Color Vs Going Gray: What’s Your Approach?

woman getting her hair washed in a salon sink by another woman

Are you coloring your hair — or going gray? I found my first gray hairs at age 26 (thanks, bar exam!) but honestly haven’t thought much about it until the past few years. There’s no right answer for how to handle it, so I thought we’d do a “this or that” style post with input from me, Elizabeth, and Kate.

How are you handling your grays? Do you have any tips on coloring, DIYing, frizz, cuts, or more? (Have the events of the past year or two changed your approach and mindset?) Do tell…

A few resources I know of if you’re interested in going gray (for inspiration and support): Grombre (website) and the hashtag #silversisters, which will take you to a wealth of Instagram accounts.

{related: how to go gray intentionally}

Kat’s Approach: Go Gray (For Now, at Least)

I remember being slightly judgy about my mom, who never wore makeup and never dyed her hair, but at this point in my life, I’m on the same page for hair, at least: I’m just not interested in having regular color appointments, and I feel like DIYing it would be a recipe for disaster. I DO keep a little Pinterest board of “white streaks” because I absolutely LOVE that look and think it’s edgy but also age-appropriate. (Queen Letizia, as always, is #goals.) But unfortunately it seems like for most women, the white streak is natural (i.e., your natural hair is totally white) and then the hair around it is dyed — so I think it’s even more upkeep than just dying your hair.

The biggest thing that has bugged me about gray hairs in the past has been how frizzy they are, but at the moment I feel like my hair is doing OK on frizziness — I’ve been following the Curly Girl Method since November or so (including heated hair masks; see our Coffee Break later today!) — and my hair and frizz seems to be reacting well… thus far. I also stopped plucking my gray hairs several years ago, I think on advice from readers here — after all, if you pluck the hair and it grows back, you end up with wispy baby hairs that stick up and create frizz. (And they’re still gray.)

A few years ago when I had a few keratin treatments, I felt like they helped the frizzies — but because the rest of my hair was so smooth I also felt like they stood out more. I’m not doing keratin at the moment, both because I’m lazy and because I’m doing the CGM, but readers, if you’re getting keratin treatments, I’d love to hear how you think it affects your grays.

I’m still probably only about 10-15% gray at this point, but because the rest of my hair is so dark you notice it.

{related: corporate women and gray hair (guest post)}

Elizabeth: Demi-Permanent Color

Somehow, I’ve beaten the genetic odds and made it to my late 30s with only a handful of gray hairs. (Both of my siblings are very much in the “salt and pepper” stage of graying now.) I spent dozens of hours and thousands of dollars getting caramel highlights in my medium-brown hair when I was in my twenties, and I just don’t see myself committing that amount of time and energy into my hair color anytime soon.

Now, when the grays are looking particularly noticeable, my hairstylist applies a single-process, demi-permanent color. The demi-permanent color is perfect because it covers the gray but fades out after 4–6 weeks, so you’re not left with dramatic roots. It works for me for now, although I expect that when the grays become more prominent, I’ll start taking more drastic steps. All the women in my family have been coloring their hair for decades, so it’s just never really occurred to me to do anything different! Perhaps I’ll feel differently when it becomes a more substantial commitment.

Kate: Going Gray (For Now)

I’m in my early 40s but am lucky enough to only have a few grays here and there. I’ve left them alone … for now. Once I start getting more, they’ll be pretty obvious, because my hair is a medium brown. I have no idea what I’ll do about it, though — say “F*** it” or do something to hide the gray… My husband, who’s a year older, started going gray pretty early and now has a nice “salt and pepper” thing going on — but to me it looks just as good as when his hair was still all black. I’m not exactly to eager to “age gracefully” in general, so we shall see…

Readers, where are you in the “color vs. going gray” debate? What are your best tips, no matter what you’re doing?

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