2/26/2021 | By Annie Tobey

That first gray hair can be a shock. We glance in the mirror and discover, to our horror, that a gray hair has woven its way into our youthful locks. Or worse – someone else points out a silver strand that we hadn’t noticed (out of the mouths of babes, or of indiscreet partners or TMI friends). We may pluck, we may color, but eventually we realize that the gray is going for the gold. As the old saying goes, “When you can’t beat ’em, join ’em!” And so, we present: 10 reasons to embrace the grays.

#1: Claim your freedom!

You’ve got more important things to do, more important things to spend your time and money on.

If you’ve been dyeing your hair for years, you know that it’s a commitment. You’ve needed to schedule appointments with your stylist every six weeks or so – maybe every three weeks for a touch-up to avoid the “skunk line.” You’ve had to carefully plan your dye jobs ahead of time to ensure your color looks fresh for major events. Chances are, you’ve spent thousands of dollars on products and services just to cover the gray. You’ve had to sit in the stylists’ chairs, waiting for the chemicals to soak into the hair just right.

And speaking of sitting with chemicals soaking into your hair – those same chemicals are soaking into your scalp, too. Which brings us to Reason #2:

#2: Save your scalp and consider your health!

Research is mixed on whether semi-permanent and permanent hair dyes cause cancer, reports the American Cancer Society. For example, many studies have not found an increase in risk of breast cancer, but more recent studies have; some studies have found an increased risk of certain types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma and leukemia in women who use hair dyes, but other studies have not. The ACA notes that although the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates hair dyes, it does not approve each ingredient used in those products before they go on the market. Responsibility for the safety of products and ingredients falls instead to the manufacturers, who may value their bottom line more than your health.

Check out the best foods for your hair and nails!

#3: Be earth friendly.

Besides being noggin friendly and protecting your own scalp, you can be earth friendly by eliminating your use of hair dyes.

Even the Sierra Club admits that the impact of the hair dye that washes into our waterways is minimal. “The total amount of dye sold per year is probably around 92,000 tons, which sounds like a lot but is only 0.00067 percent of the 137 million tons of waste we inter in our dumps annually,” the environmental nonprofit says. It adds, “It was only late [in 2018] that the FDA finally banned the use of lead acetate from dyes.”

Yet every little bit helps to save Mother Earth, whose own beauty has been degraded for centuries by humankind’s narcissism.

#4: Look more natural.

Have you ever noticed someone whose hair color just doesn’t seem to suit them? Sometimes, it’s a matter of the wrong color for that individual. On the other hand, it could be that the individual has pushed their dye days a little too far. Did you know that as our hair color changes, so does our skin color? As we age, the number of pigment-containing cells (melanocytes) decreases, making our skin look thinner, paler, and more translucent. Add wrinkles and other signs of age, and older skin with youthful-colored hair may present a visual disconnect.

#5: Be a rebel!

Were you rebellious in the dynamic 1960s, fighting for principles you believed in? Well now’s your chance to do it again! No? Well now’s your chance!

#6: Take a stand against ageism.

Most of us are aware of racism and sexism in our society, but ageism also poses a major problem. Our youth-worshiping culture seems to diminish a person’s worth as they grow older instead of giving them their due of respect and honoring their wisdom.

In her book This Chair Rocks, Ashton Applewhite addresses ageism as a cultural issue important to people of all ages. She points out the subtle signs of ageism all around us – and within us. And she celebrates aging, thereby empowering anyone experiencing gray hairs, wrinkles, or other manifestations of the years to look at their aging in a more positive light.

When we minimize signs of aging in our efforts to maintain a youthful look, we’re merely perpetuating ageism.

#7: Be cool, sexy, sophisticated, and professional!

Many celebrities – men and women alike – embrace the grays: Jamie Lee Curtis, Jane Fonda, Tom Hanks, Harrison Ford, Jon Bon Jovi, George Clooney, Nichelle Nichols, Helen Mirren, Anderson Cooper, Diane Keaton, Glenn Close, and more.

Wondering about the professional impact of being gray? Picture Meryl Streep’s character in The Devil Wears Prada. The editor-in-chief rocks her gray hair, projecting her experience and her power.

#8: Embrace aging, embrace yourself!

As a therapist or friend might remind you, it’s always important to love yourself. When you embrace the grays, you are also accepting and celebrating your gray – and your age – you are, above all, honoring you. And once you kick the dye habit, you’re being gentler to your hair, too.

#9: Be liberated from the roots of the problem!

Once you transition to your natural color, you’ll no longer have to worry about graying roots. That skunk line tells everyone 1) that your hair color isn’t natural and 2) that you’re behind schedule in getting a touch-up.

Of course, it’s not that we should necessarily care what other people think. In fact, many of us have discovered that as we age, we feel freer to express our genuine selves. But if you’re going to cast aside concern of others’ opinions, then why not go whole hog?

#10: Join the club: how to and inspiration from other people’s reasons to embrace the grays.

“For me, allowing my silver hair to emerge was the first step toward accepting my transition into a new chapter of my life,” says Maggie Rose Crane in How to Go Gray … and Love It! “I was ready to let go of the ongoing effort to maintain the look of my youth – and willing to see what more life had to offer. I was looking forward to seeing who would emerge.”

In her book, Crane offers practical tips for making the transition. She also offers tips for how to overcome those emotional barriers to fully embracing our age. She counters the common negativity of our inner voices. The insecure devil on our shoulders may say, “It means the end of my youth!” Or “It means I’m old!” Or “I’ll lose my sex appeal!” However, as Crane puts it, “None of us has a sexpiration date.”

Crane wrote an additional resource for aging mindfully and joyfully – and gleefully going gray: Amazing Grays: A Woman’s Guide to Making the Next 50 the Best 50 *Regardless of your hair color!

Her How to Go Gray also includes inspirational firsthand accounts of other women who have embraced their natural locks.

“There seems to be a ‘club of women’ who have allowed their silver to emerge,” she writes. “Our club does not reflect the stereotypical gray-haired grandmother. When we make eye contact, we recognize a kindred spirit; someone who had confidently accepted her maturity and embraces being a proud, vital, attractive, active woman. Being young is a state of mind, not a look.”

Let me be the first to say, welcome to the club!

Annie Tobey

Annie Tobey has been a professional writer and editor for more than 30 years. As editor of BOOMER magazine, she explored a diversity of topics of particular interest to adult children of seniors. When she’s not writing, she can be found running the trails or enjoying a beer with friends.

Annie Tobey