Would You Stop Coloring Your Hair?
My hair started turning gray when I was a teenager. At first, it was just a weird little wiry white hair here and there. Then, a few longer strands. But it wasn't until I was 21, living on my own in the big city, that I noticed that I was really, really going gray. It wasn't a big deal — I was young and favored home coloring kits. I went from black to blonde to brown and over to red. It was fun.
As I got older, I started caring a bit more about the kinds of chemicals that I was putting on my hair and skin, so I decided to grow my gray out for a while. With shortly cropped hair, this didn't take long, and before long, I was able to march into the hairdresser and have the remaining colored ends trimmed away, revealing my now natural gray and light brown tresses. What should have been a fairly liberating moment was dampened only by the fact that I suddenly looked, after a few snips of hair had fallen away, about 15 years older than I actually was.
My face was suddenly washed out. Crow's feet that I had never noticed waved happily from the corners of my eyes. My cheeks, normally rosy and flushed, suddenly looked wan and sallow. Not only was I gray, I was unevenly gray. My dreams of having great streaks of white and gray strands across the top of a chic hairdo were crushed when I realized that I had inherited my father's hair color: white and gray in a big band that stretched from temple to temple along the back of my head, in a definite mimicry of what I would look like with male pattern baldness. To make matters worse, I only had some gray (mixed with a pale, mousy brown) on the top. I was no Helen Mirren, that's for damn sure.
I gulped, smiled bravely at my stylist, who was gazing worriedly at me in the mirror, and then ran home to dye my hair back to a flattering shade of chestnut. That was about three years ago.
Recently, I decided to give it a second try. Gray hair is tricky — it does age one's face. Men seem to get away with gray hair more readily than women. Jon Stewart, Keith Olbermann, and Anderson Cooper are just some examples of men I see in the media who wear gray hair very well. It's harder for women to get away with, partly because the popular media considers us largely past our prime by the time we hit 35, whereas men are still considered foxy and desirable well into their 50s (or... well, however Paul Newman was.... rrrrowr).
But even without cultural idiosyncrasies dancing around in our heads, there are certain indicators of youth that, when removed, are shocking. (Check out this doctored photo of what Condoleezza Ricewould look like with gray hair.) Other odd things that make or break one's youthful look? Longer canine teeth and full lips. Who knew, right?
Anyway, this time I am sticking with the gray, both for the sake of saving $75 every three weeks, and also to be free from the tyranny of having to constantly alter so much of my appearance to suit society's needs. I already shave my legs and wear makeup and style my hair and wear deodorant and all other kinds of things to make myself societally acceptable (you're welcome). In a way, I feel like I'm giving myself a break.
I won't say that I'm 100% comfortable with my hair right now. When I wear my tan trench coat, I am convinced that I look like Colombo. Whenever I put on reading glasses, I truly feel like I am channeling my inner, elderly librarian (not that librarians don't rock — they do). At 31, I sometimes feel like I should be wearing bold, daring colors and multiple nose rings, but the truth is, I'm too lazy to maintain an eccentric personal style. I wear black not because I am chic, but because I spill coffee down the front of my shirt every single morning. So allowing my body to do the things that it seems ready to do is a natural choice. And easy choice. A really, really lazy choice.
And I'm happy with lazy.
Below are some beauty tips I've compiled from a variety of other online articles about how to decorate your face once you let your grays grow out. These actually do make a bit of a difference in countering the slightly aging effect of my hair.
- If you have fair skin, you may need to consider a slightly darker foundation. Just a smidge darker, nothing too orangey.
- You will need more blush. Period. Highlight those cheekbones and don't be afraid of those slightly iridescent highlighting creams that are meant to make you look all dewy and youthful.
- Don't fake tan or apply bronzer. Unless you have an olive complexion or very warm tones in your non-grey hair, brown and tan tones look oddly muddy against white or gray hair.
- Some people will tell you that you can no longer where bright shades of eye shadow or lipstick. This is certainly true for me, but there's no reason why you can't experiment a bit.
- Try colors that never looked good on you. I could never wear blue mascara before I went gray. Now, it actually looks really good, and not at all like a throwback to the 1980s. I used to favor burgundy eye shadows, but now they make me look a bit like a vampire, so I've toned them down to warm mauves and lots of soft pinks, which make me look all glowing and lovely.
- Devote effort to your eyebrows. They now work to frame your face more than ever. Keep them professionally manicured (this, fortunately, doesn't cost more than $15-20).
- Gray hair can be coarse and brittle. Condition it like mad, and rinse it well.