Last Updated on July 7, 2022 by Editorial Staff
By Rachel Lankester, Mutton Club Editor
Why does grey hair still carry so much stigma for women? Men have always been able to become silver foxes but women often feel they need to continue to dye their grey, silver or white hair. It doesn’t help that women are fed messages often from childhood that any visible sign of ageing is bad!
1. Fight back against gendered ageism!
We know really that ageism is at the root of this and gendered ageism makes it so much worse for women. It’s one rule for men and a completely different set for women.
I have to confess I don’t dye my hair at 56 and it still has most of its original color. So I’ve never had to cope with losing my hair colour. But I hope that if I did, I would embrace it. I do believe that our natural hair colour is more likely to match our skin colour as we age. I have white hairs coming through in my fringe and I’m excited to see the development of my natural highlights!
There are increasingly more women letting their silver hair shine through. But it’s still often the exception rather than the norm. And it needs on-going justification!
Silver ladies often have to keep explaining why they have silver hair. And if they have a high profile on social media, for example, they can get regular abuse from people telling them they should continue dying it, that they look old. Why does anyone believe they have the right to tell anyone else what they should do with their hair?
Many women in the workplace feel they need to dye their hair to remain relevant, visible and noticed. They dye their hair because they fear they will be invisible at work if they don’t. This is why we need to tackle the gendered ageism that makes this the case. Older women shouldn’t need to blend in at work to stay valued.
2. Take inspiration from other women with grey hair
I interviewed Rachel Peru on my podcast. Rachel is a silver haired, plus-size model who finally let her natural hair colour shine through in her mid-40s. Her life changed dramatically as a result.
Now she travels all over the place as a model, showing how gorgeous silver hair can be and also spreading older body positivity. Rachel is a wonderful example of what happens when we allow ourselves to be our authentic selves. But it’s not easy swimming against the current.
Listen to Rachel Peru on the Magnificent Midlife Podcast
If you want more inspiration on how to transition to grey hair, check out our post on All The Silver Ladies, gorgeous women who’ve reinvented themselves on Instagram by embracing their gorgeous natural grey and silver hair. They share why they chose to stop dying their hair, the best thing about embracing their natural colour (and the most difficult), and what they want other women to know.
3. Experiment with ways that work for you to go grey
Maybe you’re just letting your hair go grey naturally and enjoying the journey. But if you’ve been dying your hair, the transition from dyed to grey can be traumatic to even contemplate. We’ve covered how to remove hair dye to go grey here. There are many ways of whitening hair that’s been dyed, including using vitamin C, baking soda, vinegar and more aggressive but also probably more effective hair colour removers that you can get in your local pharmacy.
If you don’t want to put anything on your hair to strip the colour, you could try letting it grow out naturally, but that can be uncomfortable. You could always have your hair cut short which would enable the process to happen that much more quickly! You could also try having some highlights that are closer to your natural colour to ease the transition.
There are all sorts of things you can play with. Ultimately your hair is going to love not being dyed every six weeks and your body is going to appreciate the reduction in chemicals it has to process.
It was lovely to see on the last season of Grace and Frankie, that Jane Fonda finally let her own hair turn grey. It was brilliant to see this as an actual storyline. And to watch the transformation of her hair not being dyed as the series progressed. And then cut shorter to speed along the process. I still think it’s a shame she had to reach her 80s before she was willing to finally embrace grey hair. Once started, it didn’t take that long to transition for her as it happened.
4. Be bold! You’ll likely inspire others!
Sometimes it takes one brave soul to start the ball rolling. Can you be the brave one that takes a stand?! If you’re wanting to ditch the dye but are nervous about it, try to find a vibrant sexy grey-haired role model that you can follow. Take inspiration from them. Follow the silver ladies on Instagram. You should never need to apologize for being your authentic self.
If you decide to go grey, maybe you can balance out any fear of invisibility by wearing red or some other bright colour so there’s no way anybody could dismiss you. Bright colours always pep me up!
You may want to invest in a snazzy new haircut or different make up to lift your spirits too, as you transition into this new persona. You may find that different coloured clothes now suit you better with different coloured hair and that your makeup needs an update. How To Rock Silver Hair And Look Gorgeous has lots of tips for updating your look with grey hair.
I have a friend who dyed her hair brunette for many years and was finally persuaded to stop the dye by her daughter. She has written about that decision and journey to white hair here. She now absolutely loves her white hair. It is very striking and she looks gorgeous with it. Sometimes we just need to trust that things will be OK.
5. Ignore the naysayers!
If we’re confident about the colour of our hair, and the way we look generally, the world may well respond accordingly. But often it’s difficult to go against the tide. I remember meeting a woman once whose hair was completely white, but whose husband insisted on dying it red for her. He could go grey, but he didn’t want to be seen with a grey-haired wife. That just seemed so unfair to me.
If you want to go grey, you may encounter opposition from friends and family. Probably best not to ask them beforehand what they think, because some of them may be horrified. They may tell you in no uncertain terms not to embrace your grey hair. But that’s about their fears not you! And nobody knows how your natural hair colour will look on you until you try it.
So stick to your guns and do what feels right for you, now, at this time of your life. It’s your hair, your life, your personality. And don’t forget, if you go grey, and you hate it, you can always dye it back again! Though I doubt you will!
Rachel Lankester is the founder of Magnificent Midlife, author, host of the Magnificent Midlife Podcast, a midlife mentor and editor of the Mutton Club online magazine. After an initially devastating early menopause at 41, she dedicated herself to helping women vibrantly transition through the sometimes messy middle of life, helping them cope better with menopause and ageing in general, and create magnificent next chapters. She’s been featured in/on BBC Woman’s Hour, The Huffington Post, The Sunday Times, Thrive Global, Authority Magazine, The Age Buster, Woman’s Weekly, Prima Magazine, eShe, Tatler HK and Woman’s Own amongst others. She believes we just get better with age. Get her book Magnificent Midlife: Transform Your Middle Years, Menopause and Beyond.