“Gray hair is beautiful. It’s so sophisticated. ”
How often have we heard this? How often have we said it with well-meaning intention to a friend when they talk about their hair color changing? Especially now during this COVID-19 pandemic more of us are faced with “showing our roots”.
But here’s the REAL QUESTION- how many of us REALLY believe that gray hair is beautiful? How many of us are at peace with our own “wisdom streaks” of gray?
Why does gray feel old?
A few years ago, I started to notice more gray hairs in my normally dark brown mane. I had never been a person who dyed her hair. Whenever I tried to “change it up” in my younger years, I just ended up picking an all over box color that looked JUST like my natural color. So daring, I know…
But now, hair dye wasn’t just for fun. It could serve a practical purpose. I was faced with an important question. Should I cover up my grays or let them be?
At this point, gray hair or streaks made me feel old, and I wasn’t ready to feel old. I was in the midst of child-raising, career-building and life-living. I was honestly still getting used to being in my mid-thirties.
Then I started to ask myself WHY. Why do gray hairs make me feel old? On the spectrum of age, I was in the prime of life. Physically and mentally I was strong. But most of my peers were also changing their hair with foils or dye.
I didn’t like that I was unhappy with a part of myself and that I was unhappy with aging. I recognized that these uncomfortable feelings were opportunities for growth and I just needed to lean it with curiosity rather than judgement.
I pondered these big questions for some time, as I do most things. I’m a ponderer. And out of this pondering, something profound eventually made itself known.
Have you noticed that there really aren’t any realistic portrayals of women in their 30s, 40s or 50s with TRANSITIONING gray hair in the media? When it comes to gray hair for women you either don’t have any, or you have the glamorous all-white sophisticated bob of mature actresses. But there’s NO IN BETWEEN represented. There’s no transition.
And for most women, that transition takes 20 to 30 years. From their 30s into their 60s. That’s 3 DECADES of normal change and aging that just doesn’t exist in TV, movies or advertising.
Whoa. 3 DECADES of a woman’s life that isn’t represented accurately. Whoa.
No wonder why gray hairs in our 30s feel so odd and foreign. But it shouldn’t. It’s just our perception and what we have been conditioned to believe about ourselves. This realization gave me the courage to journey down the path of transitioning to gray and start to be curious about what my hair may look like in its natural state.
Fighting for gray hairs
Another huge moment in this journey me came through a specific cancer patients. As a registered nurse, I work with hospitalized cancer patients, often some of the sickest people in our region.
I remember quite vividly, this man with whom I had grown close to during his long hospital stay with us. He was being transferred to another facility for a higher level of care. As I hugged him goodbye, I knew in my heart his time on this earth was drawing to a close. I, for some reason, still clearly remember his salt and pepper hair underneath the oxygen mask as I hugged him goodbye.
I believe that God spoke to my heart in this moment. I was given a specific understanding that just as my patient was fighting for each breath, he was also fighting for the opportunity to have more of those gray hairs. And his loved ones where fighting for him to have more gray hairs as well.
Aging is a gift that many of my patients fight for each day. Each gray hair can be seen as a celebration of the years and moments we have been gifted to live, breathe and love.
How we can transition our hearts and our hair
This post isn’t to convince you to completely throw away all dye or break-up with your stylist. I still get my hair foiled and cut. My stylist has been incredible at working with me to lighten my hair and weave in the grays, not dye over them. It’s a gradual process and that works for me.
So here are some simple ways to consider if you are interested in exploring your relationship with your own hair, aging and images of beauty.
Participate in a pandemic
All stylists will have to close up shop. People will lose their jobs so the extra expense of a monthly hair coloring won’t make the “necessary” list. We will all be forced to see what our hair really looks like without regular trims or coloring.
Oh wait… that is already happening and its CRUMMY. Scratch that suggestion.
Follow realistic beauty accounts
A good thing about social media is that we can CHOOSE who we follow. Diversify the people you follow to include women who are aging naturally, who are authentic in their posting, who honor their bodies and work to empower women to love their own bodies. It makes a huge difference when you log on and feel uplifted and supported rather than insecure.
If we are friends on Facebook or Instagram I would love for you to share some of your favorite accounts and I’ll share mine!
Try mirror work
Spend intentional time in front of a mirror every day with simple goal of showering yourself with love and appreciation. Look in the mirror and tell yourself “I LOVE YOU”. Do this multiple times until you really begin to believe it. We need to get comfortable with our faces and our bodies. How many of us avoid looking at ourselves, except with a critical eye?
Many of you after reading this post will still reach for the boxed hair dye or bribe your stylist to be first in her chair once things begin to open up after this COVD pandemic. And that’s OK.
Your stylist can be a great ally in helping you to transition your hair to its natural state. And don’t underestimate the importance of a good, flattering hair cut.
Hair dye, just like make-up or fashion, is not the enemy. It’s what we believe about our own beauty and value that are the most important. We can’t hide behind beauty products but they need to allow our true beauty to shine through.
Now is the time to make peace with ourselves
We don’t have many images of what it really looks like to be a woman in her 30s, 40s or 50s. Maybe this pandemic is giving us a chance to change that. To reclaim and rewrite the story that others have written for us. Why should having some gray hair not be able to be in the same image as youth and strength? It’s time we start to change that. So start posting your COVID grow-out with confidence my beautiful friends!
If you are ready for more authentic beauty, I’m here to cheer you on.
HERE’S THE THE STRENGTH, WISDOM AND BEAUTY THAT COMES WITH THE GRAY.
IN HEALTH AND JOY,