Courtesy of genetics, my hair started graying in my late teens. At that point, I had already been initiated into the world of coloring my hair. At 14, I experimented with Sun-In that transformed my bangs brassy orange. Then, I used facial bleach to whiten a thick strip of my shoulder-length hair along one side of my face. Soon after came L'Oréal in various shades of red, burgundy, and violet, and then an extended period when I used only black vegetable dyes. As a teenager, I colored my hair to have fun. To be cool. To experiment with different looks. To discover my own style. Today, I dye my hair for one reason and one reason only: To cover the gray.
My Irish grandmother also started graying in her teens. She had two funky white stripes that started at her temples and flared back like The Bride of Frankenstein. She was pure white by 25. I have to admit that around 19 years old, I felt short-changed when I noticed fresh sprouts of gray hairs. They did not congregate together to paint a gorgeous streak of white like Grandma's had. No, instead the unruly hairs peppered themselves throughout my hairline, refusing to adhere to any sort of pattern. I wasn't going to look funky. I'd just look old. I felt as if I'd had no choice but to commit to a lifetime of coloring.
At 41, I have a substantial amount of white and gray hair that, when I allow it to grow in, contrasts greatly against my chestnut-mahogany hair ...
For more of my gray hair angst, read the rest of my essay at Adios Barbie.
(Originally published September 3, 2010. Photo credit Going Gray Looking Great.)