One of the silver linings over lockdown for many was the chance to let their hair go grey naturally. Arlene Harris speaks to two women who embraced the decision
During the lockdown, we all took our eyes off the ball when it came to daily grooming — heels and smart suits were ditched in favour of trackie bottoms and slippers, carefully applied make-up was replaced with a dab of moisturiser and a slick of lip balm. And when it came to our hairstyles, with hairdressers closed for months, locks became unruly and grey roots more apparent.
But while many waited with bated breath for their first salon appointment so they could ‘finally have a proper hairdo again’, some decided that it wasn’t worth the effort of regular visits to the hairdresser to keep greys covered and are now embracing the natural look.
Anna Hamill noticed her first grey hair when she was in her twenties and initially would remove each offending hair with a tweezers before she eventually moved on to adding colour. But although, at 36, she hasn’t gone completely grey yet, she has decided to stop dyeing her hair and just enjoy its natural tones.
“I noticed my first grey hair when I was 24 and it made me feel like I was passing my sell by date,” says the mother-of-two.
“I immediately plucked it out and stuck it into my journal as it was so momentous that I wanted to remember it. After that I would then use my tweezers and pluck any greys out when I was plucking my eyebrows — and throughout my adulthood I have dyed my hair on and off, using shop bought dye — but the last time was about a year ago.
“I decided that I couldn’t keep doing it — I was plucking out 10-15 hairs each time, so decided to just embrace it because even though I loved my hair for a few weeks after it was first dyed, it always looked even more grey than it actually is once it started growing out — it was like I was clearly trying to cover something and this is why I only ever did it once a year.”
Anna, who runs her own card and gift business www.andhopedesigns.com, says now that she has stopped plucking and dyeing her hair, she loves her new look and believes that accepting greys is an important step towards accepting yourself.
“These days, I love my hair,” she says.
“I have a side fringe which is mostly brown with a few stray greys in it, and I wear a lovely headband which attracts the eye. I love how it looks and doesn’t take much to look after it — just a wash every two to three days, a blow dry to the fringe so it sits right, then I pop the headband on and voila, I’m good to go.
“I have also reframed (the concept of) grey hair in my mind, so I will continue to be happy with it, even when the grey starts to overtake the brown.
“I call them silver hairs, which sounds better. And there is also a Bible verse which says, ‘grey hair is a crown of splendour; it is attained in the way of righteousness’.
“I have also realised that having grey hair doesn’t make me any older than I am. And actually, being old isn’t a bad thing — it just means I have had the opportunity to be on earth for longer than some. I think we need to normalise ageing — it is a good thing and we all do it. Besides, 24 isn’t old, yet that is when my first grey hair showed up. So I believe accepting the changes in your hair is another way of being body positive.”
Catriona Davis from Magherafelt agrees and at 47 has made the decision to stop dyeing her hair and enlisted the help of her hairdresser, who gave her a slick new look and some advice on how to care for grey hair.
“Embracing my natural grey is something I have been thinking about for a few years now,” she says.
“I would see ladies with lovely grey tones and a sharp cut and wondered what my hair would be like if I let it go that colour. I was tired of the endless regrowth and having to colour it every few weeks, but the transition process scared me a little.
“I had always been dark and didn’t suit blonde tones so I wasn’t sure how to go about it, but lockdown was the perfect opportunity — I was working from home, so I didn’t have to worry about the reactions of others, and it gave me time to decide if I liked it — and I could always go back if I didn’t.
“So on my first appointment after the salons re-opened, I decided to take the plunge and just go for it. Ursula at Blu Rinse Eclectic Hairdressing was fantastic as always — I knew I could always trust her to do a fantastic job, and now that I have taken the plunge, I wouldn’t go back. I don’t have to worry about grey roots anymore and with a bit of maintenance it is so much easier to manage.”
Catriona’s stylist says the secret to embracing grey hair is optimal hair condition and also wearing complimentary clothing and foundation which doesn’t mask your true tones but enhances them instead.
“Using the correct choice of shampoo also neutralises the unwanted warm tones leaving a cooler result which is more compassionate to the silvery natural regrowth,” explains Ursula Ryan of Blu Rinse Eclectic.
“A layered shorter style is the most effective way to cut out the remains of old pre-lockdown box dyes or salon root touch ups — and where it’s not possible to have a short, textured look due to face shape, we would advise highlights to blend the new regrowth
“Grey hair is coarser with more layers of cuticles, so it has a coarser feel to the touch. But highly moisturising products which are silica and paraben free allow the natural shine to show and helps to create, softer more manageable hair.
“Alfaparf have a range of colour pigments which are organic in their composition and tones such as Violet Ash, Intense Violet, Intense Ash and Ash Beige can be added to shampoos, conditioner, hair masks and styling sprays or creams — each element deposits colour tones which have cool reflections which complement the natural regrowth and maintain cool Scandinavian blondes, pearly perfection, icy queen, and slate grey tones.
“These are all achieved through carefully curated highlights and lowlights creating multi-tonal looks, akin to natural lightening, for hair which is losing its pigmentation.”
Making the decision to let your hair go grey can be difficult as most of us are concerned about how we look and what others will think. But psychologist Peadar Maxwell says while this is a perfectly natural emotion, we shouldn’t let worry stop us from changing our look if we feel happy with it ourselves.
“There is nothing strange or unusual about caring what others think of us, as it is an integral part of the human condition to want to feel accepted by others,” he says.
“But we don’t have to be ruled by it — so if you have decided to go grey or embrace a new look, then allow yourself to enjoy it. Let yourself have fun and it may even be less hassle in the long run.
“Put your thoughts into perspective — are others really critiquing your choice or are your negative thoughts just self-consciousness? You may be hearing your own inner critic, so tell it to buzz off and enjoy the change.
“And if someone rudely challenges your choice, just move on from their judgement. But if you do need reassurance, your go-to person, should be someone whose opinion and honesty you trust. However, at the end of the day, don’t allow others to stop you from being brave enough to try something new.”