Since going gray is a process that can take months, it can be hard to decide when to go gray.
Are you wondering when to go gray? The simple answer is to go gray when you will look better and feel confident about your new look.
As a woman that has gone gray three times over the decades, I’ll share insights I learned about when to go gray.
Current Hair Color Vs Gray Hair
In my humble opinion, the biggest factor for when to go gray is whether or not you can color your hair in a way that works with your natural overall color palette.
For over 20 years, women have told me that they would go gray if their gray were the same shade as mine. The reality is that whatever shade of hair you naturally have is the right shade of gray for your overall color palette.
The same is true for the hair color we have in our youth, such as black, red, brown or blonde. And trouble is that many, if not most hair coloring jobs do not match a woman’s overall color palette.
This is what happened with me when I colored my hair instead of going gray. And I think it happens with a lot of women, but they may not realize it.
Let me explain this more because it really helped me to understand my color pallet, and how it relates to my hair at least as much as my clothes.
Skin Tones and Color Pallets
In the mid 1980’s, I had a color evaluation done with a group of girlfriends. Picture a home based Avon type setting with drapes of fabric in every color, young women gabbing and lots of wine.
Who would have guessed that this little gathering would clarify the best hair and clothes colors for the rest of my life?
At this event, I learned that I have cool undertones (blue) vs warm (yellow) undertones. This means that I should wear cool colors. People with warm undertones, on the other hand, should wear warm based undertones.
For example, cool colors are dark grey, cornflower blue, royal blue, bluish red, white and black. So cool undertone people look best in these colors.
Warm colors are yellow, orange, orangey red, and lime green. So warm undertone people look best in these colors.
When a woman (or man) wears outside of their overall color pallet, she just doesn’t quite look her best.
I’ll bet, if you’ve never done this color evaluation process, you’re saying “Oh yeah, I’ve noticed this about me.”
But What About Hair Color?
Just imagine: If an orange skirt can throw off a cool skin toned woman, think of what hair coloring with even a subtle hint of orange will do to a woman’s appearance.
Here was the problem that I experienced with hair color, and I think may cool skin toned women do also.
Almost all brown hair coloring has yellow undertones. Every hair stylish would tell me that I needed “warmth”, but warm doesn’t work for me because it has yellow in it.
Hair colorists were taught to color without regard to this cool vs warm undertone as best as I can guess.
They really, really tried hard to get my hair color right after I insisted that I must avoid warm browns. Once, I even ended up with maroon hair. Fortunately, it was Halloween! Seriously.
For my hair coloring to go with my natural color pallet, I need blue undertones, which was impossible to find in brown hair coloring. Ash was the closest we could get but it didn’t look good either, so I eventually decided my hair would look better gray than the wrong color brown (plus gray roots!).
Now, your natural gray hair color knows exactly what you need based on your skin tone and it gives it to you.
It seems that some gray have a hint of yellow and other grays are bluer, like my gray hair.
Amazingly, Mother Nature gave you just what you need for your color palette to work the best. We just need to let her do her thing.
While I am not saying to go gray no matter what, I am emphasizing the importance of your hair color working with your overall color palette. Personally, I could never achieve the right skin tone and hair color balance.
I notice that many other women don’t either, again, in my humble opinion.
If my hair didn’t have an orange yellow tint when I left the salon, it had an orange tint after I swam a few times in a chlorinated pool.
The second time I decided to go gray was when my hairdresser suggested I wear a tight swimming cap every time I swam or stop swimming in the pool.
That was the final straw, thereby initiating that second going gray phase in my mid to late 30’s.
So, the biggest question to ask yourself in deciding when to go gray is whether your hair color truly works with your overall color palette. Then be brutally honest with the answer.
But Doesn’t Hair Color Determine Clothes Color?
Many women mistake choosing the colors they should wear with their hair color, which may not even be natural. That’s putting the horse before the cart, thereby creating a real mess.
Let your skin tone determine your hair color so Mother Nature’s effects can truly shine.
And if you cannot color your hair in a way that really complements your skin tone, like me, it’s definitely time to go gray.
Hassle of Maintaining Gray Hair
Every time the wind blew when I was standing outside all I could think was “Oh no! My gray roots are showing”. And I spent most of my hair coloring years living on the windy island of Bermuda, where it’s was grey hair and not gray hair.
I am more tomboy than not, don’t do Botox, and spend very little time on hair and makeup, but I detested my gray roots showing.
Here’s a bold statement: Gray roots showing on colored hair look a lot worse than gray hair.
If you cannot or do not want to go though the time and expense of hiding gray roots every few weeks, then it’s time to go gray.
Ask yourself this question: Would you feel more confident with gray hair or with gray roots showing?
Cost of Colored Hair Vs Gray Hair
It’s expensive to color gray hair. As a self-proclaimed money nerd and financial blogger, here is how I handle choices questions without a clear cut answer, like deciding when to go gray:
Make the choice that cost the least.
This perspective ends a lot of mind chatter in making decisions and helps you have more money.
In this case, going gray instead of coloring hair is the clear winner since it’s free.
Let’s take this a step further. Take the money that you’ll save by going gray and use it for something special such as:
- An Up level in Your Hair Stylist
- A New Blouse for Once You Are Fully Gray Which Compliments Your Gray Hair Beautifully
- Your Financial Future (Sorry, the financial blogger in me pops out sometimes!)
And if you’ve been doing your own color at a low cost, then treat yourself to a new perfect shade of lipstick with that saved money next time you’re out shopping.
Good Hairstyles for Gray Hair
There are so many great hairstyles at any given time! If you feel like going gray is a sacrifice, choose an awesome, somewhat trendy, hairstyle.
My motto used to be: If you’re going to have gray hair, have a trendy short haircut.
Now that I’m over 60, I my hair is longer than it’s been in years and I may even go all the way to my shoulder blades!
Having confessed that I am breaking my own short gray hair rule, I do think that the best haircuts for gray hair are short and trendy.
There’s something chic about short trend hair.
For goodness sake, look at Shauna Robertson from Chicover50.com. What a gorgeous and stylish woman over 50.
And we can use all the chic we can get as we age.
The Best Age to Go Gray
I began graying at age 14. By the time I was 30, I had salt and pepper hair.
The good thing about graying at a young age is that I don’t really associate gray hair with old age.
Besides, the older I get the more I realize that how we view anything is a choice, so we may as well choose to look at things in the way that brings us the most joy.
Does Gray Hair Make You Look Older?
There is no best age to go gray. Having expressed that, I will say that gray hair makes you look older, as a general rule.
On the other hand, gray roots showing, and poorly colored hair look worse.
And I realize that this is radical thinking, but when did being older become so very bad?
It is what it is. And that statement has taken me from despair to grace more times than you could ever count.
The last time I decided to go gray, I threw my hands up and said “That’s it. No more hiding my real color.”
That’s exactly what gray hair is: it is our real self that has been earned with a badge of challenges and victories, so why are we so compelled to hide it?
You Choose When to Go Gray
When I was 45, I went gray for the last time. 45 is early to go gray by societal standards in the US, where I live now.
But 50 and 60 are both good markers for going gray.
On the other hand, I have a girlfriend that is 64 years old. Her colored blonde hair, which she colors herself, is beautiful on her.
All this to say, the best age to go gray is the exact age that you chose, because, well, my friend, it’s your hair.
And it’s time to do what you want to do. So, do you want to color your hair or go gray?
“Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind” to quote our beloved Dr. Seuss.
How to Decide Whether to Let Your Hair Go Gray
Consider each of these factors in deciding to go gray or not. Take solace in the fact that there is no right or wrong, there is only a choice.
If you go gray and decide you don’t like it, a new hair color is less than an hour away. Again, tap into what you want to do.
This isn’t about what your hair dresser, husband or mother want or say. An older woman that I respected, the mother of one of my friend’s, used to say that I should color my hair because I was too young to go gray. I was in my late 30’s at the time.
I thought it over, and then I did what I wanted. I remained gray for a few years before I colored for the last time.
When to Go Gray Summary
There is no right time for when to go gray. The time to go gray is when gray hair looks better than what you are doing now and you feel confident and happy about it.