Older women are increasingly happy to go grey but their hair will need a sharp style and the right products to look its best, says Margaret Jennings.
ARE you ready to ditch the dye, and go proudly grey — or indeed not even use it in the first place?
A growing number of women are either refusing to cover their natural colour as they age, or are dumping the dye because they’re fed up with the hassle.
A survey carried out by British-based online brand White Hot Hair, which has a loyal Irish fan base, found that two thirds of their followers didn’t believe being grey made them look any older and a whopping 80% said they didn’t care.
“For a brand that has its feet — and heart, firmly in the anti ‘anti-ageing’ camp, this is music to our ears,” says its founder and managing director, Jayne Mayled, who will be celebrating her 60th birthday shortly.
“Although we don’t have any actual data about how many more women are giving up using dye because most market statistics are about hair colour usage, what we see anecdotally though, is that more women are talking about it, toying with the idea and that attitudes are gradually changing.
“Customers tell us that as hair gets greyer — or to be more accurate, loses its pigment — they have to colour it more often to get the same effect, which then turns into a regime that needs doing every three weeks or so.
“At the same time, the more white there is to cover, the less ‘natural’ the brown effect is, particularly for those with dark hair to start with, and the less flattering the result is felt to be. It’s the combination of both factors that triggers the desire to stop and go natural.”
The survey backed this up — 33% of women said the cost and hassle of keeping up the dye was the main reason for stopping, while another 31% realised their dyed hair just didn’t look that good any more.
There is a slow shift in the way the media are covering women with grey hair, says Jayne, but it’s still often “token gestures” rather than the normalising of undyed hair as just another colour choice.
Of course, there are some really stylish older women in the celebrity world who rock a gorgeous grey look. Actresses Judi Dench, 82 and 71-year-olds Helen Mirren and Dianne Keaton come to mind.
Less high-profile perhaps is actress Ali MacGraw, who tugged all our heart strings in the film Love Story back in the 70s.
She defied nature, wearing those long brunette locks, parted in the middle, which she sported in the heartbreaking love story, right up to three years ago.
“I woke up one day — I turned 75 — and I suddenly thought, ‘Enough is enough’,” she told Oprah Winfrey on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday, an American daytime self-help talk show.
“It looked awful for a while, but now I really love it.”
Not all wait over three decades though, and actress Jamie Lee Curtis, who went grey in her 30s got fed up of colouring it and stopped at age 41 and now looks stunning at age 58, with her cropped steel grey locks.
The cut is very important, says Cork hairdresser Jo Cronin of Jo’s Edge salon in Blarney.
“I have quite a lot of clients who have stopped colouring for many reasons. It’s a big decision and it can change the way a client feels and how they perceive themselves. They need to work with their stylist and have a plan as to how to achieve a modern, stylish look without colour.
“I find women over 50 are now happy to let their hair go grey, once it’s cut stylishly and it is a clean grey — be it steel or 100% white. Their confidence seems to grow with proper styling and good products which are increasingly coming on the market to suit the trend.
“Hair without pigments can have very different textures and the styling will be dictated by this. Application of mousse or gel can change a style dramatically, transforming a short boring style into a chic funky look, particularly if a client is willing to put a little work into it.”
On the anti anti-ageing front, Jayne says: “There is a huge assumption that we are all desperately trying to look younger and I believe that many of us don’t feel that pressure — certainly once we get into our 50s.
"We just want to feel vibrant, alive, interested in the world and we want to look good on our own terms. I often say that it is not a choice between ‘clinging and crumbling’ and most of our customers seem to feel the same way.”
And when asked for her top five tips, here’s what she came up with:
1. Get a great haircut and keep it fresh and modern (no fluffy, helmet like, old-lady hair)
2. Define your eyebrows
3. Experiment with colour in your clothes (clean, jewel tones look great)
4. Look for positive role models and imagery to counteract the “grey = old” stereotypes
5. Try specialist haircare products that make a difference to texture and yellowing
“If you want to be happy, be
— Leo Tolstoy
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