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.
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.
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.