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Inside: Alison, from Alberta, Canada, shares how she transitioned from henna and indigo to her naturally silver hair.
Growing up, I had very shiny and smooth chocolate-brown hair. With my blue eyes and fair skin, it felt like my dark brown hair color was part of my identity.
Even through high school and university I never colored or highlighted my hair because my natural color was always a feature I wore with pride.
I can’t say I remember finding my first gray.
It seemed like the realization that I needed to start coloring my roots to match my hair happened gradually, and it was around this time that I eventually started highlighting and experimenting with ways to enhance my natural color.
I always loved my hair for the first few days after spending $300 at the salon for a beautiful caramel balayage treatment. But my hair was very porous and became damaged very easily and I missed the shiny hair of my youth.
So in 2016, I decided to stop using chemical color.
I was 49 years old, but the idea of just letting it go gray was not something I was ready for. I was still determined to hold on to my youthful appearance by figuring out a way to deal with those pesky gray roots.
Using Henna and Indigo to Cover My Grays
After a lot of research, I decided to start using henna.
I quickly learned that henna over brunette hair results in a beautiful rich auburn color but unfortunately henna over brunette hair with gray roots results in auburn hair with bright orange roots that Ronald McDonald would be proud of.
So I learned to mix my henna with indigo to get a dark color for my roots to match the rest of my hair, which meant that every 4-6 weeks I’d spend a full day doing a 2-3 step process to achieve the perfect color so my roots were covered and matched the rest of my hair.
During this time I also became a grandma for the first time at 51 years old.
The first two years of my grandson’s life found me doing a great deal of the parenting. He lived with my husband and me half of every week and, honestly, he felt more like my son than my grandson.
I got used to strangers at playgrounds assuming he was my son, and I started to realize how much of my self-worth was wrapped up in people thinking I was young enough to be his mother.
I’m embarrassed to admit it, but it was definitely a confidence boost every time someone said “How old is your son?” and I replied “My son is 23, this is my grandson,” and they would inevitably tell me I looked too young to be a grandma.
Deciding to Go Gray
Then in late 2021, I started to become annoyed with how quickly my roots were showing and how burdened I felt by organizing my life around coloring my hair.
And years of layering henna and indigo over my hair had left me with a darker color than I wanted and my attempts to lighten my henna mix left me with two-tone hair that I wasn’t happy with.
One afternoon I was lamenting to my husband and he said “So just let it grow out.”
That small comment was enough to make me realize that I had a choice.
I still felt a little apprehensive about letting it grow and I worried that it would look like I’d “let myself go.”
I visited a colorist for the first time in years only to find out that nobody would attempt to remove the henna or lighten my hair for fear of damaging it.
So I was left with no choice but to let it grow out cold turkey, which has ultimately been an amazing journey of patience and humility, and self-acceptance.
My Gray Grow Out
Watching my gray grow has been an adventure.
Initially, I was sure that it was going to grow in pure white. Watching and waiting to see what MY gray pattern would be was exciting and fun.
Surprisingly, I discovered that most of my white hair was around my hairline and temples. The back of my hair still has a lot of my natural brunette color.
My stylist says people pay a lot of money for light streaks around the front like mine, so I’m embracing what nature has given me.
Changing My Ideas About Aging Since Going Gray
Some interesting things have happened since I started letting my hair go gray:
1. Strangers at playgrounds stopped assuming my grandson was my son.
2. I got offered a senior discount at my local Michael’s store.
Interestingly, I think I probably do look older, but I’ve gained some peace with allowing myself to just be who I am at this moment in time, and not chase a youthful appearance that I ultimately can’t maintain.
I love how I look now and I honestly don’t care how old people think I am.
I wear the “nanny” title with pride and don’t feel offended if people assume I’m a grandma ‘cause I am, and it’s the greatest gift I’ve ever been given.
Changing My Style Once I Went Silver
Alongside letting my hair go gray I also chose to embrace eyewear rather than continue to torture my eyeballs with contact lenses.
I own five pairs of cool glasses and they have become part of my fashion statement.
I also find I am veering towards brighter colors in my wardrobe. I still love black and white, but I’m having fun with bright colors that are a beautiful contrast to my silver hair.
I have also switched from gold jewelry to silver which complements the cool tones in my hair.
My Favorite Products
I also use a clarifying shampoo once a week to remove buildup.
One of the things I have missed since going from brunette to gray is the shine my hair once had, so I also use Redken shine spray as a final touch.
I try to limit heat tools and mostly let my hair air dry and use my blow dryer to add volume once it’s dry.
I curl it once a week (on day three after washing), just to extend how long I can go between washes.
Overall the process of growing out of my gray cold turkey has been a journey of self-discovery and self-acceptance.
It has required patience and a sense of adventure and a willingness to stand my ground and be comfortable in my own skin even when faced with ageism and the inevitable assumption that I’m not “keeping up” my appearance.
I feel more authentically “me” now than I’ve ever felt in my whole life and that has been the greatest gift.
This quote sums it up: