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Inside: Tips on how to go gray from colored hair.
Are you thinking about ditching the dye and growing out your gray hair?
There are various ways to transition to gray hair from dyed hair, and all of them have advantages and disadvantages.
WHAT IS THE RIGHT WAY TO GO GRAY?
I see many women in the Facebook Gray Hair support groups fretting about “not going gray the right way.”
It’s often the women who transitioned to gray hair with highlights (or other salon methods) who worry that they have somehow cheated.
But there is no wrong way to go gray. You have to do what works best for you: for your pocketbook, for your emotional well-being, and for your health.
Obviously, the easiest way to transition to gray is to never dye your hair, but, for many of us, it’s too late to go that route, right? According to some statistics, 75% of women dye their hair, leaving only 25% who never color.
The advantage to never dyeing is that you don’t have to go through the gray hair grow-out process. It’s also free!
I can’t think of any disadvantages, except that you would miss out on the fun of coloring your hair.
And it must be said – when you’re coloring your hair to express your personality, it is fun. When you are coloring your hair every two weeks to cover your gray roots? Not so much.
HOW TO GO GRAY FROM DYED HAIR
There are three main ways of transitioning to gray hair from dyed hair: the cold turkey method (letting the dye grow out or cutting it out), the salon transition (having a stylist blend your dyed hair to match your natural gray), or the dye-strip technique (a combination of various methods).
All of these methods have advantages and disadvantages. Some are free, and some are expensive. Some are faster than others.
Which method you choose depends on your temperament, your preferred hair length, and your pocketbook.
It can be a little daunting to figure out which way to go gray, but don’t worry! I’m here to help.
Each method will be discussed below, and there is an FAQ section at the bottom of this post that provides answers to the most common questions.
METHOD #1: COLD TURKEY
What does it mean to go gray cold turkey? It means just letting your gray hair grow in, and (except for the occasional haircut) leaving it alone.
Going gray cold turkey is cheap, chemical-free, and is the preferred route for many dark brunettes (like myself) because it avoids the damage associated with highlights/lowlights or other salon methods that involve bleaching the hair.
It is also the method that freaks a lot of women out because we’ve been conditioned our whole lives to cover gray hair (thanks, ad agencies!).
Walking around in PUBLIC with several inches of gray roots showing can seem daunting at first, to say the least.
Going gray cold turkey with medium-length hair can take a while. The average length of time seems to be around 20 months. So you have to decide: are you willing to wait that long, or do you want to have a quicker transition?
COLD TURKEY: BUZZ CUT
The fastest way to transition to gray hair? Get a buzz cut!
Buzzing your hair off is a dramatic way to go, but if it suits your personality, go for it! The only disadvantage I can picture is that it might be a shock to “go gray” overnight.
I have seen some very beautiful buzz cuts on silver-haired women. One of my favorites is Theonita’s. She buzzed all her hair off to go gray… and after a while, she grew it long again:
Related article: Theonita’s Transition Story
Related article: Philippa’s Buzzcut Transition from Red to Gray Hair
If you want to see a great video of a buzz cut transition, check out Naturally Grayceful on YouTube!
COLD TURKEY: PIXIE CUT
If you want a quick cold-turkey transition, but don’t want to buzz off your hair, consider getting a pixie cut.
You could be done with your gray hair transition in 3-6 months, depending on how short you go! Many women are happy to transition with a pixie.
The only con I’ve ever heard is that, if you want to grow your hair long again, the grow-out can be a bit awkward.
If you do not like yourself in short hair, or if you would freak out going gray too quickly (that’s me!), you can totally keep your hair long.
COLD TURKEY: LONG HAIR
Personally, I really was invested in my identity as a green-eyed, pale brunette. I could not IMAGINE myself with light hair. So, I colored my hair for 25+ years.
Cutting my hair short and going gray quickly would have been very traumatic for me. So, I chose to go gray cold turkey with longish hair.
I was worried about looking nutty with multi-colored hair, but I got over that quickly. It has actually been fun watching my hair turn all different colors, and I now see the beauty in transitioning hair.
Going gray with long hair is also a good route to go if you find that you are really enjoying the gray hair transition. It’s fun to watch your hair change color over time, and it’s a really good exercise in patience and introspection.
PROS & CONS TO THE COLD TURKEY GRAY GROWOUT METHOD
- If you stop dyeing altogether, you will save a TON of money. Obviously, you will save more money if you were going to the salon rather than using box dye, but in any case, won’t it be nice to have more money in your pocket?
- You will have more time at your disposal. I was wasting 3 hours on a lovely Saturday once a month getting my hair dyed at the salon. And if I dyed it at home, it still took about an hour to dye my hair (and even more time to clean the bathroom afterward).
- You will no longer pour harsh chemicals on your head every month. A lot of us don’t consider how dangerous hair dye can be to our health. Knowing what I know now, I wish I hadn’t started using it.
- It can take a long time if you want to keep your hair long. I’ve seen women in my Facebook groups who have taken anywhere from 1-3 years to get rid of all the dye, depending on the length of their hair.
- The first 2-3 months of your transition, you will have a demarcation line where the dye meets the gray hair. However, your dye will fade and the line will be less obvious as time goes on.
- If you have darker hair, you might end up with calico hair for a bit. I don’t see this as a con, but many ladies do!
If you decide to go the cold turkey route, check out my post “How to Make Your Cold Turkey Hair Transition Fun!” for tips & tricks.
METHOD #2: SALON TRANSITION
Getting a salon treatment to help you transition to gray hair is a great option for a lot of women because it is faster than the cold turkey method, it hides your demarcation line, and it can make your transition seem seamless.
A salon transition can also be a welcome alternative for women with careers in the public eye (politician, lawyer, actress, etc.).
Many women in these fields feel uncomfortable coming to work with two-toned hair (or are told outright by their bosses that it is inappropriate).
A salon transition is often quicker than a cold-turkey transition, depending on the length of your hair.
There are downsides to the salon transition. For one, it can be quite expensive. If your hair is long, you could look at several months (or more) of pricey services to get your grays to blend.
Of course, just as in hair dyeing, chemicals are involved. If you have fragile hair (or very dark brunette hair that requires a lot of treatments), your hair can become damaged.
The favored salon transitioning routes seem to be: Balayage, Highlights and/or Lowlights, or Grey Blending.
If you choose one of these routes, try to get recommendations so you can make sure to find a salon that has experience with these methods. You can also search my international database of gray-friendly salons.
Related video: My interview with Color Lounge about salon transitions:
PROS & CONS TO TRANSITIONING TO GRAY HAIR AT THE SALON
- It’s much faster than the cold turkey method. Depending on the length of your hair, you can be your full silver self in a fairly short amount of time!
- You can avoid the awkward stages of the gray grow out. No harsh demarcation line or calico hair for you!
- You won’t have to cut your hair to get rid of your old dye. Many women want to keep their hair long, but don’t want to sport the calico look. Blending your grays at the salon will allow you to keep your hair long without sporting a two- or three-tone head of hair.
- It’s expensive. Unless your hair is very short, expect to go to the salon fairly frequently for highlights, toners, etc. Depending on what state you live in, this can add up quickly.
- It involves harsh chemicals and can be damaging to your hair. Some women do fine with salon transitions, but others end up with very damaged hair. Make sure to consult with a high-quality salon to find out if your hair can withstand the treatments.
- It’s time-consuming. If you’re tired of spending time in a salon chair, you will need to wait a while longer.
Check out these Silver Hair Transition Stories of women who have used salon methods to go gray (or a combination of cold-turkey and salon treatments).
METHOD #3: THE DYE STRIP TECHNIQUE
I only heard about the dye strip technique recently, and it’s a great solution for women who want to go gray without a demarcation line, do not want to cut their hair short, and do not want to risk potential damage to their hair from salon transition treatments (such as bleaching).
Adherents to the dye strip technique call it “going gray in secret” because your gray hair grows out underneath a layer of longer hair.
It’s a great solution for many women, but it’s not a great solution for women who need to avoid hair dye for medical or other reasons, as it requires you to continue using dye for a little while longer.
For detailed instructions plus video tutorials, read Going Gray in Secret with the Dye Strip Technique.
WHAT IS THE EASIEST WAY TO GO GRAY FROM DYED HAIR?
The easiest and fastest way to go gray is to get your hair buzzed very short. If that’s too drastic for you, a pixie cut is the preferred route for many women.
Want to learn more about how women REALLY feel about going gray? And which method of going gray is their favorite? And much more? Check out the results of my comprehensive gray hair survey!
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
FURTHER READING ABOUT HOW TO GO GRAY FROM COLORED HAIR
Please take a look at Lorraine Massey’s book Silver Hair: A Handbook – my BFF gave it to me as a gift once I announced my intention to gray. Massey’s book has excellent tips & advice, plus a lot of inspirational photos.
For help with salon methods of going gray, check out these two excellent posts by my fellow silver sister bloggers:
Gray Hair Transition: Don’t Do What I Did!
by Debbie Roes
How to Transition to Your Natural Hair
by Joli Campbell
And to see how other silver sisters feel about the gray hair transition, check out this post: The Surprising Truth About Going Gray
Just remember, in the end, it is up to you:
HOW DO YOU WANT TO GO GRAY?
Let me know in the comments! I’d love to hear from you.
Not sure if you’re ready? Take my quiz!
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