Fifty Shades of Grey From Clairol Hair Products

My nephew has a category for people like me: women whose real hair color he can’t remember.  Nicely, my beautiful niece, his older sister, also falls into this category, and she hasn’t yet reached the big 40.

But Mike has a point — I don’t remember my real hair color either. Sure, I can look at pictures, and until I was in my late 40s I had a very normal shade of brown that got a lot lighter from the sun in the summer. Now my hair is, well, not brown. And my roots are almost completely grey — that is, when for some horrible reason I can’t get to my colorist and it’s been over six weeks since my last visit. I used to kid myself and say I was only 30 percent grey, and I was just doing highlights to make the grey blend in better. The truth is, though, that I’m probably about 85 percent grey.

I have many friends who don’t color their hair and are perfectly happy with grey, salt and pepper or even white. My graduate school roommate was grey in college, and comfortable with it. Now her hair is completely white, and she looks great. My friend Lydia had long white locks. Except for its color, her hair looks like a teenager’s. One of my friends Marilyn (I’m of a certain age; there are a lot of Marilyns in my life) keeps her salt and pepper in a cute bob. I’m not sure if it ever crossed her mind to dye her hair. I believe that although she cares about looking good, she is self-accepting. (The photo here, that’s of her.)

So does it mean I’m vain because I color my hair? Um. Yeah. Probably. I tell people that my hair would be a terrible color grey, not nicely layered or toned. Just dull. In truth, I do not know what kind of grey I’d be. Aslo, what it would take now to actually grow grey! I’d have to dye it while my roots grew out. Clairol color (or Wella or whatever) would still find its way to my scalp. Also, I don’t want to have grey hair. I just don’t. I think it would make me look like an old lady, like my grandmother in the photo here. She’s probably in her late 40s, early 50s (no one was ever clear about my grandmother Nellie Bernstein’s age), holding my very blond older brother. She looks old. She does.

So evidently I’m all hung up on this aging thing, beginning with my hair. I wish I could be like Barbara H. Grufferman and say, “I’m getting older! Yay!” “Yay” is Barbara’s reaction to most things. She may be one of the most upbeat Baby Boomers around. That’s why you should read her blog: “Five Infuriating Fibs About FOFs” Barbara does look fab (fabber than most of us in our 50s), and she even ran the marathon last fall. Her fantastic attitude, her ability to keep in shape — I could go on. There’s much to admire.

But her hair isn’t grey.

Perhaps those cute blond curls are natural. I mean, one of my Marjorie friends (I have a bunch of those too, and a bunch of Barbaras. Baby Boomers don’t have exotic names in my world) at 63 still has barely a strand of grey running through her brunette. My dad didn’t turn grey until he was in his 70s.

So since Barbara is a Baby Boomer who inspires me, who is so comfortable with herself, maybe I should just stop worrying and remember to make appointments with my colorist so I don’t have to contend with all those shades of grey for a while yet.

How do you feel about turning grey? Do you color your hair or let it take its natural color. Let me know how you feel about this and what you’re doing with your hair. You can comment below, or reach me on Facebook ( or on Twitter, @wordwhacker.

  • Elizabeth Stewart

    My dark brown hair started turning gray when I was in my twenties. I told myself I would consider coloring it when the age in my face caught up with it—I figured that my older face combined with my graying hair would be so dire I would *have* to color it then. By the time my face caught up with my hair (within the last year or so), I decided my original color would look wrong with my aged skin—it would be too harsh and incongruous. And, I can’t imagine being some other color (Redhead? Dirty dishwater blonde? It would be like, “Who am I?”) I am glad I didn’t start coloring my hair. At least that is one expense I don’t have! Plus, I have grown to like my silver hair.

  • Lauren Keenan-Aradi

    All my aunts and most of my (numerous) cousins “colored”. The result? More salt than pepper, Maureen & Christopher and I looked like the senior-most generation at the annual family summer picnic instead of the middle. Then in spring 2000, I got an email from Maureen, announcing she’d joined “the dark side”, and wanted to give me ample warning so I could consider my options before the get-together.
    Also newly-divorced, I decided to try it. For 2 years prior, I had a bottle of color sitting in the medicine cabinet. I’d pull on the gloves, sigh, and then decide I was too busy to really keep up with it. I combined different shades to get the color I wanted (some red, dark brown-very close to my childhood hue ). Worked for 7 years, and I looked much younger, but then I had to start getting it done professionally, and (as from the beginning) every 3-4 weeks, a major expense.
    Once my daughter’s wedding passed, I decided I would try going back to grey. Since family had given me gift certificates to my stylist, I chickened out til they were used up, and I had secured a new job.
    The first “stripping out” left me with a bright orange-yellow color, so we decided to have fun with it & “punk” the cut. 16 weeks later, I am now 70% white, 5%brown & 25 % (mostly in the back) dark grey, and keep it much shorter.
    I have yet to change my “avitar”, and admit to having fun surprising (and avoiding!) people. Since it is so short, I don’t use conditioner, and have moth-balled the hairdryer. (I do thank Barbara’s blog for that advice).
    I am also willing to admit that if it hadn’t become such a burden, I would probably still be coloring. Before, due to the color and my sense of adventure and humor, (also because my freckle-faced daughters still are mistaken for teens) people rarely guessed within 10-15 years of my actual age. Now, they get a bunch closer!
    I see color as another style choice, just as I pick out my clothes and jewelry. Look good, feel good, but most importantly: Do Good. No matter what you’re wearing!

  • Jamie White Wyatt

    Lord willing, I’ll die a redhead! I color every 3-4 weeks, and would go without lots of other things to be able to afford the professional color. I had my kids in my late thirties, who are now in their early 20′s, and want to keep doing what I can to stay as young looking, and feeling, as possible to enjoy my life! My grandmothers looked and acted old in their 40′s-50′s, and I want to avoid that! My husband likes it that I still “look hot,” too! He may be exaggerating, but it makes me feel good to hear that!

    • Linda Bernstein

      I think it’s amazing how some women can pull off the “gray” look. I don’t know if I’ll be able to.