When I embarked on my silver hair transition, I wondered if I’d have the mettle to see it through.
What kind of grey would I have? Would I like it? Would I be able to face friends, family and colleagues without an array of floppy hats and Axl Rose bandanas?
If I made it past those hurdles, how long would it take? Would I be one of the women who goes from brown to grey overnight, or would I be one of those patient souls who are 892 days in, and still counting?
I was convinced I’d be done by nine months. Just like having a baby, it would start slowly, with more trips to the bathroom. Then, the growth would be noticeable, random strangers commenting on your appearance, until you’re fully cooked and welcoming your pride and joy.
A photo album of snapshot after snapshot, a journal recording firsts and milestones – like Grey’s first haircut, or her first taste of purple shampoo. Treasured keepsakes: a lock of beige hair, a towel still bearing the nostalgic marks of Clairol Chestnut Brown semi-permanent dye – and the unmistakable scent of amonia.
Mind you, I never do things by half. When I was pregnant with twins, the circumference of my stomach equalled my height – five foot one inch. I was a waddling Weeble. Perhaps my silver hair gestation would be equally remarkable.
I was convinced I’d be completely platinum, like Khaleesi from ‘Game of Thrones’ or ‘Frozen’s’ Elsa. I’d gallop majestically on a unicorn across shimmering sand dunes and glittery glacial lakes. My long, luminescent plait would swish in harmonic rhythm with the sway of the unicorn tail, under the moonlight, the serious moonlight. A Norse goddess.
In reality, I’m from the West Midlands, little over 5ft, a size 14, and I failed the knot tying badge in Brownies over my inability to tie a half sheep shank. I also screamed: “Daddy, get me down!” when sitting on a donkey at Weston- super-Mare beach.
There was some mystery to the process of transitioning to silver. I knew what the start looked like. I’d regularly encountered five weeks of grey root growth between highlighting sessions. I knew what the end looked like – Jamie Lee Curtis, Helen Mirren, Judi Dench. But the middle bit, how each month would unfold, was still untold.
Would my hair really grow out as uniformly as Storm in ‘X-Men’ or would I be more badger stripe, or salt and pepper? These, my friends, are the riddles of the grey universe.
One of my starting places was https://katiegoesplatinum.com/ which showed me what to expect.
I joined lots of groups on social media and revelled in the wonderment of the wise sisters before me, who had reached the hallowed six month mark.
If I encountered a fellow member who was at the same grow out stage as me, they became my soul mate: “What, you’re at eight weeks too? You like pizza also? This is fate!”
The stateswomen of the groups warned us to buckle up beteeen five to eight months, when the transition is hardest. I imagined I might somehow bypass that stage, what with my super silvers and all.
Everybody has an opinion on your hair, as I discovered when I revealed my grow out plans to my aunt.
Aunt: “Silver with those dark eyes and brows and your complexion? Oh no dear, you’ll scare the children away.”
Me: “But look at…” (scrambles and fails to find photo of famous, formerly raven haired, female in her 40s who’s metamorphasised into a silver butterfly. Settle on picture of Jane Fonda, 30 years my senior, previously blonde, with blue eyes, olive skin. i.e. the COMPLETE opposite of me, thus proving my aunt’s point that she thinks nobody my age rocks grey hair).
Aunt: “Remember when you were a Gothic – black hair, talcum powder on your face, trying look like Siousie Zeuss? Is this another one of those phases? Don’t you recall what happened when you went blonde?”
I shuddered. There’s a reason why I’d never go blonde again. I thought I might look like Madonna or Debbie Harry, but my peroxide was more like the Blonde Failed Ambition tour or the Parallel Skunk Lines album cover.
While contemplating what my silver could look like, I tried a range of ‘virtual’ hair colours, including blonde. Not sure what’s more unnerving – the Birds’ Custard yellow hair, or having so many photos of your own face staring back at you.
It’s both curious and optimistic as to why I assumed I’d be fully transitioned by nine months. My hair is lazy. It moves in slow motion, just to annoy me – unlike my beloved Play-Doh (Fuzzy Pumper) Barber set, where freshly minced Play-Doh worms sprouted so rapidly from the plastic figures’ abnormally large hair follicles, that they had to have been pumped up on Biotin.
Spoiler Alert: I’ve just watched the latest episode of the TV show ‘Outlander’, where the time-travelling female protagonist, Claire Fraser, goes from a hacked pixie to curly bob in two months.
Forget the implausible storylines around taking a quantum leap through space and time. What I find most unrealistic, as anybody experiencing the dreaded pixie grow out will attest, is the far fetched notion that you can travel from pixie to bob in eight weeks. And have mastered Curly Girl spirals during that time without any product, save a bit of snake venom.
Claire is a feminist, surgeon, herbologist, healer, inventor, and silver sister. This is a woman so brilliant, she can recreate Penicillin and anaesthetic with just a leaf and a dram of whisky. She makes Dr Quinn look like an amateur. Yet even THE most accomplished woman in time is shaken. Not by the onset of the American Civil War, a Dysentery outbreak on Fraser’s Ridge, or the fact she’s been in a state of delirium all week. But that her husband Jamie (a fellow curly) won’t find her attractive with: “short, grey hair.”
Unless you can travel through time stones or are a Play-Doh barber client, growing out the grey is a waiting game.
Now I know some women pass through entire time zones, auction off jewellery, and wait the equivalent of six seasons of ‘Outlander’ to get an appointment with the celebrity hair magician Jack Martin (and his work is truly genius), but for a cash- strapped Brit who’s scared of flying, this wasn’t an option.
Throughout my grow out, I had the advantage of wavy options to conceal the demarcation line. But there gets to a point where no amount of squiggle can cover up the silver ravine on top of your head. It’s like trying to scatter a few reeds over a freshly parted Red Sea.
In February 2021, I plastered my head, unenthusiastically, with dye for the last time. My scalp was still weeping white flakes due to the regular poisoning. I’d spent decades trying to stifle those unstoppable grey strands. In 2021, I was trying to coax them out: “Good girls. Come on, don’t be shy. Mmm, look at this yummy bowl of Collagen.”
Would they play ball? Or would they plot collectively to form a row of unruly mini grey question marks along my parting? Find out in my next blog, a month by month chronicle of my silver hair transformation.