Alison’s transition to gray hair was fairly quick, and the result was fantastic. You can find her on Instagram: @pilates_pixie.
How old were you when you discovered your first gray hair?
I don’t remember when I discovered my first gray hair, but I was probably in my 20s. The first few grays were a novelty, but by my mid-thirties I was covering them every six to eight weeks.
Once I reached my early 40s, there was much more gray, especially around the hairline. I colored every four weeks.
To save money, I did it myself in my bathroom with a professional bowl and brush from the beauty supply store (and I had the stained towels to prove it).
I lived with the predictably messy and poor results until a stylish friend took me aside and said it was time to let a professional handle the job.
Why did you decide to stop dyeing?
Even with a “happy hour roots” special at my local salon, it was a $60 outlay every four weeks. Not extravagant, but it was money that could have been spent on skincare (a topic for another day).
Plus, my skin is extremely dry, so my scalp mistook the dye for moisturizer and really sucked it up. As a result, I’d have dye stains during week one followed by a week of no grays and no stains. By week three, however, the grays would start to poke through again.
It was a lot of maintenance for a week or two per month of “good” color. I felt like Sisyphus rolling that rock up a hill.
As my 50th birthday approached, I began to announce my intention to let my naturally silver hair grow in. I teach Pilates for a living, so I’m healthy and fit.
My skin is good thanks to both genetics and my rigorous sun avoidance since my teens. Even so, I had no idea what the quality and texture of the new color would be. Would it be wiry and yellowish or healthy, vibrant and silver-white?
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My hairdresser and my mom’s hairdresser (who also weighed in) were aghast, but I tuned them out.
I dyed once more after the big birthday and then stopped cold turkey after reading Lorraine Massey’s “Silver Hair: A Handbook,” which I checked out of my public library.
The book gave me both a plan and a manifesto.
I loved the photos of diverse women of all shapes and sizes looking confident with their silver hair, even the gnarly transition photos where they had a halo of gray and several inches of dyed hair from the roots down.
My wonderful husband was completely on board with my decision, which helped, as I gather that is not always the case.
Even my hairdresser came around when I told him what I’d decided, including my intention to get a pixie cut when the halo effect became too obvious.
How long did it take you to transition to your natural gray hair?
Within three haircuts, six weeks apart, I was pretty much done!
From May (when I stopped dyeing) to this September, I went from a shoulder length curly bob to a tousled pixie and finally to a Jean Seberg as Joan of Arc pixie, which felt the most “me.”
I loved having this kind of cut in my 20s, but it’s a whole other level of vulnerability to sport this look after 50. At that time, my hairdresser said I was 95 percent transitioned.
Adding to my interior and exterior transition, my husband, aged 54, died suddenly of a heart attack in August a few months after I began this process.
It felt, and continues to feel, like a bomb went off in my life.
A gray pixie cut is not the obvious choice for someone who may find herself in the dating pool again at some point. But I believe my hair will function as a “jerk repellent.”
If a prospective partner doesn’t appreciate my life experience, inner wisdom, and strength, that person is not for me.
What has been the reaction to your gray hair?
The feedback has been nearly universally positive. Fitness is a young business, and I work with a lot of twenty-something “Game of Thrones” fans who love my new look.
Not only have strangers complimented me on my hair, but I have also received more compliments on my skin than ever before. The silver must do something good for the complexion.
I did change my glasses from pale pink frames to chunky black ones, which provide a nice contrast and channel Jamie Lee Curtis, one of my style icons.
I’m finding that gray and white clothing complements my silver hair, a nice change from my usual uniform of all black.
What is your gray hair care routine?
With a pixie cut, upkeep other than frequent cuts is minimal.
I use a purple shampoo (Osmo Silverising, recommended by my hairdresser) once a week. After toweling dry, I just smooth my hair into place with Kiehl’s Silk Groom, or I muss it up with some pomade once it’s dry.
Makeup is a must now. I want my silver hair to look intentional, not as if I’ve given up on grooming. I try to keep everything else “on point:” nails, brows, lipstick, foundation, etc.
What online resources were useful during your transition to gray hair?
Other than the life-changing Massey book, I found Instagram and Google images to be empowering.
I remember years ago, pre-Internet, if there were silver-haired women in advertisements or TV commercials, they were always serene-looking white women with long hair, expensive-looking linen outfits, perfect bone structure and model bodies. They could have been wearing shower caps on their heads and they would have looked great.
As someone whose bone structure is not perfect, who stands 5’ 4” on a good day, I had to take a wild leap into the unknown with this transition.
I’m so glad I did!
I’m in a rough and very painful place in my life as I navigate becoming a widow at age 50, but I also feel newly strong, confident and energized.
I swear I can feel my husband sitting on my shoulder, saying, “You can rock a silver pixie. You’ve got this.”
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