Friday, October 7, 2011

The Great Gray Dilemma

Tatiana de Rosnay.
To go gray, or not to go gray, that is the question. If I thought I had any semblance of beautiful gray hair that could maybe be whitened up a bit, as opposed to lightened up which is what I do now, I would go with it in the proverbial heart beat.

Of course there's gray and there's gray and then there is that most divine of colors, the perfect white -- sort of platinum, sort of gray, sort of perfect.

I think Lisa of the brilliant, stylish, intelligent, thought-provoking blog,  Privilege has decided to go all the way and she looks gorgeous. (Lisa if you visit today, please leave the direct link for me. Merci. Also, let me know if you would like me to add more adjectives.)

Helen Mirren
A day without Helen is like a day without sunshine. (This would be the color I'm looking for. )
Jamie Lee Curtis
Kathleen Sebelius

Donna Brazile
Linda Fargo
To be perfectly honest, which I always am with you, I have no idea what color hair I have. I know approximately and I can tell you it's most unattractive. I see it when the roots start to grow out from my highlights. I asked my talented colorist if I could go gray and then she could hype it up a bit to get that glam gleam. She said, "forget about it. In order for you to what you're looking for we would have to remove all the color and start from there. I don't recommend it, and I don't think you would be happy and besides it would grow out again to that nasty color you hate." (She didn't say the part about the nasty color I hate, she was more delicate.)

Christine Lagarde
Note Légion d'Honneur on her lapel.
Eileen Fisher
Françoise Hardy
Joan Baez
Betty Catroux
So, that's my story. It seemed to me the gray/white/silver/platinum/salt and pepper issue was a logical way to round out this week of the "Faces Through the Ages" series.

Where do you stand on the debate?

I've noticed from your pictures some of you have decided to opt for gray and I must say you do look glamourous, sophisticated and pretty. (Please keep sending me your pictures btw and tell me, name or no name. The series will continue on and off as long as you agree you like it and as long as I have pictures. Remember, tishjett@yahoo.)

A demain.


aBroad said...

My mother had dark brunette with a touch of red hair. When she was in her late twenties, the grey started to show up. By the time she was in her mid thirties, she had a head of pure white hair.
It was outstanding looking, thick, straight, white hair on a young woman with dark eyebrows and ice blue eyes.
I wished for that, but got my fathers blonde hair.
The good news is, my grey/white hair has blended with my blonde, leaving me with white blonde hair .. I admire every person I see who lets their grey / white hair show .. I think it is so beautiful and so sophisticated .. So real.

LPC said...

Tish, how about you add the adjectives grateful, gobsmacked, and tickled pink? Here's the link to my March 2011 announcement that I would go gray. I updated on Rock the Silver, here. And most recently you can see progress here. Thank you my dear. I'm still liking the gray effect. As a bonus, it allows for the wearing of purple:).

Bombshellicious said...

I have been grey since my 30's, and I must admit I sometimes feel very old and frumpy with it yet sometimes I feel so good with it, I suppose it depends on moods. Funnily enough today I got stopped by someone when I took my car for a service and she asked me whether it was natural or dyed as she has been trying to find this particularl colour !

hostess of the humble bungalow said...

I am with you on the hair front as mine is dishwater brown with tinsel. I just had it coloured yesterday and have no desire to go grey until I have more grey than bits of tinsel here and there.
I do love grey all over though, I think it looks so elegant and chic.

Debbi@SheAccessorizesWell said...

I let my hair grow out and did not like it at all. My natural color is brown. Brown mixed with gray = ugly color. I looked bland and I wasn't happy with it at all. I would love to have all gray hair and when I do I will let it grow out. My mother is still not all gray at 79, so I am not sure if I will ever get there. I wanted to bleach it out to platinum but my hairdresser said it wouldn't be what I want. So, for now I am blond.

kathy peck said...

Not ready yet. Wish I was, but like you I don't really know what the color would be, although I do know it would still need "help". But, it's really pure vanity that keeps me coloring my hair. I never had a hard time with aging until I hit my 57th birthday. Not sure why, but that one jolted me. Since then, I've struggled with trying to accept the emotional and physical parts of the aging process more gracefully, and your blog has helped with the physical beauty part. Thanks.

helen tilston said...

Hello Tish

Such incredible images. Does one suppose that the beautiful platinum shades of grey also go with olive skin and perhaps women whose hair was very dark brown or black. My father had such hair, jet black blue eyes (Spanish Irish) my mother was blonde and Irish (Viking decendant). I have some gray and now I have low lights added in several colours - so far it is working.
I think I am too fair in complection for gray hair.

A timely topic


hopflower said...

I guess it does depend on how your grey grows in. But I have always admired the ladies on your blog today who still look wonderful. Emmylou Harris; whose hair was always gorgeous in all its dark glory when she was young, should also be included. She is still looking great!

Anonymous said...

Ahh I've been waiting for this thread! A few years ago I let my dark brown hair grow out. Mon dieu, I had white roots literally a week after coloring. Enough! My colorist was wonderful devising strategies and cuts to keep the look sharp and attractive as it grew out. Today I have long gray hair streaked with dark low lights which really make the silver pop. I have never gotten as many compliments on my hair as I do now. If you're on the fence but leaning toward gray my advice is find a colorist who specializes in gray hair just as you would find one who knows their blondes etc. Growing it out need not be traumatic. Most gray needs some behind the scenes adjusting. "Going Gray, Looking Great" is a wonderful book on the subject. I love my gray hair!

RoseAG said...

Having recently been in the job market the most thought I've given to going gray is whether I can go another week without touching up my roots.

The women you've highlighted are at the top of their game. They're lovely and highly notable.

I'm a great person but have no illusions about where I am in the "game" and how notable I am!

susan ,greece. said...

have left my hair in nature"s hands now for the last two years.after nigh on 30 year of highlights it is....freedom!
my hair is in much better condition and i"ve saved a fortune!!
the colour is not that much different from when i was highlighting,the white has blended with the mousey nothingnessto give the effect of...yes,you guessed it...highlights!
btw tish,forgot to say on pic i sent,yes you can name me!!
just love this "faces through the ages",keep it up!

Pam @ over50feeling40 said...

I confess I am just not ready yet to give hair is distinctly grey underneath the brown...if I do not get to the stylist on time...then I am a skunk. I think if I thought I could look as good as Helen Mirren...I might give in. I will even be curious to see how long I go without saying OK. THese ladies do give encouragment..they are fabulous!

déjà pseu said...

I began coloring my hair long before I had any noticeable grey because my natural color was quite drab. I'm with you, if I thought my grey would be a "good" grey, I'd do it in a heartbeat, but it's not so I'm going to continue "Better Living Through Chemistry."

kittiesx3 said...

I did grow mine out, and it's a lovely color of silver but it's not sprinkled evenly throughout. Instead it's very clumpy and especially so on my part line.

I disliked how light my hair was--in some pictures it almost read as a very light blonde. I'm not a blonde, never was a blonde and never wanted to be a blonde. So I felt like a stranger in my own skin.

The clincher for me was when my younger son, known for his honesty, said "Mom your face is too young for that color."

Still, I'm glad I did it. Who knows if/when I give it another whirl.

Anonymous said...

My natural black-brown was half gray by age 38. The day I picked my daughter up from first grade and a boy in her class called "your grandmother is here," that was the day I began coloring and at 55 I still do. But if I may threadjack: in today's photos, the American women tend to have thinner or more strenuously groomed eyebrows than the French women. Is this true generally? I ask as an American woman richly endowed with undocile eyebrows. My dark hair against fair skin means they are very noticeable no matter how much I groom them. I'd feel better about them if I thought I were emulating French style! I love your blog.

Karena said...

I think women in silver look so very striking! I am not ready yet, though I could at 59!

Love the images of these great women Tish!!

Art by Karena

SheilaLouise said...

Love love this blog. I have been wanting to go gray for sometime but haven't had the courage. This is so timely. I just turned 50 and was thinking maybe in 5 more years I would try it but after seeing all these stunning women I may change my time frame.

Dash said...

Ahh, the grey issue, I was talking to Belle Mere about this, she is now eighty and looks very fetching with tinted ash blonde colour, I asked her why she never has let her hair go grey and from the mouth of a French Grande dame she stated that grey hair looks fabulous but you need to ensure that the cut is sharp, modern and kept up regularly. I think that most of the ladies you have posted here demonstrate that perfectly.

Jacqueline @ HOME said...

Dear Tish,
All of the women that you have shown look wonderful....Joan Baez looks stunning ( I can't believe it's her !! )
Even though I reached the big 6..0 this year I have not gone grey. I have always had highlights so, if I do have the odd one, it doesn't really notice !! haha
Some people look great as do many of my friends and others it does not suit so, I guess some people know if it suits them and go with it and others continue to help nature along a bit.
Whatever rocks your boat I say. XXXX

Susan Tiner said...

Look at Jamie Lee Curtis rocking that gray hair! Actually all of the women look fabulous in their white/gray hair.

I'm pretty sure mine is 100% white at this point, have no idea if it would look good, am a little scared of experimenting, so I'm keeping it light brown for now.

Anonymous said...

my hair gets good comments all the time.. letting your hair go natural is not easy or fast.. it took two attempts.. first attempt failed when I rushed into the salon screaming dye it dye it now.. the second attempt was better had it cut short and lightened then it was a matter of six months or so to get to the real thing a beautiful silver white.. texture is important as well and I am lucky enough to have very little wire rough texture hair.. make up and clothes colors have to change along with the hair to take it all work.. I do think clinging to hair dye in some cases can look shockingly awful .. the thing about color is that it takes a lot of money to get the multi-colored look of natural color..don't kid your self ..I still spend a lot on a stylish cut but have over all saved so much and could not be happier with my white hair

Lost in Provence said...

Great topic, Tish. Like my maternal Grandmother, I started having white arrive very early and now have more than my Mom and older Sister! Now, here is my souci: as a redhead, deciding to cover up is very tricky. I can't afford to go regularly to a salon (and truly wouldn't here in the South of France where there are too few real redheads but many fire engine redheads) so what to do? Henna? For now, I am trying to own the skunk moments as elegant and slightly rock and roll.

Anonymous said...

How much energy we give to this question, myself included!

I'm crossing my fingers that greying naturally will work for me. In my 50 years I've highlighted a couple of times, and semi-permanent colored a couple of times. I always went back to natural, because even if I liked the coloring effect, I didn't like it enough for the upkeep.

Though grooming matters to me and I take care of my skin and hair, and wear a light makeup almost every day, I just can't be bothered with anything more than the minimal effort to look well-groomed and good enough. I guess my style is more Natural Classic than Glamour Classic, though I'm neither Sporty nor Tomboy nor Nature Girl in style. I love clothes and looking nice, but I draw the effort line pretty quickly. I guess I'm Classic-but-not-breaking-a-sweat-for-it!

I've always worn my hair somewhere below shoulder length, and it still suits me, and I will keep it there as long as I think it does suit me, because I'm so happy going to the salon every three months instead of every six weeks! I also love that my hair is healthy and not styling-stressed.

I don't expect to ever have that gorgeous perfect grey that you describe, though I adore it. My tweedy hair (I love the description of dishwater brown with tinsel!) is actually not bad on me. And thinking of it as tinsel makes me smile. If I ever decide (or admit?) that the greying process in really unflattering on me, I'll go to the salon chair, but I won't be happy about it. As a slow greyer, I'm going to stay on this nature track as long as I can continue to look in the mirror and think, well it's not bad.

Another commenter made an excellent point that I hadn't thought of exactly but I immediately recognize as true--grey hair that looks great really has to be in a flattering style, and often that has a modern or sharp element to it. No-style and old-style grey hair tends to be either shudderingly awful or unnecessarily aging. The style matters much more thant he color.

I'd like to say (but I don't know for sure myself yet) that the bigger payoff than covering grey is a flattering haircut, a happy and kind face, good grooming, a reasonably fit (not necessarily thin!) figure, an interesting personality and accomplishments or interests, and a wardrobe style and quality that is personally flattering. None of these has to be perfect but together they add up to many fascinating versions of lifelong gorgeous.

On top of those basics,I think almost any form of greying-or-not is nice if the wearer feels good in the whole package.

Let the high-maintenance and low-maintenance women be equally happy. I think we're all beautiful when we're happy, or engaged in something that we care about (same thing?). At a certain age, don't we tend to be more naturally happy, or content, or engaged in something that suits us? I think our hair color choices are going to be as individual as everything else we're doing to make life work these days. Vive tinsel!

Deb said...

I let my hair go "natural" last year and so far I'm liking it. I think it's another choice issue - we have the option to color or not (and also to go back and forth!). If it works, great; if not, back to the colorist!

love the pictures of these gorgeous grays - doesn't Helen Mirren just look fantastic!!

Here's my blog post about the leap ( or actually, slow crawl) to gray:

Elizabeth Eiffel said...

To grey depends on skin tone and the colour of one's grey. From my personal experience, if one is very pale, with nondescript grey hair, of the smallest amount, the overall effect is very draining....ghostly...or is that ghastly? Bon weekend.

PSING said...

i am simply commenting that i love this blog ( while i hate the acronym blog...could we have a contest to rename it?) and say that as a former brunette with a husband who has the most gorgeous white/gray hair, i struggle and am now resigned to life with a tinge of that and a bit of that and a color that i am growing to accept as i am growing to embrace and celebrate the gift of aging, psing

MarthaB said...

My hair has been silver for about 10 years. It looks a little like Helen Mirren's. Women tell me they would would let theirs go silver if it looked like mine. Frankly, I don't even "see" it. In my mind's eye it is dark brown, my original colour!! The only down side is that there are limits to the colour of clothing I can wear - some simply don't suit at all. However, the one colour I can wear - for which I always get compliments is shocking pink!!

Carolyn C. said...

I decided to let my hair go "au naturel" several years ago.It was and still is a very liberating experience.

Confidence is MINE!!!In oh such a modest way of course!

Great blog post!

Wally B said...

It's easy for us men. Grey is supposed to add wisdom, experience, and a touch of class. Me, however, it just makes me look old.
There are lots of silver haired women on my little island, and many of them look stunning. I should take a leaf out of your book and take some photos.

Diane said...

A subject very very close to my heart and a debate I have with myself on a regular basis! My problem is that my eyebrows are still jet black and I fear if I go with the (almost white centre parting!) I will look like Alistair Darling - and that is not a good look - even on him!). And then there is the "how do you grow it out" problem too? Helen Mirren etc went from Blonde which I think is far easier than going from very dark - almost black hair. And then my husband doesn't seem thrilled when I talk about growing it out either. I fear I shall have to do a "Jean Muir" for a bit longer!

Anonymous said...

The best thing I have done is to go au natural. I dyed my dark hair (with natural blonde streaks) blonde, for many years. About three years ago I just let it grow out and just love it. Where I had the blonde streaks, it went that pure white colour and the rest stayed dark brown. Now I am slowly going white all over and get compliments all the of the time. People stop and ask me who colours my hair!

I do dye my eyebrows though, to have definition in my face otherwise I think I look bland.

Others have said that they feel free and so do I. My hairdresser was against it initially but when he saw the end result he now says he wouldn't colour it even if I asked. I know, he is bossy.
And yes I keep it well cut in a style very similar to Helen Mirren.

Love this blog and this series. Thank you


The American Suburbanite in Rural England said...

I started to go gray in my 20's, enough that I started highlighting my hair immediately. Although I am a blonde (in FL it was much easier to be a blonde with plenty of help from the sun) it did not blend well and just aged and washed me out. At 39, and over 10 years of coloring, I couldn't imagine letting it grow out. Although, if I knew it would look like Helen Mirren's hair, I might just go for it.

Lost in Provence said...

It might be too late but I just wanted to add a little ps--I think that the curly vs. straight issue also really needs to be considered. Show me a photo of a chic woman with white, curly hair, I dare you (um, might have guessed that I am ringlet challenged)!

fletchers said...

Thank you Lost for bringing the curly - straight issue up. Notice that none of the gorgeous greys in the photos posted is excessively curly. Waves, yes. Ringlets, no! It's the 21st century, ladies. Smooth silver/grey hair can easily be achieved with a good dose of a Moroccan oil-type product and a good flat iron!

Catherine said...

I always said that when I turned 50 I would stop coloring my hair. Oops. I turned 50 this summer and decided I wasn't ready. I don't do fancy stuff but am sticking with my dark brown fake hair for now. When i turn 60 then I'm going to do it! :)

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

I have always had very light hair and, between you and me, there is quite a bit of white in it now. I mean I think there is. My hairdresser tells me my hair is millions of different shades of blonde... from honey to white... and all me. So it's anyone's guess where I'm headed, but Ms. Mirren looks a bit like my future, and I suppose I shouldn't complain about that.

quintessence said...

I'm with you on several fronts - firstly, have no real idea what color my hair actually is these days - the last time I let is go long enough to see was when I was pregnant with my now 11 year old! I have always adored a beautiful gray - not only do I know mine is not beautiful, with an equally unappealing texture, but I am so pale that it is a color that would not suit me!! Ah well - looks like I'm doomed to live at the salon for at least a few more years!!

Shari said...

Wow, this is close to my heart. I had naturally medium-to-light brown hair with red/gold streaks until my early-20s. I had noticed my first gray hair in high school and was forced to color by the time my 2nd kid was born when I was 24. I am now 45 and am quite sure that my hair is completely snow white, but I still color religiously every three weeks (touching up with brown mascara in between). It's becoming a serious battle as the white is so striking and comes in so quickly. Even some eyebrow hairs have turned white. My DH is 17 years older and has barely any gray, darn him.

The strange thing is that I have a young face (People think I'm in my 30s now.) I also want to keep my wavy hair long like Cindy Joseph in your most recent post, though I do think the color might be more like Emmylou Harris' hair. My coloring is similar to theirs.

I'm scared stiff to do this and so-o-o many people advise against it, but the upkeep is such a pain. Even if I needed to enhance the silver/white, I imagine it would only have to be every few months instead of weeks!

To jump or not to jump into the land of the Snow Queen. . . Would people think I was my teen son's grandma? Do I care? I think I need counseling for this!

California Girl said...

I keep my hair floored. My stylist is talented and mindful of how I want to appear (not too trendy but still youthful). It works for me but I would LOVE to go grey if it were a lovely shade like Joan Bass.

A Well Styled Life said...

I'm naturally pale ash blonde so thought I could slide into gray easily...and I was...until the dull, mousy factor kicked in. I succumbed last week and had platinum high lights added which sparked my appearance up again.
If I looked like these gorgeous women you've featured I might have stuck with it.
Interestingly, my friends were horrified to think I would go gray. It seemed to threaten them in some bizarre way...or perhaps they thought I looked horrible long before I realized it.

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