As women grow to be more mature, their hair naturally begins to turn gray. Often at the first onset of those few grays poking through a more colorful mane, many women panic. Some women dash to the hair salon at the first sight of gray hair while others may make a break for the at-home hair dye aisle of their local pharmacy. What many women may not realize is that the onset of gray hair doesn’t automatically make a woman less beautiful. In some cases, much to the contrary!
Deciding whether or not to dye your gray hair is something you will probably have to do for yourself. There is no right or wrong answer as to what you should do, and the more you agonize, the less you’ll enjoy being you. Gray hair can be heartbreaking and even borderline debilitating for some women. For others it can be a symbol of class, sophistication, and confidence.
The truth is – it’s up to you to choose how you will deal with your graying hair. Will you hide it under dye job after dye job? Will you proudly show it off, silky and strong? Only you can decide what to do about your graying hair.
Author Anne Kreamer confronted her graying hair head-on after years of dyeing her graying hair brown. In this Q&A with Kreamer, who is the author of Going Gray: What I Learned about Beauty, Sex, Work, Motherhood, Authenticity, and Everything Else That Really Matters, shares a number of her own observations dealing with gray hair throughout the writing of her book as well as personal feelings and ideas around living with gray hair.
Q. – Life Love Beauty: Let’s get this out in the open — How do you feel about gray hair?
A. – Anne Kreamer: I never really gave gray hair much thought before I made the decision to stop dyeing my hair. I think I’d been brainwashed like everyone else to believe that gray was unattractive, dull, or lifeless. In fact, now that I have gray hair, I’ve discovered that it is just the opposite. Every single woman has a unique blending of the grays in her hair – from shimmering silver and platinum to subtle cashmere hues. I now think gray hair is utterly magnificent – truly distinctive and beautiful. I receive more comments from bystanders about my gray hair than I ever did with my dyed hair.
Q. – Life Love Beauty: What changes when your hair starts graying? How is gray hair physically different? Does hair texture change when hair turns gray?
A. – Anne Kreamer: Each woman’s hair is different – I have not found any difference at all between my gray or my dyed hair texture – if anything, my natural hair is softer and healthier than my dyed hair. It certainly is shinier and reflects light more.
Q. – Life Love Beauty: Does coloring change the texture of gray hair?
A. – Anne Kreamer: Some women claim that hair dye adds dimension to thin hair, or that dyes make hair “smoother.” I’ve found the opposite to be true.
Q. – Life Love Beauty: How do you keep gray hair shiny and smooth?
A. – Anne Kreamer: It is important to use moisturizing shampoos and conditioners – and to use a specifically formulated “blue” shampoo for gray once or twice a week. Gray hair can absorb air pollutants and yellow and the blue in those shampoos corrects that.
Q. – Life Love Beauty: Could you suggest some classy hairstyles or haircuts that would look nice with gray hair?
A. – Anne Kreamer: There isn’t a simple one-style-fits-all for gray hair – I think every woman should conduct what I call MyStyle360 once a year – take a full front, full rear and side photograph and assess her overall image. For some women an Emilylou Harris relaxed, longer style might be most suited while for others the style of the wig that Meryl Streep wore in The Devil Wears Prada might be best for others. It’s important to take into consideration one’s facial structure, hair type, height and professional and social circumstances and decide what feels best given all of those variables. What is important is to look groomed.
Q. – Life Love Beauty: Can you recommend some effective products to make gray hair more manageable?
A. – Anne Kreamer: I think nourishing treatments are important for hair, whether one dyes or not, as women age.
Q. – Life Love Beauty: Based on your book, how do you perceive that women with gray hair are perceived as compared to women with blonde hair, red hair, brown hair, or black hair (or any other colored hair, for that matter)?
A. – Anne Kreamer: Counter-intuitively, I’ve discovered that gray hair is viewed as desirable and statement-making for the women who choose to go gray. There is a certain amount of self-confidence and self-assurance that others perceive in women who are gray. We’ve very much entered a not-your-mother’s-gray period.
Q. – Life Love Beauty: What are some of the most amazing, or most surprising, things you learned in writing your book?
A. – Anne Kreamer: I learned a lot. First, I discovered that in 1950 only 7% of American women dyed their hair – today it’s almost 75% nationwide. So in the space of two generations, we’ve gone from almost no one dyeing their hair to almost everyone doing it. I found that interesting because I think our adoption of hair dye as an essential life tool has been fueled by mass market advertising. And a lot of that advertising makes us believe that we are unattractive if we don’t dye our hair. Just look at the use of “mousy” to describe every color of brown hair that a woman might have.
I tested the woman-can’t-be-attractive-with-gray-hair assumption by going on Match.com twice – in both cases using the same profile and the same photo, but in one photo using my natural gray hair and in the other photoshopping my hair back to the brown I used to dye it. In New York, Chicago, and shockingly, Los Angeles, three times as many men were interested in going out with me with my hair gray as they were with my hair brown. And, younger and frankly better looking men. It blew my mind. When I was on Good Morning America they repeated the experiment with a 61-year-old widow from Florida and she had the exact same results.
So what I learned is that men could care less about a woman’s hair color – they are far more interested in finding a woman who is lively and who is interested in their lives. It was a wonderfully liberating discovery.
Q. – Life Love Beauty: Are there any celebrities or other icons we can look to as role models, showing off shiny and beautiful gray hair?
A. – Anne Kreamer: I think Jamie Lee Curtis looks terrific and of course Helen Mirren, Vanessa Redgrave, and Judi Densch. I do think if more high profile women went gray – say Katie Couric or Hillary Clinton, then more women would feel license to try it themselves. It’s a bit like baldness was for men before Bruce Willis and Michael Jordan made baldness sexy and virile for men. Today young guys shave their head to emulate the look.
Q. – Life Love Beauty: Anything else you would like to add regarding tips for women living with gray hair?
A. – Anne Kreamer: I guess I would say that we are always physically evolving and I think one key to defining one’s style is to be open to allowing nature be our guide for what looks best for us at any given moment. There is good research data that suggests that we can ac
tually extend our life expectancy by accepting and acknowledging our age. I think that has to do with the ability to “be here now” rather than to be backward looking.
About the Expert:
Anne Kreamer is the author of Going Gray: What I Learned about Beauty, Sex, Work, Motherhood, Authenticity, and Everything Else That Really Matters. She previously worked with Sesame Street, Spy Magazine, Nickelodeon, and Nick at Nite. For more information, please visit http://www.annekreamer.com.