The Going Grey Project

by Julie Gibbons on December 8, 2011

I’ve been working hard on a very important Organikal project for the last 8 months. It is probably the most important one I’ve undertaken. Cue loads of photos of me.

Julie Gibbons

I decided to go cold turkey and stop dyeing my hair.

I haven’t got a nifty response when people ask me why : there isn’t just one, simple answer. I know it’s an interesting concept for folks who have considered ditching the dye, for many reasons. I came across this article Could Hair Dye Kill You yesterday and it reminded me that it isn’t just a  philosophical or environmental issue.

Why I decided to quit dyeing

I’ve been colouring my hair for as long as I can remember. I coloured it at home by myself; at home by hairdressers and in the salon. I used conventional and natural hair dyes. I used to match my hair colour with my underwear and my jacket. It’s gone from flashes of brilliant blue set in almost black, to varying shades of purple and most recently to reddish browns. I thought I’d be an old hag with purple hair right until the very end – some of my art was in there.

And then the time came to make a change. It had been creeping up on me, I guess. One of the things I love most about our house swap adventures is that I don’t worry about my hair. I manage months of letting my silvery roots show amidst my centre parting. So why not at home?

There is such a deep relief in accepting yourself as you are, without the nagging feeling that you are walking around as an imperfect model of your ideal self – which is what happens when you have silver hair, your dye job is dark, your regrowth shows within a week and a half and you can’t find the time (or the money) to touch it up.

I’ve spent the last year and a half stepping fully into myself. It has been life affirming and life changing. I guess I reached the point where that finally included my hair.

There is also the very real health issue to add to the picture. At the end of the day, I just can’t equate my organic life with a bunch of chemicals that I pay someone to put on my head, in my hair and bloodstream.

The reality of going grey

If you search online for resources on how to go grey naturally, there’s very little information about how to do it without the continued use of colours and disguises.  I knew that I wanted to stop messing with my hair and that cold turkey was the way to do it.

Here’s the truth about how it’s been for me so far.

  • Almost as soon as I changed my mindset from “my roots need redone” to “I’m growing out my dye job” I stopped worrying about what it looked like.
  • The first month to six weeks was quite difficult in terms of how it looked. I knew it looked a mess. But I was also excited about just how white it looked in some places.
  • My son asked me to call it silver, not grey. Silver is foxy, apparently. Grey is too old for a 40 year old.
  • Women I don’t know couldn’t take their eyes of my unruly, frizzy, stripy hairdo. I wanted to wear the equivalent of an “I’m not fat, I’m pregnant” t-shirt – “I’m not lazy. Or minging. I’m growing it out. Because I want to.” or something.

20 weeks grey

19 weeks in, summer 2011 – you can see an inch or two from my centre parting and wee grey wisps by my ears.

  • I quite often look at myself in the mirror and don’t recognise the person I see staring back at me. I often lament the loss of my long, purple hair (2006);

Julie Gibbons 2006

  • I’m frequently tempted to get all of my hair cut off, ala late 1990′s, to get rid of all the dyed hair and avoid this state of half and half. Then I think back to this and am no longer tempted (is that really me in there?);

Julie2000

  • My mum hates the thought of me with grey hair. My brother is also grey. She isn’t :)
  • I secretly worry that the hubster won’t fancy me anymore. He assures me the grey hair matches my grey eyes beautifully. He fell in love with those eyes.
  • I attended a job interview and was offered the job, despite the grey stripe.
  • My hairdresser supported my decision unequivocally, suggesting I may like to punk it up with beetroot juice, as did her grandmother :)
  • I am saving a fortune in time and money previously spent in the salon.

Eight months in, and it’s all rather interesting. I’m sticking with it. Here’s how it looks today;

Julie Gibbons Aerial View

You can see the front of my head is much darker than the back/roots. I do love how white it is at the crown.

Side View Underneath

I’m holding up the top layer of hair here, which is still very brown, to show you how white it is underneath. I’d love it if the front was as white as this.

Side and Front Top

The line between the natural and dyed hair has always been surprisingly ambiguous. Probably due to the style of my haircut. In photographs it looks just like there is a permanent light source shining on me from above.

Perhaps there is. Perhaps that permanent light source is my hair angel.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

craftygreenpoet December 15, 2011 at 9:44 am

Good for you! I’ve never dyed my hair and have been greying slightly for a few years. it’s interesting how the hair colour changes gradually

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Julie Gibbons December 16, 2011 at 12:57 pm

Thanks Juliet – I’m amazed at how white some of it is – and how uneven it is, too. But definitely like the real me now :)

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Beth July 31, 2012 at 6:12 am

Love this! I’m going on 30 and have been finding a few more gray hairs lately. I’ve never dyed my hair pretty much ever, and I like to think that I’ll be brave enough (like you!) to let my body choose what my hair will look like as I age. I think silver is beautiful!

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Eva November 11, 2012 at 8:39 pm

This is very inspiring, thank you. I have your type of natural hair colour but have dyed it medium brown every month, dreading the white stripe which inevitably shows through, like you say, within a lightening-fast week and a half. I’ve had grey hair and a Mallen streak (white shock of non-pigmented hair) coming from the middle of my crown since I was 14 years old. I too follow an organic lifestyle and lately just feel that I want to be as “authentic” as possible – inlcuding how I *really* look, so after reading your blog I’m going to allow my own silver to come through after the new year. I love the way your natural hair looks and it really is as if you’re being lit up by some kind of angelic illumination :) I think I may well go to the salon every four months or so to have the silver around my face brightened up with a few silvery highlights so it looks even more angelic ;) . The dye used this way doesn’t sit on the scalp like evil old dark dye. Thanks again for sharing and inspiring. <3

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