If You Don’t Mind, It Doesn’t Matter

When is a good time to stop colouring your hair?  It’s not a trick question, even though it sounds a lot like “Have you stopped beating your wife yet?”  You could answer that you shouldn’t even have started colouring your hair, but it’s too late for many of us. We already did.

By Philippe Alès [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], from Wikimedia Commons
Grey Hairs (from Philippe Ales via Wikimedia Commons)
I started colouring my hair decades ago when the grey first began to appear.  Since then I have gone through various phases of highlighting, lowlighting, expensive treatments, and inexpensively doing it myself. The colours have varied from something like the brown my hair was when I was thirty to something like the blonde it was when I was three.

Once you start colouring your hair, it is almost inevitable that you will continue because that tell-tale line of grey shows through at the scalp as the hair grows. When you look in the mirror, that is all you can see, and so you rush out to buy more hair dye or you rush to the phone to make an appointment with your hairdresser. It’s a bit like playing a video game that keeps you hooked because you never quite get through all the challenges.

The silly thing is that when you get to a venerable age, no-one is fooled. Everyone knows that your hair is not its natural colour, but in the end it’s not really about what other people think. It’s about how you see yourself and how you feel about becoming grey. Getting older is wonderful in many ways but getting greyer isn’t one of them. It’s the first step on the road to being treated as less-than, or stupider-than, until you ultimately become invisible. The distance between venerable and invisible is surprisingly short.

White Hair (from Jackmac34 via Pixabay)

Having been housebound for two-and-a-half months now, I was in dire need of a haircut, and so when I went for a medical appointment yesterday I took the opportunity afterwards to go to a nearby mall and get a haircut.  As I was chatting with the hairdresser I said that I wasn’t sure whether or not I wanted to let my dyed hair grow out. In the past when I have wondered this, hairdressers have always suggested that I would benefit from more colour.  This time, however, the lovely woman attending to me pointed out that the grey was now so dominant that I might as well let it take over. “You could just let it go grey and see how you like it,” she said. “If you don’t you can always colour it again.” So sensible. So obvious. So simple. I don’t know why I ever fussed about it before.

I sometimes see women who are much younger than me who are unrepentant in having a full head of grey hair, and I admire them. I wonder where they get the courage not to fake it, not to try to cling to their former youth and darker locks. Obviously, their sense of self does not depend upon trying to look younger than they are, but I have been caught up in that pop culture-generated worship of youthfulness that has informed my entire life. It’s time to put a stop to that nonsense.

Purple Hair
Purple Hair (from Auntie P via Flickr)

When I left my medical appointment, I stopped to chat with a woman who had been at the same clinic.  Her name is Sylvia and, although she appeared to be several years older than me, she had dyed her hair a surprising magenta red–nothing like any natural hair colour ever seen. It made me smile.

If you are going grey you have three choices: just let it go grey, dye it as close to your youthful hair colour as possible, or go wild and pick a non-hair colour. Your hair can say “I love me just the way I am,” or “I won’t be easily ignored,” or “Girls just wanna have fun,” or all three. It’s up to you.








  1. Be proud of what you have! Every time I visit the hairdresser we have the same conversation about the increasing amount of grey in my hair. Given that both my grandmothers had beautiful silver hair I decided long ago to let nature do its own thing. But if I’m honest I’m too lazy to keep colouring it.
    According to my hairdresser young people who dye their hair silver/grey have a lot of work to do to maintain the glossy natural look. It can damage the hair.
    Pleased to hear you have been able to get out and about. Xx

  2. Love it! I completely agree with your conclusion…My motto is: Do what makes YOU feel good because that’s what we radiate out to the world and the world responds accordingly….everybody wins. 🙂
    And I too and so glad to hear that you got out for a bit…even though you paid with sore muscles…it’s a good thing..it’s progress…it’s a Win!

  3. Anne, I have been debating if I should get highlights in my hair it blends in my gray. I also think I have earned those gray hairs and it has been over a year since my last *dye* job.I guess most of my gray is in the back of my head I can’t really see it but family members have mentioned it. I don’t really care if I did I would be on a 3 months hair salon schedule. I am pleased that you were out and about not so sure of that 1st long walk but you have more stamina than me, or maybe determination? I am very happy that you are in your own space it’s amazing how attached or maybe what comfort our belongings give us. It reminds me of the late comedian George Carlin bit on *stuff*.

    1. Whatever you do with your hair, you will always look good to me! I am getting out and about more each day; partly it’s necessity and partly it’s determination.

      Now I’m going to Google the George Carlin bit on “stuff.” 🙂

  4. Anne this is very timely for me, as it’s a question I’ve been asking myself just this week. After over 3 months in Doha, I’ve had 2 haircuts and no colour—it’s just about time (on my normal back-at-home schedule) and I’m about to return to Canada for a few weeks. Getting my hair coloured is on my very long list of things to do. But…should I or shouldn’t I? Perhaps it’s because my eyes don’t see the nuances of colour as well as they used to, or perhaps it’s because the sun here has naturally bleached my hair, but I’m not really seeing the grey roots (I’m thinking it’s the former). Now I’m just curious to see what my “natural” colour is. And, without deliberately invoking a novel I haven’t the least bit interest in reading, there are many shades of grey. What will my shade be? Will I like it? Will I hate it? Will it make me look older? Will it make a difference to how people perceive me? You raise some very good points about that! On the other hand, as you also say, whom are we trying to fool? No one is going to mistake me for a spring chicken, no matter what colour my hair is! So,I haven’t yet made the decision, but you’ve given me food for thought. Hope you’re healing up! Maybe see you when I’m in Alberta? Maybe I’ll have purple hair and you won’t recognize me?

    1. My dyed hair has always become lighter with exposure to the sun so, like yours, the contrast with the grey roots was not stark. Now I have mostly grey hair with blondish tips, and it doesn’t look bad. I’m going to live with grey hair for a while and see how I feel about it. And, I have no plans to read that book either! 🙂

  5. I colored for 10 or 15 years & then: a) got tired of doing it (I did it myself) & b) felt the need to be more authentic. I had my stylist put in highlights which helped me grow out the colored hair quite painlessly. I have been grey for about a year now & couldn’t be happier with it.

    1. I’m glad you are pleased with your decision. I’m well on my way to being fully grey and I’m quite happy with it. I still have coloured ends, but they are a light colour so the contrast is not too drastic.

  6. Just musing about the part of feeling invisible as we age. Does changing our hair color make us more visible? I started blonde highlights several years ago when my blonde changed to dirty blonde. Am I more visible now? I wonder. There are aspects to being less visible that I enjoy. For instance, I don’t worry as much about what I wear, because so few are looking.
    I still don’t have many grey hairs, but I tell myself I will accept the grey when it’s dominant. Only time will tell how I will react, I suppose.

    1. Those are all interesting thoughts, Lorna. I suspect that I always felt that changing my hair color made me less invisible somehow. Not more visible, exactly, just more of something. I, too, enjoy some aspects of being less visible, but I have moments of regret that no-one knows who I once was, what I once did for a living, how much I knew, etc. At the same time, I’m glad to say goodbye to the treadmill.

      My hair is more grey every day, and I’m learning to like it. It’s ok. Really.

  7. Oh, thanks so much for sharing the regrets. I recently gave up my professional license, being relieved to get off of that work treadmill. But, the part of folks not knowing what you once did, not tapping into your wealth of knowledge, wow, that’s something to think about. I guess I will find new ways of feeling relevant in the world around me? Interesting.
    And I am glad to hear you are learning to like your current natural color. How nice!

    1. I know you’ll find new ways of sharing your knowledge and wisdom, Lorna. It may be a new employment, volunteering, spending time with loved ones, or writing that book you’ve always meant to write. Whatever you do, I hope it comes with wine and donuts.

  8. Thanks, that’s encouraging! I am gluten-free but make some very tasty GF pumpkin spice donut holes. My three-year-old grandson loves them, as well as my husband, so they’re a staple around here.
    And I’m a recovering alcoholic, so no wine for me anymore! But I do enjoy my hot or cold brewed teas, and a cup of coffee every day.

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