Gray Hair Blog / September 21, 2020

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 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.

THERE ARE MANY DIFFERENT WAYS TO GO GRAY FROM DYED HAIR

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: 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 fastest way to transition to gray hair? 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.

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.

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.

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 HAIR 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).

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

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 use dye for a little while longer.

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.

** 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 ABOUT HOW TO GO GRAY FROM COLORED 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?

Let me know in the comments! I’d love to hear from you.

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

Related Posts:

3 Reasons Why Going Gray is a Big Deal

How to Deal with Yellowing Gray Hair

How to Embrace Your Gray Hair When You Have No Choice

How to go Gray at the Salon

Gray Hair: Before and After

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43 Comments

  1. Teri S.

    I just came across this article Katie. I’ve been thinking for quite awhile about letting my dark brown hair with lots of auburn highlights go naturally grey. My problem, as I see it, is, I have very dry skin & inherited my mom’s early wrinkled face. I’ve not seen one picture of a woman who has gone grey with wrinkles on her face & a “turkey neck” in your post. I’m 65 & have two friends who don’t have a wrinkle anywhere in sight, so guess who I compare myself to? I’m also afraid I’ll have “mousy” grey hair like my mom did. I’ve heard that women with dark hair who dye it are at a higher risk for bladder cancer. Oh, decisions, decisions. Any advice?

    12 . Aug . 2020 Reply
  2. Theresa

    Hi, I have been dying my hair for as long as I can remember and am now going to embrace the natural gray, my question is top half is grey and bottom dark brown, what type of hair shampoo and conditioner should I be using to try and keep my hair healthy thank you

    03 . Aug . 2020 Reply
    • Katie

      Hi, Theresa – you can use your regular shampoos and conditioner unless you start seeing a problem (like yellowing) in your gray hair. Check out my product list for more info on products that target specific issues in the meantime. Good luck!

      04 . Aug . 2020 Reply
  3. Lois

    I’m one of the “regretters” who wishes I’d never dyed my hair in the first place, 20+ years ago. I went the bleach route, which was quite drastic but since I teach college students and they do wild things with their hair all the time, they weren’t fazed. It’s a lot easier to let the grey grow into the platinum than the dull brown that screams ever louder “look at me! I was dyed weeks and weeks ago and I’m fading!” Then Coronavirus came along and staying at home through the worst of the ugly stage eased the transition so that I have two boxes of bleach sitting around that will never be used. Right now I’m really happy with the way the natual grey and surprising amount of dark hair is growing. I’ll be even happier when the brassy bleach of the damaged hair is gone for good.

    03 . Aug . 2020 Reply
  4. charice

    I have had past my waist long dark brown hair for most of my life. I continually dyed my roots dark brown for many years. When i decided to transition to grey, I first began dying my roots a lighter shade of brown. After about a year I let my roots grow out but I hid the color difference by using vegetable henna coloring for almost a year now. For the last three months I stopped the henna and I love my new natural colors grey, sliver and pewter. This worked out great for me. It was inexpensive and I never felt like my hair looked like a tacky grow out. The best way i have found to apply henna to growing out roots was to wear gloves and use a wooden chopstick and clean cloth that you do not mind staining up. Dip the chopstick into the henna bottle and poke it around through your hair and by the scalp. Right away use the cloth to rub the color through your hair and onto your scalp. Repeat until you are satisfied with hairs appearance. Works best with damp hair. This method is fast and cheap because you do not use much henna with the chop stick method. One bottle would last almost two months. It takes a few washings to get out the henna too, so that was also helpful with the transition. 🙂

    15 . Jun . 2020 Reply
    • Gloria Cutter

      What color of henna did you use? I have very dark brown and am ready to transition. Suggestions?
      Thank you!

      17 . Aug . 2020 Reply
  5. Kim

    I have long dyed dark brown hair. I’ve decided to go gray. I had semi permanent color today on roots. I’m wondering if I should start using color lifting or clarifying shampoo to help the transition. Any thoughts on this as it was not mentioned in any of the going gray methods.

    14 . Jun . 2020 Reply
    • Katie

      `Hi, Kim – have you read my transition stories? I did use clarifying shampoo and reference it a lot in my own posts. It did help fade the dye, but I think it also contributed to making my brunette fade into a very brassy orange that (eventually) even blue shampoo couldn’t touch. I’m on the fence now about whether I would do it that way again or not. It probably did help blur my transition line a bit, but at the expense of orange hair. Just a warning!

      15 . Jun . 2020 Reply
  6. Christy

    I went the cold turkey grow out method, but I’m blonde and I definitely think it is easier for us than for brunettes. My dye job just simply faded out and I was lucky not to have a major line of demarcation. The bottom was just a weird golden color until it got long enough to cut off. Now I love my hair and it was definitely worth the trouble to grow it out. Props to all the brunettes out there going cold turkey. I don’t know if I could do that!

    11 . Jun . 2020 Reply
  7. Linda

    Just going cold turkey. I wear my hair in a bob but not been to get it cut since pandemic started.

    10 . Jun . 2020 Reply
  8. Marion

    Ich bin 47 und seit dem Shutdown in der Transition. Ich fühle mich sehr wohl mit meinem Pfeffer-und-Salz-Ansatz.
    Für mich wird es ein langer Weg werden, da ich sehr lange Haare habe. Aber das finde ich gut. Ich will mich gerne langsam daran gewöhnen.

    Marion

    27 . May . 2020 Reply
    • Katie

      Wonderful, Marion! I also went gray with long hair and it’s perfect for getting used to the idea of being all-gray. I grew my hair out for 24 months but only started to feel ready to cut of my dark roots starting around 22 months. I finally felt more like “me” as a silver-haired person! You’ll love it. Good luck!

      27 . May . 2020 Reply
  9. Michelle

    I’ve been considering letting my hair grow out for a couple of years now. I’ve been dyeing my hair for 16 years and although my stylist does a beautiful job with balayage highlights, I have been feeling that my hair looks beautiful and youthful my face not longer matches. I’m almost 3 months since my last dye and the white (and other colors) area coming in. My biggest concern is that my slightly olive skin tone will look washed out with the incoming white. My plan is to counteract that with saturated colors in my clothes. It’s time for me to do this and I’m ready.

    25 . May . 2020 Reply
  10. Janet

    Hi.I have just started to grow out my dark brown dyed hair only about 6wks.should i go cold turkey or use semi permanent hair dye for a while …Janet x

    14 . May . 2020 Reply
    • Katie

      It’s totally up to you, Janet. It really depends on your temperament. What will make this easier for you?

      16 . May . 2020 Reply
  11. Patricia S. Braswell

    I have dyed my hair a dark brown/black for the past forty years, as I started turning gray very early. I’m so tired of going every four weeks and having color put on. During this pandemic, my roots are about two inches and are gray, thinking about letting it go gray, but I have noticed that I have thinning hair on the crown of my head. Would it be O.K. if I decided to get highlites or low lights done. Don’ t want any more thinning on the top, if at all. Please advise.

    14 . May . 2020 Reply
    • Katie

      Hi, Patricia – you’ll have to consult your hairdresser as I’m not sure how those would affect your thinning hair. In my case, once I stopped coloring altogether, my hair came in thicker and the hair loss stopped.

      16 . May . 2020 Reply
  12. Elva

    Hi Katie, I’m 71 and have dyed my for yrs, my hair is just below my shoulders and dark brown, I have decided to go cold turkey! Do i need to start using a purple shampoo now or wait till I have more gray hair? Thanks for the help and I love the information on this blog.

    14 . May . 2020 Reply
    • Katie

      Thanks, Elva! You never NEED to use purple shampoo – it’s just fun to do it occasionally to brighten things up. But it can be drying. I didn’t use it until my hair was all silver, and even now I only use it once in a blue moon (and then I use the Pantene as it’s a lot less harsh than the others on the market. It really does work beautifully).

      16 . May . 2020 Reply
  13. Helen

    I have not dyed my hair since March the top of my head is a lovely white the Back has colour still also some dark grey it’s a bob length needs a trim ,I’m 73 any advise please I have my hair done regularly also blow dryer every week on lucky my friends a hair dresser but I haven’t seen her for a few months due to I’ll health ..

    12 . May . 2020 Reply
  14. Sally DiPiazza

    Hi I am a young 69 year old fair skinned green eyes with dyed copper medium length hair – of course with this pandemic situation I am now seeing an inch of my grayish white hair – I have been reading lots of stuff about transitioning – I do have a chronic auto -immune illness so it would probably behoove me to stop with the chemicals – as you know with red hair it is daunting to think about this whole thing but I am retired and it really doesn’t matter that much – I spend most of my time at the pool doing water aerobics – any thoughts about at home stuff I could do to help my blend ay gray with my copper for social commitments?

    20 . Apr . 2020 Reply
    • D. Bray

      Sally!! I so relate to your comments! I have strawberry blonde with blonde highlights! 2 months of natural …… I don’t even know😂 I’ve been told by a hairdresser I don’t really have “the pretty grey” I’m outside playing sports & at the lake all the time! I’m 64, never used sunscreen so you can imagine what my face looks like 🙃I figure embracing “the whatever shows up on my head” will cause my face & haircolor to make sense🤗

      25 . Apr . 2020 Reply
  15. Ann

    Hi
    I’m just starting the grey transition.
    I have dyed my hair black for many years and fed up with having to colour it every 4 weeks.
    I can’t afford salon prices – so any tips or advice would be grateful

    17 . Feb . 2020 Reply
  16. Joy

    I had dark hair but began going gray about the same time I got pregnant with my 3rd child at age 33. Sin e I didnt want to look like I was my daughter’s grandma, I dyed it the same dark color. Eventually went to a medium ash blond as my hair continued to get more gray. Recently I asked my hair stylist to help me transition and I requested light lavendar/dark lavendar weave to detract from the grow-out. It’s exactly as I had hoped it would be!! The blue base of a purple tone offsets the gold base and the golden tones of my dyed hair. The silver is coming in and I’m excited!😃

    07 . Dec . 2019 Reply
    • Katie

      Sounds wonderful, Joy!

      12 . Dec . 2019 Reply
  17. Janet

    For that awkward regrowing period, cut it off and buy a quality wig! I am a wig wearer due to permanent chemo induced alopecia. I have found some great grey wigs at cysterwigs.com and wigsbypattispearls.com. Long, short, and every style in between. You may not want to wear everyday, but if you have a special occasion when you don’t want striped hair, it’s a great option.

    05 . Dec . 2019 Reply
    • Katie

      Hi, Janet – I know a lot of women use a wig during the grow-out period. It’s a great idea! Makes for a seamless transition!

      05 . Dec . 2019 Reply
  18. Nina

    I love how you said coloring your hair for a change is fun but the having to touch up roots so often is not! That was another sign for me that it was time to embrace my roots. You gave a great well rounded article to help silver sisters know they have options when it comes to going gray.

    18 . Nov . 2019 Reply
    • Katie

      Thanks, Nina! So glad you enjoyed it!

      18 . Nov . 2019 Reply
  19. Cheryldoughten@icloud.com

    I have platinum hair I tired of bleaching it every 4 to 5 weeks I have a lot of gray on my sides and in front I want to put a darker color in it foil or comb thru my natural color is medium brown but when ever I color it or highlights it pulls a lot of red . I was thinking a gray color 🤷‍♀️

    31 . Oct . 2019 Reply
  20. Kerri

    I have white gray roots with natural grassy brown but have auburn red fir years do it can fade easily within months time if I go cold turkey with my long red hair im scared it will turn orange as it faded any ideas

    23 . Sep . 2019 Reply
  21. Sharon

    Hi, I’m starting the process. I have long dark curly hair that is course so product advice would be greatly appreciated. Also I have not found much information about white extensions to help in transition. I am thinking about clip ins to help with styling so it’s not alway a hat or head scarf day as I start out on my journey. Could you point me in the right direction?

    22 . Sep . 2019 Reply
    • Katie

      Hi, Sharon – I don’t know much about clip-ins or extensions, but I think Monique Parent would hae some great tips. Re: products, check out the Katie Goes Platinum Amazon store – there are a lot of products for silver sisters in there, and you might want to especially consider the Joico K-Pak or Shea Moisture products. I bet they’d help!

      23 . Sep . 2019 Reply
  22. 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
  23. 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
    • Janet Mason

      I bought the soft silver blonde kit a month ago. I had been using blonde, although my natural hair is dark brown. It turned out a gunmetal gray at first but after a few washes, it looks the way the box says it should. My new growth is dark and white, so I will see how this turns out. I don’t plan to color again and will not cut my long hair. Time will tell! May have to wear a wig! LOL Personally, I think it is going to fine. Just realize it will be dark until you wash about 4 times as long as you haven’t peroxided your hair. I wore mine in a messy bun until it lightened some.

      13 . Oct . 2019 Reply
  24. 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
  25. 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.