The first time I noticed my grey hairs, I was convinced they were one-off blips that I could tweeze out and pretend didn’t exist before anyone else noticed, especially as I was only 21-years-old. Though they were few and far between, they stood out to me every time I looked in the mirror – I couldn’t stop myself from staring whilst considering what to do about them.
Eventually, I applied the same logic I used when I was 12-years-old and noticed my hairy legs and decided the solution to this problem was to get rid of any and all unwanted hairs. So, this time with tweezers in hand, I removed the short silver strands so I could continue to fit into society’s small box for people who identify as women. Unsurprisingly, this didn’t stop more grey hairs emerging in my parting and I began to catch a glimpse of the odd strand when I plaited my hair. Currently, most of my hair is still the brown hair I’m used to, but I still can’t help being self-conscious about the odd silver hair and wondering when I won’t be a brunette anymore.
Naturally, I ended up Googling “going grey in your twenties” and quickly realised this wasn’t an unusual experience, seemingly others have been in this same situation at my age. These articles were screaming DON’T PLUCK YOUR GREY HAIRS! which makes so much sense, and yet I have spent time with my tweezers in my bathroom doing just that, as if it was a long-term solution and it would reverse whatever was happening on my head. I’m not surprised at the horror, embarrassment, and confusion I felt when I noticed my silver strands, it didn’t seem like an experience 20-somethings have. Especially as my grandma must have continued having her hair dyed and curled until she passed away because I never knew her with anything other than brown hair, but on the other hand I had only ever known my grandad as being grey.
“Grey hair is seen as natural, and even considered sexy, for men. But for women, it’s a sign of your age and we’re expected to splash the cash to hide it away.”
We seem to love silver foxes both on and off screen, but where are the silver vixens (female foxes)? Grey hair is seen as natural, and even considered sexy, for men. But for women, it’s a sign of your age and we’re expected to splash the cash to hide it away. I have even read articles suggesting that a hormonal imbalance is to blame for going grey ‘early’, although this may be true, it across as denying the reality that women can go grey at any age – for no reason at all. We associate female hair with youth and beauty, and the colour of our hair needs to be preserved in order to maintain these two (arbitrary) things. It’s another unreasonable and unnatural thing we expect of women in society which we don’t talk about or acknowledge.
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“My gray journey started at age 21! I started coloring my hair and then at age 30, I developed an allergy to hair color. I HAD to embrace every bit of it, and it was rough at first. There were people telling me to color my hair, and I was growing tired of telling them that I couldn’t. I made the decision to ‘own’ my grays.” @saltandpepperslay #grombre #gogrombre #grombabe
When looking in the mirror there is a checklist we apparently must adhere to: Armpits shaved? Check. Pubes tamed? Check. Invisible spots? Check. Grey hair disguised? Check. There’s nothing wrong with choosing to dye your hair, but it is the unspoken nature of dying your hair as it goes grey that is reinforcing societal stereotypes and assumptions about women. There is pressure for women to look ‘presentable’ and ‘clean’ and like we ‘take care of ourselves’ and managing grey hair and staying on top of emerging roots is an extension of this.
Recently I passed a woman in her twenties with two grey streaks of hair and it made me realise that other young people are experiening the same as me, and that it can look pretty damn cool. Afterwards, I decided to actively seek out other women who were letting their hair go grey naturally and I stumbled across Grombre, an Instagram account about celebrating grey hair and I am obsessed. Going grey isn’t unknown territory, others have experienced it and are choosing to embrace the many shades and tones that grey can naturally be. Women often don’t allow themselves the chance to grow grey before deciding to dye their hair and never actually know what they look like should they choose to ditch the dye. On Grombre I am yet to see someone who doesn’t suit their natural grey hair, no matter what age, which is giving me confidence about what to expect of my own hair. But I had to turn to an online community to realise this as we don’t see models with grey or greying hair, nor are there many actors, or family and friends with their natural hair – meaning we make these assumptions about when we go grey and can feel like an anomaly if we are.
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“I truly feel that growing out my grey has been one of the biggest lessons in patience that I have ever experienced. I'm at about 16.5 months into the journey now. I spent 20 years dying my hair and towards the end I was doing weekly root touch ups even as I developed sores on my scalp. I was just never ready to stop. When was the ideal time? Would this negatively impact my life and career? Would I look older? And then after months of indecision, I just stopped. For no real reason… no special occasion. I just stopped out of the blue. The first 6 months were really difficult and I basically processed my anxiety about the whole ‘growing out my hair’ thing by reading the stories of other women, researching all the methods that were used to help transition, and thinking in loops about what I was going to do to make this all end quicker. Should I bleach it? Should I dye it back? Should I cut it all off? Every spin out I was no closer to a decision. I took it as a sign to just let it be. If nothing was sounding appealing, then what did I have to lose by just being patient and seeing how I felt tomorrow. Tomorrows became yesterdays over and over again, and now I don't really think about it much… I just continue to let it be. 16.5 months later, I am starting to feel like myself. A new, different, more patient version of myself. So, here we are in quarantine. All of us waiting for information of when our lives will get back to some form of normal. Many of us filled with anxiety and not sure what this will mean for our lives. We keep researching and googling and trying to find the answer, and nothing is clear. So, all we are really left with is that we have to let it be. There may be tricky moments along the way and we may have a bumpy road to get there, but one day, not so long from now, I think we are all going to wake up to new, different, more patient versions of ourselves.” @rneubs #grombre #gogrombre #grombabe
Seeing other people embrace their grey hair is making me excited to see what shades of grey and silver my hair turns out, and how long it will take to make that transformation. I haven’t totally come to terms with the idea of going grey, I still feel like it’s an experience for those older than I am, but it won’t happen overnight, so I have time to unlearn this stigma. Despite society’s erasure of grey haired women, it is a natural reality so, please DON’T PLUCK YOUR GREY HAIRS, trust me, it’s not worth it and it is far from a solution.