Home fashion Why I quit colouring my hair in my 30s (just!)

Why I quit colouring my hair in my 30s (just!)

by Clare Mansell

I have had this post sitting in my drafts folder for at least a year, whilst I have tried unsuccessfully to get a photograph of me that showed a little of my new natural highlights. My lovely whisps of silver are often stubbornly hard to capture in a photo and I just didn’t feel I could write this post without something to back up my story of why I have ditched the hair dye for good. But today some photos of a friend’s wedding were posted online and you can just just make them out, so I can finally share my story…

First of all a little background. I have naturally dark hair and like most people I played around with it a lot in my teens, hennaing it, dyeing it ginger at one point and trying highlights. Then in my late 20s I started leaving it alone realising that one day there might be a point when I would actually have to dye it. (though who would oblige me to… a whole other question!) When we moved down south the first grey hairs appeared and I started feeling slightly sheepish in the hairdresser, as though I should now do the decent thing (!) and cover up. So I started colouring.

I was truly the worst and least enthusiastic dyer out there. I always felt like cancelling the appointment the day before, hated paying for it, hated the waste of half a day in the salon and every time felt “less me” when I came out of the salon. This is not in any way a reflection of the skill of my excellent hairdresser and colourist, just something I felt personally about what most people would consider “nice dyed hair”.

2013 – Me/Not me with dyed hair

Whilst I was plodding along doing what I thought made me look “better”, I also happened to have a mother who has a great healthy head of white hair and a sister who at 50, was starting the process of growing her colour out. One day about two years ago, just before my 40th birthday, my sister made a flippant comment that she didn’t know why I bothered colouring as I only had about half a dozen grey hairs and I realised I no longer had any idea of that was true or not, so I stopped.

Quitting colouring is both the easiest and hardest thing to do. As a wise person once said all you have to do is nothing at all, but yet at the same time you are swimming upstream, bucking societal norms and testing your own security about your appearance. I won’t lie I wobbled a few times in the early months and then suddenly my hair changed, it developed different shades of colour, it was shiny, it didn’t need washing as often or straightening as much (in other words it was healthier!) and at the temple I started to acquire rebellious silver streaks. I wasn’t hiding behind anything anymore, it was liberating!

Since I stopped colouring I’ve had a variety of comments from people ranging from stubborn refusal to believe I don’t colour (is this a compliment?) to how distinguished my silver undertones make me look (thank you Dawn). I’m sure as time goes on and my silver count increases not all comments will be as positive, but now I have found the strength to stop doing something I never wanted to do to begin with I am confident I will never go back.

Through my journey to ditch the dye I discovered amazing facebook communities with women ranging in age from their twenties to their eighties who have embraced their natural colour and look fabulous. I’ve developed a serious girl crush on Vogue journalist Sarah Harris and it has opened my eyes to the many many positives of going natural, from steering clear of chemicals, to saving time and money and feeling like your more authentic self.

But please don’t misinterpret this post, I don’t want everyone jumping on the bandwagon. Embracing your silvers is still what Elle magazine recently described as “edgier than getting a tattoo” and I want it to stay that way, but if, just maybe, you hesitate when you colour or you are wondering if you might have better things to do with your time and money, do check out Going Gorgeously Grey and Going Grey Gracefully for inspiration.

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Jan June 28, 2017 - 10:01 am

I have naturally very dark hair. I probably started getting noticeable threads of silver in my hair in my late 30’s I used a home dye kit and I’ve never looked back. The only thing I find frustrating is that my hair grows very quickly – more so in the heat so it does start to show through at about 2-3 weeks! I have had freebie colouring with a trainnee in a salon and loved the results but wouldn’t pay those prices to have my hair coloured when a box of dye costs £5.  Even though my hairdresser isn’t convinced I am sure if I didn’t dye my hair I’d be more grey than black these days. I always admire your Mum’s hair and if mine went straight from brown to silver I’d consider not dying – especially as grey is trendy at the moment. The last time I was in the salon a young woman was paying to have her hair dyed the colour I’d want to cover up! What I can’t stand is the salt and pepper look and on most people I just think it’s aging. A little bit of grey is OK, a lot is fine. I just don’t like the in between bit. But that’s just me! Good luck with not dying!

Dawn June 28, 2017 - 10:28 am

I love it! It’s beautifully you Clare 

PennyDog June 28, 2017 - 1:27 pm

I’ve been going grey since high school, and dyed my hair through my 20s until one day when I was about 28, I was suddenly allergic and my face swelled up as you imagine a person who is allergic of bees swells up. So that was the end of that for me, forced into greyness before 30. I am now 31 and I still find it more socially acceptable to say to people – women – that I have a hair dye allergy as a way of excusing the fact that I don’t put as much care into my appearance as maybe they think I should. As I get more used to it, it bothers me less but I wish I actually had more greys so I could make it a deliberate feature.


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