Men Who Dye Their Hair
August 26, 2005 9:40 AM   Subscribe

A question for the AskMefi women. Guys in their late thirties or early forties who dye their hair: O.K. or icky? And for those of you who think it's lame: is it lame enough to become a dealbreaker when you start seeing a guy?

By the way I recently noticed John Cusack (39) dyes his hair. Thankfully, I only have a couple dozen gray hair on my entire head, but I guess my future is, well, gray. As of now I am very much against dye jobs and I consider it pretty lame for men (on women it looks just so much better) so I guess it'll be OK for me to grow gray/white in the future, but it's easy to think that when you still have a full head of black hair. In the future, maybe I won't be so sure.
posted by matteo to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (54 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
I'm prematurely gray. I'm only 36, and fully half of my overall hair is gray. My wife is frequently asking me if I'm interested in dying my hair. I'm starting to take her questions as hints...

If I were to dye my hair, it would be to my natural color, only for the purpose of coloring the gray streaks. I have no lines on my face -- I might lose a good 10 years.
posted by thanotopsis at 9:46 AM on August 26, 2005


Part of the tragedy of life is that men can look hotter as they age, and white streaks (especially in black hair) are very attractive on men, whereas they generally just make women look tired.
That said, if you want to go the dye route, just make sure it looks natural. Obvious dye jobs that resemble someone slathering their head with black shoe polish is a far bigger turnoff than grey hair. (Now, a bad toupee, that's a dealbreaker.)
posted by CunningLinguist at 9:47 AM on August 26, 2005


greying gracefully->molto sexy.
bad dye job->molto schifo

But that's just me. If you decide during a future mid-life crisis to eliminate your greys, please do yourself a favour & go to a decent colorist; don't buy dye-in-a-box.
posted by romakimmy at 9:49 AM on August 26, 2005


It wouldn't be a dealbreaker unless you used something that looked really awful like Grecian Formula. Also, lay off the highlights. I know the stylist will try to talk you into them, but be wary.
posted by missmerrymack at 9:50 AM on August 26, 2005


Yup, CunningLinguist has it. A tasteful dye job is ok. Toupee is bad.

That said, I think well-groomed salt & pepper hair is sexy on both men and women. Go with the grey!
posted by widdershins at 9:53 AM on August 26, 2005


Mmmmm, definitely don't dye. I your greying will be sexier to much more women than dye. Also to me.
posted by Skyanth at 9:58 AM on August 26, 2005


I know this is hypocritical of me, since I color my own hair, but I just don't like it when men dye theirs. Why, I don't know, because I like a bit of vanity in a man, but not too much, and I guess to me, dyed hair is part of that "too much".

Not lame enough to be a dealbreaker, though, no.
posted by iconomy at 10:01 AM on August 26, 2005


The way I look at it, I dye my hair, why shouldn't you dye yours?
posted by JanetLand at 10:04 AM on August 26, 2005


It kind of depends on who you're trying to attract. Some women really dig older men and some women don't. Getting greys covered really does take years off (I'm thinking of John Laroquette and Brent Spiner), but people above are right--it needs to be tasteful. Definitely go somewhere where you'll have to shell out some cash (not Fantastic Sam's or yourself) and resist the highlights.
posted by Kimberly at 10:05 AM on August 26, 2005


It's interesting that everyone who is pro-dye is saying, "Don't do it yourself." I do mine, with dye the same color as my hair, so that it just "takes out" the gray, and it looks perfectly fine. Are the men's dye-in-a-box products that much worse than the ones for women or something?
posted by JanetLand at 10:07 AM on August 26, 2005


My husband is in that age group, dyes his own hair blonde, and I love it. It looks good on him, so more power to him. I think it's cool that he's not hung up on "ewww, only WOMEN can do that" and isn't afraid to do it himself.
posted by GaelFC at 10:11 AM on August 26, 2005


Are the men's dye-in-a-box products that much worse than the ones for women or something?

good point. I don't know about that, but dyed men usually look worse than dyed women -- I'm starting to think maybe men's hair are different, maybe with a bigger section or less porous covering, I don't know -- any MeFi expert on haircare?
posted by matteo at 10:14 AM on August 26, 2005


Are the men's dye-in-a-box products that much worse than the ones for women or something?

Yes, because the men's home dye's are one-step processes. Most of them don't even contain peroxide. It's like pouring shoe polish on your head. Because, supposedly, men can't be bothered with the time and inconvience (mixing, the smell, the bother) of doing a home dye job the "right" way. It's really kind of insulting, when you think about it. But the home dyes for men are definitely marketed towards saving time.

When I look at the color in stores now, I see many men pictured on the boxes of dye that used to be marketed just for women, so progress is being made somewhat. So bottom line, if you do decide to try a home dye job, go with a women's product, not something like Grecian Formula!
posted by iconomy at 10:19 AM on August 26, 2005


As someone who started getting grey hairs before high school started, dyeing looks lame.

I suppose people's reactions might change once I start to get out of the 'that's cool/novel' age range (i'm currently 23, and have a sprinkling of grey all throughout my dark hair) but people seem to like my hair.
posted by maledictory at 10:21 AM on August 26, 2005


I was just going to ask the question that iconomy answered: why don't men just use the products traditionally marketed for women? I've been coloring my hair for *ahem* decades, and would be completely gray without the benefit of L'Oreal Preference Medium Auburn. I don't think men's hair is significantly different than women's.

Hint to men for best results: Use a shade very similar to your natural color. Rub vaseline along your skin at the hairline and especially your ears and neck. This keeps the dye from staining your skin. Keep your hair trimmed; dye has a tendency to dry out and damage hair, plus the color will get darker on the ends each time you apply the dye. READ THE DIRECTIONS CAREFULLY, and use the gloves!

It's not all that much of a hassle. One hour of your time, every four to six weeks.
posted by Corky at 10:30 AM on August 26, 2005


Oh, I'm a woman, btw. Just to avoid confusion...
posted by Corky at 10:31 AM on August 26, 2005


posted by CunningLinguist: white streaks (especially in black hair) are very attractive on men, whereas they generally just make women look tired.

I vehemently disagree. Grey/white hair is very sexy, regardless of gender.
posted by fandango_matt at 10:31 AM on August 26, 2005


Hmmm. I'm 38 and my hair is bleached blond. Is this a no-no, then...?
posted by littleme at 10:34 AM on August 26, 2005


Another vote for tasteful hair coloring being A-OK! (Although I should say that I'm also a believer that Well-Groomed Salt & Pepper = Molto Sexy.) Heck, I started going grey in college and have been coloring mine ever since, so what's good for the goose is good for the gander.

Some of the dye-in-a-box stuff for men is better than others (I think Feria makes a line for men now, for example), but honestly, speaking as someone who did my own color till about 3 years ago: it's totally worth the expense to get a good professional colorist -- the difference is amazing.
posted by scody at 10:38 AM on August 26, 2005


Part of the tragedy of life is that men can look hotter as they age, and white streaks (especially in black hair) are very attractive on men, whereas they generally just make women look tired.

Meh. Eye of the beholder, sweetie, eye of the beholder.


Dyed hair would be a dealbreaker for me, since I'm not into artifice.
posted by scratch at 10:38 AM on August 26, 2005


L'Oreal Preference Medium Auburn? Me too, Corky! It's a great color.
posted by iconomy at 10:39 AM on August 26, 2005


My husband just uses women's hair coloring, usually. At first I thought he'd want to get the men's only (Maxim Magazine even has a line of men's hair day), but he said that was silly, dye is dye. And he's right. He does the intense blonding, and he likes Feria.
posted by GaelFC at 10:42 AM on August 26, 2005


A woman with grey hairs can be mighty sexy. Besides tired, it could also make them look wise. Maybe I'm just turned on by smart women?

I find the whole fake hair thing creepy though, particularly in men. With society's emphasis on youth as beauty for women, I can more understand the pressures to cover the grey, but with men youth is adolescent stupidity so why try and hold onto that?
posted by Pollomacho at 10:42 AM on August 26, 2005


L'Oreal Preference Medium Auburn? Me too, Corky! It's a great color.?

I'm so dye-ignorant that when my wife sends me to the store, and one of the items is hair-dye, she says: "Get the one with Leeloo Dallas Multipass on it."

She knows me so well.
posted by thanotopsis at 10:45 AM on August 26, 2005 [2 favorites]


Whatever you use, just make sure it isn't what Paul McCartney uses. His shoe polish head looks ridiculous.
posted by gfrobe at 10:51 AM on August 26, 2005


fandango_matt and Pollomacho - thank you!

I've been rockin' the dark-with-silver-threads-librarian look ever since a few years ago when I couldn't afford the $150 a month professional dye jobs anymore.

Umm, and I'm female.

ObThreadAnswer: I also prefer dudes who do the Clooney. Although a hipster obviously-fake weird-color dye job is acceptable also.
posted by matildaben at 10:53 AM on August 26, 2005


I'm in maledictory's boat, started getting grey hairs in 7th grade. I've been quite salt-and peppery for, really, my adult life. I figured I'd look like Leslie Nielsen by now, but it seems to not go completely white yet.

I'd never consider it, but I'm still too young to care and can't imagine feeling old enough to do so. Besides, what would it do for me? "Gee, you're looking different today--what is it? New shoes? Is that a different haircut?" I mean, nobody knows what I look like without gray hair.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 10:53 AM on August 26, 2005


Yay! I'm molto sexy! It's about dang time.

I'm a guy who started going grey around 18, and now, at 44 am pretty much fullblown salt and pepper. Okay, more salt than pepper.

I vote for the go natural, be proud, and save the bucks.

And I must laugh at the "Get the one with Leeloo Dallas Multipass on it." comment. That's a hoot.
posted by willmize at 11:00 AM on August 26, 2005


I've been rockin' the dark-with-silver-threads-librarian look ever since a few years ago when I couldn't afford the $150 a month professional dye jobs anymore.

And it looks good on you, too, for the record.
posted by kindall at 11:00 AM on August 26, 2005


dye, don't dye. Go to town is my call. As long as it isn't something like "I can't let anyone see me with grey hair!" Then it's entierly a different thing.

My feeling in realationships . . . Love me, love all my odd hairs and wrinkles. They make me hot! Doens't mean I don't groom. I'm just saying there is way too much preasure these days to be something we are not. A body has to find the ballance.
posted by johnj at 11:05 AM on August 26, 2005


I think it's okay so long as it's not obvious from 800 miles away. (i.e. I don't know, if you died it nuclear green or something.)
Also as long as you don't do it *black* because nobody has black hair. It's dark brown. If you actually buy *black* hair dye you look like a wannabe goth. No offence to goths or anything.
posted by trampesque at 11:22 AM on August 26, 2005


As long as hair's clean and well-groomed, I don't really care what colour it is. (Except when it is Obviously Much Darker than it ought naturally to be.)

What's worse, much, much worse than grey hair, is a combover. Don't even think about a combover, it's always a dealbreaker. Once you start going bald, reach for the clippers and crop it.
posted by essexjan at 11:30 AM on August 26, 2005


If you're pretty sure that you are going to want to dye your hair at some point... start now. A guy I work with is in his 40s, has had the same salt n pepper hair for the five plus years I've knowh him. He just started dyeing it and now it's all I notice when I see him - all dark hair. I suppose we'll all get used to it, but it would have been better if he'd started dying it ten years ago when he started going gray.
posted by clh at 11:48 AM on August 26, 2005


With society's emphasis on youth as beauty for women, I can more understand the pressures to cover the grey, but with men youth is adolescent stupidity so why try and hold onto that?

I think this is precisely why a man who dyes would not bother me at all - he wouldn't be stuck on those stupid stereotypes.

Also, re:'what's attractive', saltnpepper, or cute little streaks is one thing, but when your whole head is grey, it really can affect how old/tired a person looks (my mom stopped dying her hair a few years ago and gained about 25 years overnight).

No difference IMO whether it's a man or a woman- what's important is that you look the way you want to. If the grey works for you, go w/ it; if not, dye it.
posted by mdn at 11:53 AM on August 26, 2005


What I wouldn't give for a head full of gray hair.
posted by Eamon at 12:10 PM on August 26, 2005


I henna my hair sometimes, personally, and sometimes it grows out normal color. Sometimes I dye it fun colors, but not lately. If a guy dyes his hair fun colors I generally like that. If he's doing a cover-up-the-grey dyejob, I might assume he was insecure about getting older which is much more unattractive to me than grey hair. Most of the time I probably wouldn't even notice either way. Dealbreaker? No. Long term dealbreaker? Maybe.

Count me in with the people who think grey hair is sexy. The other thing about dyeing your hair is that when you decide to stop, you may get the effect like mdn's mom where you all of the sudden look a lot older. Dying your hair means that you have to sort of stay on top of it if you want to maintain the "I'm not grey!" illusion, not so much with fun colors.
posted by jessamyn at 12:40 PM on August 26, 2005


You could always try a semi-permanent dye (no peroxide) to see if you like the results. If you don't, then the color will wash out gradually instead of having to grow out.
posted by luneray at 12:50 PM on August 26, 2005


I think grey hair is WAY sexy...love the salt and pepper look or the all salt look. Personally (I'm female), when I start going grey, I'm going to want to go grey all over. Do it up! Have a head full of silver threads!

That said, I think that a good haircut and skin tone/type can also help to make grey "work" for you.

Also agree on what others have said:

-Try letting a professional do it at least once. Or have someone experienced in "at home hair coloring" give you a hand the first time IF you decide to color.
-No comb overs! No comb overs!
-Deal breaker? Will totally depend upon the individual woman and how strongly she feels about this issue.
-Please go grey once your hair color makes your real hair LOOK like a toupee/wig. (See Joe Pesci in "My Cousin Vinny". Or compare Olympia Dukakis grey versus dyed blonde. Go back to grey Olympia!)
posted by jeanmari at 1:15 PM on August 26, 2005


My temples are starting to grey and I look hotter than ever.
posted by dobbs at 1:29 PM on August 26, 2005


Um - dye. Dye dye dye dye dye.
Why are we so concerned with "authenticity" - even when it comes down to hair color? We construct our personalities, our life-habits, our dietary choices, our decisions whether to sculpt our bodies through diet or non-diet, why not construct our hair color too?

Older men should dye their hair, and they should go gray too. Really, you should decide how to construct your hair color - color, bleach, or force the gray - but you should make a definitive decision based on preference, not just on "natural" or "realism."
posted by itchi23 at 1:49 PM on August 26, 2005


A good enough dye job shouldn't be obvious to a casual observer. When it's obvious (poorly done), that's a turnoff. Otherwise, I'd have no problem.

I think most people suggesting the professionals are doing so because it's easy for a novice to do a terrible job. Many of the women successfully dying from a box do well now because you didn't know them when they went through the first three disasters.

Greying hair looks different on other people. My mother's hair was lovely at 25% silver, and at 100% silver, but at the 50% stage it just looked kind of odd. My (paternal) grandmother only started coloring hers when the brown went grey and the red didn't and she developed pink hair!
posted by Karmakaze at 1:49 PM on August 26, 2005


If you do decide to dye, err on the side of slightly too light. Anyone I've ever seen with a bad dye job has been trying to preserve a darker color that their skin color/tone can no longer really justify.
posted by gnomeloaf at 2:27 PM on August 26, 2005


I think a lot of it is down to skin tone. Gfrobe has it right - McCartney looks much better grey.

Here's a man who can afford the best stylist on the planet - yet he's still sporting that shoe polish head. To my eye, men with naturally dark hair (especially with lighter toned skin) just look better going gray naturally, or if that feels too aging, go with a fun color.

Full disclosure: My ex had a very unfortunate dye job (much too dark, waited too long between touchups) so I admit to some bias here.
posted by Space Kitty at 2:37 PM on August 26, 2005


I have only occasionally given in to my continual temptation to correct spelling errors on MeFi, but I have to do this here:

For god's sake, please spell it "dyeing". The word "dying" means ceasing to live.
posted by matildaben at 3:55 PM on August 26, 2005


I agree with the "if you're gonna do it, do it well" school. Nothing wrong with grey if it suits you AND you like it yourself, but there's also nothing wrong with dyeing if you prefer not to go grey just yet. Getting a professional job done at least the first time is a good idea, and I also agree that you should use a high-quality "women's" product, since the products marketed at women tend to have a wider range of colours (so you can match your own better), produce a more natural-looking colour, and are often better for your hair as well (or at least they include more conditioners, so your hair doesn't fry as much).
posted by biscotti at 6:33 PM on August 26, 2005


Are the men's dye-in-a-box products that much worse than the ones for women or something?

Yes, because the men's home dye's are one-step processes. Most of them don't even contain peroxide. It's like pouring shoe polish on your head. Because, supposedly, men can't be bothered with the time and inconvience (mixing, the smell, the bother) of doing a home dye job the "right" way. It's really kind of insulting, when you think about it. But the home dyes for men are definitely marketed towards saving time.


When I dye I choose a color that is not far from my natural dishwater blonde and I choose dye marketed for women. I keep my hair pretty short and it is not uncommon for a few of the grays to reappear. I currently sport Clairol Nice-n-Easy 103b.
posted by geekyguy at 7:13 PM on August 26, 2005


One of the prettiest women I know went gray in (probably, I don't know her that well) her late 30s, and her long gray hair is very striking, even stunning.

I'm about 30-40% salt, 60-70% pepper, and I'll probably just let nature take its course. It's just a bunch of dead skin on top of your head; how seriously can you take it?
posted by kirkaracha at 10:51 PM on August 26, 2005


For men ..... the salt and pepper look is fine... IMO I think men look more distinguished as they get older.

For women depends on the look she wants to achieve as to whether or not dying is ok or ick.
posted by Chimp at 11:35 PM on August 26, 2005


I've known a few men who were grey before their time, and it was sexy-sort of the older man appeal without the actual older man. If you get it professionally done, try an Aveda salon-definitley worth the money.
posted by slimslowslider at 12:39 AM on August 27, 2005


for me. dealbreaker. grey on men looks great. i'd feel uncomfortable with someone who colors his hair to cover up grey (I have a few greys too).

something i haven't seem mentioned. dyeing is icky. the stuff smells and once you start you can't stop because of the unattractive old-new color hairline that keeps cropping up. so please think twice about it!
posted by mirileh at 6:45 AM on August 27, 2005


Not a dealbreaker either way. It's your head, whatever makes you happy.

If you do dye it, and then let it grow out, you don't really have to walk around with visible roots. You can switch to a rinse product, they wash out gradually, maybe rinse with a lighter shade as it works it's way out. Then quit when the grey all grows out and just sort of let it wash out over time. Someone who sees you all the time may notice something is going on, but it won't be a stark change, and it's not nearly as noticeable.
posted by unrepentanthippie at 9:37 AM on August 27, 2005


You could always try a semi-permanent dye (no peroxide) to see if you like the results. If you don't, then the color will wash out gradually instead of having to grow out.

Don't assume semi-permanent colour will just wash out. Whenever I used it I always had a demarcation line when it grew out. I'm told this means my hair is porous. Yours may be too. Of course with your average man's hair cut your hair will grow out again in three months, so this may not matter to you.

This is really a question everyone has to decide for themselves. Some people really do look fabulous gray. With others, it's terribly aging and unflattering and depressing. If you're one of those guys who can never figure out what looks right on you, ask your partner or a friend with good taste. Beware the advice of those with vested interests in your gray (other than those with whom you might get laid);-) My mother used to think dyeing hair "wasn't nice" - until I started going gray in my mid-teens. She then switched camps because it made HER feel old to have a gray-haired kid.

If you are going to dye, do it properly. No, you don't have to pay someone $150 to do it. Get a friend who dyes her hair to help you the first time or two, and then you'll learn to go solo. I do my own with a $5 box from the discount store, and sometimes people I've known for years are very surprised to hear me casually mention that I cover my gray.

As other people have said, stay close to your own natural shade. I find also that shades are labelled as being lighter than I would have thought, i.e., ash blond is what I would think of as brown, medium auburn is quite dark. So if in doubt, pick the shade that sounds lighter than what you think you need.
posted by orange swan at 7:30 PM on August 28, 2005


Coming in late:

Regarding highlights: definitely not if covering grayness is your goal. You're better off going for the distinguished salt-and-pepper look.

Highlights work well if you're making up for thinning hair or minor balding, though. When tastefully done by a competent stylist, highlights have the effect of making your hair appear thicker than it may be. My hair began thinning out when I was 18 or so and I've used highlights for the past couple of years to offset the receding hair, and the effect was very positive.
posted by the_bone at 12:30 AM on September 5, 2005


…late to the party, but i see it's still rocking in here:

I find it astoundingly one-dimensional that no one here has yet mentioned the importance of complexion, how it affects the counterbalance of your hair color, and the need to monitor your hair color to your skin’s changing pigment.

So I think many woman understand this very simple concept and therefore wouldn’t find it weird if you continue to maintain your natural color until you are a senior.

Really, it’s not a question of deciding just when to dye it to the original color or to let it go naturally gray…It’s really more of a decision to understand when exactly the original hair color no longer looks natural as your tones change.

As you get older, your skin loses its dominant complexion, and your hue can shift greatly. My own mother had a lightly olive complexion with very dark brown hair when she was young. As she got older, her complexion grew pinker…and by her 60s, she was peachy. With her peachy complexion, dark hair looked so severe and unnatural against her skin, so she had no choice but to go light blond, and it looks great.

If you want to retain the black, do as you please. But it probably won’t look very effective or congruent in 20+ years from now. But by then, they’ll probably figure out a way to like, graft an entire new head onto your neck, so this question probably won't even be valid by the time you go completely gray.

Regardless, I find gray on maturing, middle-aged guys très hawt, and shows confidence, assurance, and a sense of retaining an old-school decorum. However, gray hair on an old guy just isn’t very hawt, because really old men just aren’t terribly sexy...unless you have a fetish for that kind of sick stuff ;p
posted by naxosaxur at 2:12 AM on September 5, 2005


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