Why I Chose to Embrace My Naturally Gray Hair in my 30s #GrayMatters
by Beth Williby
Picture your best friend in your mind’s eye. Or maybe your mom. Your sister. A woman you consider to be beautiful both inside and out. What is the feature they have that sticks out in your mind? Is it their skin? Their eyes? Perhaps it’s the tilt of their head when they smile, their height, their curls, or the way their nose slants just a little to one side. I’ll wager that there is something about that woman in your life that makes her distinctive, that sets her apart from the crowd.
And what about you? What is that one thing about your own appearance that sets you apart? That one feature that, no matter what else you might change about yourself, you wouldn’t trade for the world? For me, it’s an easy answer. It’s my hair. Always has been, probably always will be.
The funny thing is, my hair is almost completely gray. And I’m only 40 years old.
Now, understandably, this decision to stop coloring my hair and embrace my natural gray has led people question my sanity and my style. Why would I do such a thing? Doesn’t it make me look or feel older? What does my husband think about it? Do my kids mind that I don’t look like the other moms at their elementary school? Am I just following the trend of the day? Was it hard to grow it out?
The quick answers…? Because I wanted to, among other reasons. Not a bit. He actually thinks it’s part of what makes me beautiful. Nope. That trend wasn’t even a thing when I stopped coloring my hair. And, It took some patience and time, but I wouldn’t say it was hard.
But let’s dive a little deeper, shall we?
Why would I decide to go gray in my 30s?
I stopped coloring my hair when I was 37. It wasn’t an obvious or easy decision. It took a lot of thought over several years to come to a place where I was comfortable embracing my look and my differences. These are the four main considerations that went into my decision.
First, there was the time I spent in the chair. Now, I am a busy mom of four kids. My time, like yours, is precious. By the time I was 35, I was spending upwards of 3-4 hours a month at the salon, just sitting on my behind. That worked out to 48 hours a year! Some people might enjoy that, and that’s OK! I just found it annoying.
Second, I had to think about the financial commitment. Each time I went to the salon for a cut, color, and highlights, I was dropping about $350. That craziness works out to over $4000 a year! In my area of the country, even just getting a single process, root to tip color every 8 weeks would run you about $700 per year. With my oldest son in high school, I could definitely think of more and better uses for that amount of money.
Third, gray hair is in my genes! Both my granddad and my dad started life with the same thick, wavy, almost black hair that I had when I was younger. But both of those men were completely gray by the time they were 50 years old. Then, one day, I found a beautiful picture of my great-grandmother when she was about my age.
Imagine my surprise when I saw her thick, wavy, nearly black hair with these beautiful streaks of gray running through it in the exact same places where my gray was coming in! How could I deny the genetics and the connection with people I loved and admired so much? Especially when it was a feature that I found so endearing? I found that I couldn’t…and I didn’t want to anymore.
Lastly, I’m a vain person. This maybe seems to be a little counter-intuitive, right? I’m vain, so I stop coloring my hair and let it go gray? Hear me out, though. This gray hair? It makes people take notice. It’s unique. It makes me stand out in a crowd. And you know what? I am A-OK with that.
What do those closest to me think about it?
In short, they love it. In their eyes, it’s just something that makes me me! My husband has told me that I look more like myself with this natural color than some chemicals out of a box. My youngest daughter uses a pencil to color my hair when she draws a picture of me because she told me she just doesn’t have a marker to match my pretty hair. I don’t know about you, but that all sounds pretty good to me!
Was it hard to grow out?
This is probably the number one question I get from people (after “is that your real hair color?”). And the answer is pretty easy. If you’ve got time and patience and a good stylist that you trust, it really isn’t that hard at all.
Sure, it’s a process and you have to be willing to put up with two-toned hair for a few months. Which, granted, can be pretty annoying at times if I’m being honest. My hair grows pretty fast, though, and after right about one year, the roots had grown out enough that I just chopped my hair off to chin length and considered the job done.
And I haven’t regretted it for one second since then.
Recently, I went to this very hipster-millennial donut shop in an artsy part of town. The multi-pierced, multi-tattooed, pink-haired twenty-something server took one look at me and said, “Oh, my God. I love your hair!!! Where did you get it done? Who did it?” And then, more under her breath, “Did it cost a lot?”
I grabbed my donut and coffee from the counter, looked her square in the eye, and said, “Sweetie, I earned every one of these gray strands. They’re 100% natural. And God didn’t charge me one red cent for them.”
“That’s so cool!” she laughed. And I smiled for days because of that accidental compliment.
Beth Williby is a mom of 4 amazing humans and has been married to her college sweetheart for almost 20 years. You can most often find her cooking, singing, or driving her kids around. She blogs about mom life, faith, and food at www.awelcomegrace.com.