My Wardrobe, Myself

The intersection of clothing, emotions, and life

NOTE:  This post was originally published on my previous blog, Recovering Shopaholic

It’s been over three months since I gave an update on how I’m doing with my gray hair transition, so I thought this would be a good time for me to fill you in on the journey.  I’m now at just about the seven month mark and there have been some changes to my transition plan since I last reported on the process back in August.   I’m still planning to stay the course, but it definitely hasn’t been easy!  In today’s post, I’ll update you on recent new developments and share photos and thoughts on how my transition is progressing.

Since I’ve written quite a few posts about my gray hair transition, I created a new blog category to make it easy to access this content for those who are interested.  If you’re pondering the process – or are currently in it – and would like some tips and advice, be sure to check out my “Going Gray & Getting Out of Hair Prison Follow-Up” article, as it is chock full of suggestions from readers and useful links to gray hair transition resources.

Transitioning to Gray Hair

My Solution through the Six Month Mark

When I last wrote about my gray transition, I was at the 3.5 month mark and had about two inches of outgrowth (see photos here).  At that point, I had gone “cold turkey” from hair dye and was just letting my roots grow out.  Consequently, the line of demarcation (a.k.a. the “skunk stripe”) was quite stark.  Fortunately, I was able to successfully camouflage it by applying root cover-up powder, which worked surprisingly well.

The photo below shows my gray outgrowth at five months, along with images that were taken before (bottom left) and after (bottom right) I had applied the powder.  Because the top of my head where the powder was added lacked the shine of the rest of my hair, I started wearing headbands or headscarves to cover up at least some of that effect.

Gray hair transition - 5 months

Here’s how my gray hair transition looked at the five month mark.

The root cover powder worked reasonably well through almost six months of my transition.  However, it became increasingly unwieldy and cumbersome the more gray outgrowth I needed to cover.  I started to see brown spots on my face after brushing my hair and dark patches on my fingers when I touched the top of my head, and I frequently noticed a dark residue on my pillowcase.  I knew it wasn’t a viable option to continue using the powder for the entire process, but I kept doing it in the absence of an alternate plan.  As I moved into October, I knew I needed to do something else…

No Easy Way to Transition

There is no easy way to transition to gray hair and all of the available options have their drawbacks.  The following image has been posted multiple times by a member of the GGG Going Gray Guide Facebook group (who I’m not crediting here because the group is private).  It succinctly encapsulates the three main transition alternatives and their downsides:

Gray hair transition - 3 choices

These are the three main choices for transitioning to gray hair. 

I started out with option #1, as the thought of doing option #2 was too scary for me.  I also thought my hair would surely break off or fall out with option #3, as it was already in bad shape from my health issues and the frequent coloring I’d been doing for years.  However, stopping the dyeing and doing multiple deep conditioning treatments helped to restore my hair’s condition.   I also learned about a breakthrough product called Olaplex that helps to dramatically reduce the damage of chemical processes.

Making a Risky Choice

Patience is not one of my primary virtues and the idea of letting my “skunk stripe” gradually expand and work its way down my head was quite unsettling for me to contemplate.  So after having a consultation with a hairstylist who was recommended to me by someone else who had made the gray transition, I decided to have heavy highlights done from the line of demarcation down.   This was almost exactly a month ago when I was at the six-month point in my transition process.

The stylist cautioned me that I would likely need two or three rounds of highlights because I was starting out with such dark hair and that I would need to wait at least a month between services.  After approximately four hours in the salon and a big chunk of change (I definitely don’t miss the time and money commitment of hair coloring!), I emerged looking like this:

With highlights at 6 months

I had heavy highlights applied below the line of demarcation at six months. 

As you can see (I tried my best to get accurate photos outdoors), the line of demarcation was much less obvious, but I didn’t like the overall color of my hair.  I felt that the highlights looked “brassy” and orange-ish, whereas I was hoping they would be more of an ashy color.  I spoke to the stylist about this and went back in to have a few highlights in the front redone and a toner applied to the full length of my hair.  Toner helps to mitigate brassiness and even out hair tones – and it made a big difference.  It’s a demi-permanent process, so it will wash out over time (thus, it will need to be re-done periodically), but here’s how my hair looks now, a few weeks later:

Gray transition - 7 months with toner

This is what my hair looks like now at 7 months and with highlights and toner. 

Even with the Olaplex, my hair was still pretty dry from the highlights, particularly at the ends.  Luckily, the at-home formulation of Olaplex has worked like a charm to restore moisture, so my hair feels much the same as it did prior to having the highlights done.  Still, I want to wait longer to do another round, both for the condition of my hair and so I can emotionally adjust to the lighter hair color.

The Emotional Adjustment

I find myself missing my dark hair and it feels sad to look at myself and think that I will never have dark hair again.  I don’t love my current hair color, but it’s a midpoint on the journey to my natural silver hair, which I believe I will like better.  I feel that darker hair and silver hair are better matches for my coloring and personal style than the current in-between warmer shade. Since my skin tone is cool and I almost exclusively wear cool-hued clothing, my hair clashes somewhat with both my complexion and my clothes.

I can’t expect the color to be perfect, but I think the highlights will make the transition easier and perhaps additional highlights will help me to like my hair more as it grows out.  I do plan to cut more hair off later down the line, but for now I’m sticking with one to two inch trims every few months. Once I have more outgrowth, I may opt for a more dramatic chop so that I have more “virgin” hair than dyed hair on my head.

I’m still not 100% convinced this is all going to work out, but I have to at least try. I see so many lovely silver heads of hair in the gray transition Facebook groups, but I’m still skeptical as to whether I will look good with my natural hair color.  I also worry that my gray hair might yellow from regular flat-ironing, which I can’t see myself not doing.  I know there are ways of both preventing this and dealing with it, but it’s still a concern.  I’m taking things as they come, but I’m proud to have gone seven months thus far with no permanent color. It’s a relief not to have to “chase roots” constantly like I was, but I do struggle when I see myself with this lighter hair.

Some Final Thoughts

I’m hoping I’ll get used to it and end up loving the gray. So many women in the gray groups do, but I can’t help but think there are many others who either leave the groups (and perhaps color their hair again) or don’t voice their discontent with their new look. There is definite peer pressure in the groups and many of the members are like ex-smokers who hate smoking more than those who never smoked.

A lot of women in the groups write about how hair dye looks ugly and unnatural. Yes, that can be true sometimes, but I wonder if perhaps they’re saying such things to try to convince themselves as much as others.  I believe in live and let live and that we all have to do what’s right for us. I don’t want to become a gray hair evangelist, but I do want to encourage people to at least question what they’re doing to make sure it’s right for them. Peer pressure is not a good reason to either dye or not dye.

If I do ever decide to go back to coloring my hair (which I don’t think I will), I hope I won’t view it as a “failure.” Some women in the groups have gone back to dyeing and were very sheepish about it. I think that as long as one makes an informed and empowered decision, it can be the right thing to do in either instance. I feel that even if one goes back to dyeing, it was still a “success” to have given it a go, as it was a way of questioning the status quo, much like with any change we make in life. I’m proud of myself for doing this, especially since it’s not easy and I live in appearance-conscious Southern California. I don’t know how it’s all going to turn out, but we never do with any chance we take in life. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?

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51 thoughts on “Gray Hair Transition – Rounding the Seven Month Mark

  1. michaela says:

    Isn’t there some middle path? Your hair coloured is quite a dark reddish brown and uncoloured it is a darkish salt and pepper. A good colourist could get a tint or even better two tints the middle of these two. At a guess your coloured hair is a warm 7 and your natural hair is a mix between black and silver, each at an opposite end of the colour spectrum.
    How about a light cool ash (ash 9 say) highlights with warm deep blonde lowlights?
    Honestly you don’t have to go through this with all the techniques that modern hairdressing has.
    You might need to spend more onhairdressing for 12 months than you usually would but, hey, good hair makes you feel GOOD!
    Forget the ideology and get something flattering. I’m 69 and still blonde-ing on. I was thinking of going grey at 70 but then I saw Martha Stewart who is 73!
    Spend less on clothes and more on hair, I say!

    1. Lynn says:

      I agree. I think part of your discomfort with your hair at the moment is due to the clash between the warm dyed color and the cool natural color. Toning the reds and golds down to an ashy brown would help to even the effect. Also, it would be worth cutting your hair back to your collar bone. Very long grey hair tends to look out of condition unless it is super conditioned smooth and shiny. It would still look long as it is below your shoulder, but more sophisticated – and you could still wear your headbands, which really suit you.

    2. Vicki says:

      Thank you so much for sharing your experience. It is honest and we come to understand the thought processes we might have to go through. Last 2 times I dyed my roots it caused serious scalp reactions – so i have no choice now to stop this cycle of dying the hair. Your comments have helped me with my next choices. Thank you again!

      Vicki (Canada).

      1. Debbie Roes says:

        Best wishes to you with transitioning to your natural gray hair, Vicki. I’m sorry you have to experience the severe scalp reactions and are forced to stop the dye, but I hope you will be happy with the results. I’m glad this post and the comments have helped you decide how best to proceed. You may want to check out the rest of my gray hair transition posts, along with the comments on those as well:

  2. librarian2020 says:

    I have naturally dark (nearly black) hair, and I tried going a little lighter a year or so ago. It was a disaster – I wanted to cry every time I looked in the mirror. After a long chat with my hairdresser, I went dark again, but a richer brown than when I was trying to recapture the nearly black hair I was born with. I love it, and I don’t think I will ever willingly go grey. Kudos to you for sticking it out seven months, but please don’t feel like a failure if you discover this path is not for you.

  3. Susan Ashworth says:

    Debbie, I LOVE your natural color! And your highlights are not what I would pick for you, but I think it’s to be expected, considering the color you started with. I’m sure your hairdresser can work towards what you want, and it’s very effective at blurring the line of demarcation. I also love the headband or scarf on you.

  4. Tara C says:

    As you know, I chose option 2 and went really short. And I am loving it! I went through a period of mourning my long dark hair but it’s over now and I’ll never go back. I’m glad you’re persevering. Hang in there, it will get easier!

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      Tara, you played a big role in my having the courage to do this, so thank you for helping to inspire me! I’m glad you are happy with your hair now and have no regrets about your decision. When I saw you after the change, I noticed your eyes and skin more than I ever did before and you looked quite radiant. I’m not as brave as you are to do option #2, but my hat (and I wear more of them these days…) is definitely off to you! Thanks for the encouragement!

  5. Sal says:

    Imogen Lamport’s Inside Out Style Blog has some excellent articles on her transition from really dark cool brown hair, to ash blonde hair, in order to disguise her grey. She too went through a transition period where her lighter hair colour was too warm for her skin colour, like yours is now, before finally getting to a lighter cooler colour that suited her.

    Her post on hair colour below shows you how to tell if you have the wrong hair colour:

    She did 4 posts on her grey hair transition, which I would recommend you reading:

    You are still in the middle of your grey hair transition and I am sure with the right hairdresser, over time you will be able to end up with a cooler ash blonde hair colour that will suit you better

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      Thanks for sharing these links, Sal. I read Imogen’s posts before, but it was helpful to read them again now that I’m in the process myself! I actually wanted to do what she did with stripping out the color, but I was pretty sure my hair wouldn’t be able to take it. She looked great as a brunette and she is lovely as a blonde now, too. The middle color wasn’t so good, but it was a necessary evil in the process. I don’t intend to stay with my current color, but I want to give my hair a breather between coloring processes. Hopefully I will be able to get at least somewhat ashier with my tone the next time around.

  6. Sybil says:

    Debbie, I love how you delve into the ‘whys’ of things, always with so much thought. You’re quite right – those of us who have embraced gray hair sometimes become evangelical about it. But it’s definitely not for everyone, and it’s definitely not easy, even when the transition is complete. I worry about ‘looking old’; and I often compare my looks to other women and feel woefully inadequate. I just got tired of trying to dodge the age bullet, knowing full well that it would find me someday anyway. It was a relief to let go of the quest for youthful perfection, and turn my energy toward learning to live with more gratitude for now, rather than continually pining for what is no longer. I do try to eat well and exercise for my mental and emotional health – I believe that will provide a more lasting happiness for me.
    My mother and many of her friends aged so gracefully, always making the effort to look polished and put together, still caring about their looks well into their 80’s and 90’s. I especially loved how- even through the wrinkles and gray hair and so many physical challenges – they laughed loudly. I want to be a woman like that.
    You are making progress, my friend. And you will figure out what is right for YOU, for NOW~

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      I really appreciate your continued encouragement, Sybil! I wish everyone here could see how lovely you look with your beautiful silver hair. Like Tara above (as well as Terra), you have been one of my greatest sources of inspiration! I resonate a lot with what you wrote here. I think it will be a relief for me to let go of the quest for youthful perfection and I would love to be free of the habit of comparison. I do intend to always take care of myself, but I don’t need to look a lot younger than what I am. I think you look beautiful with your natural hair and hopefully I will, too. I just have to get through this rough time. It’s already easier than it was… and I’m grateful for that.

  7. Vildy says:

    Maybe it’s just the fact of documenting it all for a series of posts but you sound like you’ve had to struggle a lot. I had no idea you were not naturally a brunette. Maybe it’s just how the photos look on my monitor. It’s appearing dark blond/lighter brown to me. I can see how this would throw off your contrast levels. I’m not in any way saying you don’t still look beautiful but what about something like henna products? What about those salons specializing in natural organic hair color?

    Something I thought I’d mention because of your chemical sensitivies: have you checked whatever shampoo, conditioner, face creams, cleansers, hand soap, etc for the family of chemical preservatives that are can cause severe allergies and are neurotoxins? After our son saw 3 doctors, including a dermatologist and they couldn’t figure out a bleeding rash on his buttocks, with open sores, I happened upon an article on these chemicals and they mentioned baby wipes. Bingo! After that I threw out everything in the house I could find that had this and I’m very careful what I bring in. I think it’s already outlawed in Europe but still being used here in U.S. Sometimes the generic store brand Compare To… does not have it while the brand name does.

    Chloromethylisothiazolinone (CMIT)
    Benzisothiazolinone (BIT)
    Octylisothiazolinone (OIT)
    Dichlorooctylisothiazolinone (DCOIT)

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      Thank you for mentioning the chemical sensitivity, Vildy. I need to delve into exploring the ingredients of all of my products further, but I’ve already done a lot to clean up my environment and it has helped somewhat. I’m glad you were able to figure out what was bothering your son. That sounds scary! I will address the hair issues below, as a lot of people wrote similar comments and it’s easier for me to answer them all at once instead of individually.

  8. Anna says:

    Hi Debbie, your natural color is so beautiful!

    I can see how hard the transitioning process is but I think you highlights with Olaplex are a great interim solution. Your new emerging gray hair is a fantastic silvery shade, it makes your eyes sparkle and really flatters your skintone. I promise it will be worth it!

    I’m in Europe an for the past couple of years very cool toned gray or pale silver hair has been the height of fashion. Lots of very young women also get their hair silver-tinted! (See how magnicificent it looks on Vogue UK editor Sarah Harris: )

    I’m a natural blonde. My hair has just darkened and faded with age and based on older relatives, I’ll go mousy, not silvery gray. I’ve always loved and envied that beautiful shade of steel gray – you are getting there and it looks so beautiful!

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      Good to see you comment here, Anna, and thank you for your kind words! Silver hair is popular in the U.S., too, so this is a good time to transition. I hadn’t seen Sarah Harris before, but she is quite lovely. I love how she never colored her hair and made it her trademark instead. I wish I would have done that, but hindsight is always 20/20. I hope one day I will look half as cool as Sarah does! I’m happy that the hair that is growing out of my head looks better than I thought it would.

  9. Sara K says:

    As a long-time natural hair advocate, I dare to say that natural hair color is never the root of the problem. From the last photos I see that your eyes are now more focal point of your head than when your face was surrounded by dark hair. It’s definitely not a turn for the worse, but it IS a change, and you might want to do some exploration. But, let me say first that you look great and have indeed shown patience with this growing out project. I have grown my hair out from super short to long once…and let’s just say that I never want to repeat the experience.

    I’ve noticed that many women, as they go gray, also update their makeup routine and wardrobe. Your wardrobe colors have been quite bright in the past -lots of contrast, just like your hair, eyes and skin tone used to have. Maybe now would be a time to experiment with softer color. A complete wardrobe overhaul is unnecessary, but maybe you could swatch with some new colors in store. Like cool pink instead of bright fuchsia, aqua instead of teal, some softer blue instead of cobalt… Many women also seem to drift towards charcoal grey or navy as their base neutral instead of black. My point being, that since especially longer hair affects our coloring so much, a major color change will have its effect on how we look in general. At that point, many seem to think that their new color is “unflattering”, even though the color suits wonderfully their skin tone (which, I might point out, also changes subtly with age), while in reality the new color and contrast level that comes with it are just a little out of sync with one’s wardrobe.

    Lastly, since you struggle with a shopping problem, let me emphasize that I’m not suggesting a shopping spree or a huge wardrobe overhaul, but small, gradual tweaks at most. If you have done color analysis in the past, now could be a time to redo it… once again, the devil is in the details.

    1. Tara C says:

      This. I have never had so many compliments on my eyes as since I have gone grey. I also think my skin looks younger, contrasted with the grey hair. I am wearing a lot more grey, charcoal and black in my clothing, which is now more flattering on me. With eye makeup I am leaning towards pewter, bronze, pinks, plums and taupe/grey shades. Dark lipsticks look better too – reds and plums.

      But above and beyond those changes, I have started exercising more intensely which has greatly improved my overall energy and self-esteem. I know you have challenges in that area due to health problems, but doing the most you can in that area may help too, both mentally and physically.

      1. Debbie Roes says:

        I can definitely attest to your eyes sparkling and standing out so much more now, Tara, and I agree that your skin also looks younger. I can imagine that a change in make-up and clothing colors will be needed. I haven’t done much exploration there yet, but I’m happy that I already prefer cool colors. I’ve read that many women who wore a lot of warm colors before had to do a complete wardrobe overhaul. I will likely do what Sara K recommends and gradually make shifts. It’s a bit hard to do it yet because I’m still not sure what my hair will look like, but as I do shop, I will buy the colors that look best on me. I don’t think I will ever give up cobalt and black, though, as those are my favorites!

        Yes, I do have challenges in terms of how intensely I can exercise, but I do what I can and it varies day by day. I find that even getting outside for a short walk helps my well-being, so I try to do that as much as possible. Hope to see you again soon when you’re back in San Diego.

  10. Heather says:

    I know that you aren’t fond of the new color, but I think your hair looks beautiful in the picture with the polka dot headband.

  11. Melody says:

    Debbie, your natural hair colour is so elegant and flattering on you! I don’t think it matters that the new colour suits you less because it’s not up against your face. Plus your hair is growing very fast so I think with a bit of a cut it will be the dominant colour before long.

    You’ve inspired me! I’m 39 so just have a skattering of grey but I’m letting it through. I’m growing out blonde highlights, my natural colour is mousey. I’ve also shortened my hair so the transition is fairly painless and I don’t think about it much. I just hope I’m happy with the natural colour. I don’t want to look old but I do want to be natural. I am enjoying not having to colour it!

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      I’m very happy to have inspired you, Melody! My hope in sharing my journey was to shed light on the situation for others. There was SO much I didn’t know before I started to go down this road. If I can make things a little easier for even a few other women, it will be worth it. Best wishes to you!

  12. Sherri says:

    I actually like you with this warmer tone; better than the “natural” darker hair you had. It looks great!

  13. Holly says:

    I think you look fabulous!

  14. Cheryl says:

    I love the your natural silver streaks and can totally see how wonderful you will look once your naturalness is totally achieved. Even if it is not totally silver. Your eyes have a smoky look that could look fabulous with salt and pepper hair. You did say your hair was dark brown before but on screen it always looks a reddish brown. I wonder if that is what goofed up the hair stylist who was putting your streaks in. Is it possible you could get a frost cap and do it yourself like I used to do when I added light streaks only you would add dark brown and dark gray streaks? I heard it is easier going darker than going lighter. I admire your fearlessness in this project. Oh, and I agree with the others that you wear all those headbands beautifully and they actually add a special something to your total style.

  15. BamaCarol says:

    Debbie, I too am letting go of the color and am at around 6 months with no coloring. The first month my hairdresser did highlights and bleaching on my really dark (almost black) hair and it was very stark at first but I’ve come to love it as the roots grow out. I am quite grey but there is enough black left to make it a little darker than yours. I have done the Olaplex but actually prefer the Keratin treatment. My hair is in pretty good shape considering what I’ve been through health wise in the last few years. My hair had grown to halfway down my back and I did get it cut at collar bone length and love it. I doubt I will go shorter right now as I still like to pull it back when I can. The cut made a huge difference in how I viewed the grey and in how my hair looked as it was starting to look old and almost straw-like even though it wasn’t in that bad of shape. I think it just perked me up enough to keep me going. My hairdresser has said she can do some low lights but I think I will just try to live with the demarcation line and ignore it as much as possible. I’ve started putting color on my eyes again and a darker lipstick to take some of the focus away from my hair and so far it is working. There are still days I wonder who that old woman in the mirror is but I am determined to keep this up and finally get all of the artificial color out of my hair. Thanks for your inspiration!

  16. JaneN says:

    Hi Debbie, You are beautiful and both the dark and the silver suit you. (I also love the hairbands) You think things out very well and I know you will find your way, whether it be to keep slowly transitioning or change your mind. Sending best wishes to you.

  17. Chris says:

    Debbie I am so proud of you! And I’m glad you are too. You look even more beautiful than before and I can see when you are done with the grow out your look will be absolutely stunning.

  18. Melanie says:

    Debbie, you are such an inspiration! Your new image is very elegant.

    I just turned forty, and I’ve been getting more and more silver strands in my hair. We have similar coloring, and seeing the way silver looks on you makes me want to keep the grey coming.

    Love your blog!

  19. Joanna says:

    Debbie, I can see how this would be frustrating and emotionally challenging. Are you sure you can’t just chop most of it off? This seems less painful than battling the demarcation line for at least another couple of years. Check out Unique Monique on you tube. She went from long dark chestnut to a funky short silver cut, which looks great. Her looks changed dramatically, but in a good way. Good luck on your hair journey.

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      Thanks for the tip about Unique Monique, Joanna. I will check her out. I have watched quite a few YouTube videos, but I haven’t come across her yet.

  20. Juhli says:

    How much are you willing to cut off? The new natural color looks great and with a shorter bob the darker ends would be less visible. Good for you for getting away from all the chemicals, time and money required to alter your hair color.

  21. Julia says:

    Please, please don’t be sad at leaving behind your dark hair! Just look at how your beautiful eyes and skin tone shine out already. I sometimes feel nostalgic about the clothes, shoes, etc., that I wore in more youthful times, but becoming older has so many advantages to embrace, and is an opportunity to experiment with different colours and styles. Think of the fun you can have with new ideas!

  22. Maggie says:

    Hi Debbie,
    I think that your skin and eyes just glow with the gray but what matters is how you feel about yourself. (I am still an advocate of lightening the hair around one’s face since that is what you see in the mirror.) Have you considered lightening or putting a lighter color on your eyebrows and changing up the makeup? It seems that changing hair color could really change the overall look of the colors/tones on your face. You could always use a brow color in a lighter shade just to see how it looks and go with a lighter lip if you are not already doing that. I love the hair bands too. It is a great way to include your love of stripes and your favorite colors up near your face.

  23. Mary Beth says:

    For what it’s worth (and I just realized the comment above mine says the same thing): your eyes have a luster to them, and your skin looks brighter, with your gray hair. Your eyes have more ‘pop’ than they did with the brown. I think this is an experiment worth continuing FOR YOURSELF**, to see how you like the finished look (fully gray). I feel that if you stop now, you will always feel like maybe you let yourself down, just a little.

    **I think it’s very important that you don’t worry about other people – about any expectations we might have, or that you’re somehow letting us down if you were to discontinue this experiement. Do what feels right, and bravely soldier forward, with whatever decision you feel is right for Debbie, and not an audience 🙂

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      I appreciate your encouragement, Mary Beth. You’re right that I would feel that I let myself down if I don’t see this process through. I do feel proud of myself for doing it and being as hard as I can be on myself, I don’t feel proud of myself all that often. I do have a tendency to worry a lot about what other people think, but I’m working to get past that. After all, I’m the only one who has to live my life, so I have to do what’s right for me. This gray transition definitely isn’t easy, but I am learning and growing through the process and am happy about that.

  24. Luna says:

    Debbie, I hope you won’t find me too honest here, I really think a shorter hairstyle is the answer. For some time now I’ve thought both your natural hair color and a shorter length would suit you better, and I must say I absolutely love the way the grayish hair looks on you — you look younger, and the harmony in general is rather nice. In any case, well done for staying the course. I think you are on your way to something beautiful and liberating.

  25. Alice says:

    Your eyes and skin glow with your natural grey. I know a few women who dye their hair very dark an as they have got older their skin looks drained. It may look dramatic in a photo but not in daylight. It’s difficult for us to asses from Internet photos, so of course you will be the best judge, but do asses the overall result and not just focus on the hair. I also think a bit shorter say maybe to your elegant collar bones would look good.

  26. Izeve says:

    Debbie, the transition is hard and it feels like it’s never going to work while you’re in the middle of it. But you’ll get there and I think you will look beautiful with your natural hair color, it makes your eyes really sparkly!

    I picked option 2 and cut my hair short after about 6 or 7 months of transitioning. But it was an easy choice for me because I had short hair most of my life and felt very comfortable with it. I fall into the category of women who stop coloring and never look back. I’ve never been tempted to start coloring again and it’s been almost 6 years for me now. But my 72 year old mother tried going gray and really disliked it. She’s gone back to coloring but uses semi-permanent color for a softer look.

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      Congrats on making the transition, Izeve, and for never looking back! It’s great that it didn’t take you all that long to make the transition. I do think it’s easier for those who have or like short hair (on themselves). My mother is also 72 and doesn’t have any intention of stopping coloring. I think that it’s harder for that generation from what I’ve seen. It’s good that she is now using the semi-permanent color now. This is a very individual process and everyone needs to do what’s right for them. I hope I will feel as you do once I’m done transitioning.

  27. Lori says:

    It is remarkable just how much your eyes really stand out and your skin looks so good with the grey. I think you will love it once this whole process is done. What about speeding up the process a bit and cutting off a few inches? I think you could go all the way short and look super sassy!

  28. Debbie Roes says:

    Thank you so much to everyone who has commented here. I appreciate all of the wonderful compliments that many of you made about how my natural hair color is bringing out my eyes. I noticed that shift with a few friends who have transitioned, so it’s great that you see it happening for me, too. I’m also grateful for the kind comments about my head scarves. I started wearing them to cover the “skunk stripe,” but I’ve found that I really like them and plan to continue wearing them even when my hair is all one color.

    A lot of people asked similar questions and made similar suggestions above, so it’s easier for me to respond to them all at once instead of individually. I know it seems like it should be easy for a
    good colorist to either dye a person’s hair to match their natural color or lighten hair to an ashy
    tone, but it’s not nearly as simple as it seems. I’m a member of multiple Facebook groups focusing on gray hair transition and a lot of women struggle with brassy highlights and colored hair that is warmer/oranger than they would like. Even before I decided to transition to gray, I had a lot of trouble getting my hair the color I wanted and keeping it that way, even though I’ve been to multiple colorists and have spent a lot of money. Part of my reason for transitioning is because I was basically never happy with my color and even when I was, my roots would show after only about a week and a half. Even when a stylist would use the exact same formula and process, the result would be different, which was maddening. Chock it up to porous, damaged hair that became increasingly unpredictable.

    The perpetual “chasing roots” after less than two weeks’ time is why using henna or organic color aren’t really good options for me, either. Yes, they are healthier alternatives to the harsh
    chemicals, but the truth is that I’m more than 75% gray (at least on top), so I’m going to have a
    skunk stripe pretty quickly no matter what. I actually rather like the color of my natural hair
    (surprisingly!) and I look forward to hopefully embracing it when this transition process is all
    said and done.

    The reason my highlights are still reddish is because my hair was very red to start with (it was
    dyed auburn) and to take it as light as I wanted would be too damaging all in one go. The stylist
    actually said that it went lighter than she thought it would in the first go-around. She thinks I
    may need just one more round of highlights, but I may also want to do lowlights to tone down the overall redness because even with heavy highlights, there is still a lot of my original color that would be untouched. I don’t want to touch any of my new outgrowth no matter what, so anything that is done will only be done to the dyed portion of my hair.

    As for cutting my hair shorter, one big change at a time is enough for me. I’m sure I will cut more off once I have more outgrowth, but I will probably always keep my hair long enough to be able to pull it back. My hair is not naturally straight and can be big and busy with humidity, so it does better with more weight and length to pull that down. Hopefully, my texture will be nicer without all of the dye on it. It’s already better than it was back when I was coloring every four weeks.

    I’m sure I will need to make some changes to my make-up and clothing colors as this process
    progresses, as some of you have mentioned. I liked the reminder links to Imogen Lamport’s posts about her transition (she went from dark brown to blonde), in which she wrote about how she went from high contrast down to medium contrast. The same will be true of me and already is to a certain extent. Getting my colors done after my hair has transitioned is a good idea and may be a nice way to reward myself for my tenacity with all of this.

    I appreciate those who said I wouldn’t be a failure if I end up deciding to color again. I know
    that, but I hope to see this through. If I hate it at that point, well then I know I have options.
    I’m taking it one day at a time. It’s not that bad, actually. I don’t love the current color, but
    it’s a lot better than when I had the stark skunk line in the middle of my head. Soon I will take
    the next step in transitioning the color and who knows what else I will do along the way. I’m
    keeping my options open.

    The main reason I’m sharing all of this here is for those who are like I was and don’t know much
    about the process. I’m hoping to perhaps make it easier for some of you so you won’t have to go
    through some of the angst I have. A few of you mentioned that I’ve inspired you and I always love hearing things like that. Best wishes to those of you who are also on this path and congratulations to those who have already transitioned successfully. Before too long, I hope to be among you!

  29. Silvia says:

    I am at the 3 months part of the journey. I am 45, and my hair is salt and pepper, but my colored hair looks auburn but not shinny or healthy. I love how you expressed yourself in this post. I am with you. Coloring is nice and fun for many, we should always respect others. I’m going to try to make this work too. I am not patient either, but we will see! I believe you will look beautiful once it’s all grey.

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      Congrats on starting the gray transition process, Silvia! It’s certainly a growth-enhancing experience… I’m glad you liked my post and I appreciate your kind words. I’m definitely not against coloring and if I didn’t have health issues and could still get away with coloring every 6 weeks or so, I would likely still do it. But my hair was super damaged and my roots showed after less than two weeks, so the handwriting was on the wall. My hair is much healthier now, even with the highlights, and hopefully yours will be, too. Best wishes to you with this journey!

      1. Silvia says:

        Thank you Debbie. You are ahead of me by a few months, and I know that, one day, we both will be glad we made this decision. Your natural hair is looking very beautiful. It may take time for the whole process, and not only, for other changes around this (clothes colors, make up, etc), but we’ll get there!

  30. Iris says:

    Dear Debbie, I have been reading your blog for a long time, but never commeted although often I would have liked to. But this time I need to, because I am amazed and stunned how great your natural hair colour suits you. I would have never expected it to make such a difference.
    So, at least as far as I can see, the struggle of the transistion will definitely be worth it. You look gorgeous already and you will look even more gorgeous!
    Sending you strength and big thank you for your wonderful blog!

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      Thank you so much for taking the time to come and post this wonderful comment, Iris. I was delighted to see it, as I was struggling a lot with my hair color (the dyed parts and the contrast with my roots) yesterday. This isn’t easy, but I hope you’re right and I will be happy once the transition is done. It has definitely helped to receive comments like yours on this post.

      1. Iris says:

        And now I am delighted by your answer. Thank you for your kind words!
        After I posted my comment, I felt bad, because I didn’t want to emotionally pressurize you to keep going when you feel bad about the transition. But I am still amazed by the “new” look that is opening up for you. For me you look at the same time softer (more feminine), stronger and more alive with the lighter hair.
        As far as I can see, your contrast level rather increases, because your eyes create a stronger contrast to the lighter hair. (So pretty!!!)
        But I can also understand how hard it must be to keep going; I once discovered I had unintentionally two-toned hair (home dyeing) and felt a bit uneasy about that for quite some time. So I am sending you good vibes for courage, selfconfidence and pah-I-look-gorgeous-anyway-conscience – and for rapid hairgrowth! I keep my fingers crossed, that San Diego can soon enjoy the sight a post-transition Debbie.
        But however you decide to go on, I admire your courage that is evident in each of your blog posts and above all hope you will be happy today, tomorrow and with any haircolor you sport 🙂

        1. Debbie Roes says:

          I really appreciate your kind words and encouragement, Iris, as I continue to struggle with my transition. I can see the possibility at the end of the road, but this in-between phase is very rough. The highlights decreased the line of demarcation, but my hair now looks brassy and I’m not sure what to do about it. I feel like there just isn’t enough information out there for women who want to go gray without chopping all of their hair off. I know there must be many women out there who are going through what I am. I admire those who can be “zen” about the stripe or brave enough to go super short, but I am neither of those and feel I may have made things worse by opting for the highlights. Of course, hindsight is always 20/20, but it would be nice to have a resource that clearly states the pros and cons of each available option. I’m taking this day by day and hope I can stay the course, but in all honesty I’m just not sure at this point. Thank you for what you wrote in your last sentence. It truly means a lot to me and actually brought tears to my eyes.

  31. Estefania Lopez says:

    Hi Debbie,
    Not sure if you still check this blog but I am interested in what you decided to do in the end about your hair. I have similar hair colour to yours and I am at almost 5 months and finding it increasingly difficult. It’s getting to the point where temporary spray is no longer an option. To top that up, I am not sure I like my natural grey hair as it is very “salt and pepper” and not very grey. However, there is still a part of me that wants to know what it would look like at the end and I cringe at the thought of dying every 3 weeks! Anyway, send us an update if you can! Thanks for this post! it has given me food for thought!

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      Yes, I still check this blog, Estefania, but less so recently because of some personal stuff in my life… I have written a few other gray hair transition posts since the one you commented on. You can access them all via that category link:

      Where you are in the process is probably the most difficult time, so I feel for you… I used the root cover powder for 6 months, which was really too long, but I was so scared to show the “skunk stripe.” But what I did next was a big mistake, as I wrote about in this post: It’s a long and arduous process, but I made it longer by my fear of looking bad (which led to my looking worse for a longer period of time!). My hair isn’t as gray as I’d hoped, either, but I do think it looks better than my colored hair did, plus I’m happy not to have to “chase roots” every few weeks. I know it will get grayer in time if I just let it be and get on with my life. I wish you the best with your journey. I will post again soon about mine, but you have a few more recent posts you can read via the link above.

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