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Philippa’s Buzzcut Transition from Red Hair to Silver

Inside: My interview with British musician Philippa all about her buzzcut transition to gray hair. Philippa is 46 and lives in London.

How old were you when you discovered your first gray hair, and how did you feel about it?

I found my first grey hair at age 29. I felt sad, as I’d only just embraced my naturally red/ auburn hair!  

Sadly, here in the UK, people are quite often offensive towards redheads, and so it took me almost 30 years to truly love my natural hair colour.  

image of little girl with red hair holding a xmas present
Philippa, age 5, with her natural dark auburn hair color
image of pinterest pin

How many years did you dye?

I got blonde highlights at age 21 and continued to dye until the pandemic hit (at the age of 45!)

In my twenties, I dyed because I hadn’t yet made peace with my naturally red hair. However, in my thirties and early forties, it was about covering up the grey.

During that time, I would always try to recreate my childhood colour (dark auburn); both in salons and at home.  

As I got older, it became trickier for the colour to “take” properly to create my desired result (even at the best salons), and my hair was also becoming increasingly dry/ damaged by all the chemicals.  

image of woman with long red wavy hair
Philippa with her “Disney Princess Hair”
in 2019 at age 44

Can you tell us a little bit about why you decided to go gray?

It’s so funny to look back, but when UK lockdown hit in March 2020, I remember seeing a meme that said: “In about 3 weeks, we are going to know everyone’s true hair colour.”

And I remember thinking: “No, you won’t, because I’ve got several months’ supply of hair dye in my garage!”

As a professional singer, it had never even occurred to me that I could dare to be accepted in my industry *without* covering my grey hair.  

In the first few weeks of lockdown I obviously had no gigs, and I was so busy trying to homeschool our two kids, that I just didn’t get around to coloring it.  After a few weeks, I was able to see my true hair color coming through (something I hadn’t seen in years!), and I noticed how pretty it seemed to look.

I found myself wondering: “Would it be so terrible if I just let it grow out for a while? Would I really be banished from my industry forever?”

After some soul-searching (who knew something as trivial as hair could be such a big deal?), I realized I felt ready to at least *try* embracing a new chapter in my life; a chapter where I’m no longer trying to pass for 35 years old!

It may sound corny, but I’m now reframing my life experience as a positive thing, whether that’s on or off stage.

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How did the transition go?

I decided early on in my transition that I wouldn’t be taking the “salon route” to grey, as I had read so many horror stories of people’s hair getting ruined, as a result. (Besides, all the salons were still closed!)   

After the first few weeks of lockdown, I started to occasionally murmur to my partner about “how liberating it must feel to shave your head”.  

I also found myself becoming increasingly frustrated over how much of a burden my own super long/ heavy hair felt to me, in terms of time, money (spent on “maintenance” and products), and energy – both physical and mental. 

image of woman with fading red hair and gray
10 Months in- and increasingly fed up!

To add insult to injury, my “styling battles” would be rendered useless as soon as I stepped outside, as the damp UK air instantly caused an abundance of frizz and flyaways, no matter how many anti-humidity products I tried.  

Moreover, without any gigs or social life during the lockdown, what was the point?!

My “hair struggle” complaints got so frequent that eventually, my partner said to me: “I think it’s not a matter of whether you’ll buzz your hair off, but a matter of when.”

So, finally: in Feb 2021 (after almost a year of drooling over my partners’ clippers), it hit me one morning that the only true contingent holding me back was fear.  

In that moment I decided that I was no longer going to stop myself from doing something that I ultimately wanted to do *because of fear*.

I chopped it into a short bob, and then took the clippers and buzzed it into the shortest crop I’ve ever had. As the hair came off, my heart was racing, but – to my surprise – I actually felt more beautiful, not less.

How did your friends/family make you feel about your gray hair? 

To be honest: the double shock of buzzing off my “Little Mermaid” hair, AND letting it go grey left most people quite horrified… many were literally rendered speechless!

I get more compliments on my new look these days, now that people have gotten used to it; plus – with hair salons re-opening – my hairdresser has clearly done a better job than I ever could! 

I was initially expecting a more positive reaction if I’m honest; especially as my natural color/ pixie cut seems to suit me so much more.  

But I believe it can be difficult for some people to understand why anyone would deliberately “sabotage” a physical trait (like my “Disney Princess” hair) that would generally be considered an “asset”; albeit in terms of patriarchal beauty standards.

Perhaps this opinion is a result of not understanding how draining the dreaded “hair maintenance” can all become for so many of us, especially over the long term.

The whole experience regarding other people’s reactions has simply confirmed that this is truly something I’ve done for myself, and nobody else.

Having said that, my partner has been massively supportive (after being initially quite shocked!), and my four-year-old daughter gets excited to tell me: “Mummy, you have white hairs, like Elsa!”  

I feel proud that I’m showing her – in my own small way – that there is more to life than struggling to fit into societal beauty standards.

How has your beauty/ hair care routine changed?

I have so much more time, money, and energy now; indeed, it’s only now (with the benefit of hindsight) that I am able to look back and understand just how much my hair was weighing me down, both literally and figuratively.  

Now I get to wash and style my hair a bit like my partner does, with a quick shower (washing hair takes less than a quarter of the time now, and I don’t even bother with conditioner).

After showering, I just slick it down with some wet look gel and let it air dry.

I do protect it from UV rays with Charles Worthington UV spray.*
* Editor’s Note: Available in the UK at Boots. In the USA, Aveda SPF is a good substitute.

I have made some wardrobe changes, as my “autumnal” colors didn’t seem to suit me anymore. I’m now wearing more grey (to match my hair!).  

Related article: What Colors Look Best with Gray Hair?

Surprisingly, I never would have predicted how much more stylish I feel, with my silver pixie.

image of woman with pink shirt and short gray hair

No matter how stressful a day I may have had with the kids, if I catch my reflection in the mirror at bath time, I always find myself thinking: “…at least my hair still looks chic!” 

Has having short grey hair affected your career as a performer

Now that my gigs are starting to come back in 2021, I can honestly say I don’t think it’s made any difference.  

I’m sure there are countless entertainment bookers out there who won’t hire a woman if she looks over 35, but they were never going to be my kind of jobs anyway.

If anything, the extra confidence to be myself onstage has up-leveled my performances, as I feel more excited than ever to experience what I’m truly capable of. 

image of woman smiling with gray short hair and pink lipstick
Glammed up for a performance night!

Any advice to women thinking about going grey?

First and foremost: Please don’t let fear be the reason that stops you from doing *anything* you truly want to do in life, deep down.  

(And that’s applicable to ALL aspects of life, not just hair-related ones!) 

Of course, the decision to dye or go grey is a personal choice for each individual, but I can’t help yearning for the Silver Revolution to keep growing in numbers, and therefore in power!  

There is something incredibly liberating and empowering about being more of who you truly are.  I’ve reclaimed my time, my money, my energy… and I feel like a total badass!  

To be honest: I’ve been a teetotal vegan for many years, and so I’m used to putting my own priorities above whatever societal norms might be expected of me.  

Related Article: The Surprising Truth About Going Gray

Yes, I’m that “freak” who won’t even drink champagne at a wedding or eat any of the cream-filled cake.

Spoiler alert: people care a lot less than one might think!)  I suppose my hair now reflects yet another decision I’ve made that goes against societal conformities (!)

Plus, it’s true what they say: Mother Nature really is the best colorist, and no color will be as flattering to your skin tone as your own.  

Embracing my true age of 46 (instead of fighting it) has actually helped me feel more beautiful, and I have increased vitality and energy, as a result (which is ironic, in that these are characteristics usually associated with youth!)

Finally: when women say to me: “I’d love to go short and get rid of all my dye, but I’m not pretty enough to pull it off”, I always tell them the same thing: “Actually… you’ll probably surprise yourself by how beautiful you are.”

Further Reading:

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Related Silver Hair Transition Stories:

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One Comment

  1. It looks amazing on you.

    I’ve also gone natural and pixie and I love it! I always feel pulled together and chic.

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