where women celebrate their ageless authenticity

When Should You Go Gray?

Resident Humorist Nancy Hubbell Fournier Weighs In

When my husband looks at my hair, he sees dollar signs.

He’s the one with the great head of hair that needs a trim every month and gets an occasional splash of $12 Just for Men (but don’t tell him I told you).

In the meantime, I have a date on the books every two months with my hairdresser, who reminds me it should probably be every six weeks.  Blond highlights bleach out the gray while brown toner covers up what’s left.  During my last session, I asked her: “When should a woman just give up and go gray?”

Asian woman with gray hair takes selfie

Mind you, I’m fortunate enough to make paying for a professional to dye my hair a priority. There are other options: dye it myself, or just go natural, as my husband recommends.  As I survey friends and acquaintances, it’s clear that many women ponder this decision.

My hairdresser answered my question with confidence. “You shouldn’t go gray until your face matches your hair.” Um…so how does that work? I guess she’s saying that gray hair will age you, so if you have a prayer of looking younger, you should keep dying it.

But what about those women with smooth skin and striking white or salt and pepper hair? “Sometimes it looks really good,” my hairdresser said, seemingly contradicting herself.

I have a friend with virgin locks who has embraced the natural process. The gray in her hair seems to act as highlights to her natural brown and she looks younger than she is.  Another friend learned during Covid that her hair is snow white, like her mother’s. She adjusted her camera to hide her roots on zoom calls and scrambled to find someone to apply the strawberry blonde of her youth.

So, what’s the answer? Women are squarely squeezed between the ideal of embracing our true selves vs. our/society’s goal of looking younger. I contend that we don’t need a single answer. We exist on a long strand of a spectrum with “can’t be bothered” on one end and “do it up” on the other.  As we age, life stages and circumstances affect our viewpoint, and we vacillate somewhere on that spectrum.

Gray haired ladies

Let’s embrace it. Hop on that spectrum and make it yours. Go natural, or not. Dye it, or not. And if you don’t like your hair, do something different. Your friends will support you, whatever choice you make.

It’s a new day and a new ‘do.