Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained in the way of righteousness.

Proverbs 16:31


Michelle Van Loon

I started dyeing my hair in my early 40’s. My unruly dark brown curls were sprouting wiry grays at a pace that alarmed me, so I started covering them with drugstore color every month. When I let my always-short hair grow longer in my early 50’s, I discovered I couldn’t touch up those roots without splattering dye all over the bathroom, and started seeing a hairdresser each month, which made that seven dollar dye job cost fifty or more bucks. As a result, I trimmed costs in other areas in order to guarantee I’d see a brown haired me in the mirror each morning.

As a result, I had no idea how fast that brown was turning to white until I wasn’t able to have my monthly date with the hairdresser after I had an accident in 2017 that led to surgery, then blood clot complications afterward. The picture below showed about 10-12 weeks of growth on the day I was able to return to the hairdresser’s chair to return me to my brown-haired glory.

I realized I wasn’t resisting turning gray as much as I was resisting chopping off my shoulder-length hair, which would have been an efficient way to rid myself of the skunk-stripe look.

A friend and I made an agreement that we’d both ditch the dye by the time we were 60. She chopped her hair short, and had an adorable silver pixie as a result. Meanwhile, I researched tips and techniques for growing in gray, while I continued the monthly march to the hairdresser. I threw some lighter highlights in my hair, and puzzled over how to make the jump. 60 came and went.

Then COVID-19 happened. Salons closed, and after another frustrating attempt to touch up my roots, I decided it was time.

At this point, I’m about six months into the process, and there’s no turning back. To be honest, I am still a little shocked every time I look in the mirror. I am salt and pepper, heavy on the salt, instead of a glorious silver. I am grateful not to be forking over big bucks to the hairdresser each month. And I’m still learning about how deeply formed I’ve been by how beauty and vitality are defined in our culture. Certainly, there are some images in fashion and advertising that now include older women with graying hair, but they often seem to be token nods in the direction of diversity, rather than as a true celebration.

I am alive, and I want to celebrate who I am becoming today. I am promising myself that when the old dye is gone, I’ll give that hairdresser a few bucks to throw in some temporary purple highlights to crown my gray with fireworks.

I know that some of you have used this time at home to take this journey. I’d love to hear how it’s going for you. And for those of you who are continuing to dye, I honor you! It’s a big commitment.

In any case, just in case no one has told you so today, you’re beautiful.