Help me fulfill my grizzled potential
October 16, 2008 8:19 AM   Subscribe

Aging-gracefully-Filter: Tell me about successfully growing out medium-to-long grey hair without looking ridiculous.

I'm 30. I work in Web site product marketing. I want to grow my 30-50% grey hair out without looking dumb while it's happening and without looking really old when it's done. Has anyone done this successfully? What were the stages, how did you handle the inevitable look of being unkempt, and what was the result like?

I really like the current color of my hair (auburn) but I can't really afford the time and money to keep it up, so it looks great for about a week every time I dye it, and like a frizzled orange mess thereafter. It's incredibly dry and 3b curly with curls ranging in size from dime-diameter to much larger.

Extra points if you can reassure me that it's not going to make me look like an irrelevant old has-been to my colleagues or future employers. (In other words, tell me how hot your grey hair is!)
posted by chesty_a_arthur to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (12 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
My Mom used to try and dye her greying hair auburn (which was what her hair was when she was younger.) and it didn't really look that great. Then she heard a fashion tip (don't forget if it was on Oprah or in a magazine or whatever..) that as you age, you need to start dyeing your hair lighter (since lightening as you age is natural). So maybe try the dye a few shades lighter than your auburn, and see if that looks nicer for a little while longer that the darker shade. It could at least help as a sort of 'transition' stage.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 8:34 AM on October 16, 2008

Putting your hair up while at work might alleviate the "looking old" effect.

I think dry hair shouldn't be colored, because it just makes it drier. Maybe a hot oil treatment or whatever's in vogue these days for deep conditioning. Maybe consider straightening your hair and using products that make it look sleek and sophisticated (though I think curls make someone look younger than the lack thereof).
posted by desjardins at 8:42 AM on October 16, 2008

I have grey hair, very wavy/frizzy, and very thick. In humid weather it will ringlet up. I've been seeing grey since @ 16. Once upon a time, my hair was black, wavy & below my waist. Currently it's fairly long, but I'll have it chopped soon. The nice thing about starting w/ black is that the grey is a nice color; however, if I chose to dye it, it would be a maintenance problem. Black hair + white stripe looks really awful.

Grey hair has a different texture; it's more coarse, and does not curl as nicely. Coloring does not change this. I use lots of the strongest, cheapest gel from CVS, and a nickel-sized blob of silicon based hair product usually advertised as shine serum. The silicon stuff makes my hair more slippery & soft, as well as shiny. Those ads where the model's hair slides around perfectly? That's what silicon does. The gel reduces frizz. I buy whatever is on sale and there's almost no variation in quality of product. Look for the 1st ingredient to end in -icone. I get it cut in layers, which releases the curl. I wash it @ every 3 days, use plenty of conditioner, and it's very healthy.

To grow it out, use a rinse once in a while. The grey will pick up less color and will be sparkly, but it will wash out gradually and not leave you with a demarcation line. I suspect my grey hair makes me look a little older than my early 50s, but young people relate well to me, and it doesn't seem to be an issue. This may be helped by the fact that I'm pretty immature. Lately, I've been unimaginative, and just french-braid it, so the cut is not critical. I get lots of compliments on my hair. When I wear it loose, with a headband or barrettes, I really get compliments. Healthy hair & good cut is more important than color. I've always gotten lots of positive comments on my grey hair, so I do encourage you to give it a try.
posted by theora55 at 8:47 AM on October 16, 2008

I'm about 50% grey at this point, but I've never colored my hair so I can't address the growing-out-color part... but this is what I think I know:

The key to pulling off grey hair is a good haircut (take some of the $ you were spending on color and apply it to more frequent trims) and looking well-groomed overall (tasteful makeup that brightens your face). Healthy, shiny hair is the key, so definitely talk to your stylist about shampoo and other treatments. My teenaged daughter has dry hair and and an oily scalp and although I usually buy drugstore products, I splurge on salon products for her since it's such a weird combination.

I would add that I think it's important for the haircut to be age-appropriate, so it looks neither granola nor grandma.

The women I know who I think have beautiful (80-100%) gray hair always have a great haircut and healthy hair. I don't know how "hot" it is, but I love the way grey hair looks when it's set off by vibrant colors so I'm kind of looking forward to it. Right now, people tell me it looks more like highlights than grey hair and I feel fortunate that I don't have too many big patches or the Stacy London skunk-stripe.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 8:52 AM on October 16, 2008 [2 favorites]

I love long gray hair, and curly gray hair---ooh, baby. One thing that I (a 42-year-old guy) have noticed is that long gray hair tends to look a lot less gray than short gray hair; mine hasn't been short for 8 years or so, and I shudder to think how gray it would look if I cut it now. I say go for it.
posted by MrMoonPie at 9:04 AM on October 16, 2008

A woman I knew who had beautiful, long, very curly hair swore that she washed her hair every morning and then combed thru a 50-cent piece sized dollop of Keri body lotion. The lotion relaxed the curl enough so that every curl was formed and bouncy, not frizzy. Her hair ended up being in great condition because of all the Keri lotion and never looked wet or greasy. She also heavily streaked her hair several shades lighter than her natural color as she had quite a bit of gray happening and never had to worry about it drying her hair. Finally, I believe she actually got it shaped by a good hairstylist on a 6-week basis.
posted by TorontoSandy at 9:04 AM on October 16, 2008

I have increasingly grey hair that's super-abundant and slightly wavy. It's currently about collar length. I agree with the recommendations for a frequent, good cut. For me that includes plenty of thinning and shaping to avoid the "wide grey tent on the head" look. I also occasionally iron it. This doesn't seem to have damaged it, but since your hair is dry I'm not sure ironing would be a good idea for you. I'm most likely to get compliments when I've ironed it, so apparently sleek is good for me.
posted by PatoPata at 9:25 AM on October 16, 2008

- A good cut, appropriate for your face shape and attitude. A lot of the gray-haired models I see actually have very youthful cuts--loose curls swinging around sexily, or up in back with tendrils escaping at the front of your face.
- Try clear henna to address the dryness.
- Try colored henna to address the color issue (I like the Henna for Hair gallery which has pictures and recipes). The henna lasts longer for me than pharmacy hair color and is more forgiving.
- Also thirding or whatever the advice to go lighter on the rest of your hair than you think, rather than trying to bring your gray hair back in line with your old color.
- Good skin care - a lot of times good skin tips the balance in how people judge your age.
- Do you wear glasses and/or jewelry? It might be a good time to experiment with younger or more interesting frames and baubles until you land on a hair solution that you like.
posted by cocoagirl at 9:48 AM on October 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

I am in the middle of this process right now. How to make the transition from a darker auburn to a lighter grey? I think first you need to do another round of color, but with a lighter rinse. The darker auburn will just make the grey roots look pretty awful, and I don't know any way to make two inches of grey behind six inches of auburn look good. I went with a lighter base color and some even lighter highlights to start the process, and then went to increasingly shorter cuts as the grey grew out. Now I'm mostly all grey, with just a little highlighting on about one inch, which doesn't look too bad, and will be completely gone with the next haircut. I had my hair cut every six weeks religiously during the growing out period, which helped keep it shaped and seemed to make the transition less apparent. But still there were about three weeks there when I had the three inches of grey and six inches of brown. At that point I considered going very, very short, which would have helped, I'm sure, but I chickened out. I don't have the curl you have.

I haven't figured out yet how to rock the grey when the process is complete. My salt and pepper is not the pretty mostly white hair that I've admired on others.
posted by raisingsand at 10:30 AM on October 16, 2008

Here's a helpful hint.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 11:34 AM on October 16, 2008

These women look great.
posted by theora55 at 2:49 PM on October 16, 2008

Mrs. Director was a dark brunette who hated the 'skunk stripe' (her words) from the grow-out after coloring. She also switched to blonde (plus a shorter cut) and looooves it. Personally, I have no complaints. :)

My eldest sister gave up the color-go-round recently and embraced the grey (white, really) with a perky, spikey short cut which looks fantastic.

There, two opposing anecdotes. Self-cancelling comments. It's all the rage.
posted by trinity8-director at 4:00 PM on October 16, 2008

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