Let’s talk gray matters. Silver strands. Tinsel! Whatever you want to call it, gray hair is having a major moment, whether it’s the playfully dyed silver-gray hair color trend seen all over Instagram, or the deeper act of women embracing the natural graying of their hair. Wherever you stand on the great gray debate—to dye or not to dye—you can’t ignore them anymore. Those “pesky” grays are here, begging to not only be seen, but celebrated.
The History of Gray Hair
People have been covering their grays as far back as Ancient Egypt, when vegetable henna was used to color hair. The Ancient Egyptians apparently hated gray hair, so much that they would even dye hair after death to cover any grays. This was true for both men and women, though since then, and particularly in American culture, men have progressively been “allowed” to go gray. The first at-home hair color was launched in 1909 and marketed to women, often with a heavy dose of gray-shaming. One print ad from the 1940’s led with the headline, “Losing Friends! (because your hair is gray?).” This double standard has only grown stronger with the idea that gray-haired men are distinguished silver foxes—think George Clooney and Anderson Cooper—salt and pepper sexy, while women going gray is still slightly taboo, or somehow alternative. If a woman decides to stop coloring her hair, it can be polarizing, with friends, family and strangers weighing in on why you would “let yourself go.”
The Perception of Gray Hair
Ask anyone to draw a picture of an old woman, and the drawing will most likely feature gray hair (usually in a bun). Gray hair
has traditionally been synonymous with age, but that perception is slowly changing. This shift is much needed, since some people might notice their first gray hair as early as their teens and 20s, and typically most people start going gray in their mid-30s—hardly “old age.” The recent trend of dyeing hair milky shades of gray and silver has helped destigmatize the look, with celebrities such as Pink, Lady Gaga and Rihanna showing that gray does not equate to frumpy, and gray hair is not necessarily dreaded, but actually desired.
The Revolution of Gray Hair
The rise of “gray hair, don’t care” has led to a social media movement with Instagram accounts such as @grombre touting a radical celebration of gray hair. With over 97k followers, this particular site boasts a community of women who post photos of their grays, along with support and tips on how to make the transition to natural gray hair. We also love @freshbeautystudio for her “fierce aging beauty series,” @annikavonholdt for her seriously gorgeous long gray locks, @terukolaura for her dazzling smile and stunning gray hair, and @lindaandwinks for her drool-worthy style, gray poodle Winks, and her own nothing-short-of-fabulous silver hair. The gray hair revolution is gorgeous, and going full tilt.
So back to the age old question: to dye or not to dye? Fortunately our society is shifting in its attitude toward gray hair (and aging, in general). No longer is it a straightforward answer, that yes, when you notice grays, you cover them up. It is the right of every woman to make a decision that makes her feel good, whether that is covering the gray, or wearing it proudly—whatever makes you feel confident, the most authentically you. There is no one “right” answer to the great gray debate. Rather, it is a—dare we say—gray area.