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This is the ONE Downside to Going Gray from Dyed Hair

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Ever since I went gray from dark brunette dyed hair, something strange happens to me on a fairly regular basis…and I would be willing to bet money that it’s happened to some of you, too.

Actually, scratch that – I KNOW it has happened to many of you because you’ve emailed me about it.

What happens to me appears to be a fairly common problem among silver-haired women, although (from what I’ve gathered), the problem seems to occur more often to those of us who live in the U.S.A.

(I’m not a cultural anthropologist, so I won’t bore you by trying to figure out exactly WHY it happens more in the U.S.A. than other countries, but I suspect it’s because Americans in general tend to be a bit more chatty and open with each other than some other cultures. Which can be great, but not always…)

I recorded a video all about it, which you can see below – or you can keep reading if you prefer to do so!

Anyway, here’s the scenario:

I go to a party, or a gathering of some kind, with women I haven’t seen in a while.

And then the compliments start. (This is NOT the downside – this is the good part! And believe me, I really appreciate it and don’t take it for granted).

The comments generally start off nice, like this:

“Hey, wow – your hair looks great!”
“I love your natural hair!”
“Your gray hair looks fabulous!” and,
“Look at you, with your gorgeous silver hair.”

Yay, compliments – this is great! I’m feeling pretty good right now!


Yes, this was the best GIF I could find to illustrate my point – and I LOVE it!

But then we move on to the next (seemingly inevitable) phase of the conversation:

“You are so brave, I could never do that.” 
(Well, I’m not rescuing babies from a burning hospital – I just got sick of dyeing my hair)

“I’m too young to go gray.” 
(Umm, lady you’re the same age (or older) than me)

“I could never do it – I care too much about how I look.” 
(OKAY.. I guess I don’t give a flying fig about how I look??)

“Your gray hair is pretty but mine is ugly.”
(You actually can’t tell until all the dye is cut off, but also …what the heck am I supposed to say to this?)

Then, no matter how much I try to steer the conversation away from my gray hair, or gray hair in general, it ends up with my female friends / colleagues / acquaintances explaining to me in great detail why going gray isn’t the right choice for them.


Oh GAWD, not this AGAIN!

Which is fine, but see – I never asked.

I KNOW going gray from dyed hair is still a non-conformist choice.

I would never pressure anybody to go gray, and I never evangelize about it to people because it is SUCH a personal decision.

The only time I give advice or guidance about gray hair is when people ask me.

But I keep getting drawn into these kinds of conversations and to be honest, it’s draining.

I just want to be with my friends and have a nice time, and not have my hair be the main topic of conversation (and controversy).

image of a pinteret pin containing text about going gray downsides

Why Does This Happen?

I finally figured out why this happens:

When we make choices that are unusual or go against the cultural norm, some people see that as a rebuke.

Our decision to go silver puts these types of people on the defensive.

Even if we never said ONE WORD about our gray hair to them, the very act of BEING a naturally silver-haired woman feels like a slap in the face to them and it makes them feel like we are questioning THEIR choices.

And that’s why they get defensive and start explaining their choice not to go gray to us, even if we never asked them.

It’s so odd as I’m not that type of person – and I bet many of you aren’t, too.

So it’s hard to get into their mindset. But it IS a mindset that many people have.

I first encountered this mindset when I used cloth diapers for my infants.

I didn’t care what other people did with their babies, but for my babies, I wanted to use cloth diapers.

When I’d change my baby’s diaper at a mommy get-together, inevitably someone would notice my son’s cloth diapers and then immediately launch a defense of why they chose to use disposable.

If they were really feeling heated, I’d get an earful about why I was wrong to use cloth (say what?)

I had to hear about it ALL THE TIME even though I never ONCE brought up the topic myself.

It was annoying!

Do I have any words of wisdom on how to handle this?

Not really. Because nothing really works (believe me, I’ve tried everything).

The only thing I can think of is to pretend to start choking on crackers or something (!!) next time this happens, as I think that only a major emergency could stop this type of convo in its tracks.

But at least WE know that, despite this aggravation, we are happy with OUR choice and get to reap the rewards of healthier, unique hair.

I’d love to hear your thoughts or comments on this!

Leave your comment below, and make sure to tell me what country you are from. Thanks!

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  1. New Zealand- and I was chuckling all the way through this video.. “ I could never!” Hahaha- over and over- all these things. And you’re so right, I never bring it up, or care what other people do. In fact, I try really hard to not comment on a person’s appearance in general. I have three daughters and my goal has been to focus on who they are as a person as opposed to looks and outward facing things- so I am constantly modeling that. Clothes, hair, shoes, a trend, the next right thing or gadget- all of it… I try to focus on behaviours. For me though, I always get “the hair- how did you do it, when did you do it, it’s so pretty! But I could never!” Sigh…. I’ve done a lot of things in my life, but being grey seems to be a highlight. Hahaha- Oh well, it is a good starter conversation.

  2. I’m 42 and have never dyed my hair, and I’m looking forward to continuing to have natural hair (recently discovered it was wavy/curly not just frizzy! Woo!). But I really connected to the way people defend their decisions NOT to go gray. I have conversations like that all the time about homeschooling! Homeschooling is a personal decision, works with our lifestyle/life goals, etc etc. I’m not twisting your arm to homeschool your only child—school is probably a better place for him! No, I’m not more patient than you—my kids push me to the brink weekly! Ha! They feel they have to defend their choices when I never questioned their choices in the first place. Fortunately, once that’s out of the way, we do get on to talk about other things. Cloth diapers, bottle-feeding, homeschool, private school, public school, going vegan, raising your own beef, career change, going grey, getting a puppy (love the commenter who mentioned that!),… it is somehow all related to them, when it never was an attack on them. Thanks for your insight!!

  3. Kathy Lapinsky says:

    I am doing the gradual change method. I still have a fair amount of dark blonde to light brown in the back. From the USA. Thank you for sharing your story and tips. Kathy

  4. Elizabeth says:

    Thank you for this! I’m in my early 40s and 2 years dye-free. My hair is long salt and pepper with a LOT of salt, but I’ve had greying hair since my teens. It’s wild what my female friends say about my decision to grow my natural hair. The conversations I’ve had come straight from your script! I live on the other side of the world to you, but I guess people are the same everywhere. I would never judge another woman’s decisions regarding her appearance, as we experience plenty of pressure elsewhere. But… the longer I grow out my hair, the more happy I am with my decision. My dyed hair was starting to look wiggish (if you know, you know…) and I feel much more beautiful now.

    1. I’m so glad you feel lovely and happy with your natural hair, that’s all that matters – and it makes it easier to shrug off those annoying comments.

  5. Kathleen L says:

    I’m 58 and from the Midwest in the US. My husband supported me the whole way; primarily because it’s a lot cheaper than hair appointments every four weeks to cover my roots 😃 My hairstylist had always told me that when I decided to go natural, my hair would be beautiful since the roots she saw were white and silver. The one downside is I miss chatting and laughing with her for the 90 minutes or so I was in the salon. The one person who freaked out was my older sister who said I would look old. She had a friend grow hers out but didn’t do much with respect to conditioning, cutting, toning, styling, etc. I explained growing your natural color out doesn’t mean you abandon hair care. A few things motivated me to make the change: retirement, surviving breast cancer, and, a month long vacation without a hair appointment. I’ve heard the “brave”, “it’s not right for me”, etc. “Brave” makes me want to giggle because, well, it’s hair that I could color if I hated my natural color. I understand that for working women it may not be the right time due to potential age discrimination, which was a deterrent for me when I was working. Today, I love it when my style conscious nieces and nephews tell me how how chic my hair looks.

  6. Darlene Pitts says:

    I’m fully transitioned and totally love my long gray hair. I’m in southern USA and very few of my friends are natural.

    One acquaintance mentioned about how brave I was. I just laughed and said something about how I’m not brave, I’m afraid of many things but gray hair or others’ expectations don’t qualify.

    When I told some friends about my plans to stop dyeing, a male asked what my husband thought. I laughed and said, “ He’s gray! What’s he going to say? But I hope he loves it, but if not….he’ll get over it.” PS: he does!

    A bald coworker, who i really liked, saw me after i was going gray and said, “Why?” as he pointed to his head. I replied, “You’re giving me hair advice?” He said, “Touché” and we both laughed.

    That’s about all the comments I got except for the positive ones. A couple have since followed my path but even the ones who say they love mine are afraid of the grow out stage. If asked, I offer a few suggestions and direct them to some FB pages. But that’s it. I don’t care what others do with their hair. I kind of like being the unicorn in the room!!

  7. Hi Katie. I’ve been thinking about this one…..
    About 8 years ago I moved from London (England) to Penzance in Cornwall (bottom left of the UK where the land meets the sea) I was 60 years old and had waist length auburn hair – no idea where my natural red hair met the bottled red, as like most of us, those flipping roots needed attention every 3 weeks…year in, year out.
    Anyway, when the first lockdown happened, I found your blog, laughed out loud for the first time in ages, and decided to embrace my natural, whatever it was that I was hiding.
    And these are my thoughts so far….
    If I had not moved out of the Capital City, and all that rat race, competition/insecure, must keep up mind set, it probably would never have occurred to me to stop colouring my hair. I would have carried on until I dropped dead sporting a sparse, bright orange, ridiculous hair do. Exactly like my Great Aunty Queenie.
    But, having moved away, reached a certain age and stage at exactly the moment I found your blog, well… it was just meant to be.
    During the last nearly 3 years of growing out my grey, I have had nothing but encouragement and complements from fellow grandmothers and mothers waiting at the school gates, friends, family and even the old boy in the local grocery shop! All this has been a bonus. And this is because I found your brilliant website, armed myself with your honesty and great sense of humour and set out expecting to be met with shock and horror as I moved through the stages of looking as though I had let myself go, to looking completely bonkers, and now to somewhere near a complete revelation. It turns out I look exactly like my mother. A bit of a shock at first – but it seems that mother nature does know her stuff. Thank you Katie for helping me keep the faith!

    1. Mary Louise Millner says:

      so happy for you, both your natural hair and your change of residence…I’m American, but the west of England is my favorite place on Earth…I take the train to Penzance from Exeter every time I go to the UK.🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿

  8. Katie:
    Amen, I am glad you did the above video, I totally agree. I feel the same way you do about my gray hair, I chose to go gray and I love it as well and I am glad I did go gray. You go girl, you are so right, if other people want to go gray, then go gray, if they do not want to then they need to not comment on others that chose to go gray. I am so like you, I am totally happy with my gray hair, I have people tell me I look younger, so you go girl you are the greatest. God Bless, love your blogs and emails. Carol Duffert

  9. Danielle Lawson says:

    The same thing has happened to me and the comments go the same depending upon what Generation you are friends with. In my circle of friends: Late 20s/Early 30s; Late 30s/Early 40s (my bff is the one that encouraged me should could help me and did as well as my husband), and our age: Late 40s/Early 50s. Late 20s: “Your hair looks cool! But, Why?” Late 30s: My hair was as dark as yours and I had more silver and grey so I just dye it blond.” (I’m tired of dying my hair and all the breakage and fall out etc). My age: “Wow! You look amazing! I’m just not brave enough, or my husband would leave me (mine has been trying to get me to do this for the past 5 years or so…so he’s been 100% on board with this decision and encouraging me, as well as, attracted to me exponentially to the point of me saying…”Holy cow, again?!”) Late/Early 50s: Welcome to the Silver club.

    Bad stuff: At the gym the 20 year old told me that I could get my insurance to pay for my membership with the Silver Sneakers Club. (I was 48 at the time of this discussion)…I totally embarrassed her and said, “Well, mine won’t because I am not old enough to be in the Club. I know that you can see my DOB on my membership form there, right?!”

    I’ve even explained to strangers that for me to transition to my hair was my want! I needed to do it for me and some days I miss my dark brunette hair. But most days, I don’t! I love it! I have hypothyroidism and so now, my hair is super healthy and doesn’t fall out near as much and it matches my skin tone perfectly! I don’t have dark stains on my forehead from spraying my roots and sweating etc etc etc and my scalp isn’t damaged and I don’t waste 2 hours out of my life every 2 weeks to dye it and in 3 shampoos it’s done!

  10. Laura Buckley says:

    I had the same experience when we first got our dog. Lots of unsolicited comments to my family when we walked him: “oh, he’s so cute; we can’t get a dog because…” and, like the gray hair comment, we never asked! It was so very interesting—and telling. Of course it speaks to the person’s own issues. Was an education for my kids and opportunity to talk to them about how language can unexpectedly reveal things about people. I get the same often with my new gray hair. Two things I’ve learned, have a voice about it but don’t judge. Society is conditioned to defy aging and most people buy into it. I certainly did for a long time by coloring my gray hair. So first off, I always correct the language and say “I’m not letting it GO gray (akin to letting yourself go and part of the conditioning language), I’m letting it BE gray because it already IS gray.” Then if I’m pushed further (almost always), I say: “I’m at peace with my age and my hair. It’s a new peace for me and honestly it feels great.” That’s it, gives the other person something to muse on.

    1. Wow, Laura – those are great responses! You’ve definitely given me food for thought. I love the point about letting it BE gray because it already IS gray. Why did I never think of saying that? It’s fantastic! And I bet your words resonate with those people for quite some time after! And it’s kind too – you’re not being sarcastic or flippant. Lovely – thank you!

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