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Melinda Tickel
Is letting your hair go grey brave?

Many will say that deciding to stop with the hair dye or highlights and letting your hair grow out to its natural grey colour is brave. Others will say that this is a choice, and that the word brave is best reserved to describe those fighting wars, illness and adversity.

Is letting your hair go grey brave? This is the question that causes heated debate in the silver sisters community. The dictionary definition of the term brave is:

Ready to face and endure pain; showing courage. To endure or face (unpleasant conditions or behaviour) without showing fear.

I’m in the camp that says that letting your hair go grey is brave, remembering, at all times, that this is in the context of hair; we are not comparing growing out our greys to fighting a war or battling cancer. It goes without saying that these situations require the ultimate bravery.

When a woman decides to transition to grey hair, it’s undoubtedly a big step. She is unlikely to have many role models around her that demonstrate the beauty of natural hair. It may also look like she has a choice, but oftentimes she hasn’t. The more grey the hair goes, the more expensive and time-consuming it can become to hide it. There often comes a point where continuing to dye your hair is no longer an option.

My story

Let me tell you my story. The image below left is of my hair about 6-9 months in. I think the lead up to this stage was by far the most difficult.

Where my grey-hair journey started

My first grey strands were discovered by this really annoying hairdresser that my mum used to go to. I went to see him once and I still remember him declaring he had found a grey hair. He then proceeded to continue searching my hair for more silver flecks, like looking for gold, except this time it was silver, and then declaring, 'I found another one!' Great! Happy days … I was 14 years old!

Cut to 20 years later and I had spent my entire adult life dyeing my hair. At first it was just for fun. After all, the odd grey hair really didn’t bother me. In my 30s, I had more and more highlights put in, which got me almost to blonde, and I kept that colour for many years. When I got bored of that I dyed it my ‘natural’ dark brown again ... and this is when I realised how grey I had become underneath my dyed hair.

I was finding that I had to dye my hair much more often, maybe every 5-6 weeks, and even then I could see the greys slightly peeking through. This annoyed me, so at some point in my late 30s I thought it would be a good idea just to get it over with and bleach my hair completely. As a result, I ruined my hair to the point of no return.

It was at this point that I realised my thick, coarse, frizzy hair, which I had long wished was otherwise, had at least been healthy. Growing up, my relatives had told me my thick hair was my crowning glory. But this was the 1990s! Gone were the perms of the '80s; in the '90s, the most sought-after hair was shiny and straight (think Jennifer Aniston), which my hair most certainly wasn't.

Irreparably damaging my hair with bleach forced me to consider what I was doing to my hair, and by extension, to myself.

My first steps to hair freedom

My main concern at this point was the state of my damaged hair, not the colour of it (which is not to say I was ready to embrace the greys). I was just so annoyed with myself for damaging it; I even contemplated shaving it all off! Luckily for me, being the avid researcher that I am, I managed to find the Curly Girl Method, which was my turning point towards a more nurturing approach to hairstyling. The Curly Girl Method is all about embracing your natural hair texture and how to do it.

Thank you, Curly Girl Method!

The Curly Girl Method marked the beginning of both a new way of styling my hair and a more self-caring approach towards myself. I continued to dye my hair dark brown, but I had my hair cut short and I started using products with no sulphates or silicones and I used gels and mousses to actually work with my hair texture, rather than using excessive heat to change it. My new hair that grew in was wavy, thick and bouncy. You can find the incredible, 'The Curly Girl Method Handbook' here. It is amazing for all hair types, not just for curlies!

Deciding to go grey

At 40, I made the decision to stop dyeing my hair. By now I was pretty good at keeping to the products and techniques I had learned through the curly girl community, and yet I was dousing my hair with dye every week (yes, I was dyeing my hairline weekly at the point at which I decided to stop). What was the point of looking after my hair, only to douse it with chemicals?

So I decided to have some highlights put in over a four-month period in order to keep the integrity of my hair. I had worked hard to keep my hair healthy and by this point had been doing the curly girl method for about a year. Once my hair was light enough to transition without a harsh line, I grew it out. It took just under two years to get to the point where I no longer had any dyed ends.

The journey to that point was hard. I felt very self conscious in the early months and I didn’t want to talk about it with anyone. My husband and kids freaked out when I told them my plans. I think my little girl thought I would turn into an old lady overnight.

Luckily, in those early days I was able to work in a space where I didn’t speak to that many people. Soon enough though, I started to get comfortable with it. People started to compliment me on my hair colour and to tell me that I was ‘brave’. And quite honestly, I did feel brave. I faced the fear of going grey, I looked it in the eye, challenged it, and won! Just as a side note, my husband and kids are now my greatest grey-hair advocates. My thirteen-year-old tells me she can’t wait to go grey ... lol!

It’s now over four years since I last had my hair dyed and I absolutely love my new hair. Like conquering any challenge yes, you do feel brave! Facing up to something that terrifies you does take bravery, but I can tell you, it’s absolutely worth it.

Tell me ... where are you on your hair journey? Are you thinking about it, just starting out, or have you completed growing out your silvers? I'd love to hear your story.

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Disclosure: Bear in mind that some of the links in this post are affiliate links and if you go through them to make a purchase I will earn a small commission. Keep in mind that I link these companies and their products because of their quality and not because of the commission I receive from your purchases. The decision is yours, and whether or not you decide to buy something is completely up to you.

  • I’m Mel and the author here on the blog.

  • I help women with grey hair thrive with beauty and lifestyle tips that inspire self care and confidence.

  • Wife, mum of 3, author, hair and make-up artist and lifestyle mentor for women who choose to embrace their grey hair.

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