People can talk about going grey from an intellectual standpoint, but ultimately the decision is purely emotional. I’ve watched my mom’s journey to being the silver vixen she is for almost two decades. We have worked with countless individuals who have either started their journey due to hers or identified with her because of her silver hair. Everywhere I go with my mom, people literally stop and take photos of her hair as inspiration. This seems wildly dramatic as a statement, but I can recite the entire exchange between her and others from heart. The more urban the environment, the more she gets stopped. There was even a time when she was a top result on Pinterest for her tresses. Despite all this, everyone is going to have a different experience in their journey to what I like to think of as Silverscaping.
At almost 32 I am returning to my natural hair, and the presence of these silver, wirey strands has been unexpectedly tumultuous. On the one hand, I love them because they make me think of my gorgeous mom, but on the other hand, they serve as a reminder of my mortality. I see my sister dye her hair and enjoy the vitality it gives her, though not the price that comes along with coloring hair. She has more silver than I do, probably due to her decidedly more driven (and therefore more stress-prone) nature. I am jealous of how much more silver she has. Isn’t it funny that we can both envy someone’s more progressed silver hair and also agonize over our own hair’s appearance? Proof that life as a woman involves fully experiencing cognitive dissonance in our daily lives, particularly when it comes to aging.
Before I go into some more nerdy discussions and how to, I just wanted to take a minute to celebrate how much more grey hair (silver, white) is becoming more popular. A friend recently got me addicted to Golden Age Bachelor and Edith and Marina made me literally gasp. These women were so stunning in their natural hair that I truly was captivated immediately. The show smartly introduces the ladies with Edith emerging from the car in a beautiful golden dress and her silver hair. I immediately texted my friend "holy moly Edith is HOT". It just further emphasized that not only can natural hair look glamorous, but that these ladies look stunning in color!
Before I devolve into more diary than information, here is some science to give you some facts behind your purely emotional decision of whether and/or how to go grey. All natural hair is orange. After much debate, this is me admitting I am wrong. I used to think it couldn’t be possible for all-natural hair to be orange. What about blondes? What about redheads or gingers? However, Darin is correct. The only natural hair that isn’t orange is white hair. What about grey you may say? Well, interestingly enough grey hair would also be orange, just a more neutralized, less saturated version of your original hair color.
Hair color is made up of the same melanin as your skin. The different concentrations of eumelanin and pheomelanin make up the exact undertone and color. Eumelanin is responsible for depth and warmth (more yellow) and pheomelanin is responsible for coolness (red is cooler than yellow) and saturation. This is the basic understanding of melanin in hair but is also true for skin. When I have given advice on how to embrace grey hair, what I really want to know is someone’s skin undertone.
Everyone has orange skin. No matter what terms you use to describe your skin it can all be characterized as orange. My mom has crafted makeup for over 26 years, she has made every shade of orange imaginable in her quest to match every skin. Regardless, I would classify all skin (and natural hair) as falling into 4 main categories of orange. Doing so allowed us to fully, and easily represent all skin variations.
Your undertone NEVER changes after puberty. It may not change during puberty either, however, we have not done enough research in any aspect of the word to know for certain. Therefore when it comes to ebhues™, we typically recommend 12+ as an age to start.
Why is any of this important when it comes to your hair? Well, your hair frames your face and is an extension of your natural coloring. If you ever wonder why blonde goes brassy on you or red looks copper, you are dealing with incongruent undertone issues. Instead of just teaching people to embrace ‘grey’ hair what I like to make clear is that your natural hair will always suit you. However, you may personality-wise feel better with colored hair. In that case, I think it's extremely important to understand what your skin undertone is, and by extension your hair undertone. Doing so ensures that whatever you dye your hair will enhance you. When you wear an undertone that is not your natural undertone, you will look sallow, ashy, sick, red, yellow, etc. This is especially true for hair because it surrounds your face.
There is no trick to learning your undertone except battling each undertone fairly in light, medium, and deep values. This is because there is so much variety in human skin and hair. For example, many assume that redheads can wear certain colors. However, redheads actually vary tremendously in undertone. I’ve had redheads that are cooler and some that are the most warm. If you are having trouble understanding this just realize that redheads aren’t actually red-haired, they are orange-haired. I’ve never seen a natural redhead with true red hair. I will say that the secret to looking like a natural redhead is definitely knowing your skin's undertone.
THE 4 DIFFERENT UNDERTONES
If you already know your Strength color in our system you may want to skip the next 4 sections. Similarly if you have already read our Orange book which goes into WAY more detail than these summaries.
The coolest orange is an orange with more red than yellow. It is almost red, but not red. Melanin itself is never red, but always orange. Therefore a color with a certain percentage of red vs. yellow would no longer be a skintone shade and no healthy person would have this skin color. This is where ebhues™ draws the line into red.
The next coolest orange has almost equal red and yellow but slightly more red. An orange that has more red will shift on a skin tone of this undertone to look purple, orange, or ashy. An orange that has slightly more yellow will shift on a person of this undertone to look yellow or green. This undertone is the second most common undertone, but also one of the trickier undertones due to the sensitivity in the range.
The next classification is an orange which has almost equal amounts but more yellow than red and is on the warm side. You may wonder, but what about a neutral? Neutral is gray. It is the absence of color. I will discuss this more because it's important to understand that your hair is not actually grey. This is the same with every skin. Some people have very saturated skin and others are more neutralized, but they all require the right percentage of red and yellow aka orange. This is the second most common skin undertone.
The warmest skin has more yellow than red and healthy skin never exceeds this warmth. Yellow begins outside of the natural range of human skin. However, colors that have too much red in them will look very orange, pink, red, or even purple on people with this undertone. If they are in the more neutralized saturation of this skin tone they can look grey and unhealthy in the wrong undertone. This is the women in my family. We all share this undertone. My father does not. You may not have the same undertone as either parent. You may have the same undertone as one and not the other. You may have the same undertone as both, yet appear to look very different. These are all common phenomena. Identical twins, like Blake and I, should have the same undertones, but may vary in best saturations (more of this later). There are certain exceptions to this we won’t go into.
The secret to going grey, aside from feeling confident that you look youthful and glowing in your grey tresses, is also knowing how to deal with the growing out process if you dye your hair. If you don’t dye your hair, it is knowing how to tone your greys. Greys are actually 2 different things.
- They are hair that is your normal color but surrounded by white hair. For people with sprinklings of grey in between a lot of white, your hair will truly look very silvery.
- They are hair that has lost melanin but hasn’t fully gone transparent yet.
STRENGTH 417, BRUNETTE (AND OTHER BRUNETTE TALES)
People who have less red in their skin will typically have the hardest time with the transition to grey especially if they have less black concentration in their eumelanin. This is more of a judgment call from my observations of people than a scientific-based statement. Personally, I think it has to do with the ‘dull’ look those brunettes express they feel about the appearance of their hair. For example, I have brown hair and often feel my hair truly looks like “dirty brown” with my grey and white strands.
REDHEADS + BLONDES
Because redheads and blondes have such light hair, to begin with, their transition into white hair isn’t as dramatic. Although you may struggle due to the tendency of our culture to attach identity to you based on your hair color. So while the appearance in your transition may be smoother, the emotional effects are felt more intensely. In which case, I tell blondes that throughout the world, the trend is lighter and lighter into platinum which is nearly white. Using the creams in your natural undertones as a dye can help slowly transition you if you would like to try to go ‘grey’ but aren’t quite ready for the emotional toll. This can also be true for red hair. Perhaps you don’t necessarily go totally white, but use a toner to give your hair a slight ginger tint and go lighter.
ULTRA DARK ‘BLACK’ HAIR
The people who I think have the easiest transition in both emotion and appearance are those with ultra-dark hair. While aspects of the grow-out stage can be hard as there is a vast difference in appearance, they don’t typically struggle with a loss of identity or youth. In fact, many find the experience to be reinvigorating as it is such a fun opportunity to change your whole look in the most economical way possible (by doing nothing). The hardest part for you is the growing out stage, this is especially true if you have dyed your hair. There may also be a bit of difficulty with the changing texture and sporadic nature of the white hairs that appear. If you are struggling with seemingly random distribution, I would suggest picking ‘patches’ of your hair towards the front to lighten and create a chunkier piece. Having a more obvious area of white makes it clear that you are making a decision to go grey. You could also ADD hair using extensions if you want to be able to remove it and have no transition period.
Where are you going grey? If you are speckled throughout your hair it may be fun to tone those areas into low lights. If you are a brunette and struggle with the dull look that many express, I recommend using a toner to give your hair some of that saturation. I highly recommend using temporary dye as while you may think that it isn’t worth the money, the dye stays quite well and when it does fade, it is less dramatic grow out line. Talented stylists can incorporate it into a lewk.
I sincerely urge you to think of the transition in your hair like any hair change. There are times I’m sure you grew your hair out or did something scary to it. Often during those transitions, there is a time that is truly not cute. If only we could look effortlessly cute at all times, but there are rarely those times in life. In this case, I think it is important to ask yourself what you are trying to accomplish. Are you going for a more natural look? Do you want to experiment with a totally new twist to the experience of being you? Your journey is yours. You should not make decisions based on what others (even me) think. You will have to commit to a season of change, which I think is exciting! Embrace it with gusto. It is never too late to have a metamorphosis. Be a beautiful mature butterfly and invent the new you. Who says you have to always do the same thing no matter your age?
Again realize that this is actually an emotional decision. As with all emotional decisions, it is helpful to make them with a strategy backing you up. It is also important to curate that strategy to your unique greying experience, personality, and undertones. My business is teaching how to live intentionally by using your personal colors as a guide, but even if you don’t know your colors living intentionally is first done by making the decision to do so. Good luck on your journey! There is an entire community of grey tresses to support you, even when others may say something critical about your journey. We, for example, are here for you no matter your decision.
As for me, I think I've come to terms with my greying. There are still days where I side-eye my hair in frustration, but what's new? I've had those days no matter what color my hair has been. As for dating, well it has not hurt me in that respect. So if you're single and looking for love, don't stress (or do, maybe you'll get a more cohesive grey hair look heh). Let Edith and Marina inspire you, you can embrace aspects of your aging and receive not only roses but entire fan bases. Personally, I feel my natural hair demonstrates how I like to live as radically, authentically myself. I don't think people who dye their hair DON'T feel that way, so please don't think of this as a disparaging remark. I am loathe to see anyone use their own journey to put others down. We all have different perspectives on life, and as long as we don't tear anyone down in the process, I think they can all be simultaneously true. I am who I yam and nothing more, nothing less, greying tresses and all.
HOW TO DIY | Get a kit to find your colors in your home
GET US TO DO IT FOR YOU | If you’re local to Chattanooga check this out