Going Gray Update

In my May 10. 2009 post, I mentioned I’d decided to stop dying my hair. After reading Henry Alford‘s book, How to Live: A Search for Wisdom from Old People (While They Are Still on This Earth), I started thinking about the message I was sending my patients. Almost all of them are in their 70s, 80s, and 90s, and I’m trying to help them to be comfortable with aging and the phase of life they’re in, but I was hiding my own aging. Dying my hair no longer felt right to me.

I’ve been letting out the silver for the past 8 months and the reaction I’ve been getting is interesting. Some people (mostly women with dyed hair) recoil in horror, some tell me I’m brave and are curious about my choice, and some of my patients are cheering me on and giving me beauty tips.
For me, the hardest part was getting past the phase where I looked like Paulie Walnuts from The Sopranos. Now that it’s obvious I’m growing it out and not just becoming lax with my self-care, it’s more bearable. It helps getting awesome haircuts from Stacey Lyn Weinstein of Loft 26 in Manhattan. Here are some mid-process photos just before and after my salon appointment with Stacey in September. I’ll post about this again after my next appointment.

8 thoughts on “Going Gray Update”

  1. Dr. El,

    I dye my hair and I feel comfortable about aging, but I guess its different when you feel like your 28!

    I can understand how it feels right to you to go gray since you are helping people deal with aging, however, you are young and beautiful and I don't think anyone would ever question if you dyed your hair or not. I'm looking forward to seeing the final result.

  2. Sue, thanks for the compliment. As you know, it's easier to feel young when working in a nursing home. I didn't think about hair color until last year, and I wouldn't have said I was uncomfortable with aging when I was coloring it. I'm glad I stopped, though, and I'm hoping I'll be happy with the final result. So far, so good.

  3. Jill, I have to laugh at myself because I'm so aware of a relatively minor change in my appearance, and yet it's so easy for me to accept the beauty of the residents (who are probably not seeing themselves as beautiful).

  4. i stopped dying my hair when i saw my mother in the mirror. (she's been dead for over 20 yrs!). i remember how much prettier she was when she stopped coloring and turned a lovely shade of gray. a decision that i've not regretted. found your blog via NYTimes. now have it bookmarked.

  5. Thanks, Susan, for your comment and for bookmarking my blog. Once I started looking around, I've been amazed at how many women look awesome with gray hair. My grandmother used to wear a wig, often askew, but she actually had nice white hair underneath.

  6. Returne d to this earlier post after looking at the later picture. Good luck with the change – it's the growing out that is the pits, as it looks as if you've just gotten a bit sloppy about the upkeep! Paulie Wlanuts is right on! I'm now 63, and decided about 2 years ago to see what i really looked like. Would like to claim noble reasons, but really, it was because I couldn't (did not want to) keep up with the white line, and no color seemed to be right anymore. I do my own hair – and I remember going to a beauty supply place to see if they had grey dye to help in the transition (Huh?)

    I lucked out – all the hair in the front/top turned out to be mostly platinum and is quite fun to have! And it is so nice not to have to deal with dye.

    Do I look older? I think I look my age, and I think I looked my age before,too, and that is not bad.

  7. Hi Cheryl,

    Thanks for posting. I looked for gray dye also, but couldn't find anything. I don't think hair dye companies are all that interested in facilitating a transition to a dye-less life!

    So far, I too am happy with how my hair is turning out. We'll see how it looks when there's no more dyed hair, but I'm actually relieved to see my real color.


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