Hair is said to be our crowning glory. Whilst it’s not exactly a crown, my hair is the most important element in making me feel good about my appearance: hair OK – I’m OK.
Being a fair-haired child, in my mind’s eye I’m blonde, but I began to go dark in my twenties, and so began 40 years of highlighting. Now I’m greyer than mouse and I am considering going natural.
Whilst I ponder, other women are enthusiastically embracing their ‘fabulous grey locks’, and shouting about it – ‘Glad to be grey’. A group of women, fed up with using chemicals, and the cost and time attached to dying, staged the ‘Silver Sister Strut’ in Times Square, New York. Organiser Cindy Joseph said “We are the women that we wish we’d had in our lives, if they weren’t busy getting their hair dyed. Sensuality doesn’t wane as you get older”, she says, “It’s still there.”
It can occurs at any age
Grey hair, caused by loss of pigmentation and melanin, is more common in older people, but it can occur at any age, including teenagers and children.
Diane Johnson from Banbury is a case in point. A silver streak appeared across the front of her dark chestnut hair when she was in her twenties. Occasionally she tinted it pink and also tried henna, which she said gave it a great shine. She stopped colouring at 40, by which time she was white.
Katie Palmer from Over Worton, Oxfordshire went grey at 35 and when people said she looked older she dyed her hair. But only once. She didn’t like it so never did it again. Now, aged 64, the most frequent comment she gets is, ‘Where do you get your hair done, it’s looks so great?’ Katie says, “Some of my friends think I’m lucky – which I am – I just wash and go”.
Cut – more important than colour
Another person who dyed it once but didn’t like it (for himself) was award winning hairdresser Lawrence Anthony.
Lawrence, who has salons in Banbury, Oxford and Stratford-on-Avon is running a campaign, ‘Age is Just a Number’ featuring his clients across the age spectrum – from women in their 20s to 70-something Rona Thorogood.
I asked Rona how she feels about her grey hair. She said, “It wasn’t easy to begin with. It’s acceptable that blondes have dark roots, but not the other way round – so I went for highlights for a while. But I stopped dyeing it at 55 and have grown into it”. Lawrence continued, “Everyone wants to look good for their age. I advise clients that it is not the colour, it’s the cut that counts – it’s important to have a cut that suits your style, skin tone, shape and your personality.”
Diane says, “My hair forces me to think about not being drab. I choose clothes, colours and jewellery that enhance it.” She says the comment she hears most is “Aren’t you lucky. If my hair was your colour …”
Hair rules are changing
For decades older women were advised against long hair (drags your face down, makes you look older) that is, until Joanna Lumley aka Patsy from Absolutely Fabulous) exploded: “Bollocks to that!” Even worse, long grey hair was synonymous with witches, frumps and ‘ageing hippies’.
That stereotype is now being overturned by prominent ‘glad to be greys’ such as: George Clooney, Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Dench, Christine LaGarde, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. And, during Wimbledon fortnight, who failed to notice Judy Murray’s new hair? I asked a random half dozen friends for their opinion of Judy’s new colour and all agreed she looked strikingly different and well, great!
Grey – the new black? Younger celebs like Rihanna are going ‘ice-grey’ or ‘Brrr’, as it’s called, and loving it because it is unexpected and ideal for those who want to push the boundaries and make a statement.
In response to the grey panthers demands, there are now several ranges of hair products specifically for grey hair, which can change texture and can become dry.
Jayne Mayland, (www.whitehothair.co.uk) created the White Hot range because she couldn’t find the right products for her grey hair and has found a community of grey haired lovelies.
Jayne says “Deciding not to colour your hair can be empowering, but you need to get your head around it first. Wait until you are ready. If you take the plunge, some colour on your eyebrows will help to frame your face and eyes and remember it doesn’t have to be forever. If you hate it, you can always change it.”
So, after all this positivity about grey hair, where am I? “Hello… is that the hairdressers …Urm …?”
© 2013 Mary Evans Young
Mary is a qualified psychotherapist and life coach. She lives in Oxfordshire, England.
Her latest book (with Derek Evans) is:
Ageing with Attitude, a guide for baby boomers not ready to hang up their boots
Her other books include:
Diet Breaking, having it all without having to diet
You Count, Calories Don’t
Mary is also the Tea Shop reviewer for The Oxford Times/Mail