I opened the proverbial Pandora's box when I wrote my first post about women going gray (on purpose). Following the overwhelmingly positive responses I received as a result of this article, I decided to share the testimonies of women who had so graciously and humbly shared their journey with me.
Going Gray: Julie's Story
Julie shared her story as well as her process (via pictures) of going gray with me. She said during her transition she would have loved to have such pictures to encourage her.
FW: When did you notice your first gray hair?
Julie: I was in high school; 17 or 18 years old.
FW: If you colored your hair, how long did you do it?
Julie: I started when I was 23 or 24, so about 22 years.
FW: What made you want to stop coloring?
Julie: I was just tired of having to color every 10-14 days. Because of the expense, I did it myself. It was messy, time-consuming and just a pain in the booty! I couldn’t go any longer between colorings because I was coloring it black and as the gray came in I looked like a skunk! LOL
FW: How old were you when you went natural?
Julie: I stopped coloring when I was 46 (I’m now 48).
FW: How long was the transition process?
Julie: 2 years almost to the day.
FW: Did you have some support?
Julie: I did. Just about everyone I told was encouraging. (And some asked what took me so long!)
FW: Did you have some nay-sayers?
Julie: Not really. My mom was probably the only one that was remotely negative. And she really wasn’t that. When I told her what I was doing, she just said, “Are you sure you want to do that?” Her gray hairs are (in her words) “mousy” and “wirey” and she was worried mine would be too. Once it started coming in, though, she was totally on board (and, to be honest, a little jealous!)
FW: Do you have a partner? If so, what does he says about your hair?
Julie: When I FIRST started talking about letting my hair go natural (which was about 6-8 years ago – around age 40 or so), he said he wasn’t sure he was ready for me to do it. He’s five years younger than me and I think he was worried I would look much older than he. Of course, I wasn’t ready to do it then, either. So his reaction didn’t bother me. When I finally made the decision, though, he was all for it. He was SO incredibly supportive through the whole process. He never said anything but complimentary things to me and never made me feel ugly (even though I thought I was!). He’s all about the natural look (if he had it his way, I wouldn’t wear makeup either!) so he was completely ok with it.
FW: Do you personally feel less attractive because you have gray hair?
Julie: Quite the contrary! I feel MORE attractive! ☺
FW: What has going natural done for you?
Julie: I wish I could say I had this great revelation and my life changed because of “going natural”, but I don’t think I can. I’m the same person I was two years ago when I was coloring my hair black. Now, through the process, I learned a lot about what I can and cannot tolerate about myself (and how awesome my husband is. ☺) I was inspired to finally lose the extra 35 pounds I’ve been carrying around and blaming on my age. I also find myself with a more “to each his or her own” attitude. And I’m ok with “looking old”. I mean, I am 48 years old, I should look 48 years old, not 28 years old. And that’s ok. So, no. My life didn’t change because of going natural. I just grew and matured… something I probably would have done anyway. ☺
FW: Do you ever consider dying again?
Julie: Goodness, no! Not anymore. Through the process, every now and then, I would get discouraged. I would feel very ugly and would be SO tempted to cover it back up. I’m so glad I didn’t give in to that temptation! I get so many compliments on my hair now – from both men and women. Women ask me who colors my hair (I tell them “God” LOL); hairdressers tell me they wish they could replicate the color. I’m one of the lucky ones… my hair is a pretty color and I love it. I don’t take that for granted.
FW: Any advice for someone who wants to go natural but is afraid to?
Julie: Do what YOU want to do. If you want to stop coloring and let your hair go natural, do it. If you want to color it because that’s what makes you feel pretty and confident, color it. Don’t let anyone pressure you to do otherwise. As I mentioned, when I first started thinking about not coloring any longer, it took me years to finally do it. I’d start letting it grow and cover it up. I did that at least a dozen times before I finally decided to go for it. I just wasn’t ready. Let’s face it, gray hair = old in our society. And no one likes looking old. That being said, when someone is waffling, I tell them, “Why not try it? If you don’t like it, you can always cover it back up! And right now, gray hair is trendy… The timing could be more perfect!”
Timeline (From Right to Left)
Made decision to stop coloring
First visit to hairdresser for highlights; soften the black a little. Also started Olaplex. Because I used box color (BAD!), though, the color just wouldn’t come out.
The first few months was the toughest. Style Edit spray was my best friend! I used it to cover up the gray when in public.
Late April 2016
Another visit to the hairdresser for heavy highlights and Olaplex. My hair was so many different colors, I was feeling a little like a calico cat!
5 months, 4 highlight treatments and 4 inches cut off, I was starting to like my hair again.
The highlighting destroyed my hair. I had to cut it dramatically. I have always had long hair so this was a much of an adjustment as the color was; maybe more! No more highlighting after this…
Almost a year into it and I was feeling pretty good!
One year! If you look closely, you’ll see some little hairs sticking up on top. That, my friends, is new growth. I had no idea how my hair was being affected by the color!
As much as I wanted my hair long, regular cuts of an inch or more is what sped things along a little.
SO CLOSE! This is really when I started feeling like I was nearing the end.
Not as much being cut each time and it’s finally starting to get long again… (It looks a little lighter here because I was standing near a window. It looks so much whiter in natural light!)
Visit to the hairdresser to get the last of the color cut off! Woohoo!! I have arrived! Two years since my last color and I couldn’t be happier! Now to let it grow out…