Dye or dye not: Do you dye your grey hairs?

August 18 | Guest post by SonyaG
Gray hair don't care poster by Etsy seller Annickg
I've had natural dark brown hair for decades and generally not spending much time or money on my follicles. I've reached the point where my grey hairs can no longer be ignored, and I'm feeling very ambivalent about starting to regularly dye them.

My reflection is further muddled with (less practical) thoughts on self-esteem and growing old and other's opinion of me and superficiality and vain-ness and expectations and ugh! Do you dye your grey hairs? Why or why not?

We've talked a lot about aging on Offbeat Home. Because, you guys, I feel like we've been doing it together! Which is awesome.

And we've talked a lot about hair and identity

But we haven't combined the two to talk about grey hairs. I don't have grey hairs on my head yet (although I've caught a few in my pubes over the years — the fuck!?) so I can't answer the dying question ma'self.

But I will say that the thought of having all-over grey hair makes me happy: It's punk AF, and also, if I wanted to continue to dye my hair non-traditional colors, I wouldn't have to fucking bleach it first. Total win. Or maybe I'll hate it, because I hear the texture changes with grey hairs.

So I thought I'd open it up to other Homies: Do you have grey hairs? To dye or not to dye? This is the question and here were some responses…

I have some grey, too. I started getting them around my hair-line when I was in my early 20s! They don't really bother me though. For now my plan is to let them come and embrace the change. That said, I don't think it is vain at all to want to cover them! Certainly no more vain than using concealer on a pimple. I'd say whatever makes you feel most comfortable is the way to go! -Kelly

I feel like the mismatched hair is what makes me want to dye it, but I don't yet – I still pluck. I would not mind all grey, but having random greys stick out all weird and wirey drives me crazy. Another reason I have not been dying my hair is because I am saving the effort for later, when the greys are beyond tweezing, but not yet fully populated (if that ever happens – my family doesn't really go fully grey). I am planning to dye (maybe even bleach) my hair when I am in my 40's and 50's. -ZsaZsa

I am just starting to get a few grey hairs and I am babying they hell out of them. I think they are fabulous, luckily my hair is already curly and I was so proud of the one hair that started out straight and began to curl recently. I decided to just embrace the change and go with it. I think it is because my husband is 14 years older than me, so anything that makes me appear to be a bit more mature is fine by me. I have decided that when I am completely grey I want to dye my hair that light platinum purple color. -Esther

I am almost 50 and just started dying my hair purple. I have been covering grey for 15 years and decided I might as well have some fun. I honestly don't care what other people think (except my hubby and kids and they love it). I am self-employed and getting to the age that if you don't have grey showing, you are clearly coloring your hair so why not go Purple! What's the difference? -Ginger

What do YOU do about grey hairs?

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  1. I started going grey at 17, and have been dying my hair ever since, anxiously awaiting the time when I could have a full head of lovely white hair. Alas, at 49, my hair is only about 50% grey – not enough to go au natural (my natural hair colour is somewhere between mousy brown and dishwater blonde – combine that with grey and you get… beige, which is just awful), but too grey to hold the temperamental red hair colour that I've used for years (red fades terribly at the best of times and on grey hair it goes brassy FAST). Two days ago I went back to my Goth roots (heh!) and dyed my hair blue black. It's taking some getting used to, but I think this is the look I'll be keeping until it all goes completely white.

    2 agree
  2. At 40, I'm at the point where I have to touch up my roots every 2-3 weeks and that's just expensive. I've now got 4" of gray grown in. There's some all over, but the highest concentration is at the temples and widows peak. And while it's making me anxious to see the gray, at 40 I'm almost grateful for it. I look young and can have a difficult time getting people to take me seriously in the workplace. I'm hoping the gray will help.

    3 agree
    • Yes, this! I've always looked young and wear my grey proudly (except when I bleach and dye it all a funky colour) because I feel that I am taken more seriously when I look a bit older (I'm 35).

  3. I have had grey hair on my head since my early 30's. It didn't show up in my beard until my late 40's. I didn't mind at all about the grey. I started shaving my head about 15 years ago because…. so that didn't matter anymore. Then my beard starting turning white. Ok, I'm cool with that. Until I lost my job and hunted for a couple years to get a new one.
    Now, I honestly think having a white beard hurt my job hunt. I shaved it down to a goatee and dyed it a very light brown which is my natural color.
    Lo and behold, I landed a job. Hmmmm. Think what you will. I'm keeping the dye job going for another year or two then let it all grow back out into a full white beard again.

    3 agree
    • Off-topic, but I just wanted to say I love when men chime in on Offbeat posts! It's so easy to fall into only ever hearing one side of the sexes' experience on lifestyle sites. Thanks for sharing! πŸ™‚

      7 agree
    • I'm unsurprised that you had that experience, Bob. And I'm sorry for it. In all the fight we've had over women not being judged by their appearances, it seems that instead of *no ones* appearance mattering, now men's appearances matter more. That was not the intended outcome πŸ™

      3 agree
  4. I started noticing grey hairs at 19 and hasn't been dying my hair ever since. At 19 I DEFINITELY wasn't on board with taking them as a sign of maturity or whatever. I'll be 29 in a couple weeks, and now the grey is much more prominent. A couple of years ago I went from a dark red to a bright teal hair color, which with my naturally dark hair requires bleach – not because of the grey, but because I had always wanted to. Unfortunately my grey hairs seem to be of the very wiry texture, hard to hold color variety, so even with the frequent color (and at home maintenance with Overtone!) they're still pretty obvious to me. I guess I'm still not ready to be the chick with grey hair, I'm pretty apprehensive about closing in on 30 and am not in any hurry to speed that process along, especially in appearance. So for now, I pull out the ones that stick out funny and make me mad until I realize I'm fighting a losing battle, I dye my hair more frequently to try to at least keep them under control, and I panic about the long term feasibility of this plan as the grey gets harder and harder to hide. Maybe some day I'll be on board with embracing the grey, but right now I guess I'm still trying to avoid growing up any faster than I absolutely have to.

    1 agrees
  5. So I've dyed my hair for as long as I can remember. I knew grey had started about 10 years ago (sometimes life gets in the way of root touchups) but since I dye it, didn't think much of it. My mom dyes away her grey, my grandmother before her did, it's nothing usual to me.

    Earlier this year I had surgery for which I was under anesthesia. Now I know there's no scientific proof but I was told by numerous, unrelated hairdressers that anesthesia can severely and temporarily change your hair. In that, you should avoid hair dye for 6 months after anesthesia as your hair could potentially fall out. Scientific proof or no, I'm a big fan of my hair and so many different folks were advising to avoid it, so I've been being good.

    So no hair dye for 4 months now. I do like my natural color, although I wish it was a bit darker. But… I have about a 2 inch wide section at either temple coming in silver . It's a pretty silver but it's still silver. My joints already make me feel old, my silver hair makes me feel old on the outside too. πŸ™

    I was contemplating just letting it grow and saying to hell with it. Then my boyfriend became my fiance and I realized I'm getting married in a year (and some change). I don't want to feel old in my wedding pictures! So I'm counting down the days (55 for those keeping track) until I can dye away my gray!

    1 agrees
    • I think anesthesia can damage the new hair growth a little, making it dry and weaker, but that will still be on your head six months later, and doing any sort of additive color (so not bleach, but a darker color) isn't going to damage it further. If you're worried, look into pure henna dyes- they come in all shades of red and brown, and they're actually good for your hair. I used to use them exclusively but the process is a bit messy so I got lazy. (I know lots of people use henna on their grays because they turn the grays into pretty red highlights, and then just give the darker hairs a red tinge.)

      (Gogole is telling me that some people do notice some hair loss about three months later, but it's not related to dye. Dye can't make your hair fall out at the root, it can only cause damage and breakage, at worst.)

      1 agrees
  6. I want to say I'm excited about all my silvers, but I'm not. Not at all. It's complicated

    I have dark brown, almost black, curly hair. All my life, I've loved the texture and the color, and I've never tried to change either (except for painting it with Crayola paint for Spirit Week in high school). My hair has been an identifier for me – it's both fiery and romantic at the same time, unusual but not artificial. I've gotten stray silver hairs over the past several years, but I just plucked them. It's to the point where I can't deny them any more. For 34 years, I've seen myself with brown curls. This is what I look like – I will always have brown eyes, I will always be under 5'2, I will always have brown curls. It's a huge part of how I see myself. I hate that it's changing. I know I could flat out dye it, but (a) maintenance, (b) grey roots bother me, and (c) it feels like I'm lying about myself, which makes me feel bad that I'm so embarrassed of myself that I'd try to change it.

    I know people in my life with all white or silver hair who look amazing, but my mother is the closest person to me with salt and pepper all over. My mother and I do not get along to the point where I'm trying to cut her out of my life completely; the idea that I would look like her is horrifying on a gut level.

    Knowing that I was going to have to deal with this in some way, I went to my salon and got them to do pintura highlights with the intention of helping blend the greys. When she finished, even though it looked gorgeous (caramel ribbons over brown curls!), I broke down crying because I didn't look like what I was used to.

    It feels like my options are either to let it naturally go grey/silver, dye it brown, or dye the whole thing silver and have done with it. I want to be okay with it. The women in my family are strong and unapologetic; I'd love to feel that same "devil-may-care" and to feel that comfortable with my appearance, but I'm not; I hate all my options. I feel like something is being taken from me that I wasn't offering.

    7 agree
    • I can definitely relate to you on this! I'm a redhead – always been one, never dyed it, and was always proud to be able to say that it is my natural color.

      I'm mostly ok with the greys but not ok with the fact that my red is fading around my face. The back is still vibrant, but when I hold the ends up to the front of my head, it's noticeable.

      At 49 I'm not ready for this! I need a hair cut but I'm holding off because I know that every inch that I trim off, I'm trimming of a part of my identity! I can't bear to dye it an artificial red – I don't know if I'll be able to find a natural color, although I've been told that I can. I've been tempted to fly half-way across the US to a friend from high school who posted a photo of a lady whose hair she dyed a natural red, but that's not practical.

      I know that this is all silly in light of real problems – cancer, death, war…

      1 agrees
      • My mother and grandmother are both redheads (sigh, I wish I had inherited it, but I'm a brunette).

        They are both going white – but both are still very much red heads. My Grandma has been told for decades tha she should definitely not attempt to colour her hair because she has so much great colour still there & my Mum has had a few hairdresser's assume she has really expensive high lights…

        I am starting to get a few greys (almost 37) but I'm not too hopeful that I will go grey as beautifully as they have…

  7. I got a white forelock in my twenties (grad school!) and turned fully white in my late fifties. Hey, twenty year olds are bleaching like mad to get this look and I would have died at that age to have platinum hair! I wear it with pride under my bike helmet or my kayak hat or anywhere at all. I earned this! I might dye it aqua someday. But if I dyed it some natural color I'd feel like I was trying to pretend I was still a kid. I intend to rock my age.

    7 agree
  8. I've been dyeing my hair black for years so I actually am not sure how many grays I have- I know there are a few. If I would go all gray that would be amazing, but I don't think my family tends to get there, and my natural color is a medium-dark brown, so it'd be salt and pepper forever. I'll probably keep dyeing it, not because I dislike the grey so much as because I dislike my natural brown, haha.

  9. I'm a lazy hair owner and the thought of the upkeep involved around dyeing my dark brown hair is enough to have kept me au naturale until age 36. I still don't have any greys (thanks Mum!) but when I do, I'm considering using Overtone to add some fun colour to my look. Bring it on!

    7 agree
    • Your mileage may vary, but my wife tried some of my Overtone on her white hairs, and the extreme purple barely turned it pastel lavender. πŸ™

      1 agrees
        • For me, the daily conditioner doesn't make a dent on my greys, but the Deep Treatment fully saturated and makes them pop!

  10. I've been coloring my hair since high school since I've never been a huge fan of my natural colour (mousy brown). Started getting grey hairs about a year ago but I'm not really fussed about them, and honestly didn't notice until recently when I suddenly had a shitload of them pop up after some stressful life events! Once my hair is more grey than brown, then I'll probably stop using dye and just roll with it, but for now I'm enjoying being a faux-redhead (or whatever colour I happen to be fond of at the time) πŸ™‚

    2 agree
  11. Like with anything hair related, it's the awkward in-between stage that is the worst. My mom looks younger at 65 with beautiful white front locks than at 50 with salt-and-pepper roots. We have thick dark brown hair in the family so greys are hard to ignore. My strategy is going to be pluck as long as I can (which I started doing now at 28), then dye at home, then go natural when I feel mentally prepared to rock my "maturity" and the greys are more evenly distributed and a nicer color. Probably around 55-60.

    2 agree
  12. Almost 66 and this is a huge dilemma! I started out coloring my hair at age 30 because the blonde of my youth was taking a decided turn to the dark side and that just wasn't me. Around 10 years ago I noticed that the roots had a lovely shimmer (Oh oh!) and the overall contrast between my chosen color and the natural color was heightening. I have experimented with darker shades, entry level red shades and my all time favorite rosegold, but in my heart, I am torn between letting nature take its course vs chemical enhancement.

    I am eager to hear from others on the fence and if they took to plunge to go au naturel how they did it.

    Peace out,

    2 agree
  13. So I have very dark brown hair with natural auburn highlights/ streaks. Starting in the late 90s, early college years, i developed a silver/grey streak in my bangs. It gives me the Rogue (from X-men) look.

    I haven't died my hair since my punk phase in the mid 90s. I have come to embrace the uniqueness of the Rogue streak. And the nerdy conversation starter that it provides. However now that I am rounding up to 40 I am noticing a few more silver hairs popping up. So maybe my opinion will change as the grey streak spreads.

    • Yay, I have a natural Rogue streak too!! I've dyed off and on throughout the years but always separate that piece out because I covered it once and it looks super dumb growing back in. It's now white the full length of my hair so now the only natural part of my hair looks like it was dyed that way too, haha.

  14. I started going gray at sixteen, but I was already coloring my hair by then because it kept lice away (at thirteen I had them for almost two years because of thick hair and a daycare my mom owned). We colored my hair strawberry blonde from dark brown (almost black) when the prescription lice medication didn't do anything. I just kept coloring it because I thought it was a fun way to express myself.

    It's been about 30% gray for a while now (I'm 31) and I definitely notice I look older when I don't color it. But I don't color it to fit in with society. I do whatever color I want that expresses me at that point (dark purple, light purple, sky blue and jade, going purple and shark blue once I get the oomph up to do it, I had black and red for a while).

    Do what feels good to you and don't worry about if it's vain. If you're expressing yourself it's cool in my opinion. I change hair colors like I change clothing styles though. Also, I use ion color brilliance. You can keep the dye indefinitely basically and use it for touch ups, and I usually can hit up a buy one get one half off sale at Sally beauty, which makes it pretty inexpensive. The colors do leak a bit, but they have taken forever to fade in my hair, even the bright ones!

    2 agree
  15. I will never stop dyeing my hair! I've been dyeing it since my early 20s (now in my mid-30s), and my mom and I have a pact that you will never see our natural hair colors. πŸ™‚ She's currently a gorgeous coppery redhead, and I'm bleach-blond right now. We both do our dye jobs ourselves, too, so it's not expensive at all. It's just a nice self-care day once a month or so to touch up the roots (in her case, with shoulder-length hair) or to re-dye entirely (me, with a pixie cut). My mother-in-law is in the same camp with us, although she goes to a salon for her lovely swirly blond and brown mix.

    I like when people think I'm younger than I am; it gives me the element of surprise. πŸ™‚ And I love changing my hair color every couple of months to suit the weather or my fancy. I probably have some grey hairs, but I'll never know!

    1 agrees
  16. For anyone that does want to dye their hair and is worried about the money/damage I HIGHLY recommend Henna or a Henna Indigo mix. It is inexpensive – easy to do yourself (and look good). It also covers grey really well. However, if you aren't into warm hair colors it isn't for you. If you have curly hair and (want to keep it) adding Alma powder will increase the volume but will also cool the color down slightly. http://www.hennaforhair.com/

    3 agree
    • I've thought about using henna on my red hair – I need to do some more research on it to see how it looks!

  17. So I have dark brown hair and found my first grey hair at age 9 and have been greying since then. I'm 28 now and about 40-50% grey. I do nothing with it because I'm too lazy for upkeep of dyeing it and I have to say I get nothing but compliments on it. Everyone from young teenagers to older folks stop me to tell me how beautiful they think my hair is. I still struggle with it sometimes despite other people's compliments but at the end of the day I know my self and I know my grown out roots would look worse in the long run than my grey hair. *shrug* do whatever feels right and that feeling can change throughout time!

    2 agree
  18. My family greys young- my uncle was full grey in high school, my aunt by her mid-20s. I've been greying since my last year of high school, but I hate my natural hair color, so it all gets dyed. I'd love to figure out a reasonable way to dye just the ash-colored hairs and keep my greys, because I finished school early and am younger than most of my peers, and I'd like to look like less of a teenager (my family also has great skin- no one starts getting wrinkles before their mid-40s!)

  19. I've been going gray since I was 19, and have now reached a point at 27 where older coworkers hesitantly ask if I dyed it gray or not. I'm also lucking out that gray is a hair trend right now. I like my gray, which is good because I can barely muster up the concern for my hair to maintain my short haircut.

    2 agree
  20. I do not dye my greys.
    I'm 34 and found my first grey hairs at 20.
    Before then, I'd dyed my hair various colors, with koolaid, semi-permanent unnatural colors, and black (the only one I did ALL of my hair with).

    Once I found the greys, I chose to stop dying my hair for three reasons:
    1. I'm not high maintenance enough to keep on top of it with covering roots every few weeks. For perspective, the last time I had my hair professionally cut was 20 years ago. The most maintenance I can manage is brushing every day and trimming split ends every few months. So definitely know what time and effort you're willing to put in.
    2. I've always tried to do the opposite of the example my mother set for me. She is very much about doing the cliche things women are pressured to do appearance-wise, including dying her hair to pretend aging doesn't happen. I learned young that I don't want my life to revolve around what others think of my appearance.
    3. I was going to be graduating college and job searching soon, so wanted to put a pause on my hair not looking 'natural.'

    I've probably got 15% grey now. And I'd still rather spend my time and money on other things.
    Although I've been tempted recently as I've been job searching once again and being a youngish woman who doesn't dye her hair sets me apart, and typically not in a good way.

    If you think dying your hair will help your self-esteem and confidence, do it.
    I have a negative view of it because my mom has had horrible self esteem despite dying her hair to cover greys for vanity's sake (along with a number of other, more drastic, measures).
    But there are absolutely people who feel empowered by it and derive confidence from it.
    If you find it doesn't do those things for you, it's just hair dye. You can stop.

    1 agrees
  21. It's sorta weird looking in the mirror and seeing white hairs on my 45 year old head when I'm still not used to it, but they look ok. Just sorta strange. It is interesting having random white here and there in my medium brown hair. A friend of mine (also 45) has a glorious white streak at her temple with the rest of her hair streaked with white. Gorgeous. My mom (84) has all white hair and is always told how beautiful her hair is. And it is. Hoping mine will turn out as nice but I'm afraid I'll have to settle for just speckled like my dad's sister. She was almost 79 when she died and still had mostly brown hair. But it looked ok. So, no way would I hide whatever whites hairs I'm lucky enough to get.

    1 agrees
  22. I have quite a bit of grey (I'm in my 30s) and naturally very dark brown, almost black hair. I've been going grey since my mid-twenties. I quite like the contrast, with several long strands of grey growing from my temples, and never bothered to dye it. A couple of months ago I did bleach my hair so I could dye it funky colours like blue and purple, so the grey is now covered, but I dyed it because I liked the new colour more, not because I didn't like my natural colour or wanted to cover grey. There's no reason to dye over grey hair unless you want to, and if you want to it's wrong to dismiss it as "vanity". It's your hair, and with all the choices in hair dye available you should be free to have it whatever colour you want whether that's natural and grey or neon pink. Just make sure the dye's cruelty-free!

    A note on plucking grey hairs: If you constantly pluck out the hair growing from a specific follicle it can weaken that follicle. Over time, it might stop producing hair, so if you constantly pluck out the same grey hairs over and over, by the time you give up and either dye your hair or leave it grey you could be left with thin patches where follicles no longer produce hair. Just something to keep in mind.

    1 agrees
  23. I'm 26 and a natural redhead, from a family that grays early. I love it, and it's part of my self-identity; it's easily my favorite thing about my appearance. But for the last few years I've had stray white threads sneaking in. I pluck them when I find them My mother had the same color when she was young and she tells me she was dying it by age 30. She's colored it twice a month for longer than I've been alive. Add in the mess, the cost, the bad color matches, and the nasty chemical smell while she's doing it, and I just don't think I have that in me.

    I vacillate about what I'm going to do when it gets to the point when I can't pluck my whites anymore. Sometimes I think I'll dye it some outlandish color like teal. Sometimes I think I'll just let it go its way. Hopefully I have a while yet before I really have to deal with that question. And of course some days, when I find new white threads, I tell myself that I am manifesting ice powers, and when it's fully white I will use them to smite my enemies. πŸ˜‰

  24. My friend and stylist pulled my first grey out of my head before I could stop her, at 22. Now at 35, and 5 years since I stopped dyeing my hair black, I have hot grey streaks in my shaved sides, and a few random greys dispersed throughout the long bits. I don't intend on dyeing them. At least, not until there's more of them and I can dye them vibrant colours so they stand out like streaks or highlights to my very dark hair.
    None of my friends dislike their greys. We wear them as medals of honour, signs of wisdom, and experience points.

    2 agree
  25. I started getting gray hair when I was 16. My mother has beautiful salt and pepper hair, although way more salt than pepper and my grandmother had a full head of white hair by the time she was 30. It was only a matter of time before I, too, had the gray. For years, I dyed my hair. Then, maybe 5 years ago, I opted out. I just said fuck it. I'm going to embrace my silver. And I fucking love it. I get comments, and compliments, on it every day. People think I've dyed my hair and they often go to touch it (wtf?). I get asked almost everyday if my coloring is my real color. I embrace my silver but it feels good to me. Do what feels good to you!

    3 agree
  26. I haven't started to get grey hair yet, so I suppose my plan could change. But right now, my plan for grey hair is just to embrace it. I really don't care if I have grey hair and, after a certain point, I think you reach an age where it's pretty obvious you must be dying your hair.

    Someone mentioned dying their hair purple. One thing I'm looking forward to in retirement (which is a long ways away) is dying my hair crazy colors. I've always wanted blue hair.

  27. I started getting greys this year…I don't know if it's just me ageing (I'm thirty-one) or if it was related to stress/trauma. The greys really pop out against my brown. A few of them seem to be congregated in one area, so I'm hoping for a streak, as opposed to an all-over effect. They are a completely different texture than the rest of my hair, so who knows how I'll handle that. I don't intend to dye them, although I don't object to adding some pink or purple to the mix.

  28. I got my first gray hair at 16. My sister, who is six years older, started getting grays around the same time, and we used to search and pluck for each other. Within a few years, she started dying her hair to cover the grays, and I went the opposite track. I watched my sister (and my mom, who also dyed her hair), deal with the cost and annoyance of all the salon appointments, and I didn't want to deal with that for the next 30 or 40 years. So I just let it go grey naturally. I hadcurly brown hair, so each gray is visible, with a couple bigger streaks during my temples, but I embrace it and think it makes me look interesting and wise! I often get comments about my "beautiful highlights!" I'm 36 now, and my niece tells me my hair is "gray with brown hairs," not "brown with gray hairs." I'm still making that mental transition, but I'm grateful that I never had to transition out of dying it.

  29. I love my hair in all its changes. When I first started to get gray hairs my husband wrote a song about "streaks of starlight in your night-dark hair". Then these increased so that now my hair is silver. When I make rope-braids I like to separate the top white layer from the bottom dark layer to make dual-color braids. Eventually it will go from silver to pure moonlight. I don't see a downside.

    People tell me that I would look younger if I dyed it. That is of no interest to me, personally, any more than any other hallmark of conformity ever was. But what I'd really look like, with my face, is a really burnt-out younger woman. Better the hair should age faster than the face than the other way around!

    Mind you, there are a zillion reasons for altering your hair color. I've tried blue-violet, and it was fun! You don't have to apologize for your choices. But neither do you have to apologize for being you, au natural. Just love who you see in the mirror, and have fun with your look, whatever you decide.

    1 agrees
  30. My hair is dark and bleaching is super stressful to it, otherwise I'd dye it silver in a heartbeat. If/when I do go grey, I'll likely dye it, but only because I dislike distinct roots.

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