New study reveals what age your hair will start to turn grey.

33 or Betty White?

Women start to get their first grey hairs at 33.

That’s what a British study conducted by Charles Worthington Instant Root Concealer is telling us all.

Redheads may spy their first silver strands at 30, while brunettes go grey at 32 and blondes at 35.

Despite that however, very few women actually embrace the grey. And as this next post reveals, the result of those endless hairdresser appointments is a perception from young people that women don’t go grey until they’re Betty White’s age. 


“I wonder when my mum will start to go grey?”

This was the question my twenty-something-year-old friend asked that first made me question everything I knew about females and follicles.

I was stumped: Um? 20 years ago?

I managed to suppress my snark.

“What, your mum hasn’t gone grey yet?”


“… Really?” My tone shifted from feigned surprise to poorly masked scepticism. “Why else would she go to the hairdressers so often?”

“I dunno. Because her hair’s short and it grows out of its style easily? For goodness sake, she’s not that old.”

I couldn’t comprehend what she was saying. She didn’t think her mum had gone grey yet? What, did she think her mum was superhuman?

And then it hit me: raised in a world of glossy, eternal youth, my (I should stress: normally very clued-in) friend actually didn’t know at what age women started to go grey.

Not that it’s her fault. Putting the absence of grey-haired women in the public eye aside, hard stats on when women notice their first silver strand are sketchy, and often these numbers are provided not by leading biologists, but hair care brands.

In 2011, John Frieda found that roughly a third of British women had started to go grey before their thirtieth birthday. Most studies find that the majority of women begin greying by the age of 35.

Mary Ward. The photo is grey. Her hair is not.

Here’s where it gets weird, because while most women should be starting to go grey before their forthieth birthday, anyone who has stepped outside in the past decade can tell you that they aren’t.  Women are fighting grey hair with every ounce of their being – first plucking them, then dying them when faced with the genuine possibility of tweezer-induced baldness. Then they hit 60 and instigate a subtle ash-blonde slow fade to their natural silver. The whole process has seriously distorted the way my generation views ageing.


With no living memory of my mum without grey hair (admittedly, she had slightly fewer at 30 than she has now), I just don’t understand why greys are so problematic.

In a way, I think that women are engaging in a self-fulfilling prophecy by waging war against them; by delaying the grey, we only increase the age with which grey hair is associated.

This is why my friends can’t fathom that their mothers need to dye their hair. This is why – in the next ten years – a third of them will be in for quite a shock.

I’ve consulted several people about turning silver, since that first conversation. I suppose you could say I’ve become a bit of a grey-rights activist, educating those who have no idea that greyness is not something that happens once you hit retirement age. Most of my educational question and answer sessions end with my reluctant co-converser asking this question:

“Will you let yourself go grey at 30?”

It’s a fair question. I respond with this anecdote.

My mum was at an ice skating rink –irrelevant to the story, but if you’re the sort of person who likes mental pictures I thought I’d throw it in for you – when she was approached by a total stranger.

The woman said: “I love your hair.”

My mum was confused. “Why?”

The woman proceeded to tell her about going grey when she was young. About dying it ever since but now regretting her choice. But there was no way out for her. Growing out the grey would turn her jet black tresses into a full-time skunk costume.

She saw herself as a slave to the salon. Doomed to pay an exorbitant amount for a colour every six weeks, she was always asking herself: why did I ever start?

The answer was simple: because everyone else did.

So, no. I will not dye my hair. Not if I find my first grey strand at 50, and not if I find it tomorrow.

Because if the silver whisps behind my ears remind women it’s okay to be grey, that can only be a good thing.

What age did you start going grey? What about your mum?  

This post was first published on The Glow and has been republished with full permission. You can read the original post here.