To gray or not to gray?

I wish The New York Times had included a photo of FOF Leah Rozen’s gray hair when it ran her column in the other day’s Sunday Style Section (She’s Done With Washing It Away; June 23, 2013)? Then we could have seen the state of her “gray.” Is she lucky enough for it to be shimmering, silky silver or snow white, or it is salt and pepper and resembling straw? I use the distinction because gray hair–like blond, red, and brown hair—comes in many shades and textures, and while some of it looks sexy and spectacular, other gray hair looks ghastly. Coloring hair, for many FOFs, has less to do with looking “young” than with looking better. My gray hair, like my mom’s, is firmly in the salt and pepper straw category. While mom chose to go au naturel, I look brighter and perkier when my hair returns to the color it used to be.

“Most women my age, at least in the not-especially-rarefied circles in which I travel, dye their hair. It’s easier and less painful than a face-lift or Botox injections, those other popular weapons in the ceaseless battle for eternal youth. That’s a struggle from which I’ve opted out,” Leah writes.

Fiddle-faddle. I suspect Leah wears a bra to lift her FOF breasts, dresses in more than hopsacking to enhance her FOF body and might even pick out cute frames to help focus her FOF eyes. Why, then, doesn’t she think clothes and accessories are “weapons,” and a “struggle” with which to deal? Perhaps she should shed herself of these, too.

Leah also says she’s “cheap,” that it was costing her “north of $800 annually” to color her hair at her “neighborhood Manhattan hair salon.”

Fiddle-faddle. Home hair color costs as little as $8 a box (and even really good, custom-blended color from e-Salon costs $20 a box). So coloring your hair a casa would cost decidedly less each year than $800.

As a single woman, Leah says she doesn’t have to “ask my husband or significant other if he minded being seen squiring around an obvious incipient geezer.”

Fiddle-faddle. As an independent progressive woman, I trust Leah wouldn’t be kowtowing to a husband, if she had one. And to those women who do want to please their husbands, I say, “Nothing wrong with that.”

Leah said he mother advised her to “grow old gracefully,” which included not dyeing her hair.

Fiddle-faddle. Some of the most graceful FOFs on the planet dye their hair. Think Meryl Streep and Helen Mirren.

“I’m 57 but look like an old lady. That’s because my hair is gray,” Leah began her column.

I’m 66 but I don’t look like an old lady. That’s because I color my hair, had some work done on my face, wear makeup and think I look cool in some of the trendiest fashions.

It’s still me, only not gray.

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23 Responses to “To gray or not to gray?”

  1. Vera Brasher says:

    Some people look good with gray hair, some don’t. I am in the later category. At 63 I still don’t have a lot of gray. Mostly in the top, but none so far at the front hairline or the back. But it is not a pretty gray. No silver tones… just dull, ugly gray.

    I would let it go natural but it really does make me look older. So I color it every few months and leave a little gray showing on the temples for a more natural look.

  2. Susan says:

    I don’t color my hair. Always looking young means you just don’t have to subscribe what society tells us (well, the media/advertising industry) we are supposed to look and be like. Soon to be 65, there is some white sprinkled in my bangs and gray throughout. People stop me everywhere and asks if I have high and low lights. Nope. Nope and nope.

    Maybe being single now has done that for me. I enjoy a natural look, a comfy look. Please check out my blog if you would like to see my hair.

  3. pkw says:

    Went no more color in 2003 — save for a few lolites/hilites as the color grew out. I am about 25% white, 50% grey silver, and about 25% left of my original but faded strawberry blond hair, which i wear to just below my color bone with some long side swept bangs at age 54 and 1/2.. I get keratin blowouts to control the frizz ( I live in Houston, tx) and wear it pushed behind my ears on in a low pony tail or chignon 75% of the time. I just lost 46 pounds in 2012 to get down BELOW the weight I was when I graduated from high school. I wear makeup and work full time as a director in a consulting firm. I just started Project 333 as I have basically had to buy a new wardrobe in size 8 & 6… after decades of 12’s and 14’s. I don’t think think the color of my hair contributes to me looking or feeling older. it has to do with how healthy I feel and my attitude to accept new ideas.

    • Geri says:

      Hi PKW,

      Congratulations on your weight loss and how you feel.


  4. PAM STEVENS says:

    Lived in South Florida and spent a four tune on my hair which started to grey when I was 29.By the time I moved to Montana at age 61 I was ready to go grey. Such a liberating move. Have gotten nothing but complements ! My husband loves it and my South Florida friends are envious to not be in the color trap. It makes me look younger . Even the most expensive and professional colorist can’t do for us what God does. Free yourself!

  5. mari says:

    Sorry I am 55 and I honestly think women look HORRIBLE in gray hair

  6. Kate Line Snider says:

    I went gray ten years ago! It’s fabulously becoming, and the color goes with everything! I’m in my sixties and I get ogled by men all the time and often hit on, albeit by men in my “appropriate” age group.

    Bear in mind, I keep it fashionably styled. I also get some waxing done and work tirelessly to stay well groomed. I use make-up, too. I walk for exercise and eat right. My husband, who is somewhat younger, only has a little gray at the temples. He doesn’t seem to mind my gray hair.

    Natural isn’t great for all of us.Coloring your hair is ok if you can afford to have it done right. (What’s sad are those my age and up who do-it-themselves with a box of Clairol in the wrong color and then get a bad permanent. )

    I don’t know what hair coloring does for your job prospects because I am retired.I just know not coloring is easier and works for me. My teen-aged granddaughter thinks I am an ancient relic but she recently asked for some beauty advice, so something must be working!

  7. Cathi Graham says:

    I also feel that if coloring your hair makes you feel happier in your own skin, then by all means, color, but if you want to go all natural and let the grey happen, then I applaud women who have the courage to let themselves “age” in that way. Anti-aging isn’t just about how you look, it’s about how you feel. If getting rid of dyes and going grey makes you feel free then maybe that’s the best anti-aging treatment for you!

    • Geri Brin says:

      hi cathi,

      well said!


  8. Walker Thornton says:

    I stop coloring my fading blonde years ago and have not felt the urge to cover my gray. I am fine with my aging process, though occasionally bemoan the beginning of the saggy neck.

    We play entirely too much emphasis on trying to look young in our society and by doing that we contribute to the concept that aging is not OK. I applaud women who proudly forego the botox , hair dye and plastic surgery as they are usually the women who are comfortable in their own skin.

  9. Susan C. says:

    Been “silver” – but it is streaked, a black rim along the bottom and sides – a good four years or so. And, I’ll never go back to that coloring routine. I’m 50 now. My hair turns heads, the stylist loves it, and others have wished for it. Or maybe they also wish for the guts to leave their own hair be. I maintain a healthy lifestyle – walk for exercise, watch what I eat – and have some decent stamina for my age and some other minor health problems. I keep my weight in check. What I can’t stand are women who dye their hair, yet the rest of their body goes to shot, as if the rest of doesn’t matter. If men need to be around their women, their spouses, with all their body fat and dyed hair – and there are plenty out there who are quite overweight, can’t walk around the block, but can certainly try to look younger with a hair color job only – well more power to them and to their women. I’d rather be a 50 year old, with my natural hair as it is now, and the healthy person I am otherwise. I don’t need a color job to make myself feel good.

  10. Karen Ansbro Leone says:

    In the process as well! So tired of the trips to the salon every 2 to 3 weeks. Gonna give it a try. Good thing I have a gazillion baseball caps from running, etc. And try BUFF’s Headwear. They’re awesome. And as you said, if I don’t like it, back to the salon. As the Dead said: “A Touch Of Grey”!

  11. chrisskins says:

    I had the same problems as you did with the NY Time article. Going gray is fine; snobby elitism that it’s better is not.

  12. Marsha Calhoun says:

    I felt exactly the same way you did when I read Leah Rozen’s article – whether or not what she said makes sense depends, at least to me, on what she look like au naturel. I look decidedly drab with gray hair (really salt and pepper, no reasonable chance of just looking smashingly silver, as my mother was in her later years). I would love to stop fussing with my every-three-weeks home-coloring regime (it grows fast, and my hairstyle shows a skunk stripe sooner rather than later), but I have decided to indulge myself by dedicating the time and trouble to keeping it a color I like instead of trying to live up to someone else’s idea of what is appropriate or virtuous. If I could change it overnight to another color I liked that wouldn’t require the work, or at least less work, I probably would, and in time, I probably will, but for now, I’d have to remove the color that I have left (which would be a big fat pain). I’m waiting for science to catch up to my needs . . .

  13. Cynthia Louden says:

    I am still coloring mine, but it is a regular argument of should I or shouldn’t I. My mom has absolutely gorgeous thick white hair. My hair grows fast so I have to color it every 2-3 weeks. First I told myself I would let it grow out at 50, then 60, now I am thinking 65 – 70. It’s a debate with ourselves that so many of us are having.

  14. Allison says:

    Geri, I have been planning to do a blogpost on my blog on this topic for months now, but I keep putting it off because it’s so fraught. While I truly believe that coloring one’s hair vs going gray is a person decision that I respect, I am so firmly on the side of color for myself that I’m afraid I can’t write an even-handed post. I have seen more women with gray hair lately at Vidal Sassoon Salon where I have my hair colored, and they all happen to be beauties who would look good with any color hair. I changed my hair from what they used to call “dirty blonde” to read back in 1987. I looked washed out as a blonde, and I know I would look washed out and positively ancient with gray hair. Most people assume that I have always been a redhead, and I am identified with my red hair color. It suits me. My business is filled with young people, and I know I’d have even fewer chances as a consultant if I “went gray”. So, let women decide for themselves what to do, but I’m sticking with my red hair and redhead personality!

    • Geri Brin says:

      Hi Allison,

      Your red looks gorgeous!


  15. Barbara says:

    I just recently decided to stop coloring my hair. Well, I am in the process of it. I’ve gone from permanent color to non-permanent as I grow it out and get used to it. Why? Because my gray is so persistant that to keep it colored, I’d have to color it every 2-3 weeks. Professional color or over the counter color….doesn’t matter. So I’ve decided to gradually stop coloring and concentrate on enjoying my life with, hopefully, health gray/silver hair. We’ll see how it goes. If I decide to start coloring again, so what. It is my choice and I like having that choice.

    • Karen Ansbro Leone says:

      In the process as well! So tired of the trips to the salon every 2 to 3 weeks. Gonna give it a try. Good thing I have a gazillion baseball caps from running, etc. And try BUFF’s Headwear. They’re awesome. And as you said, if I don’t like it, back to the salon. As the Dead said: “A Touch Of Grey”!

  16. Jill says:

    Gray can be SO fabulous – when you know how to work it!
    I had a client who decided to go gray after having colored her hair a reddish brown for 30 years! She sent me an email in caps saying “Help! I have nothing to wear!” The shades that made her look amazing with her deep warm tresses were so not working with the cool silvery locks that now frame her eyes and smile. So we hooked her up with an entirely new color palette for wardrobe and makeup and the first day she tried her new look, she felt totally put together and received compliments! It’s so easy when you know the secret to looking fabulous with any hair color and at any price point!
    Here’s a link to a short video for the gray haired gals or for those thinking about going gray:
    Enjoy & let me know what you think!

  17. Candida Royalle says:

    I don’t know, Geri…all those ‘fiddle faddles’ sound a touch defensive to me. Why not support a woman no matter her decision? I began turning what I prefer to call “silver” (because of its lovely silver sheen) when I was still in my ’30’s. I began coloring it because I COULD; having grown up with defiantly dark hair that refused to be colored, I decided to experiment and have fun with being the red vixen or the blond bombshell. But after years of spending hours in the salon chair and watching my once shiny, healthy hair turn frizzy and lifeless from chemicals, I became curious as to what color I’d be sans hair dye. I was delighted to discover that my hair was still a vibrant silver, and once it had time to recover, its sheen and luster returned. I discovered the book, Going Gray: What I Learned about Beauty, Sex, Work, Motherhood, Authenticity, and Everything Else That Really Matters, by Anne Kreamer, and felt even more purposeful in my reclamation of the “real me”. I was never trying to cover my gray, anyway, and having always been a feminist at heart, the idea of refusing to conform to our agist notions of femininity resonated with me as well. (I especially liked reading about her experiment: she placed two separate singles listings on a popular dating web site, one of her as a dyed brunette, the other au natural. Her ‘au natural’ self received far more responses from interested men. When she ‘interviewed’ them as to why, they basically said they liked a woman who was self-possessed and so comfortable with herself that she would let her hair go gray.) I admit that I sometimes find it disconcerting to be offered ‘senior citizen’ discounts for train tickets and the likes; but I receive far more compliments for my beautiful silver color as well as admiration and respect for my courage to go gray in a culture that’s hell-bent on making women feel useless and undesirable after a “certain” age. By the way, I am single…and, believe me, it’s not always easy. I would be lying if I didn’t admit to occasionally perusing the aisles filled with hair-coloring kits after one of those senior citizen offers! And who knows…maybe one day I’ll “play with color” again. But for now I love not having to worry about embarrassing roots, and I really believe in accepting myself for who I am. I have a killer body at 62 thanks to a lifelong commitment to dance, yoga and exercise, and (having created my own workout after years of training) that doesn’t cost me a dime!

    • Geri Brin says:

      Hello Candida,

      Of course I support Leah’s right to decide what to do with her own hair. My blog didn’t take issue with her decision but with her rationale for making it. Forging a connection between the color of a woman’s hair and her self confidence or desire to look younger is, indeed, fiddle faddle. That makes the fallacious assumption that all women who color their hair are insecure and obsessed with looking younger.

      I’m not sure how feminism relates to the color of hair. I’ve never heard that connection. And I’m not sure by what you mean by “agist notions of femininity.” Gray hair can be feminine. So can purple, black, orange and blue hair. BTW, Gloria Steinem colors her hair brown and leaves her gray at the sides. Does that make her 80 percent less a feminist? And is she 20 percent less feminine?

      I try to look the best I can. And covering my ugly gray hair helps. On top of that, I have a hair piece because my hair is thinning. I think thinning hair is unattractive on a woman but many women are perfectly content to show off their scalps and still spend fortunes in salons to style their remaining hair.

      I would guess people compliment your gray because it’s probably lovely. They’d run away from me in terror if they saw my gray. It wouldn’t take courage for me to let my gray grow in. It would mean I took a leave of my senses and didn’t care about how I looked.



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