Hi, everyone. Happy new year. Let’s hope 2012 will be a better year for all of us. I’m writing this post on New Year’s Day because this is going to be a crazy busy week for me and I don’t have the heart to dump another post on Anita. I’m Quing of the Posse, I can blog about anything I want to, right? So this post isn’t about perfume, it’s about gray hair. I probably won’t be on here to comment until later tonight.
I started going gray in college; I’ve been hiding it for almost thirty years. My natural color is espresso brown, trending toward off-black – a nod to my Celtic/American Indian heritage. The gray is hereditary too. My 89-year-old father still has a full head of hair, but he was silvery gray by his early forties, and my mother probably would have been if she hadn’t dyed it religiously (she had gorgeous, stick-straight, coal-black hair as a young woman). In my twenties I dyed my hair jet black, which looked perfectly plausible with my pale skin. Then I moved on to deep reds and rich, dark browns.
About a year ago I asked my colorist how gray I was, and was startled by her response of “Oh, about seventy percent, probably.” I had a really pretty streak of silver coming up from my widow’s peak in front, and I played around with leaving that part free of the dye job. Then I decided: what the heck, I’m going to let it all grow out and see how it looks. I can always re-dye it if it’s awful.
It took awhile. I suffered through the ugly-root grow-out phase, then cut it shorter, then trimmed it again. It’s now about six inches long and all natural color.
I noticed a couple of things right away. My hair is definitely thicker; in hindsight I don’t think marinating my scalp in industrial-strength haircolor every five weeks was doing it any favors. It’s also really soft, which surprises me. Can I tell you how much I don’t miss spending time and money coloring it?
My hair’s both dry and wavy, I almost never shampoo unless I’ve been doing something really dirty, like cleaning up the yard. Twice a week in the shower I wet it and put on a squirt of Aveda Blue Malva Conditioner* and let it sit while I do my thing. There’s something reddish in our water (iron?), it stains the tiles, and the Aveda, which is purple-y, keeps the color bright. This was a recommendation from the guy who cuts my hair, which was nice of him, considering they don’t sell Aveda. (BTW he does not recommend the matching Blue Malva shampoo, which he says is very drying.) Then I either run through a dab of jojoba oil or some anti-frizz product, and let it air dry. Enigma, who has very long corkscrew curls, got a bunch of curly-girl hair product for Christmas which we’re playing with. I think my favorite is the Ouidad Climate Control Heat and Humidity Gel*, which cuts the frizz but doesn’t leave my hair crunchy.
And my new, natural hair color? It’s … kind of fabulous, in my opinion. Much better than I’d hoped for. Here’s a photo from the back (surprise!) so you can see the huge contrast from the front, where I still have mostly dark hair around my face. The gray streaks range from steel to silver. I’ve received some compliments, including from a woman who wanted to know where I got it colored like that. As you can see, the top of my head is almost pure gray/silver, and then halfway down the back it reverts to a solid dark brown, so I’m still experimenting with the cut. I think it’s better a little longer, like it is now, because that softens the radical color shift underneath.
I do think it makes me look older, in that I have sort of a baby face of an indefinite age. Not dyeing it places me solidly at my real age — late forties — and I’m okay with that. Online research into “going silver” etc. reveals that many women have made this same journey, for lots of the same reasons, and at the same age. None of them view it as giving up so much as fed up with the maintenance, chemicals, and expense, along with a subtle rebellion against the idea that gray hair is some kind of chronic condition that needs to be treated – on women, but not necessarily on men, who look “distinguished” with gray hair.
Makeup-wise I’ve made a few adjustments. I look better with a bit more color – a touch of eyeshadow, a dab of blush, a stronger lip. The whole nude-lip thing is too washed out now.
Finally, and without going into hilarious details, there are clearly men out there, including younger men, who are into the silver fox look. Take that, Lady Clairol.
Okay, your turn, if anyone’s read this far. Are you rocking the silver fox yourself? Contemplating it? If you used to color your gray hair and then stopped, why, and how did it work out? Any silver fox suggestions, product recommendations, or insights?
photos: taken by Diva so you can see the contrast between the dark hair framing my face and how silver it is from behind. FYI I’m barefaced in that photo and squinting into the sun, not getting ready to tear somebody apart.
*Footnotes: Blue Malva conditioner gets a 3.9/5 on MUA. Most reviewers are using it to tone down the brassiness in their bleached blonde/highlighted hair, rather than on gray hair. They point out that it’s not very moisturizing (which is true) and they alternate with heavier conditioners on other days. Also worth noting: it smells very “Aveda.” I like the smell in small doses, but it’s distinctive, and you might not.
The Ouidad Climate Control gel gets a 3.7/5. Reading reviews, the most favorable are from people with hair like mine – soft curls and not too long, thick or coarse. Reviewers with fabulously thick, coarse, curly hair complain that it doesn’t have enough curl “hold” and doesn’t control the frizz well enough.