Biggest Lessons from Going Grey in My 30's
I am Latina and Middle Eastern. Let’s just say, I grew up with a strong identity of thick eyebrows who need threading every two weeks, long, dark black hair, and plentiful body hair (but that’s for another article :P). In all seriousness, I was not aware of how much grasp my black hair on my head had on my identity. It used to be a simple, thoughtless response when the Department of Motor Vehicles asked for my age, height, eye color and hair color.
I started going grey at 16. I know there women out there who have similar stories. Despite the responses of “You can’t be going grey—you’re only [fill in the blank],” I was in fact going grey. It was small at first, just one strand here or there. I never got into dying my hair growing up or even into my 20s, I always loved my black hair, and the compliments associated with it.
I noticed that my hair was going grey more strongly in my late 20s and now 30s. I was starting to box dye like every 3 weeks at my roots. Was this my new reality? I also felt the burn of my scalp with box dye and professional dyes. I began wondering if this was healthy. I recently published a post about chemical hair straighteners and permanent hair dyes, which opened my eyes to the reality of what I was putting on my skin more largely. In September 2019, I decided to just stop dying my hair and see what happens. I would say I am more “salt and pepper” (lol) than completely silver at this point in my transition. Here are my biggest lessons (so far):
(1) There are no quick solutions to covering or easing into grey/silver hair: I did try some natural hair dyes (which did work somewhat at the roots). I also tried henna (which did not work for my hair). I even bought some things at CVS and Amazon to “cover” greys in the beginning. I also went to a professional who promised light silver highlights (which did not work and ended up being blonde-ish). The point is that there is no quick fix or easy transition into grey. Even after 8 months dye free, it is a slow process. I guess that is why they call it a “grey hair transition.” With any transition of life, it is a period of changing from one state to another. I think knowing your “why” and seeing other women who have gone grey gives inspiration in the meantime.
(2) People have their own perceptions of what grey or silver hair means: I was surprised how many men and women commented on my process (solicited and unsolicited). I think the solicited comments actually hurt more. When I dug deeper with people who had resistance to grey hair was that so many girls and women have been shamed at different parts of their life for having a grey hair pop up. There is also a strong feeling people have with grey hair and the aging process. I had to face what “aging gracefully” means to me, and step into a confidence I did not know I would gain from standing my ground.
(3) You have to develop a strong “why”: There will be some people who totally get it. There will be others who will tell you their unsolicited opinions. I realized pretty quickly I have to really understand my own “why” so I could feel comfortable answering or not answering people about my transition. I recognized that there were still some unresolved issues within myself that was emerging outward when people said silly comments. Once I explored the questions of “what does this mean to you?” and “Why are you doing this?,” it made it easier to show up to family events or a friend get together with confidence. At the end of the day, it is always your choice how you respond to a question, and you have the choice if you even want to respond.
(4) You may have to shed an identity (or two): I always thought I was a bad-ass feminist, and could handle anything to do with rebelling against traditional beauty standards. Well, I was wrong. I felt some guilt around having a tough time letting go of my black strands. When I spoke with other women, it seems like many of us have physical identities that we carry with us (both uplifting and restrictive identities). Some people love their ruby red hair, some love their tight curls, some love their natural hair transition, some people feel liberated when they cut off all their hair, some love their buzz cut, some love their long locks. I do not judge anyone for having these identities, rather, I ask people to stop and think about what identities they might have strong associations with. I am still the same woman, just with some salt sprinkled in my pepper hair. I have to say that I feel a strongly with my new identity of having silver. After all, I am writing the blog! Maybe identities are not a bad thing, as long as you know why you relate to them.
(5) There will be bad hair days: Just like with your normal hair routine, there will be days you wake up and cringe a bit at the grey hair or have trouble finding a hairstyle to work the new strands.
(6) You need to give time to see the pattern in your hair: I mentioned earlier that I got professional highlights after only 1 month into it, to try to lessen the blow in a way. I think a better approach is to wait 6 months and see what pattern your hair comes in. For example, I am mostly going grey only in two patches (kind of like bride of Frankenstein lol).
I am not saying I will never dye my hair again, but I would really think long and hard before I did it, and about my reasons for doing so. I tapped into another bad-ass part of myself—one who now has a new identity of growing older with some silver sparks on my head J
If you want to have someone to talk to about transitioning, or just have questions, email me at Boldbeatsfitness@gmail.com