Going grey at 40

I have written about this before, but after broaching the subject on facebook a few weeks ago I've been thinking a lot about the whole colouring your hair deal.  On facebook I asked when having natural coloured hair was going to become trendy like other old fashioned things like quilting and growing your veges?  I am quite tired of how time consuming colouring my hair is and how expensive it is.

A very interesting conversation resulted with a huge variety of opinions.  Many of the women said they would be going natural, but of course they aren't gray now (and are my age) so I don't think that really counts.  Until you ACTUALLY start going seriously gray/white you can't see how it impacts on the way you look.  I think it is different to be almost white (like myself) at age 40 and agreeing in principle to going natural when it happens to you in the future (when you will be a lot older than I am now!).

Just quietly, I'll believe it when I see it (let me throw down the gauntlet ladies).  When I look around (and yes, I am a little obsessed with this topic at the moment) I don't see many women older than me without coloured hair.  And when I look around at Christian conferences I don't see many women older than me without coloured hair.  Christian women will claim that looks don't matter - it's what is on the inside that counts etc. etc. - but I don't think that I see much of a different standard being set in those communities.

Growing up there were many older Christian women I knew who would have totally disapproved of hair colour and earrings - no adornment (thank you 1 Timothy 2:9).  I feel that we have certainly and happily moved on from that generation to enjoy the freedom that is ours to enjoy.

But I guess what I'm wondering is, what have we moved on TO exactly?  If we're all colouring our hair, what about Botox, tummy tucks, boob jobs?  I imagine that botox is going to be pretty normal (in all circles) in a decade.  'O no!' you scoff, 'Surely not?!'.   But the same thing would have been said by Christian women about hair colour in the past.

I just feel that if everyone went natural, then it would be quite normal to be a little/a lot/completely grey.  We'd all be in it together.  And sure, we'd be comparing ourselves over something else (because as women we're tops at that).  But wouldn't we be richer in both money and time?

Meanwhile, I'm still in confusion about what to do and have a flourishing Cruella de Vil thing going.  And I've been time poor recently so haven't been able to do much else about it.

Would love to hear your thoughts.


Merrin said…
Oh dear...first to comment! I am a 'colourer' always have, always will. I think it makes me feel better about myself and have no qualms about going every 3 months to have it done properly. I pay a lot more for my gym membership, which is not only for my health, but also makes me feel better about myself - don't see much difference.
Ali said…
Yes, perhaps my line is arbitrary, but I see hair colouring as in the same category as wearing make-up or painting your nails, whereas other things that involve surgical intervention seem a step further on to me. And I have many young friends who dye their hair, and it has nothing to do with hiding any grey, or denying their age, they are just changing the colour.

I also know many older ladies who may not have dyed their hair, but who spent many an hour "setting" it in those hot rollers they used to use. So is there any real difference in principle between styling your hair and colouring it? (Incidentally, I dye my eyebrows, because they are invisible blonde, but a kit that lasts all year costs a few dollars in the chemist, and it takes me 5 minutes every six weeks or so, so I don't think it is a problem for me in terms of investment.)
Jean said…
Funny to see this! I once wrote a blog post like this once. Here's my deeply thought through contribution to this important (and yes I do mean that) discussion: Short hair looks good grey. Long hair doesn't. As long as my husband likes long hair - i.e. forever - I will keep dying mine. ;)
marilyn said…
Hi, I noticed my first grey hair when I was 16, just like my mother. I agree completely with Jean, short grey looks good. I love having grey hair, natural streaks with whiter hair framing my face. So, be encouraged ladies, whether we colour or not, let God be glorified in how we present ourselves.
Jean said…
ps I should say that I have one friend with glorious long hair that looks wonderful going white... her name begins with S. And I'm sure there are others!
Jean said…
pps and I meant to say, I never did write that blog post, so thanks for doing it for me Jenny!
Kath said…
It would be good if there was a right answer. Then it would not be a dilemma ;)
The hairdresser that I visit told me not to die my hair (possibly because she knows I would come erratically and be a bad advertisement for grey regrowth) She suggested that some varying coloured foils is less rigorous to maintain.
And I agree about short styles suiting grey hair better.
Interestingly, my husband has decided to let his (curly, white 43 year old) hair grow instead of getting a number 2. There have never been so many comments about hair in our vicinity before.

In the end, most hair choices can be justified to some degree. But there does seem to be a shift in society to see all sorts of changes to your appearance as necessary/desirable/acceptable. I would also include waxing (what is with waxing your arms?) with botox (are there really botox parties going on?)

I say be daring and go grey, it seems to be a pity to keep dyeing it just because everyone else is ( I may be simplifying your reasoning here - my apologies).
Jenny said…
Very interesting! I know that I should bite the bullet and be daring but I just want to be not noticed. Thus I don't want to be lonely on my going grey journey.
Deb said…
If you hate being grey, you can always go back!
Jenny said…
Yes - great point Deb! I can fill up this blog with my hair dilemmas for many years to come.
Susie said…
Well I fear I may be Jean's friend that starts with S! At the very least I fit the bill, friend, name starts with S and I have grey hair. I had been colouring my hair since my early 20s. I am Eurasian and have black hair, so when my Caucasian Mum went white at 35 years I knew I had to preserve my "youth". But five children later and being time poor and having an aversion to the expense and chemicals on my body I decided to stop, almost three years ago. Cold turkey was hard, as I felt everyone stared at my hair and roots for about 6 months. But now I love it. People like it, but very few are willing to do it when encouraged. The bottom line is that there are very few women in their 30s and 40s who you can use as role models. I found Bobbi Brown's beauty books (library!) extremely helpful as she had a range of women of different ages, going a la natural.....maybe I should send you a pic of my hair. You can do it!
Jenny said…
Thanks for the encouragement Susie. I was also encouraged by the 'Going grey' facebook page. Great stories and the women look really pretty at the end of the process. I'm sure you look lovely Susie.
Thanks Jenny. Very helpful blog, even for us men. :)
charissa said…
As you know Jenny I have let my hair go back to grey for the last few years, mainly because of the hassle and cost of getting it coloured. But I still have mixed feelings about it. I do get lots of positive comments about how good my hair looks (and how brave I am to go grey!). But at the same time people do seem to assume I am older than I am. And though I joke about being asked about my grandchildren I didn't like it when it happened! I do wonder whether the dyeing thing is more tied up with a fear of getting older than a desire to look good, given that we acknowledge that grey hair can look good but just not at my age!
Jenny said…
Yes, helpful point Charissa. That's probably part of the issue for me.
wide eyed said…
I think you are underestimating the power of accessories. Who will notice the grey when you have a cute clip, or a head band, or a scarf, or a hat, or rabbit ears, or a live trained monkey? The possibilities are almost endless.
Sarah S said…
I've acutely experienced the "what-looks-good-is-what-fits-with-the-crowd" thing. In Mexico, all the women in the middle-upper classes wear makeup and accessories all the time, and I got into the habit of at least basic make up and a necklace most of the time.
When I returned to Australia, to start with I'd still wear makeup as that was what I thought looked complete. But after a couple of weeks and more than a few comments, I stopped. It took time to adjust, but boy I loved the freedom!
Now back in Mexico, no makeup looks bad again!
Although I want to maintain that the inner beauty to aspire to is unchanging and timeless, I accept the reality that outward beauty is a changing, culturally determined beast. Although it would be wrong to overly pursue worldly beauty, we need to live in the world. Having a personal presentation that fits in with the world is a better thing to "be like the world in" than many aspects of character and values.
So my conclusion: If grey hair fits your world at the moment, do it. If coloured hair fits, do it!
Jean said…
Like all things the Bible doesn't legislate on, whether or not to dye your hair comes down to the freedom to serve one another in love (Gal 5:1-2). It's the doctrine of demons to declare a created thing "bad": it is good if received with thanksgiving (1 Tim 4:1-5). We are not to submit to rules like "do not handle! do not taste! do not touch!" (Col 2:16-23).

So yes, hair dye, waxing, and, dare I say, even botox and surgery to improve appearance are not evil in themselves: they are things to be received with thanksgiving (you only have to think of times they are "necessary" - as in resconstructive surgery after injury - to see that this is true).

So how do we decide whether to dye our hair or not? Well, partly this will be a matter of personal freedom: I may decide to wear makeup, or dye my hair, because I like and enjoy it, and that's okay as long as I'm not enslaved to it as an idol (obsessed, spending too much money, etc.). I may need a godly friend to help me sort this one out!

It's also a matter of context: what is loving for those around me? Am I bringing honour to Christ? Those are the main principles at stake.

Some principles that occur: the "weaker brother" principle (Romans 8). Do others in my Christian community see what I am doing as evil? Will I lead them into sin - to act against their own conscience? I may abstain from hair dye for this reason. (I hope this isn't an issue for many of us!)

The "all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some" (1 Cor 9:23). I imagine if I was ministering in a posh suburb or to film stars (thank heavens I'm not!) botox etc might be part of the deal. Although there's also the other side of this: it's good to stand out and make some choices that set us apart as different (Titus 2). So I'd have to evaluate the impact of what I do on those around me.

For example, in my case, I work among uni students and I don't age gracefully like my friend C, who looks beautiful with her greying hair, so I try to look a little younger in how I dress and what I do with my hair and makeup. Maybe this is just vanity, I don't know. They don't really need me to be "young": they need my age and the wisdom that comes with age. But it's good not to put really obvious stumbling blocks in their way.
Jean said…
But who am I kidding? For me this is really a matter of personal preference. I think I'd do the "funky grey" thing if my husband liked short hair. But since one of the ways I love him is by keeping my hair long (not my first choice) I dye it. I was planning not to, but there you go. I have thick, wiry hair and I don't have a young, pretty face, so I think I'd look a little odd with grey hair! But I have friends who look beautiful with it. And yes, I spend more money on this than I should: my (perhaps pathetic) excuse is that I don't have that convenient-coloured hair that you can easily dye yourself. Plus I've built up a close relationship (believe it or not!) with my hairdresser, including some evangelistic conversations, and it would feel strange to back out of those long hair-dying sessions now... ;)

In other words, if I was godlier I might make a different decision. I'm not holding myself up as an example, just pointing out that there are different issues involved here.

Whatever our decision, the main principles remain the same:
- don't legislate on things where God has allowed freedom
- receive what God has made with thanksgiving
- do all things in love (e.g. for husband, church community, and non-Christian friends)
- honour those who make different decisions to ourselves (unless they are making them for ungodly reasons, in which case it might be loving to bring the issue to their attention).

If we do this then we are honouring Christ by our decisions, whatever exact form they take.

I seem to have written a whole blog post in your comments, Jenny... :)

Are there Bible references / principles I've missed?
olhoppy said…
Oh Jenny! I'm still laughing at 'wide eyed's comment, and I think I agree with Sarah! I initially wanted to comment, because I am a pedant, and your spelling of 'grey' was the American version. You did slip back into English near the end!
My wife works part time, and I am very happy that she has her hair coloured about once a month.It used to be less frequently. She believes that vanity is definitely involved, but I know how much she enjoys getting together with the hairdressers and other customers. They are mostly non-Christian and she often gets a chance to explain or uphold teachings about Jesus!
I love hair long and younger looking, and it occurred to me that unless she cut it very short, it would take more than a year for it to become all gray (whooops)grey. Lots of love...
Bernadette said…
Hi Jenny dear. I feel your pain. I've been feeling it for about forty years now. For the last twenty of so i've been saying I'll stop colouring it when...... when has hasn't happened yet. The trouble with the whole growing older thing is that it mostly happens when we're asleep and we remains blissfully unaware of it.

There are not many areas of my life where I hold such opposing views. The expense, chemicals, time, the 'this is not really who I am' against I don't want to be old and grey or I don't want people to think I am old and grey.

And then there is the process. I've sported the Cruella look on a number of occasions. It all just seems to hard and so I keep colouring.

I disagree with some comments about how long grey/white hair is not a good look. I think tied in a bun or with a clip looks terrific. Possibly what I am waiting for. I have a picture of me as a sightly eccentric old lady with long white hair, my grandchildren gathered at my knee. I've filled in the outline, I'm just not game to (un)colour it in. And of course I don't have grandchildren. That's just another when.

Another dastardly trick of ageing is that it mostly happens on the outside, inside we are all 21. So in a sense waiting until we are older never comes.

Whenever I have asked my girls and anyone else who cares to listen if I should go grey, they say yeah just don't go old. My sister in law who lost her hair through chemo decided to stay with the grey when it grew back. She looks terrific. Great cut, trendy glasses, stong colours in clothes.

I think, but I'm not one hundred percent sure that if I could go back to your age, I would stop colouring. Because contrary to what you may think, the older you get the harder the decision becomes.

So I will give you some advice that as yet I have not taken myself. Stop colouring. You will be the same Jenny, clever, funny, Godly, beautiful.

This may be turning into the day when I yet again resolve to go with my 'crown of splendour'.

I look forward to your hair updates - photos please.

Greyingly Yours
Jenny said…
Still laughing wide eyed. And Garth, lol - the grey/gray thing was a little deliberate because I wasn't quite sure if we still even use 'grAy' anymore - I so rarely see it. So thanks for the clarification!
Jenny said…
And thanks for the encouragement Bernadette - warms my heart!
Jenny said…
Oh and thanks for your thinking Jean - much deeper than I could ever achieve and helpful. I was interested that you think it is harder to stop colouring the older you get Bernadette - food for thought.
Jean said…
Hi Bernadette,

Yes, I should have clarified: long grey/white hair can look fantastic up - and also down when it's well cared for. It's mainly the dry messy long grey frizzy hair thing I personally want to avoid! A little too Macbeth for me.

Heather said…
I'm blessed with having motley coloured hair and the grey I have isn't very noticeable. I do, however, have a very inelegant moustache which I refuse to do anything about. I figure it's entirely normal for my age.
As a child, others always thought I was younger than I was and I found it incredibly annoying. Adults at the time told me I'd be grateful when I was older. I resolved then and there to cope with the age I actually was and not be so silly. I realise stubbornness is not a virtue but I'm sticking with it anyway.
Meredith said…
I think Jean may be onto something here. She said she has thick, wiry hair that she doesn't think would look especially good without colouring.

I have extremely fine hair (it is almost like baby fluff) and I have found that the grey hairs (of which there are increasing quantities on my head) are thicker and more wiry than my mouse brown baby fluff hair. So I look upon the greys as giving my hair extra body and regard them as natural highlights. Maybe you could make the decision based on your hair type.
Anonymous said…
I don't know, I'm 11 but after your post I dread having to make this decision in the future. Although, my Nanna used to dye her hair blonde but stopped. I don't know why but I think she looks better this way. It's good to feel proud about your age. She now has beautiful snowy white hair. Oh to dye or not to dye. You ask yourself that question.
Anonymous said…
Here's some more encouragement for you Jenny.


I heard Anne Kreamer interviewed on Radio National a few years ago, and for a while there was a Life Matters web page for women to take 'the challenge' and submit photos and share the process. That page seems to have gone.

Sally in Perth
Jenny said…
Hi Sally

Thanks for those links - I feel really inspired and encouraged that others have not only done it, but have thought through it in the same way as me.

I'm not alone!!
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