For years I wasn’t sure how to grow out gray hair. That is, I didn’t know how I could transition to gray hair without looking ridiculous.
As it was I was getting my hair colored every six to eight weeks. This timeline allowed me to avoid gray hair peeking out where I parted my hair.
I hated this frequency. Plus, it was expensive.
My decision to grow out my gray
So one day I decided, that’s it, I’m growing out my gray hair. Then, I asked my hair stylist how I could do this as naturally as possibly.
Here’s what she suggested: giving me blonde highlights that matched up, as best as she could, with the patches of gray that were peeking through. That way, as I stopped coloring my hair and let the gray show more, the transition would seem, well, seamless.
Blonde highlights helped the transition
This made sense to me, because I’d been blonde for many years. In fact, as a child I was a natural blonde.
This picture at my younger daughter’s college graduation shows me, in sunglasses on the left, after getting my blonde highlights. You can just barely see the gray in my part line.
This was in June 2019. I was 54 years old.
I had no way of knowing that nine months later the world would shut down and no one would be able to go get their hair colored in a salon for months. It was almost like my decision to grow out my gray hair was prescient.
Another woman who decided to grow out her gray hair
My friend Michelle was also somewhat prescient as she decided to become her “authentic self,” at age 61, and stop coloring her hair. Like me Michelle, who lives in Portland, Oregon, was coloring it frequently and that was adding up–literally in spending.
“I was getting tired of coloring it, and it was expensive,” she recalls. “I paid around $180-$200 for a cut, color, highlights if I got them, tip, and parking per cut and went about every two months.”
Frequent haircuts helped
Unlike my decision to get highlights, Michelle helped herself go fully gray by getting more frequent haircuts. In about a year’s time she was 100% naturally gray.
Recently, she cut her hair short and noticed how many different shades of gray she actually has.
“My gray hair isn’t one color, it’s about 35 colors,” she says. “People have even asked me if I get it done that way.”
“I also discovered that I have a thick streak of brown hair just above the center of my forehead, just like my paternal grandmother,” she continues. “If I’d never stopped coloring my hair, I would never have known that we share that trait, and it makes me feel connected to her.”
Here is what Michelle looks like now with her short, chic gray hair.
Not all gray hair is the same color
I have different colors in my gray hair, too. But not from genetics.
As I mentioned in this article about gray hair turning different colors, my ends have become brassy due to sun exposure and hard water. I’m trying color-balancing shampoos to get my hair back to its natural gray and brown. If that doesn’t work, I may have my stylist apply a toner the next time I see her.
Now that I’ve shared how Michelle and I both decided to grow out gray hair, let me offer you some succinct tips on how you can do it, too.
How to grow out gray hair that is colored
One of the best ways to grow out gray hair that you’d previously colored is to try what I did. That is, transition to gray, seamlessly and gracefully, by adding light highlights. That way as the gray grows out, it will blend in with the lighter color of the highlights.
Alternatively, if you have more gray than highlights will cover, you could consider dyeing your hair a very light blonde. You’ll achieve the same effect as highlights but with more coverage.
Finally, you could ask your hairstylist to dye your hair gray. However, this would likely require multiple steps of stripping out your color and then applying a gray dye. So, I’m not sure if you have the time, patience or budget to do this.
Frequent haircuts help grow out colored hair to gray
You can take a page from Michelle’s book and get a haircut every few months to chop off the non-gray sooner. According to Katie Emery, founder of the Katie Goes Platinum, a gray hair blog, cutting your hair is a great way to get to gray sooner–if it makes sense for you.
“If you like yourself with short hair, it can be a great, fast way to go gray,” she says. “You could probably be fully gray with a pixie cut in three to six months.” Emery, herself, has always had at least shoulder-length hair, so it took her two-and-a-half years to grow out her gray.
This image from Katie’s Instagram page shows the different stages of her growing out her gray hair.
Keep in mind that you’ll likely have healthier hair in the end
You don’t realize how much damage you do to your hair by coloring it constantly. Even salon-grade colors could damage your hair over time. Emery said that as she got older and was coloring her hair to its once natural brunette stage, it was thinning, too.
“I thought I’d be bald by 70,” she recalls. “But once I ditched the dye, my hair started coming in thick again, and it’s insane how shiny and glossy it is now.”
Do you have a story to share of growing out your gray hair? If so, post a comment. I’d love to hear from you.