beauty

'I ditched the dye to embrace my grey hair. The truth is, I don't like it.'

The last time I dyed my hair was October 2018. 

I had no idea it would be the last time, but I was already starting to hate being a slave to the dye, resenting the need to rush and get a hairdresser appointment as soon as my greys started to show. 

I felt trapped in a cycle that I never wanted to be a part of but accepted without question. There was clearly an unspoken covenant: Thou (women only) must hide thy greys, at all costs!

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I started to notice silver strands in my early twenties, but they really ramped up after having my second child within an eighteen-month period (it’s true what they say about stress and grey hair). 

Colouring stopped being about fun experimentation and playing around with new looks - it became about just one thing: cover up. I had a drawer full of root powders, touch-up wands and sprays, none of which worked particularly well, and some that would trickle down my forehead on rainy or sweaty days, Rudy Giuliani style. Not a good look.

Then, a few weeks after that last hair colour appointment, my dad died. It was sudden, unexpected and shocking. I cancelled everything and barely left the house for three months. I also made a decision - I wasn’t going to dye my hair anymore. I had a number of reasons, some practical and pragmatic, some lofty with principle. 

The practical and pragmatic reasons? I bloody hated the $300 plus I was spending every six weeks. I resented having to carve out three, sometimes more, hours of my life sitting in the hairdresser’s chair when I could think of a million other things I’d rather be doing. 

The lofty-with-principle reasons? I was mad! Why the hell could men walk around with patches of grey in their beards and silvering temples, but women couldn’t? Why did men feel free to exist in the world with their natural greys shining through (apart from Rudy) but women had to scurry off to the hairdressers as soon as a sparkle dared to emerge from a follicle? Why did I need to view my natural hair with shame? Why did we all?

During that time of awakening, I discovered the incredible Instagram page Grombre, which celebrates women who are ‘transitioning’ (that’s Grombre lingo) to their natural hair colour. 

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These women looked amazing! They were stunning and striking, each with their own unique pattern of silver and grey and salt and pepper - different ages, nationalities and backgrounds, but all choosing to reject the status quo and give a big finger to the patriarchy! Colouring hair was like stilettos: just another example of sex, power and oppression. 

I had another reason to stop dyeing my hair, which had to do with the death of my beloved father. Losing my dad made me realise, as cliché as it sounds, that ageing is a privilege. We live in a society that does not value growing old, but rather fights it, tooth and nail. We idolise youthfulness and chase it with every serum, cream and injectable we can get our hands on, and that includes covering our grey hair because God forbid we allow ourselves to look (gasp)... old. 

I was done! Not only did I ditch the dye, I preached it to the world. I set up my own Instagram account (#goldturnssilver…see what I did there?) to document the ‘journey’, posting photos of my ever-increasing grow out, along with thought-provoking captions. I connected with other women online in Facebook groups with names like ‘The Silver Circle’ and ‘Embrace the Grey’. I spoke to family, friends, colleagues and random mums at school pick-up about how dyeing your hair was a tool of the patriarchy and they too could be liberated and free, like me! I lectured men about their archaic notions of beauty and implored women to join the silver revolution.


Image: Supplied.

 

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Image: Supplied.

Image: Supplied.

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In March 2020, I cut off the last remaining ends of my coloured hair with kitchen scissors (it was lockdown, okay?) and there I was: fully transitioned. I felt proud, I felt badass, I felt triumphant. I ordered a T-shirt online that read: Openly Grey, and wore it to my Body Pump class.

Now, nine months later, I ask myself: do I still feel proud, badass and triumphant? 

Actually, no.

I’m sick of it. I'm bored with my hair colour. Rather than being the luminescent platinum of Khaleesi from Game of Thrones (which was kinda what I was hoping for), my natural hair colour has turned out to be more of a dirty salt and pepper, leaning heavily in the direction of pepper. I’m not loving it and I’m itching for a change, looking longingly at friends with their highlights and lo-lights, their balayage and dip-dye ends. I have found myself caught in a new quandary, one that feels oddly familiar.

I’m trapped, again. How can I go back to dying my hair when I’ve declared myself dye-free? How can I face all the people in my life with hair colour from a bottle when I have been so open in my stance against it? Everyone will think I’m a hypocrite.

Listen: On this wildcard episode of You Beauty, Leigh Campbell asks a trichologist all your pressing hair questions. Post continues below.

I discussed this dilemma with a dear friend, who listened patiently and then said some very wise words: “Shel, no one gives a damn what colour your hair is. It’s your hair, your body, your choice. If you want to dye your hair again, go and do that. Stuff being seen as a hypocrite. You do you.”

My hair appointment is set for this month. I’m excited and nervous and already poring over different images to decide what I will get done. Will I regret this decision once I’m back on the hamster wheel of root touch ups? Well…maybe. 

But if that’s the case, I only have to choose again. I stopped dyeing my hair two years ago to learn that I had a choice in the matter. I finally understand that now. 

Have you embraced your greys? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Sheli Gold is a Drama teacher, university lecturer and mother of two. 

Feature image: Supplied.

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