Gray hair is usually linked to old age or, for whatever reason, even linked to a lack of care, as if it were something that only people who don’t know how to “take care” of themselves have. However, there are women who, after a process of acceptance, have decided to share their stories through an Instagram account called Grombre. Most talk about how their hair, regardless of its color, does not define who they are. On the contrary: it’s just a symbol of how rich and diverse femininity can be.
Enlighten compiled the testimonies of some of these women of different ages, who proudly show the beauty of their hair sprinkled or completely covered with gray hair.
“I noticed grays in my late teens but didn’t think much of it at the time. Fast forward to my early thirties. 2 children later and a plethora of gray sprouting up all over the place! I admittedly in my attempts to ‘not look old’ would dye it, but the color would never keep more than a week or 2. I simply don’t have the patience for that kind of upkeep, so I decided to just let nature take its course. I do find myself occasionally wavering between whether or not to color or cut it, but in the end, I opt against it. My husband refuses to let me dye it because he’s never seen me without the gray, lol. I also receive numerous compliments on the color. I’m learning slowly to accept that I’m not supposed to look like I did 20 years ago, as I am also not the same person I was 20 years ago. My gray is a part of who I am. All my joys and sorrows of the past 47 years.”
“About 3 years ago I developed issues with severe weakness in my arms and legs, pain, & balance problems to name a few. Come to find out I had heavy metal toxicity. Most people have similar levels of these metals and don’t develop problems, but my body responded poorly. I was told to do a full detox and it was recommended that I stop using hair color. I hadn’t even thought about growing out my gray, as I’ve been coloring for quite a long time.
I really wanted to do whatever I could to try to feel better, so I stopped coloring cold turkey. I was pretty depressed. I could barely use my arms, I couldn’t play my beloved bass guitar, and now my hair was half gray and half brown with highlights. Really not a good time in my life. 3 years later, I’m actually really happy with my gray. I get a lot more compliments on my hair than I ever did when it was colored. And it is so freeing to not color. I’m almost 57 years old and my authentic self. I’ve come to terms with everything, it was quite a journey, but I love my gray hair and will never go back.”
“10 years ago my husband went from an active 62-year-old attorney, playing softball and orchestral French horn, to, in 24 hours, a man who was completely paralyzed. He spent 8.5 months in the hospital recovering his breathing, his voice, and his ability to eat solid foods. Then we entered a year where my care at home using a Hoyer lift and feeding him was our life. I was 56 and when I finally really looked up at myself, I saw my chestnut locks with a sprinkle of grey had completely transformed to a shock of bright white. I went to a hairdresser and was happily convinced to ‘Go with it!’ I did.
I’ve loved my shiny silver hair, I get lots of compliments and questions about how it got so beautiful. I usually just smile and say ‘lucky I guess.’ I DID have to learn how to adjust to a very different value system in my wardrobe, but find new combinations of color an exciting challenge.”
“I’m currently 24. I found my first gray when I was 11, but my mom recently told me SHE found my first gray hair when I was 8! I have been growing out my greys since February 2020. I’m destined to be a silver sister, so why fight it?
I had been dyeing my hair monthly (either myself or at the salon) since I was around 17. I got more serious about ditching the dye when I saw how healthy my mom’s hair was when she decided to embrace her natural snow white hair a few years ago. When March rolled around, it quickly became obvious that the timing was right. After a few months I bleached the dyed ends of my front streak (poorly lol) and eagerly waited for my silvers to fill in.”
“In December 2016, I was 42 with an 11-month-old and bemoaning my ’disrespectful’ grey halo that I needed to henna/indigo. 2 younger colleagues at work who always expressed their love of silver hair said to me, ’Why don’t you stop dyeing it and let it grow out?’ Well, a few short months later, around May of 2017, I still hadn’t gotten around to that henna/indigo. The grey was no longer a halo, but a thick headband.
I was on vacation at my in-laws and was in the bathroom in a marathon session washing my hair. I had slacked on doing it for weeks and was going through massive shedding that I couldn’t understand. After dealing with it, I looked at the dye bottles on the counter. I was planning to forgo henna and just do a quick color with Jazzing. I looked at the bottles and thought of my family and 1 1/2 year old upstairs with whom I had already lost 2-3 hours of time. And I thought of the additional 1-2 hours I would need to spend applying dye, waiting, rinsing, conditioning, and styling my hair. And I was tired. In that moment, I was just so over it. And my grey hair journey that had begun in December, unbeknownst to me, officially started.
It wasn’t smooth sailing, there were a lot of bumps in the road in the first year and a half. Doubt, insecurity, negative comments. But I had started following Grombre and others and was always looking at inspo pics to help me stay the course. I remember telling an older colleague who would come behind me and whisper ’Dye it!’…. ’The road is rough, I admit it. But I have seen the destination and think it will be worth it.’ I am so happy I made the decision as I love my silver and being comfortable in my own skin. And my 2 colleagues were right, at 48, I’m done before I turned 50!”
“My confidence seems to fade away as soon as my boyfriend, a professional photographer, wants to capture me on film. I know there’s no quick displaying of the images as he shoots, there’s no correcting, no preview, no second chance.
This is me trying to stop him from taking this shot. I wasn’t wearing any make-up, had a bad hair day, and I felt tired. As soon as he grabs his camera and points at me, I feel vulnerable and exposed. But then he makes me laugh, he always makes me laugh… and shoots. Interesting how this doesn’t happen to me when he shoots digital, I don’t feel as self-conscious, I guess I know I can always delete the shot if I don’t look ‘good enough’ then I surely tend to be my own worst critic. When I look at this image now, I remember the moment we shared at the park, I remember him telling me how beautiful I look and me refusing to have my picture taken, because that day, for some reason, I didn’t believe it myself.”
“My mom found my first grey hair when I was 12 years old (I didn’t even know that was possible!!) She always warned me that I might go grey earlier than most, but I never imagined I’d be so young. As I got older, the grey patch at the very top of my head became harder and harder to cover. My lovely hairdresser convinced me to embrace it and I stopped covering my grey hair at 24.
I’ve now been growing it out for 2 years, and I get low lights a few times a year to help it blend more since I’m not completely grey. I am learning to embrace it more and more every day. No one ever believes that I am this grey at 26! I am a teacher and my little students are often baffled — ’you don’t even have kids yet and your hair is so grey!’ I just blame them for stressing me out! But really I should blame, or rather thank, my mom!”
“I stopped dying my hair in February 2019 and I’ve been waiting patiently until my hair grows out long enough to truly show itself in a photo. I’ve always associated grey hair with negative terms — being old, being frumpy, giving up. I dyed my greys for years, trying to fight back time by appearing ‘younger’ and ‘better’ with darker hair. The thought that I could love myself, grey hair and all, or that I could embrace myself and my sexuality as a 51-year-old woman, with grey hair, seemed unattainable.
Many people close to me, including my husband and some of my dearest friends, commended my continual dyeing and agreed that I looked ‘better’ with dark hair and that I should wait until I’m much older to ditch the dye. I almost followed their path. Until, and seriously, one of those friends directed me to this Instagram site. I instantly found support and courage through all the posts of women my age, women older than me, and those much younger, who’ve decided to let go of their need or desire to cover or change their aging appearance.
I’m feeling comfortable and empowered as I let go of the need to try to look a certain way, and instead, accept my changing as a reflection of my growing wisdom. I’m loving these silver strands. And I know that I can love and have compassion for all those around me only if I first have love and compassion for myself.”
“24 weeks into my grey journey. Can you see the tiredness in my eyes? A long time ago I realized that my eyes give away pretty much everything. A realization like that at a young age served to make me a particularly honest person. Not because I stood on some moral high ground, but because I simply couldn’t lie very well. Over time, the honesty became habitual and comfortable (thankfully) and I realized it was actually a very simple way to live.
But the thought of dishonesty was SO uncomfortable, that whenever people complimented my jet black hair, I’d find myself spluttering and babbling explanations about it being dyed and not really mine, etc., etc. I’m REALLY looking forward to now just being able to say ‘thank you’ when someone says they like the color of my grey hair. What a joy it will be to be liberated of this burden I put on myself.”
“Hello, I am Jaqueline Bergrós, 30 years old, musical actress from Germany. I had my first grey hair at the age of 18. At this time I didn’t think too much about it. At 21, I started to color my hair regularly. At 25 I had to color it every 3 weeks.
I was always told that I was too young for white hair. I was constantly asked whether I had a deficiency or a genetic defect. Either way, it was clear to everyone and so for me, I had to hide it. Nobody should see that I have white hair ‘much too early.’ Especially at my job. I work on stage and I have to be a type at auditions. Who wants to see a grey-haired Jasmine in Aladdin? I was ready to bear more and more allergic reactions, hair breakage, and hair loss, and considered it to be ‘normal.’ The more I colored my white hair, the faster they were visible again. Today I know: my white hair wants to be seen.
On March 5, 2020 I colored my hair for the last time and decided that my health was more important to me than having brown hair. I don’t want to hide and lock myself in a cage any longer. I was very afraid to show myself, especially for negative reactions.
Since I let my grey hair grow out, I have received countless compliments and great admiration.
I shine in a new light because I am simply me. The way I am. Some even ask me if my grey hair is dyed. Many people simply can’t grasp the picture of a young woman and grey hair together.
It is a journey and sometimes it is not easy. I decided to go on this trip and I don’t regret a single day. I can’t wait to let go of the last bit of color and live my gray to the tips.”
“Hi everyone! My name’s Alex and I’ve been dye free since June 2017. I decided to stop dying because at the rate I was graying, I’d have to get a touch up every week. I’m super low maintenance so this was an easy decision. I was excited to go on this journey and to see who I would become and how I would look with gray hair. It’s been a fabulous adventure so far. Embracing my grays has been very empowering and liberating. I’ve learned to accept and love my imperfections. My motto is imperfection is perfection. Feel free to ask me about my grays, keloid scars, and arthritis at a young age. We’re who we are because of the things we’re forced to deal with, and knowing who we truly are is an immeasurable gift to ourselves. Thank you for reading and I hope to connect with you all online and in real life!!”
“I’m rebelling. I’m letting my hair be its natural color! I’m bored of going to get my color done every 3 weeks, and I’d prefer to put the money toward other things. I wasn’t sure I’d like it. Being faced with the grey brought typical thoughts of ‘I’m old, I haven’t accomplished what I thought I would, time is flying by, and that’s that then.’ I’m not really sure what the THAT is, but whatever. BUT, I do love it. It’s liberating!!
I’ve gained more time not getting my hair done, I’ve saved money, I’m curating a wardrobe that is ‘me’ which definitely includes growing up in New York and being influenced by the 1970s. And, most importantly, all those thoughts aren’t true. Ok, yes, obviously getting older happens, and time does seem to fly by, but it seems acceptance of your grey hair means you accept yourself, for me anyway. It means… I have realized my accomplishments, I surround myself with real joy, and hope to bring things that are meaningful/valuable to others.”
“Sporting dreadlocks at the age of 40, I was preparing to move out of the U.S. for a job opportunity, when a friend brought to my attention that I had ‘grey bits’ that needed dying and offered to pay for the coloring as my going away gift. So for ‘fun’ I took her up on it. Soon after arriving in the country, I started working as a singer and felt I had to keep up with the coloring. It became a horrible burden and my locks became dry and brittle.
I also faced a situation I never imagined would be an issue: attracting the wrong type of people and not being respected because I looked younger. I was proud of my age and had no problem embracing it. With the advice of a beautician, I cut off my damaged dreads and stopped dying my hair and I have never looked back. It’s funny, living in a country where the women are really displeased with grey hair and most are into coloring, I don’t really notice my grey. I think it’s because I’ve come to see and enjoy the natural beauty of mine. It’s liberating and makes me happy.”
“After getting my first gray hairs at 16, I decided one year ago to go natural after dying my hair for years. At 35 I had mental health problems, going natural is a part of my healing process to really accept and love myself for who I am. I’m 39 now, very proud of myself, and I’m able to say I’m ok.”
“I started getting white hair in my 30s, and for 20 years I have been diligently and compulsively covering it. Frequent visits to the hairdresser? Me! Mascara or spray to cover the roots? Me! Bad mood when the roots started to appear? Me!
Home hair coloring is not my thing, so I let the white hair make a bigger appearance, making sure to curb its enthusiasm with dark spray. One day, after a shampoo, it clicked! My white hair appeared shiny to me. I said to myself, ‘Hey, wait a moment, you have silver hair!’ I loved it, I loved my new look, and since that moment there is no turning back.”
“My family was invited to a wedding back in 2012 — I was married, had 2 kids and, was 40. There was no way I was going with streaks of grey, so I had my hair dyed at a salon. It was a good thing I had gone in 2 weeks prior to the wedding, because when I went to wash my hair for the first time I ended up having an allergic reaction to the residual dye. It took a week for things to clear up. Since then, I’ve said goodbye to the dye and am never looking back!”
“I started my silver journey several years ago. My husband and I were having a casual conversation about women with grey hair… He said he wasn’t a fan. Of course, that was the day I committed to letting my hair grow out! Haha! I started going grey when I was 16! So it was time to stop dumping all those chemicals on my head. My hair has never been this healthy! And the husband came around and now LOVES IT! I wish I would have done it sooner. No regrets!”
“While embracing the grey is simply a vanity issue, it felt more than that. I have always made an effort to look good, dress well, and stay fit and I like makeup and clothes. All of these things contribute to my well-being. If I looked good, I felt good. It’s intertwined. As a result, this journey has been tough. It took a few weeks to be able to look at myself in the mirror and like what I saw. I cringed a lot and worried too much about how I would be perceived by others. Was I going to disappear into the abyss of an ‘older invisible woman’? Would the end be what I hoped it would be — a mane of glorious white locks? I knew I had to ‘rock the grey look’ but didn’t really believe it. I am now on week 12 and HERE. I. AM. I am embracing the greys and by extension, I am embracing myself. I know this will be a long journey but it’s mine. See you on the other side!”
“I feel like I read a ‘grey hair rule’ that said to not wear grey… that it’ll wash you out or something? Here is to breaking all of the rules then, because I am discovering that I love the way I look in grey (hair and clothes!)!! And any other color I want to wear!”
“I was too young to be gray, I was too self-conscious, I would look too old, and I worried too much about what other people thought. These were the doubts and fears that kept me coloring my hair every 3 weeks. But in actuality, I loved seeing women with their natural grey hair, they inspired me, and I dreamed of the courage to take that step.
For 3 years I negotiated within myself, weighing every positive and negative that would come from setting my roots free until I was tired of thinking and decided to act. I wanted all women to feel comfortable in their own skin, their own hair, and why not me too. Hair doesn’t define who we are. Silver, grey, white, ash, are all beautiful colors and I’m learning to celebrate mine.”
“My grandmother had a beautiful ‘skunk streak’ in middle age, my mother was showing signs of her own streak by then, and I didn’t want to miss out. However, all that seemed ages away, so in the meantime I had fun with color once or twice a year. All that changed when I developed a serious bacterial infection while traveling. I didn’t recover easily.
The stress caught up with my hair follicles. Most of my hair fell out, a sprinkling of silver turned solid gray almost overnight, and I found myself doing what I never dreamed I’d do: buying drugstore kits to cover ugly gray roots.
One day I’d had enough. I looked in the mirror at the shadow of myself I had become and realized I had nothing to lose. The painful growing-out process began. I nearly lost my nerve a few times over the next year. The worst was being tagged in photos. I could imagine old friends gasping ‘Did you SEE that pic of Laurel? Has she ever let herself go!’ But then one day a trim took off the last of the fake color. I began to get well again and the hair I had lost grew back in. And finally, some of the stress grays gave place to brunette again until one day I looked in the mirror and realized my dream had come true: I have my grandmother’s streaks after all.”
“My daughter inspired me to stop coloring my hair as she is allowing her grey hair shine through. I have actually never seen my grey and I must admit, I was nervous about what it would look like. I LOVE my natural color! If only I had known how great it would look I never would have colored it! I love the support my daughter gave me to go grey.”
“I am tired… tired of feeling self-conscious and afraid! I have tried and failed several times when it came to growing out my greys. Everyone’s words weighed heavily on my decision to not complete the process. I’d hear ‘you are 37, not 50!’ Or ‘you’re too young to start looking old.’ Why does grey have to define our age?! It doesn’t!! Our current situation has helped motivate me to keep going. To keep my greys growing! Looking at all these beautiful grey-haired women of all ages keeps me motivated. It’s a battle with myself, but it is getting easier and easier. Can’t wait to see the end result.”
“I started greying at the ripe old age of 13. I dyed my hair all thru my 20s and 30s. At age 39, with my mom’s encouragement, I let my grey go and now I LOVE my salt & pepper crown! With my mom, who doesn’t have Instagram.”
“Greek ancestry on my mother’s side destined me to gray early in life. I developed a gray streak in my brown hair at the top of my head during high school. Silly me, I dyed my poor hair for 3 decades. Finally, in my 50s, I got a crew cut and endured an Ugly Duckling stage for a year. I’ve had fun with white hair well into my 60s and I’ll never go back to dye. Now, I’m That Swan.”
And you, how do you deal with gray hair? Do you think of it as a problem or as an opportunity to accept your body the way it is?