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My Two-Year Cold Turkey Transition to Gray Hair is OVER!

Inside: What I learned from when I finally decided to let my hair go gray

On February 22, two years to the day that I dyed my hair for the last time, I got the last of my dye cut off.

Which means, after 25+ years of dyeing, I am finally sporting a full head of natural hair:

Feeling happy and goofy now that my two year gray hair transition is over!
Feeling a little goofy – this has been a loooooooong time coming!
My two year cold-turkey gray hair transition is finally complete!

Did I feel sad about getting the last remnants of my youthful brunette hair (even if it was artificial) cut off? Did I worry about looking older, or like I’d “let myself go?”

Hell, no – I felt FANTASTIC!

Please note that this article may contain affiliate links.  You can read my full disclosure at the bottom of the page.


I wasn’t always so free and easy about the whole concept of gray hair. In fact, I spent 25 years (or more – I lost count) frantically covering up the gray.

Did I start dyeing my hair just for gray coverage? No – like a lot of young women, I started dyeing my hair for fun.

A picture of Katie with her naturally dark hair, before her gray hair transition
My naturally dark hair – c. 1986

As a teenager, I had lovely dark brown (almost black) hair, but got bored with it in college and started dyeing it various shades of mulberry, magenta, and burgundy.

I didn’t feel like I HAD to color my hair, so I just did it when the mood took me… and grew it out without a thought when I was ready to grow it out again.

I started getting gray hair at 16, but just plucked out the gray hairs whenever they appeared and didn’t give them much thought.

I’ve tried to pinpoint when it all changed.

When did I feel like I HAD to dye my hair? When did it go from being fun to becoming a tedious chore?

It was in my late 20s. My husband and I went to Los Angeles’ Chinatown for dinner with friends, and my friend’s husband started to say something and then stopped.

I asked him what he was going to say (BIG MISTAKE!), and he laughed and said he was going to point out how gray my hair was getting but that would be rude.

Katie in Ireland at the age of 28, when she was already dying her hair dark
1995 – age 28

Looking back all these years later, I think THAT was the moment I started getting self-conscious about my gray hair. I was probably only 28.

What bothers me is this: I consider myself a feminist. I consider myself a non-conformist. But why did I never question the idea that we have to cover gray hair?

I consider myself a feminist. I consider myself a non-conformist. But why did I never question the idea that we have to cover gray hair? Click to Tweet

Like a lot of young women, it honestly never occurred to me to let my gray hair grow out. I was “too young” for that.

But how could I be too young for gray hair when my body was telling me that it was time? Why did I deny my body and deny Mother Nature?

It seems so anti-feminist to me now.

The Tedium of the Gray Hair Cycle

Was it fun to go to the salon and choose new shades of hair color? Was it fun to sit there for two hours and chat with my hairdresser and read magazines and commune with other women?

Yes, for years it was fun – until it wasn’t.

What was once a fun bit of “me time” in a rather hectic life became just another tedious chore.

It was just such a boring, predictable cycle:

After coloring, my hair would look good for a few days: shiny, glossy, and smooth. Within 2-3 days, the gray roots would start to show… and a week after coloring, the frizz would appear.

I got caught in a cycle of dyeing my hair to not only cover the gray roots but also to get my hair to look shiny and smooth again. Coloring my hair once a month only left me with good-looking hair for about a week. Ugh!

Looking back on my dyed and damaged hair, I'm so glad I decided to go gray!
2011 – Look at that damaged hair!

The Expense… Oh, the Expense!

Someone had to pay for all this fun – and pay, I did.

Being a somewhat uncoordinated person, I usually went to the salon to get my hair colored. In Los Angeles, at not-too-fancy salons, this generally cost me around $85-$110 a visit.

I would spend hundreds of dollars dying my hair in salons before going gray
A great salon dye job – 2016

Considering how often I “had” to dye my hair, I sometimes alternated salon visits with home dye jobs, for around $8/box of hair dye.

My dark, dyed hair was damaged and cost so much money to keep up
2008 – boxed dye job. Looks so one-dimensional now!

Between coloring cycles, my hair looked dull and frizzy. So, I spent a lot of money on products.

In the hopes of making my hair look (somewhat) decent, I purchased:

Maintaining somewhat-decent-looking hair was definitely NOT cheap!

The Physical Toll of Dyeing

For years, I had no physical reaction to hair dye. But as I got older, that changed.

In my late 40s, the dye started irritating my scalp. I’d get uncontrollably itchy. Sometimes, it felt like the dye was burning my scalp.

And every time I washed or brushed my hair, I lost a LOT of hair. We had to buy a special drain trap to keep my hair from clogging the drain.

Yet I didn’t stop the cycle long enough to connect the dots that this chasing-the-roots business was costing me my time, my money, and my health.


By my late forties, I started to really give some serious thought to ditching the dye. I decided (arbitrarily) that 50 would be the perfect age to finally do it!

I confided my desire to go gray by 50 to a couple of my friends, and the general consensus was “You’ll look old” or “you’re too young to go gray.”

I let the fear of looking old hold me back for a while, but then I lost a childhood friend to cancer. And it was a BIG kick in the pants…

How could I fret about looking/getting older, when some people would give their lives for just ONE more day with their family or friends?

So I moved forward with my plan. I got held back a bit by an unsupportive, anti-gray hairdresser, but at age 50, I decided I’d had enough.

On February 22, 2018, I bought a box of hair dye, colored my hair at home in time for my 25th anniversary. And I never dyed it again.

The last time I dyed my hair was two years ago and I never looked back
Last Dye – 2018


After making up my mind, I realized I had to figure out exactly how to go gray.

My husband had it easy – he’s a natural blonde, and the gray that came in blended beautifully with his natural hair color.

But I had to go gray from dark dyed brunette hair! I felt a little flummoxed as I knew it wasn’t going to be easy.

After giving it some thought, I came up with these paramaters:
1) I wanted to keep my hair relatively long
2) I was DONE with chemical treatments
3) I did not want to go gray quickly

That only left one route open to me – going gray cold turkey with long hair.

As I reiterate over and over on this blog, there are SO many ways to go gray.

But for my personality and my temperament, the cold turkey grow out was the only option I considered. My brunette identity was important to me and I knew it would be traumatic for me to go gray quickly.

And boy, did it NOT go quickly. My hair grows faster than average (about 3/4″ a month) and it still took me exactly two years to grow my silver hair out to shoulder-length.

And you know what’s crazy?

I loved every freaking, crazy minute of it!

Ten months into my gray hair transition, my hair was half gray and half brown
10 months’ growth


The day I decided to stop dyeing, I felt like a huge weight had been taken off my shoulders; I felt this incredible sense of liberation that hasn’t abated in the two-years since I started my gray hair grow out.

Like a lot of women, I found the cold-turkey gray grow out NOT as daunting as I thought it would be.

Feeling confident about my choice to ditch the dye made it so much easier to go out in public with a massive skunk stripe running down the center of my hairline.

It takes balls (big balls!) to go out in public with gray roots, and I felt rebellious for the first time in years. It was a great feeling!

It might seem silly to some people, but growing out your gray hair over a long period of time – in a culture that wants women to conform to beauty norms – is a GREAT way to bolster your self-confidence and reassess what’s important to you and what you’re willing to put up with.

The #metoo movement definitely triggered something in me and it informed my feelings about the gray hair grow-out. (It forced me to question why we think it’s acceptable for women to be shamed into hiding any signs of age, for one thing!)

It also helped to see this gray grow-out as one long science experiment. It was FUN to watch my hair change over time.

My gray hair transition started with just the roots, then two years later, I'm fully gray

For instance, since I alternated between home and salon dyes the year before I ditched the dye, it quickly became apparent that salon dyes are definitely worth the money if you are interested in long-term color that doesn’t fade easily.

growing out my salon dyed hair was a two year long process.

The only thing that drove me a bit crazy during the transition to gray hair was that my dyed ends eventually turned brassy orange.

I used blue shampoo to combat the brassiness but eventually, even that stopped working and I just decided to live with orange ends.


Do you want to know how long it took me to get used to the idea of no longer being a brunette? 22 months! ?

So I definitely made the right choice to go gray the slow way. It gave me time to get used to my silver hair. I love it now!

And the texture? It’s not coarse & wiry, as I feared… Instead, it’s shiny, frizz-free, and thick.

I no longer lose a ton of hair in the shower. I honestly figured I was losing hair due to my age (hormones!), but it seems to have been a reaction to the dye.

What a relief!


I was lucky that I had very supportive friends and family members.

My husband is the kind of guy that would NEVER tell me what to do (for his own safety, haha! – no, but seriously, he is the most supportive sweetheart of a husband and he loves my gray hair).

One of my children is on the spectrum, and he had a hard time at first – he doesn’t like change, and he worried that my hair turning gray meant that I was rapidly aging and about to die (yikes!).

Once we sorted that out, he’s been fine with the change from having a dark brunette Mom to a gray one.

My full head of gray hair after 2 years dye free
March 2020 – Gray Mom

I have to say, in the two years since I started this process, I’ve only had one or two in-person negative remarks about my gray hair.

People snickering at my skunk stripe or looking astonished when they saw me going gray? That’s a different story! But since I felt good about my choice, it rolled off my back.

It dismayed me sometimes to see the countless remarks in the gray hair Facebook groups about how to avoid the “ugly” phase of going gray. Hearing your hair described as ugly definitely takes one aback!

Someone also asked me how they could avoid having their hair look like mine when they went gray. Ouch!

I also received myriad “helpful” comments to “just cut off your hair” or “just dye it gray.”

Here's why I spent two years going gray all naturally

Hint: It’s not that easy to dye your hair gray. You can choose salon methods to go gray, for sure – and that’s a great option for many women. But for me? My hair was already very damaged and I was tired of throwing money and time at it, so the cold turkey route worked best for me.

For some women, the cold turkey option is NOT the best choice, and that’s fine! We all have our reasons for choosing the path we take, and all the methods of going gray are equally valid.

In the long run, feeling good about my choice helped me get through all this. Being an extrovert and a person with strong boundaries also helped.

The cold-turkey transition to gray is probably not the best option if you don’t like people getting all up in your business! Because, believe me, they will!

But the good news? Once you get through the transition phase and are all-gray, it seems to be universally true (according to my fellow silver sisters in the gray hair Facebook groups) that most people LOVE your gray hair.

Two years after I stopped dying my hair, I love how much younger I look with my all natural hair
2 years – after the final cut. I’m only wearing mascara and lipstick here and I feel like I look younger than I did when I used to dye my hair and wear more makeup. That’s definitely NOT what I expected!

I get more compliments on my hair now than I ever did when it was dyed. It’s a nice boost!


When I first decided to go gray, my friend Kim told me to check out the community of silver sisters on Instagram and the gray hair Facebook groups.

Without a doubt, that online silver sisterhood is what kept me going. It made going gray so much easier and fun!

The week after I decided to start letting my gray grow in, I posted my concerns about losing my brunette identity in one of the groups and got this amazing response back from one of the Admins:

“Welcome Katie? I could never picture myself without dark hair either..but now, I could never imagine having dark hair again! I thought I was losing that girl..the pale faced, dark-haired tall girl..but I wasn’t..I was just hiding a badass silver-haired chick under all that hair dye..I’ve had a lot of compliments from young people..they think it’s cool..and I bet it will be the same for you..I can tell you’re going to totally rock your grow out and your silver will look gorgeous?????”

That kind of support makes this kind of change so much easier!

When we are constantly bombarded by messages that gray hair is ugly, or that it will make you look old, or it means that you’ve “let yourself go”, hearing that it’s OK to be gray is very helpful!


I’ve written extensively about gray hair products on this blog, but here are the products that I used while I transitioned from brunette to gray hair:

BTWCo. Daily Moisturizing Shampoo and Daily Moisturizing Conditioner: These products were made by our fellow silver sister, Lauren Stein and I love that they are cruelty-free, sulfate-free, and silicone-free. My whole family uses them – they work for all hair types!

Joico Blue Shampoo – I used it once a week to combat orange brassiness as my dye faded (I put it on dry hair for 5 minutes before lathering in the shower). It helped for at least the first year, and then it got to the point where my ends were so orange NOTHING would help.

I tried Overtone on the brassy ends, with mixed results. Overtone’s customer service warned me that my dyed ends were probably too dark to work well with their products, and they were right.

Neutrogena Clarifying Shampoo: I used this once a week to remove product build-up and to fade my dye. In hindsight, clarifying my hair once a week may have made my ends more brassy. C’est la vie!

Joico K-PAK Intense Hydrator Treatment – I used this in place of conditioner any time I shampooed with blue shampoo or clarifying shampoo since those can be very drying. I left it on anywhere from 10-30 minutes before rinsing out. It’s amazing!

Now that my hair is all-natural, my main concern is to avoid yellowing in my gray hair.

To that end, I always spray my hair with thermal protectant before I use heat styling tools. And I have started letting my hair air-dry most of the time.

Contrary to the myths we’ve all heard about gray hair, my air-dried naturally gray hair is smooth, shiny and frizz-free!

My air dried all natural gray hair
Air-dryed hair

To keep my gray hair bright, I use Pantene Pro-V Silver Expressions once a month or so – it’s not harsh or drying, and it really does make my silver hair shine. (I follow it up with the Joico K-Pak)

And my hands-down favorite product is QuickSilverHair Clay – I use it once a month to clarify my hair and to brighten my silvers. It’s fantastic!


I started this blog because I wanted to show women that going gray can be fun and liberating, but I would never suggest that all women should stop dyeing. It’s such a personal choice!

But for years, it didn’t feel like I had the choice to embrace my gray. I’m so glad that I finally saw the light. I feel like “me” again. It’s a great feeling.

If you have any questions, please let me know in the comments. Thanks!

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 Amazon Shop for all your gray hair needs!

Related Posts:

Celebrating One Year of Going Gray

My Current Gray Hair Care Routine

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  1. This is the inspiration I need right now – I’m four months in on the second attempt – I was feeling more confident about it this time until I received a save the date card for a wedding 8 months from now that will have me seeing people I haven’t seen in years .. I hope I can maintain the confidence I had started with and not cave for just one day’s potential pressure .

    1. I’m so glad it helped you, Kelly! I bet you can do it. One thing that will help you is to follow gray hair influencers on Instagram.. Seeing that other women are doing this and can still look beautiful at special events (or whenever!) is super helpful. If you’re worried about having two tone hair at the wedding, you could always try a gray hairpiece from Amazon to mask your dyed ends, or you could use L’oreal Colorista spray in silver to blend your hair. Hope that helps!

  2. I almost turned back after six months, but then I read this. Thank you!

  3. Amy nolan says:

    I love seeing all the photos of your hair journey! Each stage you look great and confident! This site is so helpful!

  4. Hi Katie: My last dye was February 2020. Being home during COVID seemed like a perfect time to start my transition. My Shoulder length hair is dyed light blonde and there really isn’t that much of a line of demarcation , although I feel I need to combat the brassiness now with some purple shampoo. The silver is really shiny and I love it! It is almost September and I’m starting to love what I see. It’s exciting and liberating. Thanks for your story and all the tips! Lulu

    1. Hi, Lulu! I’m so glad you’re enjoying the blog. And it sounds like you will have an easy transition, which is fantastic!

  5. Cindy Wise says:

    Your hair looks great! I am at the 9 month mark with mine. I have a bob haircut and I think I will be about 6 more months before it’s totally grown out with the dye cut off. I can’t wait.

  6. Carmen Aguayo Touhey says:

    Thank you, Katie, for your inspirational story. I turn 65 this July and because of COVID and your story I am ready to stop dying. I remember thinking I would stop at 50, but that time came and went, I was just not ready for it at the time. Normally my roots start showing at 2 weeks, so it was constant every 3 weeks of going and having my roots done. COVID has given me a new perspective and also forced me to live with my gray roots showing for the last 2 months. My hair is past my shoulders and I believe I will just let it grow out. I may trim the ends or cut to my shoulders if I feel the need to hurry the process. I was planning a trip to Spain and Portugal this month, but obviously that is now on hold till next year. One of the concerns of my trip was how I was going to keep my roots from showing. It is such a relief to know that that will no longer be a concern for any trip I make. Once again thank you for your inspirational blog and all the ladies that shared their stories as well.

    1. Thank YOU, Carmen for letting me know this has helped you! Good luck with your gray hair journey – and I bet your hair will look fabulous!

  7. Stephanie L. Weisend says:

    Such a great post Katie. Our reasons for going gray are very similar, in fact, we have a lot in common I can tell… I bet we even hung out in the same places back in the day. You look absolutely gorgeous and you now that you have transitioned, it appears as though you have stepped out from under a cloud and into the sun. You glow girl!

  8. Thank you for your story.
    Just into this for 6 months but I totally could relate to your experiences. Coloring for fun many years, then the “have to” years came along.
    I will be 68 in a few months and love the freedom to never have to color again…I even have new little hairs growing in around my front hairline! Pretty excited about that!

  9. Thank you Katie for sharing your story. I’ve been following you and your journey for about 17 months. That’s how long it’s been since my last hair dye job. I’m almost all natural now and I agree, what a liberating feeling. I don’t miss the dye at all and I am getting more compliments on my hair – interestingly more from men then women?. BTW You look fantastic!

  10. Thank you for sharing your story. I’m only 2 months into my journey but I’m committed. Your story and those of others definitely help with the process. I haven’t experienced negative comments yet but I’m sure I will. The support of the online community is fabulous!

  11. makes very interesting reading thank you

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