Going Gray and Keeping Your Hair Long? Here’s What To Expect!
Going gray with long hair can be fun as well as challenging. Here are some tips to prepare yourself.
If you are a woman who is transitioning to gray hair, you already have to deal with strangers, friends, and family members who question your decision.
If you are a woman who is over 40 and you are growing out your gray hair AND keeping it long, you get the double-whammy of being questioned by the anti-gray crowd as well as the “women over a certain age should cut their hair short” crowd.
Add going gray cold turkey to that equation, and WHAMMO – prepare to get a lot of unsolicited advice! 😜
Which begs the question: Why do so many people feel free to give us their opinions about our hair?
I’m still trying to figure that out! It’s one of the great mysteries of the universe.
On social media, I often get asked why I don’t cut my hair short. I have been told it will hasten my gray hair transition, enhance my self-esteem and free me from worrying about satisfying the sexist desires of the men in my life.
However, none of those scenarios apply to me.
I have a healthy amount of self-esteem, I have a supportive husband who loves me no matter what type of hair I choose to wear, and I don’t want to hasten my gray hair transition because I am loving every slow minute of it!
So why DO I wear my hair long? Let me explain.
For most of my childhood, I had short hair. Really short hair. We’re talking male-pattern baldness short. Imagine Paul Simon in the 1970s and you’ll get the picture.
I’m not sure why, except that my Mom was a busy mother of 3 children. Plus, I seem to remember that the few times that I had long hair, I either got gum stuck in it or experienced horrible tangles that would have required the assistance of the CIA to infiltrate.
My best friend, Suzy, had long, golden curls. She had Jan Brady-style blonde hair (clipped back with a barrette, and ringlets coming down on each side).
I envied her hair and wished that we could somehow trade hair. I wanted long hair badly enough that I would parade around my house with a bath towel on my head and pretend that it was my long hair.
Imagine my excitement when I found a lovely red hippie wig at a garage sale.
It was the most beautiful copperish-auburn color, and it was the perfect early 1970s hairdo – long, straight, and parted in the middle. I bought it for 25 cents and don’t remember much about that wig except that I LOVED it.
I also remember scaring the crap out of my parents one morning on our way to church.
They looked in the rearview mirror, expecting to see their little brunette Paul Simon-ish daughter, but instead saw a REALLY short redheaded hippie girl in the back seat. It’s a miracle they didn’t crash the car!
By the time I was a teenager and old enough to make my own hair decisions, New Wave was in and long hair was out.
But in the early 1990s, I moved to North Carolina for graduate school. The girls down South tended to be more traditionally feminine, and I started letting my hair grow… and grow. It was BEAUTIFUL!
I finally had gorgeous, long hair and I really felt “at home” with it. I also appreciated the color, which was a very dark brown chestnut shade.
For the last 26 years, my hair length has ranged from as long as the middle of my back all the way to a chin-length bob. But long hair is really what I prefer. I feel like “myself” in longish hair. That’s “the long and short of it” (LOL).
There’s no deep psychological meaning to it. It’s simply a matter of personal preference.
And you know those old 1950s era “rules” that suggested women over 40 should cut their hair short? I think those kinds of rules are outdated and need to be discarded, don’t you agree?
Why can’t we have autonomy over our own hair, for gosh sakes?!
But why go gray cold turkey?
When I made up my mind to go gray back in February 2018, I researched different ways to go gray. As I’ve said before, I was a brunette for 50 years and knowing myself pretty darn well, I knew that I needed time to shed that identity.
I knew that if I went from being a long-haired brunette to a short-haired silver sister overnight, it would be traumatic for me.
I also knew that I was simply done doing any sorts of coloring or chemical treatments. I’d had a bad experience bleaching a small (thankfully) portion of my hair in college (it turned bright orange and was very damaged).
Therefore, I chose to do a cold-turkey grow out, which basically means not doing any more salon treatments on my hair except for an occasional trim.
Here are some more thoughts on the cold turkey long hair grow out from two of my Instagram silver sisters:
Had a ponder…why cold turkey? Because I’m essentially lazy? First thought, then…no. The@cathryngoesgray
growoutis a kind of raspberry to all the years of perfectionism and constant dye related stress. And its teaching me to trust more, to accept the seemingly endless waiting, to focus more on other things. It is incredibly liberating once you get used to it. It becomes the new norm
It took me a long time to decide to go gray and stop dyeing but I felt like if a woman had the right to say, “I want to keep dyeing my hair”, then I had the right to say “I don’t want short hair” if I ever did stop.
My dark hair was my identity. So I clung to my dark tresses and when I started to go grey I covered it up for years until it just became a hassle. Every two weeks a white halo appeared.
I researched it watched YouTube videos etc. and finally made the decision with one stipulation; that I would not cut it off but I would go through the process and give myself time to get used to the new hue of color around my face. I knew it would be hard and people would share their opinions but I need the daily transformation to learn to love my new self and whatever color my hair decides to become.
If you want to keep your hair long during your cold turkey gray hair transition, just keep in mind that you will go through a “calico” or “two-tone” phase.
If your hair is dyed a dark shade, like mine was, you will definitely be sporting a skunk stripe (i.e., demarcation line) for a little while.
The skunk stripe will be noticeable at first, but you can fade your hair dye, and the skunk stripe will be less obvious after a few months. (If it really bothers you, read How to Make Your Cold Turkey Gray Hair Transition Fun! for some things you can do to cover up the demarcation line.)
Below, you can see how much my dye has faded since I began. The skunk stripe phase really didn’t last that long. Once your roots grow in a couple inches, your gray grow-out will start to look intentional, and that’s when the real FUN begins!
The long hair cold turkey gray transition has its own brand of unique beauty, as evidenced by my silver sisters below:
While you are going through the two-tone phase, you might want to try experimenting with braids. When gray hair and dyed hair blend together in a braid, the result is gorgeous, as evidenced by silver sister Nikki:
To wrap things up, here are the Pros and Cons of keeping your hair long during your cold turkey gray hair transition.
- Prolongs the gray hair transition, so you have time to get used to the “new you”
- Avoids the damage caused by toning, bleaching or blending
- Long hair can easily be put up into a ponytail, bun or braid if you want to change up your look
- Saves money as you only need occasional trims
- You will get a lot of comments/suggestions to just “cut your hair off” to hasten the transition
- Your gray hair transition could take a year or two, depending on the length of your hair
If you are being driven crazy by your long hair and just want to be done with the transition, check out my Silver Hair Transition Stories for women who went the pixie route. They have great tips and rock their shorter hair!
How about you? Long gray hair or short gray hair?
Let me know why in the comments!
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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.