‘Own your grey hair and be powerful’: women on no longer dyeing their hair | Women’s hair

Women

‘It reminds me of the warrior woman I am’

I had an epiphany one day. I couldn’t stand the demarcation line. My hair had been so damaged from all the processing. Covid had everything shut down. It was time. I didn’t feel it was necessary to hide behind hair dye any more. I took the shears to my own hair and mowed it all off. The second picture is two and a half months of new, fresh, regrowth.

I am now living my true self. I feel liberated, free, and released. I am loving the change, the colour, and all the silver – it reminds me of the warrior woman I am. It is by far, the most empowering and wonderful thing I have ever done for myself. Society places enough pressure on women to act, look, dress, and speak a certain way. In the last year, following Covid-19, I personally feel there have been enough restrictions placed on our lives. Own your grey hair and be powerful. Lisa Sparrow, 57, respiratory therapist, used to live in Northamptonshire but now lives in the US

‘I feel emancipated’

Photograph: Fozia

I was born with a couple of white hairs and had grey streaks in my 20s. I then started dyeing it in my early 30s. I’ve been thinking about stopping dyeing my hair for a couple of years now so when the second lockdown happened, it was a good excuse to stop. I also had a plan to stop on my 50th birthday.

I turned 50 in March, but my last dye was just before Christmas. Seeing white roots a week after a dye was tiring – I was dyeing them every five to six weeks. Since stopping, I’m excited to see all my dyed hair grow out. I feel emancipated. I have noticed my hair feels softer and better for not putting it through the dyeing process. It’s funny when people see it and don’t mention anything. Unless I bring it up, it’s like the elephant in the room, a big grey one! Fozia, 50, works in the family printing business, Cornwall

‘There’s an expectation for hairdressers to look a certain way and I wanted to break the grey hair stigma’

Sarah Orr before and after
Photograph: Sarah Orr

I’d been toying with growing the colour out before the first lockdown and did 13 weeks without colour. However, seeing as I was standing for council I felt I needed to colour my hair because my face was going on flyers and landing on people’s doormats. Then we went back to work. I had my hair done prior to going back and after that I thought: “Do I really want this?”

A few of my clients had taken the plunge of no longer dyeing their hair, so I thought sod it, I’m going to do it too. There’s an expectation for hairdressers to look a certain way and I wanted to break the grey hair stigma. I absolutely love how it looks. I’m no longer a slave to that horrible white stripe that appears every three weeks. I also think if I can grow out my colour as a hairdresser then it gives my clients hope and confidence to grow theirs out too. Sarah Orr, 44, hairdresser and town councillor, Cirencester

‘It’s no longer embarrassing to be grey at 31’

Heather before and after
Photograph: Heather

At my age I have always been embarrassed to have grey hair. I started going grey at 17 and now at the age of 31 it’s grey all over, and if I had roots coming through I’d feel so insecure. Then one day I thought, I’m going to make the choice to not dye my hair – I’ll save money and I’ll save time.

I’m four months into the grow out process and I love it. Because it was my ‘choice’ it’s suddenly no longer embarrassing any more. I absolute love my greys and if anyone mentions them I say the same thing – no more self conscious me. I’ll be honest, I’m a little nervous starting my next placement in a hospital. It’ll be a new place where no one knows me and I just know there’ll be lots of comments to come: “You’re too young to be going grey” being the main one. I’m just not sure my hair got that memo! Heather, 31, student nurse, Milton Keynes

‘I was fed up with the time and effort it took’

Lucille Tut before and after
Photograph: Lucille Tut

I stopped dyeing my hair about two years ago because I was fed up with the time and effort it took to have it dyed. Having short hair meant having it dyed every 13 weeks. I also thought what am I trying to hide? Growing older and getting grey hair is part of the ageing process. I feel like I’m being honest about who I am.

I’m going to be 50 this year which has made me feel old. It was a personal choice to stop dyeing my hair and although I’m not the sort of person to think too deeply on these things, I think it was part of me accepting that I am getting older and middle-aged! I’ve had many compliments about my hair and the colour it’s changing to which has helped reinforce my decision to just be natural and let the grey shine through. Lucille Tut, 49, IT consultant, London

‘Questions pop in your head like: ‘Will I be accepted?’’

Jamee Moore before and after
Photograph: Jamee Moore

For many years, I would sit in the kitchen chair after work and my sister, who is a licenced cosmetologist, would touch up the colour on my roots every two weeks. When the Covid quarantine was first issued, we lived in different homes and quarantined separately. Although she was dropping off home colouring kits to her clients, I decided to see what was actually coming out of my head.

My last colour touch up was on 20 February 2020. It’s been more than 400 days since I’ve added colour to my hair; I’ve cut off 23 inches in the process and I’m ready for it to grow. It’s been and still is a daily emotional and mental journey. The questions that pop in your head are about ageism and the corporate work place: “Will I be accepted?” I’ve decided that for me, I want to live my best life and not worry about hair colour every two weeks, or getting my hair wet on vacations, in fear of the pool chlorine or ocean salt lightening the colour. Jamee Moore, 48, executive assistant at a tech company, Discovery bay, California, US

‘Lockdown helped me to take the big step’

Vanessa Helena Montenegro Brito before and after
Photograph: Vanessa Helena Montenegro Brito

I was thinking about it for some time, because my scalp was pretty damaged, and I was thinking that in the academic community it would be kind of cool to show your grey hair as a sign of your experience. Besides I have great skin, so I was thinking: “I better do it now and not when I have wrinkles.”

Lockdown definitely helped me to take the big step. It’s much better for me physically because my scalp and hair are much healthier. I’m still getting used to my image, especially when I do selfies, but I understand it’s a process. I have to admit that looking at other women who have stopped dyeing their hair and looking great has helped me a lot and encouraged me. Vanessa Helena Montenegro Brito, 49, former cinema history professor, Quito, Ecuador

‘I want my teenage daughter to see she has a choice’

Liz Evans before and after
Photograph: Liz Evans

I began to go grey at the temples in my 20s, and never dyed it. But when it affected the top of my head, my hairdresser suggested foils, to keep it natural looking and avoid obvious roots, so I did this for a good few years. Over time, my hair became more and more resistant to the colour, as I only ever used Aveda, due to the toxins in regular hair dye. Also, I had less and less patience for the long, expensive appointments. I had a friend who let her curls go grey and she was so stunning, I decided to give it a go myself. I cut off my fringe, and instantly felt rejuvenated.

I would never dye my hair now. I love my fairy queen, silver mermaid locks, and I also feel very strongly about how women are represented. I want to look my age. I have no interest in appearing youthful or younger, because I’ve done that. I’m interested in being me, now. I have a teenage daughter and I want her to see that she has a choice about these things, and that only she needs to decide about the limitations surrounding these choices. So many of us think we’re exercising free will, without questioning the conditions within which we operate. I’m choosing to work against a system that values youthful beauty, because I don’t think that offers me any kind of choice at all. Liz Evans, 55, journalist, Tasmania, Australia

‘I didn’t expect grey hair to change how I want to dress’

Caroline Marks before and after
Photograph: Caroline Marks

I have dyed my hair since I was 15. Usually black, though I’ve been blond, redhead, green and purple at various times. My hair started to turn grey in my early 20s and the dye meant I was the only one who noticed. I decided it was time to stop when the roots became more and more obviously grey.

One day I just had enough. I shaved my hair short enough that all the dye was gone and I’ve never looked back. This wasn’t a lockdown change for me: I stopped dyeing my hair before Christmas. But lockdown gave me the chance to get used to it. What I didn’t expect is how completely grey hair changes how I want to dress. I used to wear a lot of warm colours: russets and brick reds. These no longer suit me the way they used to. I can still wear them but I look better in greens and blues, cool-toned browns. Caroline Marks, 48, civil servant, Newport, Wales

‘After chemo it’s extraordinary I don’t have grey hair, so I’m going with my natural colour for now’

Diane McDaniel before and after
Photograph: Diane McDaniel

I’m six years out from learning I have ovarian cancer. I lost all my hair after my first treatment. After a recurrence, I had more chemo and lost about 20% of it. I’ve always had blond hair, highlighting it since I was about 30 when it began to darken.

I don’t know if it’s a final decision, but this is the first time I’ve lived with darker blond hair. Even when I went from bald to just a bit of hair I went back to highlights as soon as I could. Now that all the highlights have grown out I see that I still don’t have any grey hair. That’s pretty extraordinary so I’m going with my natural colour, at least for now. My hair is all sorts of colours and I’m still uncertain about how I feel. Diane McDaniel, 57, writer, Los Angeles, US

‘I didn’t realise how grey I was under the dye’

Laura Ness before and after
Photograph: Laura Ness

I’ve been dyeing my hair in various shades since I was a teenager. I’ve considered growing the dye out before, but my hair doesn’t grow very fast and I couldn’t handle the growing out process because I felt that it made me look older and unkempt. Then lockdown started, and I had no choice. Without being able to dye my regrowth, and not feeling self-conscious about it because I wasn’t leaving the house, I just let it happen.

I love it! My hair feels thicker and healthier than it has done in a long time. I haven’t seen my natural colour in years, and I didn’t realise how grey I was under the dye, but I really like it. I love the different shades and tones of grey, from strands of dark brown to ribbons of silver. Plus, now that my hair is longer, it’s a bit wavy and it’s got some real depth, rather than flat box dye colours. Laura Ness, 38, communications consultant, Sheffield