely personal choice. I can’t make that decision for anyone else. If color rocks your world, keep it up; grey isn’t for everyone! But if you try and decide it’s not, you can always go back to coloring…

How about you? Are you a colorer? Or going fiercely and proudly into your grey season? Your reasons aren’t my business, but if you’d care to discuss, this is a great place to do that!

Stylishly yours,


  • Dana

    I never coloured my hair, my mom warned me off when I was in my forties. She did dye hers and said that once you started that it would be very hard to stop. When the grey came in it came in streaks– medium grey, light grey and almost blonde. I keep it short and always get compliments. It’s funny because I never got compliments until it turned grey.

    • closetplayadmin

      Thank you for visiting, Dana! If my grey hadn’t started coming in until my 40’s, I might have been more brave! But I loved it in my teens and 20’s. Many women simply think they look better with not-grey hair; I’m sure some are right, but I’ve not yet met one… It seems that nature really does know what it’s doing!

  • Leslie Susan Clingan

    Oh, Liz, this post is just what the doctor ordered! Or the colorist! I am toying with the idea of going natural but had no idea how to begin. I don’t have a whole lot of gray (I don’t think) yet, but it’s a comin’. And I would lots rather spend the money required for a ‘professional’ to color my gray on something other than that! Ordered Madison Reed online color and think I will use it and then begin from that point on, letting my gray peek through. Going to pin this post for future reference. May be contacting you for advice and a pep talk. Your hair is lovely, healthy and very youthful looking. I am envious!!

    • closetplayadmin

      So glad to be of service, Leslie! But don’t thank me until you know it’s working for you! I understand about wanting to spend the money on something else; when I sat down and did the math, calculating how much it would cost me for a year, I was done. (And that didn’t even factor in the time!) I look forward to hearing about your progress; let me know how it goes!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.