Fifty Shades of Grey…Hair

When I first heard of Fifty Shades of Grey, I thought it was about hair. Fifty shades of grey hair. Fifty shades of grey hair as we transition from being a young adult to an elder. A shade for every year.

I wonder what a shade of grey looks like? What do 6 shades look like? What about 19? 31? 46?

In the past few years the topic of grey hair is often woven into conversations with girlfriends as we notice our many shades of grey growing in. We talk about noticing women who have grey hair, grey hair we admire, the elements of grey hair we admire, and how many middle-aged and older women don’t show their grey hair. Actually it seems like a lot of middle-aged and older women hide their grey hair. That’s including me.

As we talked about this transition towards grey hair we realized that it’s not talked about; it’s a hidden topic like the grey hair itself, like menopause used to be. As if middle-aged women don’t have grey hair, aren’t greying, aren’t growing older. Acts of concealing and revealing age(ing).

I remember my first grey hair. It was a milestone, a moment that marked the beginning of aging for me in a very real way. It was sometime around my 30th birthday, far away from becoming an elder but a biological step towards it. I dealt with it by yanking it out. Then it was two and then it was too many to count. A few years ago I decided to cover it with dye. Covering and concealing the in-between stage with dye. Dyeing the middle years until I’m an elder, and even then.  Encouraging me to dye until I die.

Is covering our grey hairs a symbolic act, a psychological way to slow down or stop our life stage transition from youth to middle-age, or middle-age to elder?

Hair product companies and advertisers hire models and celebrities to encourage dyeing, covering, and concealing grey hair. Concealing our grey hair is more than just hair though, isn’t it really about concealing our age and concealing our authentic selves?

What messages do these hair product companies and advertisers send? That if we have grey hair, we won’t look sexy, be sexy, feel sexy, be attractive, feel attractive, be admired, be beautiful, be sexual, be happy, be successful, etc. Isn’t this ageism?

Actually it’s a very personal question: What makes you feel attractive, beautiful, desirable and sexual, without any outside influence(rs)?

Turns out that fifty shades of grey hair is also about sex and challenging the myths of sexuality as we age.

I’ve been looking around for middle aged women who are authentic, open and transparent about their age and aging, allowing their grey hair to show. It takes courage to be authentic and transparent about oneself at any age, and especially if there are potential career, financial, or relationship consequences.

Here is my wish list for those of us who have or will have grey hair:

I wish hair and beauty product companies would create shampoos and conditioners that help us nourish and care for our beautiful grey hair.

I wish hair salons would offer more options for classy, funky and stunning haircuts for women with grey hair.

I wish hair product companies and hair salons would help us reveal our grey hair instead of conceal it, especially as it grows in.

I wish hair stylists, hair colour technicians, and make-up artists would be comfortable revealing their own grey hair.

I wish hair-care and beauty industry would spend money and research helping us age healthfully and positively with our grey hair.

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8 Responses to Fifty Shades of Grey…Hair

  1. dharmaquinn says:

    Dear Ruth, Thank you for the great thoughts! I am one of those women who insisted on keeping the grey throughout young adulthood and beyond, even as the grey arrived at the temples and top of the forehead. I was persuaded into all-over color for several years, and found that it just was not my style to color…. I also encountered hairdressers who did not follow my direction when I said not to cover the grey when weaving highlights. Deciding to grow out for good was easy. I began with dark color being woven into the hair, to lessen the obvious growth line of grey. After slowly reducing the lowlight treatments, I no longer have any color treatments. I have found shampoo to occasionally clear the mineral deposits and revive the shimmering silver color, and use oils to ramp up the moisture. Now in my mid 50’s, I receive lots of compliments about my hair, even though most of the color is still brown/auburn.

    The cut is very much more important for me, as un-color-treated hair behaves differently and requires more attention. I agree totally with you on that!

    “I am what I am, and that’s all that I am!”… isn’t that what Popeye said?

  2. Pat says:

    Hi, Ruth
    In retrospect, it boils down to cold cash with my old hairdresser. I had to learn that the hard way. To her mind, not colouring meant that my visits would generate less income for her “chair”. Even though I wanted to work with her on the growth period with an open mind on products, she wouldn’t even allow me a word in “edgeways”. Intimidation tactics don’t work well with everybody!

  3. Ruth Tamari says:

    Love your comments Lisa! Absolutely, I agree. It is another hair colour that is beautiful too!

  4. Ruth Tamari says:

    Hi Katherine,
    Love to hear how your mom made her decision to let her hair be and that you found it beautiful. I’ve heard that red hair turns a gorgeous shade of white. And sounds like you yourself have a wild head of hair! Fun!
    You’ve reminded me that when I worked in a geriatric health setting, I often asked people what colour their hair had been when they were in their 20’s and 30’s and it was fascinating to find that out especially if they were bald(ing), dyeing their hair or their hair was completely grey or white. Our hair is often connected with how we see ourselves and how others see us. Thanks for stopping by!

  5. Ruth Tamari says:

    Thanks for sharing your excellent growing-out-gray-hair story Pat! Curious how it brought up such a strong reaction from
    your professional hairdresser and you clearly knew what you wanted to do. Love it!

  6. Lisa says:

    I think that “grey” hair doesn’t need to be hidden. Hopefully, with grey hair comes “wisdom”, which should be celebrated. Gray hair should be recognized as just another hair colour that can be beautiful too.

  7. Katherine says:

    A lovely, thoughtful piece! My Mom had red hair (which embarrassed me as a child, but that’s another story!) and when her hair began to turn white her hair dresser suggested dying it, which she did for some time. But it never looked natural and eventually she decided to let it be – and it was lovely – golden and white with hints of red. And eventually fully white. At 63 my hair is many shades, white, blonde, red, brown and overall a little crazy. So far I’m loving it and can’t imagine a time I’ll change my mind. It reminds me that I’m my mother’s daughter and that’s pretty sweet.

  8. Pat Shaunessy says:

    Last year for my birthday, I gave myself the gift of growing out my gray hair. To find out what I was REALLY like under all that dye…just me. When I advised my hairdresser of my decision I encountered a great deal of hostility from her, the force of which totally surprised and hurt me. After recovering from my shock, I fired her. Because nobody deserves such treatment; especially as a paying client. The growth period is taking a while, but people I do respect have told me it has softened and lightened my face. The long and short of it is: I don’t mind it at all!
    A good start to the best time of my life.

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