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How to Handle Rude Comments About Your Gray Hair

Inside: How to respond to rude comments about your gray hair.

My experience going gray has been very positive so far (and I hear that from a lot of other women). 

But, let’s face it, at some point during your gray hair transition you are most likely going to run into a person who simply HAS to tell you that you are making a mistake…or that your gray hair makes you look older…or unprofessional. 

You need to be ready to handle these type of rude comments about your gray hair.  Forewarned is forearmed.

I’m pretty dang good about setting personal boundaries, and I’m addicted to advice columns, so I think that makes me qualified to give you my two cents on how to respond to a gray hair insult.

** Please Note:  This post contains affiliate links.  I only link to products that I personally like or that have been recommended to me by my silver sisters.  You can see my full policy here.**

RUDE GRAY HAIR COMMENTS AND COMEBACKS

Scenario 1: A sweet, elderly relative or friend who has completely lost their filter decides to tell you they don’t like your gray hair:

image of scolding woman

With these types of people, I just smile brightly and say, “Well, I like it!” and then change the subject.

You’re not going to change this person – they’ve reached that stage in life where they just “have to speak their mind.”

But remember: You don’t have to listen!

Cheatsheet For Dealing with Rude People
On Sale Now in the Katie Goes Platinum Shop

Scenario 2: Your parent/sibling/child decides to take it upon themselves to tell you that your gray hair is no good, it makes you look older, and they don’t like it.

image of family disapproving of your gray hair

If YOU are happy with your grays, you need to set a firm boundary ASAP with these type of “concerned” people:  “Well, I like the way I look!”

If they want to keep discussing it, you shut them down with “The topic of my hair is off-limits. As long as I like it, that’s really all that matters.”   

If you must, get up and leave the room (or get off the phone call, or whatever).  Repeat as necessary until they get the picture.

If you get really angry, you could point out that it’s just hair!

If you were harming your health or losing your moral compass or whatever, then your family would have some standing to butt into to your business a bit.

But it’s your HAIR!! Who the heck cares about somebody else’s hair THAT much that they feel free to butt in?

If my lovely 80+ year old Mother-in-Law started wearing her hair in dreadlocks, I honestly can’t say it would ever occur to me to talk to her about it.

Now, if she started wearing dreadlocks AND smoking a bong every night, then I might get concerned enough about her abrupt change in personality to bring it up!

Scenario 3: Your boyfriend/husband tells you he doesn’t like it. 

image of man thumbs down

OK, now I’m going to go on a little rant, before I present you with my answer.

Being of the Irish-American persuasion, I have a temper.  And I’m contrary.  I had a boyfriend once tell me he liked it when I wore jeans and suggested I wear them more often.  I STOPPED WEARING THEM FOR YEARS! 

It icked me out that he was so invested in how I looked.  (Now that I think about it, we only dated for a few months but I stopped wearing jeans for about TEN years.  That’s how contrary I am).

Anyway, I still hold to the idea that if YOU like your hair, that’s what matters. 

And if my husband told me he would not allow me to go gray (which apparently happens (!!)), I’d be zipping along to the divorce court faster than you could say Jack Robinson!

But let’s say you have a nice husband… and he sweetly tells you that he misses your colored hair.

Well, you can be nice about it.  Some topics that are off limits with other people are allowed between a couple.  You can have a discussion about it but just remember – it’s your hair, and you get to decide what to do with it.

Look at your husband. Does he look the same as he did 20 years ago? Do you ask him to color his hair or wear a toupée? Probably not!

So, the “Well, I like it!” response is a good one for this scenario.  And you can also point out to your husband how many thousands of dollars you will save by no longer getting your hair colored every 2-4 weeks!

If you dyed at home, point out that you will no longer stain the bathroom tiles and shower curtain every month.

Cheatsheet For Dealing with Rude People
On Sale Now in the Katie Goes Platinum Shop

Scenario 4: A negative comment from a complete stranger (on the sidewalk, at the grocery store, etc.)

image of rude stranger

Since you don’t know this person, you don’t have to be quite as nice as you do to your relatives and friends, but there’s no need to be completely nasty.

There are a few good advice-column-tested ways to handle this.

The Miss Manners Approach #1: “How Kind of You To Take an Interest in my personal business!”

The Miss Manners Approach #2: Look at the person quizzically and say, “Excuse me, do I know you?”

The Carolyn Hax Approach:  “Wow” – and then turn away and refuse to engage

And, of course, you can always go back to #1 – “Well, I like it!” But a stranger might feel free to keep going, so I think setting the firm boundary right away is the best way to handle it.

All of these comments can be said in a nice way.  No need to be aggressive!

If you feel like being a wee-bit passive-aggressive, however, buy a bunch of copies of this book and hand them out to the worst offenders. Maybe they’ll learn something!

Have you had a rude comment about your gray hair?

How did you handle it? Please answer below!

Please do me a favor and share this post to social media, as it helps me grow my audience and spread the word about our Silver Revolution!  And remember to subscribe to my YouTube Channel and Pinterest Feed for more gray hair tips and product recommendations. Thanks!

Check out my shop on Amazon for all your gray hair needs: 
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43 Comments

  1. Ive gotten compliments from friends and my mother has come around since my gray is fully grown out now. She had a hard time in the beginning stages, lol – “You’re really going to do it?” I had a neighbor who said “wow, your hair is WHITE” I replied yes ( is that bad?) Now that its grown out she’s told me she likes it. Wow, thank you 😉
    This was the most jarring experience – my Uncle pointed at me and yelled Skunk! at a family gathering when I first began to grow out from brunette to gray. He wasn’t wrong, but yikes. I replied at least I had hair! I went back and forth many times, but I was really tired of the time and money spent at the salon, and I never really loved the color when I had it done and it grew out so quickly! There are days I catch a glimpse of myself and think oh – that’s me, not used to seeing myself with the gray, but I’m so happy I did it. So hang in there and try not to let these comments sway you or get you down, it all works out in the end! You will have beautiful gray, silver, white or s&p hair,
    Mother Nature knows her stuff 😉

  2. I like to steal from the wonderful Southern tradition in these situations with a “Bless your heart.”

    Translation: F off!

  3. I guess I’ve been lucky. When I made my decision to stop coloring a year ago, my husband said he just wanted me to be happy. My daughter who lives far away looks forward to my progress pics. My son never said anything about it except recently when he mentioned my gray was a pretty color. The only negatives might be a couple of friends who said they’re not ready for that yet themselves. So that’s fine. I was ready mentally and found it relatively easy. So happy I did it.

  4. My worst critics are my daughters. They say I’m not old enough to go grey (?) It’s my natural colour. I didn’t ask to go grey but I actually like it. I have used the Well I like it, and the think of the money I’ll save by not having it coloured approach and so far it seems to be working.
    I would also like to say that you are the most sensible and friendly person whose pages I have looked at since going grey.

  5. Dealing with negative comments about gray hair from people who just don’t get it is like dealing with my family member who has Narcissistic Personality Disorder–I’ll never win, and dealing with him is pretty much impossible. So I like to respond with questions that allow them to open wider and firmly insert foot. For example, a recent conversation went like this:
    Him: I see you’re not coloring your hair anymore.
    Me: What’s wrong with that?
    Him: Nothing, I just thought you cared about your appearance, that’s all.
    Me: How does not hiding my natural hair mean I don’t care about my appearance?

  6. I let my gray grow out a year ago getting with mostly positive remarks and compliments. Then…. my sister committed to me, “I’ll never go gray, that’s the one thing I have control over and I don’t want to look like a hag.” We’re a year apart by the way. This crushed me, not her opinion, but her name reference and her meanness. Although, I find it sad that she feels she has no control over anything else in her life.

    1. Wow, what a terrible comment. I agree with you, though, that this says more about her feelings about herself than her feelings about you. Still, I can see why it stung! I wish people would think twice before letting a hateful comment like this slip out. Sorry that happened to you, Marlena xooxo

      1. Hi Katie
        I am 3rd time transitioning to grey in the last 8 years. The last time a friend I had met for lunch kept going on about helping me to dye my hair again, as I had a short grey pixie. She said to me ” keep it short & edgy if you decide not to color, as last time you grew it long it looked terrible on you & I really didn’t like it, a woman needs all the help she can get to look young. ” Stupidly I dyed it again & am now 4 months in the growing out period. We are both over 60 & she still dyes her hair dark brown & tells me that everyone tells her how young she looks. My husband is grey & 11 years younger than me & he is encouraging me to grow it out & loves me as I am.

  7. diane coleman says:

    I started going gray at 17….dyed my hair til 15 years ago when I got curious as to what it looked like under the dye……my husband went fishing…I got out the dog clippers. Done and done. Never looked back..love it…Not one person has ever said anything negative to my face.

    My dad said something to my husband years ago that summed it up.
    He said..””””I don’t care how many people are in the room…if even ONE of them
    ( my mom, my sister, or me)…is in the room?
    You’re outnumbered.”””””grin. Go for it ladies…. What are they going to do? Take your birthday? …grin.

    Sincerely,
    D.C.

  8. Hola.
    Tengo 56 años y he intentado dejar mi cabello canoso en 3 ocasiones. Esta vez ya casi cumplo 10 meses. Hace un par de semanas fui al supermercado. Esperando en la fila, un empleado se acercó a decirme que las personas de la tercera edad era otra. Solo le dije que ya casi me tocaba. Apenas lo miré y seguí en lo mío. Me cayó mal.

    1. I don’t blame you for being offended, Irma. Unfortunately, since 75% of women dye their hair, and only the very elderly have allowed their gray hair to show (in the past 100 years or so), it’s going to take a while for people to stop associating gray hair with old age. If you want to feel happy with your gray hair, you need to see gray as just another hair color and not as a symbol of age. After all, many of us (myself included) were fully gray in our 30s! If that happens to you in the future, I hope it’s easier for you to dismiss as simply pure ignorance on behalf of the person who said it. Good luck!

  9. Pat Villemarette says:

    I stopped coloring my hair two years ago with encouragement from my husband. It is heavily gray in front and dark in the back, and cut in a stylish bob. I have received mostly positive feedback but I have to set my mind to feel good about it. It has helped to follow Nikol Johnson’s You Tube channel even though she is in her 40’s (and gorgeous), but starting turning gray in her 20’s. She helps you to believe that your gray hair is your super power. I try to make that my daily mantra!

    1. I love my gray and my husband loves it at well. The older women in my family not so much. They’re very insecure and do not embrace aging which is insane to me because it’s natural. I’m 45 and it’s all coming in so nicely I can’t wait to see what it looks like in another yr. Recently my Mom visited and must have mentioned 3 times if I wanted to go get some hair dye, or a more natural option with less chemicals thinking that was the reason. She could not understand that I love my gray hair. I firmly told her nope, I’m loving my hair and excited for the full transition. She acted like she didn’t hear me but didn’t mention it again.

    2. Hi, Pat.
      I too love Nikol Johnson and her whole attitude to beauty is inspiring as she is all about looking one’s best and not comparing oneself to our younger selves nor to others. Monique Parent was my first inspiration though, and largely responsible for me taking the plunge and growing my hair out. If you don’t already know her YouTube chanel, you may like to check her out.

  10. Hi Katie,
    I’m 48 & stopped coloring my hair 4 months ago. I have been following your grow out for inspiration so thank you for that. I haven’t had any negative comments until this morning at the grocery store. The checkout lady took one look at me and said…wow, you’re going gray….you’ve given up, huh?. Then she proceded by telling me about a certain celebrity who had gone totally gray but who could pull it off because she has a really pretty face. HA! Can you believe?? I honestly didn’t know how to react. I was sort of stunned that this stranger would feel so comfortable saying this to my face. All I said to her in return was that I had given up dying my hair, but that I wouldn’t say that I had given up. The nerve of some people! I just read the tips in this article so that i’m more prepared for future ugly comments. Jeesh.
    No turning back for me. I’m happy with this decision & plan to continue this process. I’ve gone cold turkey too so it’s going to be a while!! 🙂

    1. OMG, Jan – I’m so sorry you had to run into such a horrible person! When that kind of thing happens to me, my first thought (because I’m a generally kind person) is that the rude person probably doesn’t know how rude they’re being. And then I do have to wonder if they are being a jerk ON PURPOSE – if they get their kicks out of these type of remarks? It’s hard to tell. I’m glad you were able to put this in perspective – your answer was perfect! If you are happy in your decision, it makes it much easier, don’t you agree? Good luck!

    2. I would have asked her if she was paying for my groceries. I don’t do well with unsolicited opinions and can be quite snarky in a backhanded sort of way. I’ve already been going over responses in my head because I know comments are coming, and what I find myself thinking most often is “I guess it bothers you more than it bothers me, and I’m ok with that.”.

  11. I stopped dyeing my hair last year and I can honestly say I’ve had nothing but positive comments. I also chopped it short to get through the transition stage, and then liked it and kept it short. My hair is silver at the front and gradually gets darker towards the back, and numerous people have told me they think it looks really cool.

  12. I’m 43 and have been dying my hair until 6 months ago. I’m almost 100% gray. I can’t believe how people react! My mom told me that if I went gray then she’d feel older having a gray child! I’m a family doctor and continuously get comments from my older patients “why don’t you try pink hair!” “your too young to go gray”etc.
    My kids don’t like it but I told them that I’m being true to myself.
    On the upside, I have women my age randomly come up to me saying that they love my hair, and that they would love to go their true gray too! I am encouraging women through my hair to be true to themselves too.
    Hooray to all your grays! Be proud! (Although I’m still struggling with this a bit).

  13. RWnear Austin says:

    I’ve been fully gray for about 3 years now+ the transition took me about 4 years. I started going gray in my 20’s & dyed since high school. I’m now 51 & have very long naturally curly hair that’s heavily white streaked salt and pepper.
    My now ex husband once told me my gray hair made HIM feel old.
    Too bad, so sad… it’s my hair & I like it.

    While I’ve had a couple of thoughtless comments from others over the years, mostly I’m stopped by admiring women. Young ones at that! They usually want to know if it’s natural. lol
    I’m lucky, I’m single now & can do as I please… silver, purple, blue, pink!

    Mostly people are very accepting. Those that aren’t are free to keep their comments to themselves. ?

  14. I’ve still got dyed hair and I am already receiving criticism from the mere idea of going grey. I’ve mentioned it to a couple of women and one said “I wouldn’t want to look like a witch.” The other one said “Don’t go grey. It makes women look like old hags.” So 8 years after contemplating going natural I am still on the fence but getting rapidly tired of being scared.

    1. Wow, Lolly, sorry you had to hear that from these women. Don’t let them scare you! Join Silver Revolution on Facebook – you will find a ton of women there who will give you support and be kind. You don’t need that kind of negativity. What is wrong with people?! Good luck and hope you join us.

      1. Another thing you can point out is that hair dye is bad for the environment, not to mention yourself and your pocketbook. Also nothing is more aging than dried dull frizzy hair with roots, which is how most dyed hair looks after three weeks.

        I went gray and loved it but dyed it again to get a new job. Now I’m going half gray. Letting some streaks grow but my hairdresser is giving me some brown streaks.

      2. Well, I did go gray after all! It’s been one year since my last full-on home dye job which was some time at the beginning of Jan 2019.
        I remember that I went to color my hair (at home) on Feb 5 which was a few days after posting my comment above. I recall slathering on the dye and setting the timer and then just getting really fed up with the whole process that I immediately washed it all out. I told my family I was done with coloring and was going gray. They’ve fully supported me. Sometimes their support was stronger than my own resolve. 🙂
        Physically it was the easiest thing in the world to just stop coloring. Mentally was a whole different story. In May of 2019 was 3 months in and I freaked out and bought a box of color and put it on and AGAIN I got fed up and washed it out after 5 minutes.
        I stayed the course, white-knuckled it through all kinds of social events but just kept on going.
        I’ve received several sincere compliments and also a ton of silence from others. No nasty comments but I was always ready with “Well, I like it” because I think responding with anything else such as sarcasm gives the negative commentator a little narcissistic buzz that I am not willing to give. Let’s face it, anyone who is bold enough to lose his or her filter to comment negatively about someone’s appearance probably loves himself/herself too much.

  15. Nichole | Wildly Alive says:

    Well, we cant please everyone. And there are a lot of people that is rude to those who have gray hair. Having gray hair is not a bad thing. I mean its a privilege. But a lot of people use that to take an advantage. Thanks for your tips on how to handle rude people. Such a great article!

    1. I’m so shocked and saddened to read about women who were discouraged by others when deciding to go grey. I am 61 and stopped coloring my hair two years ago. My hair is shoulder length and naturally wavy/curly. I have not experienced any negative comments and complete strangers have complimented me on my hair. My colorist is probably the only one unhappy with my decision!

  16. My mother (who was all grey at 40 herself) told me I was lucky my husband “allowed” me to stop dyeing my hair. Erm what century are we living in? My husband is one of the people who actively encourages me to be myself and to stop colouring my hair.

    1. Yikes! That idea drives me crazy. My husband is like yours, Jenny. I wouldn’t have it any other way!

    2. The same happened to me. My husband said if I like it, then tell
      Other people to mind their Bussiness. He likes it, my son likes it and I love it so nothing else matters. GO GRay

  17. Ok, my name is Laurie, NOT Laurke. ??‍♀️

  18. My cousin comments about it every time I post about it on Facebook. For some reason it cracks me up, it doesn’t bother me. I also have a co-worker who comments on it frequently, she’s at least 10 years my senior and very chic. I always laugh and tell her I think she’s more worried about it than I am. For some reason the comments don’t bother me, I just don’t care. My husband loves it, and my daughters think it’s ‘rad’. I’m a happy girl and I don’t worry about it. ❤️

    1. That’s how I feel, too, Laurie ❤️, and I like the way you respond to these comments!

      But it’s shocking to read about the very hurtful comments that some of our silver sisters have received from family, friends and colleagues – I think it’s good to be armed with some ways to handle those kind of aggressively mean reactions.

  19. SANDRINE PICARD says:

    A “friend” I hadn’t seen for a while was cheeky enough to take off my panama hat from my head last Sunday. I was wearing a short and a tee shirt and she said I looked like one of those cougar women… Was it the gray that made her feel uncomfortable… I didn’t know what to answer actually until her husband said it suited me soooo well… So sometimes the answer doesn’t come from you ?

    1. She probably wasn’t too happy with her husband’s response! ? I’ve noticed men seem to be much more supportive than women re: going gray. It’s a nice surprise!

  20. Funny story…my 5 year old granddaughter was not happy with my first two months of new sparkle growth…she would say “I want Nana’s brown hair back…I like brown better”…I would just say…”it doesn’t matter what color my hair is…I’m still the same Nana just with a touch of magic sparkle”…one day around the third month she turned to me and said….”Nana I luv your new hair…I think it’s REALLY pretty…better than the brown…I hope you keep it” … not really sure if the magic sparkle did the trick since she’s a huge fan of sparkles and unicorns…regardless…if a 5 year old gives you a thumbs up you know you got this!

    1. Great story, Joanna! I love the idea of magic sparkles! 🙂

      1. My husband calls me his silver vixen ? It’s been 15 weeks since I last coloured my hair and I have about a inch and a half silver hair it’s gorgeous.

        1. Sounds beautfiul, Gilly! So glad you have a supportive husband – I do, too, and it makes all the difference!

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