Gray Hair Blog / August 6, 2019

How to Go Gray from Colored Hair

Inside: Tips on how to go gray from colored hair.

Are you thinking about ditching the dye and embracing your grays?

There are various ways to transition to your natural gray hair, and all of them have advantages and disadvantages.

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 have used salon methods (like gray blending), 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.

Please be aware that there is really no easy, cut and dried way to go gray.

All of the methods have advantages and disadvantages. Some are free, and some are expensive. Some are faster than others.

My best advice? Choose the method that best suits your temperament. 

METHOD #1: GO GRAY 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 cray 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 quickest way to transition to gray cold turkey? Get a buzz cut!

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.

You can read Theonita’s Silver Hair Transition Story by clicking on the images below:

If you want to see a great video of a buzz cut transition, check out Naturally Grayceful on YouTube:

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.

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.

Check out the pixie cuts below, and click on the ladies’ images to read their Silver Hair Transition Stories:

image of woman gray pixie how to go gray from dark hair
Marci

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.

If this sounds like a route you might be interested in, check out these Silver Hair Transition Stories (click on their images to go their stories):

image of pretty woman sunglass gray roots
Joanna

PROS & CONS TO THE COLD TURKEY GRAY GROWOUT METHOD

PROS

  • 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.

CONS

  • 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.

PROS & CONS TO TRANSITIONING TO GRAY AT THE SALON

PROS

  • 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.

CONS

  • 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). Click on their images to go to their stories.

image woman gray roots blonde ends transition to grey with highlights
Kim

** 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.**

FURTHER READING ON GOING GRAY FROM DYED HAIR

Please take a look at Lorraine Massey’s book Silver Hair: A Handbook – my BFF gave me 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 do you Transition from Dyed Hair to Your Natural Grey?
by Joli Campbell

And this one, from the Huffington Post:

10 Expert Tips on How to Take The Leap and Go Gray

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?

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: 
Katie Goes Platinum Storefront

7 Comments

  1. Elle

    I’m 37 and my regrowth is white (growing up my hair was always very dark brown, near black). Unfortunately myself and my siblings all inherited my dad’s black / brown hair AND his very very early onset grey. I went blonde for a couple of years but it did so much damage to my hair that i have gone back to dying brunette and i now have semi-healthy beautiful dark hair just past my shoulders in length. As i said though, my regrowth is now grey-white, i’m thinking i’d like to let it grow out but i have so little patience 🙁 Not too sure what to do.

    23 . Jul . 2019 Reply
    • Katie

      Hi, Elle – If you keep your hair long while growing it out, it can take close to 2 years (depending). I’m at month 17 now. It is really only hard in the beginning (in my opinion). Once the demarcation line gets down to your eyebrows, things seem to speed up! But, you have so many options – buzz cut, pixie cut, bob, transitioning in the salon (which can be hard on brunette hair, so you need to find someone who knows what they are doing! If you are willing to cut your hair short, you could be done transitioning in 2-3 months! It all depends on your temperament. Good luck!

      28 . Jul . 2019 Reply
  2. Corrine Sanborn

    I just bought a new 2019 L’Oreal dye kit – Soft Silver Blonde. Do you know anyone who used this to transistion. I currently use a medium ash blonde.

    25 . Feb . 2019 Reply
  3. Dee Geraghty

    All the models who have let their gray hair grow out have cool skintones & gray hair look fabulous on them. What about ordinary women with warm skintones & warm hair, who dye their hair brown because if they grow out their gray hair, it will clash with their skin tone. Gray hair is blue-based & suits cool skin tones. Please answer !
    Thanks Dee

    13 . Feb . 2019 Reply
    • Katie

      Hi, Dee: Have you checked out the post Gray Hair: Before and After? You’ll see a variety of different skin tones there. Also, check out Mireya’s transition. She has beautiful warm skin. I know a lot of women with warm skin are concerned about what colors to wear, etc. Some people say that you should go with whatever looks best with your hair color; others say whatever looks best with your skin tone. It’s confusing! I will keep looking into this for you.

      14 . Feb . 2019 Reply
  4. Alexandra V Mobley

    I decided on the cold turkey method … my hair is naturally VERY dark so the stripping and toning etc. of Option 3 wasn’t going to work for me; in fact my hairdresser refused to do it because he said my hair might all fall out (worse case scenario) or turn orange (best case scenario). He’s the one who convinced me to just let it grow. Option 1 certainly wasn’t happening as I first started dyeing at age 19 … in 1991 when having grey hair was even less cool than it is now! I’m surprised by how many people tell me I am brave for no longer dyeing … it is strange the things that we think are “brave.”

    20 . Aug . 2018 Reply
    • Katie

      Alexandra – my hair like yours. I found that out in the 1980s when i tried to bleach a section of it and it turned bright orange! The hairdresser said that was as light as it would ever get!

      In any case, I’m loving going cold turkey – it gives you time to get used to having silver hair!

      Re: being called “brave” – it rubs me the wrong way. It’s not like I’m a fireman!

      20 . Aug . 2018 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.