Written By: Jordon Peden
On Memorial Day, I attended my first post-vaccination family gathering. It was the first time many of us had seen one another in nearly a year and a half, and needless to say, there was a lot of catching up to do.
Mothers, aunts, and grandmothers made quick work of it, milling around the kitchen gabbing light-heartedly about who was pregnant, who’d had babies, and who was still as hot of a messa as ever.
It was just like riding a bike.
I was a fly on the wall, having snuck in only to change a diaper. As I slathered the Aquaphor on my daughter’s bottom, the conversation turned to hair. Most of those women either hadn’t visited a hair salon in almost 15 months or had just been reunited with their beloved hairdressers only in the weeks before. One of the aunt’s fresh, modern pixie cut was being admired when it happened.
“You left it gray, huh?” Leave it to grandma to make such a loaded yet astute observation. I chuckled to my baby. I was almost done with the diaper, but I wanted to hear how this ended.
I was not disappointed.
The aunt proudly and confidently announced that yes, she had left it gray. In fact, she wouldn’t be covering it up ever again.
She’d grown used to and fond of it during her time in quarantine, and the only thing she’d be doing to her silver locks from now on was nourishing and enhancing them. I was fist-pumping in solidarity from the next room.
She looked great, and more importantly, she seemed like she felt better than she probably had in the last five years. She was totally owning the room and glowing in all her natural gray glory.
And in kitchens all across America, aunts just like her were basking in their own proclamations of fearless liberation from fighting against the gray.
It’s a movement. Gray Hair, Don’t Care!
There are two camps in the Gray Hair Don’t Care party- those whose hair turned gray for the first time during the pandemic and are embracing it, and those whose hair had been gray but opted out of hiding it.
No matter your affiliation, one thing is true: Covid-19 left us in a tight spot from a beauty perspective. Between the stress of living through a once-in-a-lifetime global pandemic and the government-mandated shutdowns, our hair took quite the hit.
Hair graying is an inevitable byproduct of aging. It’s something that happens to everybody, though some sooner than others.
During the pandemic, however, people who’ve never had a single gray hair to speak of were surprised to find wiry, white hairs invading their manes.
According to a 2020 study, the stress of the dumpster fire year we experienced could be to blame. Researchers in this study determined that stress contributes to a loss of melanocyte stem cells, which are responsible for the pigmentation and color of hair. Well, shit.
The other piece to the puzzle is that whether your grays were pandemic-induced or you’ve been graced with them for years, our relationships with salons have been strained at best over the last 15 months.
Stay-at-home orders closed our hair havens for weeks and sometimes months at a time, and even when they reopened with new health and safety standards, many of us elected to tough it out without the professional services for the foreseeable unvaccinated future.
Unless you spent your lockdown days performing the ol’ box dye job, chances are your grays became a quarantine staple. With nowhere to go, it became easy to relinquish some of our primping routines. Our faces went without as much (or any) makeup, and our hair went without the chemicals and dyes that covered our naturally-occurring silver strands.
And guess what? We thrived.
Maybe it was the confidence gained by no longer feeling the need to expend energy concealing a part of ourselves. Maybe it was the freedom offered by no longer being bound to an appointment every six weeks (give or take). Maybe it was the extra cash in our wallets no longer being blown on root touch ups.
Whatever it was, we got it.
We became comfortable in our own skin.
We had to.
Left to our own devices, shut off from any physical social connection, we got to know ourselves a little better. And we embraced ourselves in ways we, perhaps, hadn’t before.
We showed ourselves a little grace in the rat race of looking as young as possible. We let ourselves be human, believing in the collective human understanding that we were all in it together. We became bold enough to not hide our pride in our age and wisdom and experience.
And now, as we peek our gray-haired heads out and look around, we can emerge as the poised, fully-realized, day-ceasing, bad-ass women that we are.
The road to acceptance isn’t always easy, though.
According to Revelina Tokromo, 46, there was definitely some denial and even a little depression in the process of transitioning to gray.
“How could I EVER reach the point of acceptance and let those silvers be what they want to be. So I did a little soul searching,” Tokromo says.
That soul searching paid off.
Tokromo’s transition has given her the confidence to stand up to gray naysayers and to find worth and value and beauty in herself, regardless of what anyone else sees.
“Am I content with myself? Do I like what I see in the mirror? Am I there for myself if my confidence is about to take a hit? YES, YES, AND HELL YESSS!!”
You go girl.
Therese Cranick, 58, recalls wanting to go gray for years and just not feeling ready. She was inspired by gray-haired beauties like Jamie Lee Curtis, and eventually followed suit.
Cranick told us, “When I hit my mid 50’s and seeing all these beautiful, vibrant women who’ve gone grey with much success, I knew I was ready. And I’ve never looked back!”
One highlight for Cranick in her journey to gray has been the support she’s received.
“I’ve been very fortunate to have the support of my hubby & my family. They’ve encouraged me the entire way. And I’ve only experienced positive comments, with the exception of an occasional ‘Granny’ on social media when I’ve upset someone!”
While having a strong support system is an important factor in boldly entering into gray territory, Cranick added that you have to
“Remember this is for you, no one else!”
Since you’re loving yourself so much, you’ll want to know all about gray hair care so you can really rock those radiant gray locks. Ok, so maybe we do care a little.
Gray hair is beautiful, and like most beautiful things, it comes with its own unique upkeep needs.
The Gray Hair Don’t Care Party is awesome and empowering, but becoming a member doesn’t mean throwing your hair care routines out the window. Though you may not be hitting the salon every six weeks or so, your newly all-natural locks will still need some special attention to keep them looking and feeling healthy, luscious, and nourished.
One of the most important considerations for your new gray hair groove is toner. Hair is gray because it lacks pigment, and pigment hides the yellow or brassy tones that pollute our hair as a result of environmental residue build up.
In order to keep our gray glowing and luminous, we have to neutralize those yellow tones with a special toner for gray to white hair.
Purple toning products will keep gray hair shiny, vibrant, and free from unwanted dullness. Purple toning shampoos and conditioners will provide the needed toning effects while nourishing with hair-healthy ingredients.
While we’re talking yellow, it’s also essential to shield your gray tresses from the sun. Without pigment, gray hair is left unprotected against the sun’s UV rays.
UV rays can weaken and burn gray hair, leaving it discolored and negatively affecting its texture. The best way to protect your hair from the sun is to cover it- basically, wear a hat.
To beef up your sun protection regimen, you can also search for hair products that contain the antioxidant histidine, which protects hair from harmful UV damage.
Another way to help your gray hair reach its full potential is to max out your moisturizing efforts. You may notice your grays are more coarse or wiry than the non-grays- this is totally normal.
Hair texture inherently changes over time, but our oil production starts to slow down at some point, too, which also contributes to the texture transformation.
Moisturizing shampoos and conditioners for gray, white, or silver hair will all assist you in maintaining your mane. Hair oils are a great way to combat this oil deficiency as well, and you can also incorporate weekly hair mask treatments to provide extra hydration.
Outside of specialized products, one of the best things you can do for your new ‘do is to style it appropriately.
The right haircut for your new look can make all the difference in the world. After all, you’re debuting a more authentic you. Don’t be afraid to experiment and find the right style to communicate just who that person is.
Remember the aunt from my Memorial Day gathering?
Her pixie cut was the conversation starter that gave her the platform to boldly assert her membership in the Gray Hair Don’t Care party.
Do it up!
It may have taken a pandemic for some of us to embrace our grays, but there’s no going back. Whether the stress from Covid-19 is to blame for the big change or the separation from the world gave you the time and space to see the beauty under the artificial color, the gray is here to stay.
With the right hair care tools and the perfect style, your grays will be a gorgeous exaltation of your confident inner beauty.
Say it with me: GRAY HAIR, DON’T CARE!
GET MOMENTS THAT MATTER DIGITAL ISSUE FOR FREE: FEATURING ROBIN ROBERTS.
This jam-packed digital issue is free! Immediate access, get your copy today!