Silver Hair Transition Stories / July 24, 2020

Diana’s Unique Journey to Gray

Inside: My interview with Diana Moffitt, all about her lovely transition to gray hair!

Tell us, when did you get your first gray hair? And does it run in your family?

Yes. Gray hair absolutely runs in my family at a young age. Both my parents went gray in their early twenties.

Dad was very excited about it. He’s an engineer and was excited that people would probably start taking him seriously.

My mother cried. She had very long dark black hair, and people kept commenting that they thought that she was painting over the weekend because she would have these streaks of silver shining through her very shiny black hair.

I knew the gray was coming. I started dyeing my hair with permanent dye at about the age of 28 and dyed it every four weeks from then.

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Did you color it fun colors or did you just want to cover the gray?

Yeah. I’m fairly conservative, so I never really covered it fun colors. I also worked in banking and had some other jobs where that wasn’t allowed.

I did have highlights, I guess, in college and I’ve played around with that, but it was really just red highlights.

I started dyeing the roots with permanent dye at 30.

image of lady with dyed hair
With Roots Dyed with Permanent Dye

Did you ever have any concerns about putting chemicals on your head? Dark dyes are seemingly more implicated in certain cancers and things than lighter-colored dyes.

I didn’t realize that.

No, I didn’t for the first number of years, but really the last probably three years that I was dyeing it, every about three to four weeks, I was getting a very strong burning sensation when I would dye the roots of my hair.

I wasn’t using bleach. It was just a black, dark dye, and it would irritate my scalp quite a bit.

I didn’t ever break out in hives and I never had any issue after I washed it out. But just during 30 to 45 minutes when it was on my scalp, yes, I definitely had a burning sensation.

image of family
Dyed Roots

It just really got to a point where I was dyeing it every three to four weeks…I had thought about it, personally, for about two years before I finally said, “This is it. I need to do this for me.”

And I started hunting and going down the rabbit hole of the Internet to figure out how I was going to do it.

I knew by my 30s that I wanted to go gray by 50, but I got so much negative feedback about it. Did you get any negative feedback from anybody? Friends or hairstylists, or anyone?

No. I think it’s funny… I liken it to where, if someone says, “We’re thinking about naming our son James.” And people will say, “Oh, I don’t know. I don’t like the name James. How about John?”

Whereas, if you say, “We’re naming the baby James.” People say, “That’s fantastic. That’s a wonderful name. We’re so happy for you.”

It was the same way. It was the way that I actually projected it. And I think that that’s a big, big part of what some may be missing when they’re actually communicating to those that they are around, is that “I’ve made this choice. I’m doing this.”

Then, it’s not a discussion. It just is what it is. And that’s how I approached it.

That’s a great point. Once you decide to actually do it, people are less likely to comment if they see that you’re determined and you’re feeling confident about it.

Absolutely.

A lot of it is how you put yourself out there.

Yes, exactly. I think that’s a big part of it.

How old were you when you decided, “I’m done.”

December 20th of 2018 was the last day. There was an article that came out in New Years of 2019. I was 41 years old.

Oh, wonderful. That’s great. I wish I started sooner. Although, I try to live by the motto “never look back with regrets.”

Yeah. Yeah.

What method did you use to go gray?

I happened upon a video by Suzan Barnes on YouTube, and she didn’t call the technique a name, so I’ve named it myself: the Dye Strip Technique.

What she explained is that she took a strip of hair along her part line, and she continued to dye the roots (only) of that strip of hair and then parted her hair so that the dyed strip covered up the gray that was growing out underneath.

So that’s the method I used! It really covered up the demarcation line, and allowed the gray to grow out fairly undetected.

It ended up actually looking like peekaboo highlights, to be honest with you. The Dye Strip Method gave my hair so much dimension.

Eventually, it got to a point where my hair grew out enough that I was comfortable with the gray. So, all I had to do to grow out the strip was take my hair, flip the part to the other side, and let the strip grow out underneath my gray hair undetected.

Tell us the timeline. You decided in December 2018 or January 2019 that you’re done. Then, what happens?

Yeah. Then what happened was, I sat down with my stylist, probably the second week of January and I said, “This is it. I’m making this transition. I’m going to embrace my gray.”

And she said, “Okay. This is going to be a process. We’ll make an appointment for a week or two on a Saturday. It’ll be about a seven or eight hour process. You’re not going to like it. It may take about two or three months for it to get to a point where you’re okay with it.”

I didn’t even really know the process, but she just knew what she was going to do. It wasn’t a discussion. It got me very, very nervous. It was probably one day before my appointment, I canceled it.

I ran into a friend of mine who said, “You research everything that you do before you do it. How much research have you done? This is a big decision.” I realized I got caught up in things. I felt I needed to make a decision quickly. In this case, our hair grows very, very slowly.

I used root sprays in the meantime, while I figured it out. Don’t rush into anything. That would be a big piece of advice. Do what feels right.

Once you have looked into everything that you need to look into, you’ve done your research. I did my research. I really dug into talking to other stylists, other than the one I had spoken to, and of course, dove into the Internet. That’s where I bumped into Suzan Barnes’ video.

It wasn’t until then that I thought, “Okay. This is what I’m going to do. This is simple. I can do this at home.” And I did.

image of collage
1 year of Gray Progress

I was really impressed with the way that it looked. As it grew out, it just kept continuing to impress me. It was a very pleasant surprise. I didn’t really know what to expect, but I always thought and told my close family, “If I hate it, I dye it again. If it’s this horrible technique, no big deal.”

Right. That’s the thing I like about this. Unless there’s a medical reason that you can’t use hair dye, most of this is easily fixable. If you don’t like it, you can dye again.

It is. Exactly.

Not including the lockdown, have you seen your hairdresser since you started going gray? Has she supported you?

Yeah. She’s been incredibly supportive. Once I shared with her, I went in for a hair trim, and told her, “This is the way I found this method.” I showed her the video and, “This is what I’m going to do.”

She knew I could very easily do it at home, but she guided me on the right color to use for my roots, so that it would come out very, very close to the color that I had on my hair already. She was just a great guide through the whole process.

She was also helpful in telling me use Vaseline as a barrier on either side of the gray hair so that you’re not dyeing any of the precious growth that you’ve worked so hard to achieve.

She was a really great guide through it, and has really been rooting me on through the whole process.

“Rooting you on” – LOL

No pun intended, but I guess pun intended. Sure!

That’s great because not all of us are so lucky. I had to switch hairdressers twice while I was growing out my gray, so it’s wonderful to have a supportive hairdresser. I’m hoping that one good thing to come out of this pandemic is that since so many women are embracing the gray hair, that maybe more hairdressers will be supportive.

Yes, exactly. I have changed hairdressers since then, but it was just because my whole family started going to a really incredible gentleman named Josh at Mint Salon, and he is phenomenal. I love what he does with my hair, and I’m very happy with him.

That journey with a hairstylist can be very, very difficult. It can feel like a relationship breaking up with somebody and not returning text messages or calls.

You have to do what feels right for you, and through the journey, she was an amazing, incredible guide. Now, I’m with a different stylist and happy there with just going in for the trims.

It’s good to have a supportive stylist, and there are a lot out there. Thank goodness. How do you take care of your hair now that it’s still in the process of turning all gray?

Great question. The way I take care of my hair is by using shampoos and conditioners that I’ve always used.

I read a lot about blue shampoos, purple shampoos, and the reason I haven’t used them is because I’ve read enough about them that it’s really when it’s needed such as if you are seeing yellowing. I haven’t seen any yellowing.

I don’t think anyone should use something just because you’ve seen other people use it. You need to see what’s right for you.

There is a difference between the blue and the purple shampoo, and you need to really read up on it. I haven’t used it, yet. Who knows if I will.

Also, I don’t use flat irons, and I have heard that the flat irons can be at such a high heat that it does cause yellowing.

I do blow dry my hair, typically, every day. Not so much right now, but going to work every day in the office, yes, I would blow dry my hair every day or every other day.

I would use also use a Con Air curling iron. I do definitely use a leave-in conditioner, and a heat protectant spray before I do any of that. I don’t use any other products at this point, besides those.

My newest purchase, and I have seen a lot of women talk about it, is the Revlon One-Step because I wanted that round brush look, but I wasn’t coordinated enough to do the blow dryer and roller brush technique. I just wasn’t.

I was challenged, and the One-Step has been absolutely phenomenal to give a nice sleek round look to the hair. I love this product.

I also use a clarifying shampoo once a week, and I do think that that’s important for removing buildup. ` It’s nice to get that feeling on your head, but you realize how much buildup is there.

I do think that getting a great conditioner is very important. I’ve done conditioning masks before, as well, those are all just fun and it makes the hair feel really, really soft.

I have noticed that, in general, my hair is actually very, very soft, very shiny. My hairstylist was really surprised by how really baby soft and shiny it was.

Really, you don’t know what’s under there. Do not assume that it’s going to be a wiry, crazy mess. It could be very, very different. You have to just let it grow.

image of diana before and after gray hair
18 Months of Gray Hair Growth

That’s such a myth. Everybody told us our gray hair would be coarse, wiry, frizzy…Mine is shiny for the first time in 25 years, even without putting products on it, and softer. It’s amazing. You just don’t know what you’re going to get until you’re pretty well grown out.

Yes. Our hair looks very different at month three, month six. Once you see it, I’d have to say between month eight and 11 was a big eye-opener. “Oh, there you go. There’s the pattern. There’s where it’s coming through.”

It’s still very dark underneath. That is all completely natural. I didn’t realize what it was going to be until it was really at that point. You’ve got to give it six to eight months. That’s the hump, and then you really get to see it shine.

Yeah, that’s true. That’s what’s so fun about the whole thing is you have no idea how it’s going to end up.

It’s like a kid on Christmas. It just takes a really long time to get there.

How about your style, makeup or clothing colors…has anything changed since you started this transition?

I’ve actually really embraced dangly earrings. That’s changed because I’ve just been so proud of my hair. I really think it helps accent the face and the hair, brings attention to the hair in a way, because it’s right there.

I’ve gotten so many dangly earrings in my collection that I never had before. I would wear a diamond or cubic zirconia stud, almost every day. I don’t know why I never played with dangly earrings, but that was a big change.

Makeup has stayed the same. I really like the Anastasia Duo Brow powder. That’s the one I use on my eyebrows, and so far that hasn’t had to change.

I definitely like stepping into a Sephora, or an Ulta, and asking, “How does this all look?” Getting a consultation doesn’t cost anything and getting a professional opinion definitely helps.

I think that maybe as {my hair} gets lighter, as I get older, yes, I would definitely {consider changing my makeup}.

I definitely see the gray hair is coming into my eyebrows more and more. We all do. I can’t keep plucking those, just like I was plucking my gray hairs in my twenties.

I’d be bald eventually, and have no eyebrows! I’ll definitely have to change that up in time.

Has the process of going gray changed anything in your mindset? Do you feel you had beliefs that were untrue, that you’ve now come to realize were untrue? Or has it affected you emotionally in a good or bad way? It usually does have an effect on somebody emotionally, somehow, whether good or bad. How about for you?

I’ve always had pretty strong confidence. I’m not really sure where that came from, but I always have. For me, I make a decision, I stick to it, and I see it through.

I was really very happy with this decision. I knew once I saw Suzan Barnes’ video, “This is it. This is what I’m doing.” Knowing that, of course, I could always bend in, and cave in and dye if I really needed to. There was a way out. I knew once I made the decision that I wanted to do it.

Now, once I made that decision, I think that the confidence that I had in it, and in myself, and in the decision, has inspired others, which I didn’t expect.

I thought that was really cool.

I’ve always been good about eating fairly clean and being good with consistent workouts. I had fallen off of that. This course corrected me, in a funny way.

Now I’m on a good, healthy path, in general, which I think is really important for mind, body, soul… being a great person at work, person at home, great mother, whoever we need to be, we all have so many hats that we wear.

I just felt it just centered me.

I can see that. Also, what’s nice is you’ve also got more time because you’re not having to rush to the hairdresser every three weeks, or even at home, when you do your hair, it’s time-consuming.  Reclaiming your time is also good for your mental health.

Absolutely. It really is. I’ve definitely seen that as well. Yes, the money and the time that I have saved, even though I was able to easily do it at home, even when I was just doing that little root part, it’s incredible once you’ve liberated yourself in that way. Oh my goodness, it’s just a whole new world.

Diana, have you found any other benefits from going gray?

Yeah, I think the biggest thing for me that I noticed was that the sides of my hair started growing back in.

I took a photo at about five months into embracing my gray; I had my hair pulled back in a French braid, and I took a side photo and a back photo. Not thinking anything of it at the time, I took another side photo at my 12-month mark, and actually noticed that my hair had filled in on the side.

image of hair regrowth gray hair
Diana’s 12 Month Hair Regrowth Progress

I also noticed, in the very beginning of my grow out, a lot of little sprouts in the front of my hairline that have subsided now, but it was really growing! The hairline was almost coming forward, it seemed.

My hair absolutely feels thicker now than it did before. Who knows what it would’ve looked like, even five or 10 years from now, had I kept dyeing it? It probably would have been much thinner. I didn’t realize that the dye was actually hindering some of the growth.

Agreed! I thought I was losing hair because I was getting older; perimenopause or something. Then, I stopped dyeing and my hair started growing back. I think dye definitely does some damage to your hair…thins it out. Do you lose hair in the shower as much as you used to?

It seems like a normal amount. I haven’t really noticed that.

It was just the sprouts that really surprised me, but they went up and a few of them went forward. It was a very awkward stage actually of growing out, but I was happy to see them coming in because it obviously meant that this new growth was there to stay, was very strong.

Now, it’s grown in and laid down a bit. It was a surprise. I didn’t expect that.

I think that in the journey of embracing your gray, there’s going to be a lot of surprises that you may not have expected, little health benefits that you may not have realized are there.

Right. I think that’s totally true. It’s just one of the many things I love about it!

Who inspired you to go gray? Was there anybody in particular, in real life or online, that inspired you to take this journey?

Yes, actually my husband’s aunt, her name is actually Auntie Diana. Same name as me. She has never dyed her hair.

image of lady with shoulder length gray hair
Auntie Diana

I’ve always envied her hair. I always thought her hair was very beautiful.

My mother-in-law and I were sitting together at a family event one evening. We’d had lots of conversations about our gray hair and about dyeing it.

We looked across the room and noticed how beautiful and how confident Auntie Diana was with her hair. My mother-in-law and I just looked at each other and said, “We need to do this. We need to do this. And let’s do it together.”

So, my mother in law and I, at the same time, decided to embrace our gray. I didn’t know how I was going to do it, but I did definitely know that I was going to do it.

It’s always easier to do it with somebody else.  It makes it so much nicer than if you’re the only person you know going gray, and you’ve got nobody else around you. I think that’s wonderful.

Yeah. Then once I started the journey and I got on Instagram, I did see a strong recommendation to actually create another account, separate from your personal account, to track your gray hair journey.

Part of it was to be able to see how far you’ve come when you’re in those really tough stages in the first few months, to see how much growth you’ve had. Then, I’ve met such incredible women, and it’s really neat to see so many women that were right there in the same number of weeks I was, to then be able to cheer them on, have them cheer me on in this process.

They inspired me through the process, as well, once I saw them. Of course, the women who had already transitioned were so inspiring to me.

I do have a family member who has never dyed her hair. Her daughter has never dyed her hair. Their hair is stunning and gorgeous, and thick and beautiful.

I just hoped that mine would look somewhat similar to hers. You just don’t know what you’re going to uncover unless you let it grow out.

That’s totally true. I’m sure that you’ve had people who have been inspired of seeing you with your hair growing out.

Yeah. My stepmom was inspired by my (and my mother-in-law’s) decision to do that. And she has embraced her gray. It looks beautiful.

It’s not right for everyone. It’s a completely and entirely personal decision, and I’m not here to force anyone to accept it.

There have been a few women in my life that have said that because of me transitioning (and having no conversation with them whatsoever… just my hair has spoken volumes I guess) they’ve decided to embrace it.

The best thing I can do is direct them to some of the groups that I follow, and have them decide what method of going gray is the best for them.

That’s true. There’s not only one right way to go gray. There are many different ways, and it all really depends on your temperament and your personality, and what you can and can’t do. I think that’s great.

Yeah, exactly. I think the best thing we can do as silver sisters is to inspire, to motivate, and to help others find whatever works best for them.

Whatever gray hair transition method was right for me, or for you, is not what’s right for that other person.

We needed to figure it out for ourselves, but we can also let them know along the way what we learned, and hopefully, others will make different, or better choices for themselves because of what they’ve learned from us.

That’s what I just hope to do in all of this, is motivate and inspire.

image of katie and diana
Diana and Katie!
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1 Comment

  1. Nikki

    Thank you for sharing beautiful transition story. I love that some folks have family inspiration. Auntie Diana inspires us all!

    Nikki 🤍

    28 . Jul . 2020 Reply

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Katie

Katie is the founder of Katie Goes Platinum. After constantly dyeing her hair for over 25 years, in 2018 Katie decided to stop the madness and embrace the gray. Since then, she’s been sharing her favorite gray hair tips, resources, and stories to empower women to feel beautiful during and after their transition to gray hair.