I am among the first wave of baby boomers. I found my first gray hair when I was 16, which, at the time, struck me as hilarious.
I told my mother: “I’m 16 and I’m going gray!” Whenever I saw a gray hair, I would pull it out until my mother cautioned me that I’d soon be bald if I kept going.
I always knew that dyeing my hair would never be an option because it grows so quickly that I’d have to touch up the roots every week.
Gray hair never bothered me. Wrinkles bother me, but not my natural hair. Perhaps it’s because I’m naturally contrary and I like standing out from the crowd.
Almost everyone dyes their hair, but I am addressing this to women who might be thinking that Mother Nature knows what she’s doing by giving us gray hair and that dye is really bad for the hair.
First of all, I don’t think an older woman really looks younger by dyeing her hair—she just looks like an older woman who dyes her hair. I believe that Mother Nature gives us gray as we age because it’s softer and more attractive.
Dye is not good for the hair. You’re using harsh chemicals to change the color. Would you use harsh chemicals on your skin? Of course, not. Have you ever stopped to think why there are so many products on the market for damaged hair? Have you ever taken a really good look at your hair, it’s texture, and condition? The harsh chemicals probably make it look more like straw than hair.
The one big problem with gray hair is you have to “dress up to it.” Fortunately, for me (and this is going to sound terrible) this is not a problem. If you put on weight you’re going to look matronly, and that’s not the look we’re aiming for. You have to put a lot of care and thought into your appearance.
Gray hair can be very chic. The late editor of Harper’s Bazaar had gray hair. And Carmen, the supermodel, is in her 70s and still going strong. She’s never dyed her hair.
I wear mine very short, pixie style, and it’s become my trademark. Because it’s never been dyed or permed, it’s virgin and very healthy. I wash it in the shower, towel dry, and just run my wet fingers through it to style it.
I know that some hairdressers recommend keeping the hair longer as you age, but not if it’s gray. I believe that gray hair must be kept short, it must always be groomed and chic. And you must find a really good hairdresser. My hairdresser client, Federico, does mine and I love it (and so does everyone else).
So when your hair starts going gray, take a chance and stay your hand as it reaches for the dye bottle. See what happens. You might just love it.
Miriam Silverberg is a freelance journalist and owner of Miriam Silverberg Associates, a boutique publicity firm in Manhattan. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org