My epic quest to silver hair takes part over three installments and 48 years. You can find part one here: https://shinyhappysilver.com/2022/04/08/silver-transformation-part-one-the-first-47-years/
And, if you’re still awake and on board, this is the third (but not final) part.
In March 2021, I decided to see what would happen without hair dye. Would the world stop turning? Would I have a complete meltdown? Would ‘The Walking Dead’ ever finish? I was hooked on dyeing, so it was hard to resist the weekly pasting over the white stripe. But I went cold turkey.
I was working remotely and my only colleagues were the cat, kids and husband, which made the process easier.
The roots were not yet noticeable on Zoom, if I positioned the laptop, tilted, at the far corner of the room and if I asked participants to squint. Or, if I applied root touch up powder/spray. I don’t know about touch up, my hair called for reinforced scaffolding and an industrial strength paint gun to cover my Forth Bridge of grey.
After four weeks, I had a multi-tonal situation, with silver/white protruding from the roots, a candy pink scalp, and a dark orangey base.
The support from the online silver hair community was invaluable. I devoured videos, welcomed the positive comments and advice, and looked longingly at all the inspirational transformation pictures.
I started a folder on my phone, both of inspirational hair, and of my own progress, until my collection of ‘me, me, me!’ selfies became Kardashian sized.
The contrast between my auburn and white felt too stark, though. I decided to revert to another habit and visit the hairdresser – one I’d only been to a couple of times – to get a blend/highlights to make the divide less disjointed.
At the salon, both the owner and the stylist tried a pincer movement. The conversation went something like this:
Me: “Hi, I’m growing out my silver, can you please leave the roots but try to blend the rest in….”
The owner, mid 50s, (shaking her head): “You’re way too young to go grey, hon.”
The stylist, late 30s (frowning) : “Oh no! It will age you. What do you want to look older for?”
Me: “Well, I am 47…..”
The owner: “Aw, you’re just a baby! Look at mine – I cover it up.” (She proceeds to show me her silver hairline amid her overly processed hair).
The stylist: “You’ll regret it.”
Cue lots of sighing and: “Are you sure?” and “Do you know your ends are fried?” She added to my humiliation by beckoning the owner over. “Sorry,” I apologised, sinking into the chair.
I hoped the other clients wouldn’t hear about my failures at having hair so damaged that it’s a miracle it hasn’t eloped to Gretna Green with a partner who’s loving and kind and hasn’t neglected its needs for 20 plus years.
I was relieved to escape, and made a note to give the salon a wide berth in future. It was strange leaving the salon with visible grey roots, as I normally forensically examine my parting in the mirror to locate the outliers.
The stylist had done a good job. She’d lifted the darker orange with fine mini blonde lights.
I boasted a big, Dynasty blow out that I could swish around. It was a change from the waves (and because the stylist looked at me in disdain when I asked her to diffuse my hair).
Within a week though the usual happened – the highlights merged into their favourite mass of blorange. So glad I paid £80 for the privilege!
Over the coming weeks, the glow out became more prominent. Luckily, a silver lining of lockdown was no face to face meetings or social events, but I did still see family and friends.
My mother was horrified: “I hate it!” she proclaimed, pretending in public that she didn’t know me. She normally likes to claim we’re sisters, but now she refused to acknowledge any matching DNA.
My aunt told me I’d dye it back once I grew it out. My moral support came from the online forums and groups, where the transformations and encouragement chivvied me along.
My husband, also not keen at first, started to see the benefits of healthy, natural hair, both on my appearance and demeanour, and he came on board. The teenage boys were embarrassed, but they get embarrassed these days by pretty much all that I do and say.
When lockdown eased, I started to spot silver sisters everywhere. I’d count up the number of grey haired men vs women, in TV, film, restaurants, supermarkets, social media photos. Colour me shocked! The number of silver men far outweighed women.
For fun, I tried some apps to see what I might look like with silver hair. Some have now proven to be pretty accurate, whereas others seemed to superimpose my face on to Victoria Beckham’s head and body. Now I’d take this fantasy hybrid, happily, but I imagine it would be like a Kafkaesque nightmare for her.
I had a couple of cuts with a male stylist at a new salon. He didn’t interrogate me over my silver mission. I went from shoulder length to bob, to make the waves springier and the transition less noticeable.
Occasionally, I would dry my hair straight and the demarcation line was much clearer. With wavy hair, it’s easier to conceal the stripe. I also had a small store of hairbands, scarves, hats and even wigs.
I met up with a friend and her friend, who both told me I was “brave” and that they would love to go grey, but theirs wasn’t silver like mine and they’d feel like old ladies.
I hit the wall at around five months, in August. We were on holiday in Cornwall. I live in a land-locked city called Birmingham, which is about as far away from the sea as you can get in the UK. The salty sea air and humidity did not go down well with my hair.
I got over the hump with a few tricks I’d discovered earlier in the process, inluding my trusty hairbands and colour depositing conditioner – a temporary silve colour that actually came out as a blue rinse, Mrs Slocombe style. the bathroom looked like the scene of a Smurf massacre.
I had cuts every five weeks. I was also waking up in a cold sweat after the recurring nightmare that the demon barber pins me in the chair and covers my hair in Medium Brown dye.
I had taken to snipping away at my hair, a dangerous game that had resulted in the dodgy Lego hair passport picture in my first blog. The fallen hair was exactly the same shade as my beige towel. My hair was never that colour naturally. It was once a dark brown, and reminded me that the dyed colour wasn’t authentic at all.
My son was due at the barber’s. When I rang up, I asked if they cut ladies’ hair. “Like a man’s?” the confused barber asked. “Short back and sides?” Desperate for a cheap, fast, dry cut, I said: “Yes!” It cost £15 and was the best cut I’ve ever had. He spent 45 minutes with precise attention to detail. I wasn’t even fazed by the electric razor on my neck. I wasn’t scared of short hair, as over the years I’ve been all styles and colours, and hair grows, right? I just wanted to see those beige towel ends disappearing.
I loved my pixie. I was liberated, and it really accentuated the silvery white. However, it was too short to curl so I had to sacrifice curl for silver at first, although you can see below how I dabbled. It was so easy to style straight: a quick blast on a low heat with the Dyson and heat protectant – a simple routine. The ends still had several inches of greige, but it felt great.
I returned to the barber every five weeks or so to snip away the grey. I decided to grow my hair, as the silver hair by the nape of my neck was a much darker silver than the near white shade at the front. I knew I faced the dreaded pixie grow out. During the time it takes to grow out a pixie, you can gestate a human – and probably wave them off to university. The worst stage is always the 90s’ boy band curtains.
The reaction from wider family and friends was mixed. One comment: “Oh that’s not really grey though, it’s silver, not battleship grey like I thought.” Or, in a wider discussion about silver hair transition, a female said: “Ah, but men look nice with grey hair.”
I will be writing a future blog – possibly entitled ‘Silver Foxes and Witchy Hags’ – dedicated to the sexism and stereotyping across the beauty industry and society, from the lack of pockets in skirts and dresses, to the demonisation of grey haired women in popular culture.
I digress. In March 2022, one year after I tiptoed into the silver hair grow out, I uploaded a new (yet carefully staged) profile picture on Facbook (pictured above). The reaction was overwhelmingly positive. It’s not that I needed the validation as such, it’s just that I was due back at work and didn’t want to shock colleagues. I still felt obliged to explain myself.
I’m now wearing a short bob, which is at an awkward stage, just below the ears. I’m hoping to get some length again soon. The transformation is nearly complete, and I hope to banish the beige within the next few months.
What products do I use? Having already lost myself and a small fortune in the CGM, I’ve pared back the products. Purple shampoo leaves a tinge on my hair, so I just use basics: wash twice weekly; Head & Shoulders shampoo every other wash. Yes, it’s drying and harsh, but it brings my whites alive; Alberto Balsam 99p conditioner; and a £3.99 Herbal Essences mask, weekly. I still use my microfibre towel, leaving my hair to dry naturally for the most part, then hairdry with a heat protectant and Dyson (fine blow drying nozzle).
There are so many inspirational bloggers and influencers, including Nikol Johnson at https://beautyreinvented.com/.
One of the women in a Facebook group has a killer fringe, so I’m hoping to replicate this when mine grows a bit.
There is one potential casualty though. I’m still experimenting, but I’m not enjoying wearing my hair wavy. Maybe it’s because it only ever looked good for a couple of days wavy, without a complicated and exhausting ‘refresh’ regime, or because it’s so fast and easy to dry now.
Without coats of colour plastered over the relentlessly straightened ends, the condition has improved, so I straighten it less, and on 160 degrees. I miss my waves and hope to reintroduce them.
I have dark eyes and eyebrows, and previously wore rich autumnal colours and makeup – even though I have always been a ‘Winter’. I’m still having lots of hits and misses with my new colour palette, so watch this space.
I am not an authority on hair or style, and this blog does not claim to advise. It’s a fluke that I started to grey young enough for my hair to have matured to a light silver by my mid 40s. It requires little maintenance and I stumbled my way through transition. I am passionate, committed and pretty obsessive when it comes to charting my progress, though. I hope that this may help others along the way.
In a future blog, I might look at my transition, month, if it helps. I promise, just like my hair, this will be shorter than this Odyssey of a blog. I needed to get this out of my system with ‘Outlander’ novel proportions, so thanks for bearing with me.