Isn’t it a shame I felt I had to “prepare myself” to grow out my silver hair? The fact is, I felt I had to prepare my ego for what I knew would surely be an onslaught of criticism, judgment, and ageism. OUCH. Silver or gray hair is “old.” It’s “granny hair.” It’s “prepare-for-old-age” hair.
Not for this gal.
Silver hair is smashing. I don’t care if you wear it short or down to your butt. It’s what works for you. I am now quite confident about what works for me.
The reason I decided to grow the silver out was simple but oh-so-complex in the long run. The issue was that I was traveling in Europe and the Mediterranean for several months with no real way to dye my roots.
Before I get ahead of myself, here’s a little backstory. I am told I was born with jet black hair. As I got a little older, it turned platinum blonde. I’ve seen pictures of myself at about age three or four with gorgeous, waist-length, platinum blond, wavy hair.
At one point, my mother was advised to cut my hair short because it was so heavy it started to fall out at the hairline. She cut it off into a little bob. It stayed lighter blond until I was in my mid-teens. Then I noticed it turning into what today is called ‘medium blond’ (or what was then called ‘dirty blond’).
Every summer my family would drive from New York to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina for a week of vacation. It was a tradition throughout my youth. The summer I was 16 or 17, I decided I didn’t want the dirty blond hair anymore. I used Sun-In spray and returned to high school the next September with beautiful, buttery, blond hair. It’s surprising that any time and every time I used Sun-In, my hair was a gorgeous color. Luckily, It didn’t turn the orangey shade that most people got when they used it. (Sorry, Sun-In.) Once I hit college, I let it return to a more ash blond.
It wasn’t until my early 20s, when I was hired as a waterskier for Sea World, that I started playing with my hair color again. After graduation, I visited my college with very tan skin and platinum blond hair down to my waist. My acting teacher didn’t recognize me.
From then on as a performer, my hair was pretty much every color of the rainbow: red, strawberry blond, black, golden, platinum, with occasional highlights of blue, pink, or purple. (Yes, back then!) When I wasn’t performing, I went back to my comfortable light blond color.
I can’t count the number of hairdressers I’ve had in my life and the number times I’ve had my hair colored or colored it myself. I’ve used nearly every brand of hair color from the drugstore, too. I’ve spent from $5 to $265 each time to color my hair.
2017 was a banner year for my ego and my hair. From the age of about 35, I noticed that I had some “hidden” strands of silver at the crown. I had begun to put highlights and lowlights in my hair instead of coloring all of it. Doing that over and over again was incredibly damaging.
All this leads back to my plans for an extended trip to Europe and the Mediterranean. While I was traveling for two months, I didn’t want to experiment with overseas color or hairdressers. As the silver grew out during my travels, it had a definite shimmer. Silver blends in nicely with light blond. The “salt” was mostly in the front of my hair and the “pepper” was in the back. I didn’t try to cover it. I just let it do what it was going to do.
When I returned home, I said to my husband, “I think I want to grow out my silver hair.” He told me to do whatever I wanted to do and just see how I liked it. No resistance, no complaints, no judgment. Was I seeking approval? In a way, I suppose I was—all the while thinking, This is MY hair. I need to do what I want to do with it. Why do I feel I need permission? I imagine a lot of psychoanalysis has gone into deciding to “go silver.”
To speed up the process, instead of cutting all of my hair off, I went to a hairdresser, and she used a product called Pravana Chromasilks Silver. She applied it all over my light blond hair. I sat with it on my hair for about an hour. What emerged was a dark silver/gray/purple hue. It was a bit of a shock, but I like pushing the envelope sometimes. She assured me the purple would fade after a few shampoos. She was right.
At first, it took a bit to get used to the more steel-colored or dark silver hair. Later, it adjusted to a lighter silver that was more noticeable in the sunlight. My son was quick to say he liked it. It made it easier to have the support of my son and my husband.
Interestingly enough, the people who did not support me were several women my age. (That’s putting it mildly. Two women flat out hair-shamed me.) I get it; we are mirrors to one another. A woman who hates her silver hair, or has an opinion of who she is with it, may be judgmental of others. It’s hard seeing yourself reflected in someone else.
I was told I was being “brave.” (No, “brave” is running into a burning building to save people—not deciding to take better care of your hair and simply letting Mother Nature do her thing.)
The first critique was that, when I had blond hair, I was a “goddess”—and now, with GRAY hair, I was “meh.” The second critique was that I not only didn’t look as good with silver hair but that the cute, somewhat shorter, messy, curly bob wasn’t age-appropriate. According to this person, as we move forward in life, we need hair that’s more styled, not unkempt.
My hair has always been wavy or curly and “messy.” It’s me, it’s my natural style, and I’m not going to change it for something more coiffed. As for women who love wearing a more styled cut and look wonderful in it, more power to them. It’s just not me. In fact, that hairstyle on me is more aging.
Suffice it to say, almost everyone else I know was very supportive of my “lifestyle change.” I grew out my silver hair. I didn’t think it would be akin to an act of Congress. (Or Parliament, since I’m Canadian-American.)
For a while, I was more self-conscious about it. I felt I was being called “ma’am” more often. Looking back, I’m not sure that was the case. I moved to Florida, where “ma’am” is commonly said to any woman over the age of 35. Perhaps I was being too sensitive.
Initially, I grew my hair out very long, but I noticed ash blond hair was still at the back of my head. So I decided, since that color was still in my hair, why not color my entire head ash blond, which coordinates with silver? Maybe I wasn’t completely ready for silver hair.
What the hell was I thinking? I’m still recovering from that gaffe. The hairdresser dyed it a lovely shade of CARAMEL BROWN. Not ash blond. Caramel brown. You know that feeling when the color is too dark or that last snip is too short. The color didn’t look bad at all, but it was a far cry from ash blond or silver. I did my best to embrace it, but in one week—you heard me correctly, ONE WEEK—the silver was peeking out. Luckily my hair grows fast. Nonetheless, I realized I had made a gargantuan mistake.
Friends and family were supportive, but both my husband and my son were frank with me. “We like your silver hair better.” What it took to strip out the caramel brown, and color it as light as possible, I would never wish on anyone. The hairdresser said she used the most gentle products to strip my hair and redeposit color. In the grand scheme of things, I’m sure she was correct. But my hair was miserable and fried.
Again, Pravana Color Silks in silver came to my rescue. I slathered it all over my new $260 dye correction job and let it go to work depositing beautiful steely silver and light silver strands over the platinum. Finally, I succumbed to the big chop. I cut my hair into a messy, chin-length bob and called that a that.
Today, my messy bob is a sparkly salt and pepper. I love it. I’m so much happier with it. The maintenance is minuscule. I wash my hair with a non-sulfate shampoo, use conditioner, a little product, and VOILÁ, I feel more like my authentic self. I’m a walking, talking, living, breathing example of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
Will I keep my shorter bob or will I grow it out? Only time will tell. BUT I’m not messing with the color ever again, except to tone it if the silver gets brassy.
What is my retort if someone tries to hair-shame me or criticize my hair?
With a smile I say… “Well, it’s my hair and I love it!”