Wednesday, August 29, 2007

To dye or not to dye, that is the question

I'm thinking about coloring my hair.

Not changing the color, just covering the grey.

For most people, this isn't really a big deal. You buy the stuff in the box, do whatever alchemy is in the instructions, and you're done. Alternately, you pay someone big-ish or even big bucks to do it for you.

But for me, I've never done this before. My hair is still mostly brown, still mostly has decent natural highlights, and the gray isn't terribly noticeable. But the numbers of gray hairs are increasing slowly but steadily and I want to act on this now before I start looking middle aged before I actually get there. (Around age 60, right?)

There's certainly a precedent for hair coloring in my family:

My mother has been a lovely natural bottle blonde for almost 16 years. (I remember it well: She was brownish six weeks before my wedding, a redhead at my wedding, and a blonde about six weeks after that. We never knew what she was going to look like that summer and fall.) (But you were always quite lovely Mom. And still are.)

My sister, too, is a lovely bottle blonde, although she at least started life as a blonde, as opposed to shifting gears altogether. But her hair darkened with time until it was more brown than blonde and Meredith eventually started having the blonde put back in. (She insists that it's just highlights and lowlights but I fail to see the distinction between that and dye.)

My stepmother's natural hair color hasn't been seen since Reagan was president. His first term.

I've got a couple of aunts whose natural hair color I have never seen that I'm aware of.

On the other hand, Crazy Aunt Laura doesn't color her hair at all, so I'm not the only hold-out.

I have one particular small patch of gray hair that I can trace to Fall 2001. How do I know this? Lemme 'splain:

Elegant turned one on September 4, 2001.

We all know what happened one week later.

Shortly thereafter, my one-year-old decided to follow the wisdom of the great Ferris Bueller: "Life goes by pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it." Only, she heard the "life goes by pretty fast" and went with that as her mantra.

Early in October we went to the beach. Did you know that one-year-olds are very slippery when wet? It was like Elegant had greased herself up, we could barely keep a grasp on her and believe me people, we were keeping as many hands on her as possible. She slipped away from me in one heart-stopping moment and threw herself into the waves. Luckily, it was an incoming wave, but she was still tumbled and flipped for about 20 feet inland until I could get her. I pulled her out of the water -- spitting out water and completely abraded by the sand -- and the damn child tried to do it again.

Two weeks later, we were at an orchard at the top of the mountain. There's an overlook where one can get a nice view of our little city. The only thing keeping one from tumbling down the side of the mountain is a barricade of straw bales. Guess which child tried to wiggle between the bales of hay and to the other side? She was actually on the other side when I grabbed her by the collar and pulled her to safety.

About a week or two later, we were at a farm when the same child wriggled loose and ran into a field with a horned mama cow and her baby. We had a firm grip on her, but she definitely gave Houdini a run for his money.

Obviously, Elegant has lived and survived her toddler years, but there was a time there when we had our doubts.

So I developed quite a few gray hairs in one particular spot that fall. I have dedicated those hairs in Elegant's honor. But there are others popping up here and there, their silvery brightness visible among the dark brown.

I've discussed this with my Hair God. He swears he sees only one or two gray hairs, but we all know that Hair Gods are paid so much money that they just HAVE to lie to their customers.

(BTW, I went to see the Hair God last week. That man is just SO good at what he does.)

Thus, I'm thinking about taking the plunge. Of course, I've been thinking about it for nearly a year and haven't acted, so who knows when I'll actually get around to it?


Elizabeth said...

I've elected not to dye. I used to, and since my preferred color was some shade of red/auburn, it was a real pain to keep up with it. My answer to the grey is to have my hair cut shorter and shorter. Now people notice how short my hair is, not how much grey is in it.

And my hair goddess lies to me, too.

Melissa said...

come to the dark side, you know you want to. I have an appointment tomorrow for "highlights", and a cut of course. I don't think I need to know what my natural color is. you don't get extra points when you die for living your life un altered. Hair color should be fun. If I thought I could get away with it, I would seriously dye my hair Marg Simpson blue. I would continue to style it as it is, I wouldn't turn all emo punk or anything, I would just have blue hair 30 years early and I would totally rock. Just my thoughts.

Cathy said...

I dye, but the upkeep is a big pain. If you're not big on the upkeep thing, DON'T do highlights. But, I gotta tell you, when I finally decided to dye my roots, I shaved 5 years off my face and looked like I finally got a good night's sleep. Your call -- it's not a moral issue, but a logistical/financial one as it plays out.

The Guider said...

Irritatingly for my brother, who is three years younger, I don't yet have any grey hairs. He however, has loads, and now regrets not having done something about it when he only had a few and no-one would've noticed if he'd done anything about it.

Suzanne said...

I had been enhancing the red highlights in my hair with rinses or dyes since the mid-80s. I took a break about six or seven years ago, to see my natural color and how much grey I have. It was sobering.

My mother, who is now 68 years old, has fewer grey hairs than I do. Which appalls me.

I blame my father, whose mother's hair had gone completely white by her late 30s. Thanks, Dad!

I did get the reddish highlights and fuller body & texture from him. He used to be a carrot top before he went white.

Anyhoo, I started dying again, using the old shade of Clairol's Nice n Easy, and haven't looked back. Most people assume it's my natural color, and it takes nearly ten years off me.

It's close enough to my natural color that I only need to touch up the roots every six to eight weeks, though I've sometimes let it go longer. And the conditioner it comes with leaves my hair incredibly soft and shiny.

Personally, I don't like the highlights look from most salons. It looks too stripey and fakey to me.

I would also prefer to spend that money on pedicures and cute shoes, dontcha know? ; )

Aims said...

Funny...I noticed my very first (and last so far) travelling around Argentina with the ex, who became ex that very day.
I'm fully going to dye when it comes down to it....I can't pull off that salt and pepper look. You have to have Cheekbones!

Josie said...

As someone who is almost totally grey at 38 and has had no choice but to dye or look 15 yrs older, may I make a suggestion?
How about a glaze? Not permanent and it doesn't leave tell tale roots.
I suggested it to my younger sister (She of the blessed hair) who has a few stragglers and she loved it.

Linda and her Surroundings said...

I was 85% grey by 33. I go the hairdressers once a month to keep my hair lovely brown and have been for 10 years. I aint going grey. It makes you look older which is fine if you want to look older and there is nothing wrong with looking older - I just do not want to go there as yet. Wait until a grey pubic hair appears - then you will know the feeling of "oh no".

dljewell said...

Don't be on the edge! Around the end of October, there's going to be a website called, and it's going to answer lots of your questions. Like it's not going to happen at 60! Did you know 40% of women have some gray in their hair by age 40? And the normal age for starting is around 35? So you'll find lots of clues on the site -- to either color or not. It's not about HAVING to go gray, it's about knowing all you can to make the right decision for YOU. And if yours is to color 'til you're 60, it will tell you the best ways to do that, too. Because camouflaging gray can be trickier than just dyeing "full color" hair. Anyway, check it out. As they say in web-land, it's "coming soon!" Diana