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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Going "au naturale"

I have a confession to make. I'm not a natural redhead. Yes, I love my red in all the various shades I've worn over the last decade, from a single screaming-pink stripe, to dark auburn with an orange stripe, to cinnamon with ginger highlights and everything in between, I adore the fun, bright, and varied red hues I've tried. The photos below give just a sampling.

Dark Auburn (2013)
Cinnamon with a bright orange stripe (2006)
Light auburn with ginger highlights (2010)
As much as I love being an unnatural redhead, lately, it's been getting harder and harder to maintain it. Where I used to get by with 1 or 2 beauty salon color treatments (read $$$$ dye jobs) interspersed with a couple of at-home root touch-ups or coloring each year, I now find that pesky skunk-stripe shows up more quickly. And the single box 'o coloring off the drug store shelf has missed some spots. That's not because my hair is getting longer or thicker, but I'm not sure if the real reason is because my grays are getting more resistant to coloring, there are just more of them overall, or I've missed patches because of my failing eyesight. None of the options sound good, do they?

As you may have read in my "week of 50" posts, one of the things I've been looking forward to about passing my half-decade mark is the freedom to not give a shit about societal pressure to look young. One of the biggest ways I'd like to do that, is by not coloring my hair, going back to my natural color, whatever that may be.

I've been coloring my hair for so long, that I no longer have a clear idea of what my natural color is (in my mind, it's what's in that third picture: light auburn with ginger highlights, but alas, that ain't so.) If I hunt back through old photos, I can see that it's really more of a medium, ick-brown. At least it was. Given the increasing "lightness" of my roots and hairline between coloring, I suspect it's more gray than brown these days. Just how much, though, is anybody's guess.

But, I'm going to find out. I'm going to do it. I'm going au naturale. I owe a big thanks to Cindy, who is forging the path by starting this process ahead of me, and who has given me the courage and support to "go for it."

I last colored my hair toward the end of October. Now, I'm implementing my one-year plan to go sans color. It's a one-year-plan because I don't have the fortitude to go cold-turkey and watch the roots grow out in sharp, horrific, glorious contrast to the red. I've been reading here, and researching there, and sounds like, aside from shaving my head, the best way to go from colored to natural hair is with highlighting and lowlighting to blend the incoming colors with the outgrowing ones. This, along with regular haircuts--inching a bit shorter to remove the old color with each trim--can ease the transition.

I have myriad reasons for wanting to do this. First, I'm a cheapskate by nature. Paying $150-$200 a few times a year to color my hair makes me twitchy. I'm also not a natural primper. Having to make time for hair care of any kind, for me, is an inconvenience. The environmentalist/biologist side of me sees the irony in my general opposition to releasing harmful chemicals into the environment because of potential human and environmental health impacts while I soak my head in chemicals every 8-10 weeks to keep my hair color intact. Finally, as I've been considering this move, I look around at some beautiful, smart, talented women whom I admire, and who have either never colored their hair or have chosen to stop. Thank you for looking beautiful and giving me the courage to do this Kris D, Kris M, Liz F, Sara M, Mary T., Sunny, my mother-in-law (gorgeous, pewter hair), and mom (who stopped coloring in her 30s and had beautiful salt-and-pepper hair by her 40s and now has the most gorgeous silver/white hair--I hope I got those genes!), and all my other friends who have shown the world that gray isn't old and frumpy, but sexy and confident!

While hairdressers and "youngsters" have said, "Don't do it! It'll make you look old!" what I see when I look at these ladies is elegance, self-confidence, and beauty. Their silver, platinum, white, and pewter hair is sophisticated and poised. They are comfortable in their own skin--and hair. I don't think a change to my natural hair color will automatically give me any of those qualities, but I admire the look. I'm going to give it a try.

Here's an interview with one woman who has taken this step, followed on page 3 of the article by an interview with Jamie Lee Curtis on her own experience. This blog tells another woman's experience with the transition.

Below is the most recent picture I have of myself. It's from Halloween 2013, so I probably colored my hair the weekend before. I'll post pics and my thoughts in the process along the way.
At the start of my transition. October 31, 2013


  1. Timing is everything. The winter with Thanksgiving and Xmas and New Years pictures coming is not the best time to make a major change. Better wait for the summer!

  2. I'd thought of that, too, Sophie! Since we aren't traveling for any family festivities this year, and I'm off from mid-Dec to mid-Jan, I thought now's the time to do it! No photos for Christmas this year (or I'll keep a Santa-hat on my head!)

  3. Well, welcome to the natural aging process. This getting old bit puts us out of step in a young-centric society, but it can't be stopped. If it could, I'd sign up for the spa day.

    At the behest of my daughter, I tried highlighting my hair once upon a time, but the cost and the upkeep made me twitchy too. I like the wash and wear look. Simple, easy, and no primping.

    You're beautiful, Lynne, and grey,brown,silver or whatever, you'll still shine.