Almost exactly one year ago I decided to stop dyeing my hair. This is how it’s going so far.
You can see from the photos of me across the rest of this site that previously my hair was dyed to a rich conker-brown which was an approximation of how I looked back when my skin was smooth and my hair was as nature intended. I have to say, I love that colour. It’s me to a tee and apart from one or two variations (which were usually misguided on my part) I had stuck with it through thick and thin.
BUt there comes a point . . .
when it becomes more difficult to maintain the illusion. If you are born (or choose to be) blonde then I imagine you can banish the tell-tale greys for longer, possibly even indefinitely but when your hair is a dark as mine then there really is nowhere to hide.
Of course, the changes didn’t happen overnight. First there was the odd grey hair which I quickly dispatched with a pair of tweezers! Next, sneaky patches of silver started appearing at my temples within days of my trips to the hairdresser. I would stand and examine them in the mirror, trying to imagine a new me with me with silver hair all over. (I couldn’t – it was just too hard.) Finally, I started to notice, particularly on photographs, that my hair was too dark for my skin tone. And that was when I decided that
something had to be done!
As I saw it, I had three options:
1. continue as I was;
2. change colour entirely or
3. let nature take its course.
I dithered for a while, running over the various ideas in my head until eventually I decided to see what colour my hair actually was under all the chemicals.
What you see above is the answer. I have really silver temples, patchy grey stripes on my crown and an odd reverse Mallen streak effect going on in my fringe.
Silver vixen I am not.
Oh, sod it! I thought. What have I got to lose? I can always just dye it back. So I stopped with the dye and waited to be transformed. But, that’s when I started to realise that
there is far more to this than just going grey . .
Choosing to go grey is so much more complicated than just what colour your hair is and now that I’m a year in I’m still finding it hard to get my head round. When it first became obvious that I had rejected the dye box, a hairdresser friend of mine who is a decade or so older than me, took me to one side as if she had a terrible truth to confess to me. ‘You need to do something about your hair,’ she whispered. ‘You’re far too young to be grey.”
I tried to dismiss her comments as coming from a generational mindset that was out of step with my own. This is the 21st century, I thought, and a woman is no longer constrained by old-fashioned ideas about how she ought to look. But I’d be lying if I said that her comments didn’t make me wobble. We are programmed to want to look young. Every other magazine advert is for some magic lotion which promises to preserve our youth and until now I’ve been proud if someone said that I didn’t look my age, as if that was something for which I could take credit rather than a result of my inherited genes.
So, suddenly catching sight of myself in the mirror and realising that I looked more like my mother than like me has been a shock. And on days when my self confidence is low it can come like a really body blow – especially as I’m also doing my best to come to terms with my menopause at the same time. The temptation to go back to the bottle can be very strong.
BUT THEN I’ve come so far . . .
and there are so many positives to having natural hair. It’s considerably cheaper for a start! I no longer have to plan hairdresser’s appointments around important dates in my diary to ensure that the myth of my dark hair can be maintained. My hair is in fabulous condition too. Without chemicals it feels soft and healthy and it has a shine that I could only achieve when I was fresh from the salon before. And I am embracing who I now am by allowing my natural hair colour to appear.
And I know that’s something that I should feel proud of but if I’m being totally honest, (shhh – say it quietly) I don’t really want to be her. I miss the old me, the one with dark hair and smooth skin, the one who didn’t have to worry about what her upper arms looked like or whether her neck was crepey. I know all that stuff is shallow and I’m a woman in my fifties who can do and feel exactly as she likes and is not constrained by the pressures that society places on her. And yet . . .
In my head, I’m still seventeen with nut-brown hair that shines like a mirror when the sun hits it and for whom this kind of rubbish is but a distant dot on a glimmering horizon. And perhaps I always will be. . .