It’s no secret that going gray is an inevitable part of the aging process. For centuries, gray hair has been associated with aging, and, until recently, was viewed as something to be hidden at all costs. As far back as the Ancient Egyptians, women have been concerned about covering their gray tresses and doing so in a private manner.
In fact, it wasn’t until Clairol’s 1956 “Does she… or doesn’t she” ad campaign that women began to openly and confidently talk about the decision to choose the color of their hair. Since then, the stigma around going gray has steadily decreased.
Today, in large part as a result of lockdown, more women are taking control of their narratives when it comes to coloring their hair. Some have chosen to color their hair as a way to maintain self-expression while others have chosen to embrace their grays. Going gray, which was once seen as shameful or “letting yourself go,” is now shifting to become a revolutionary act for women to control their beauty decisions on their own terms.
To get to the bottom of the “To dye or not to dye?” debate, we interviewed women of all ages on whether or not they colored their hair. Then, we dug deeper to find out their motivations behind either choice.
Keep reading to find out what they had to say!
Related: The History of Hair Color: Brilliant Color Through the Ages
To dye: the pros of coloring your hair
First, let’s look into some of the reasons women are in favor of coloring their hair.
it helps you feel more like yourself
One of the easiest ways to express yourself is by coloring your hair. Hair color is an extension of your personality and an easy way to express yourself. Not to mention, a gorgeous hair color allows your confidence to shine through.
“I started having gray hair in high school and always felt red hair perfectly matched my personality and creative spirit, so I started dying it at home in high school and continue to this day, although now I’m more picky about finding dyes without ammonia or some of the other chemicals. I love my red hair though and can’t imagine stopping. It’s like part of my identity.” – Adrienne F.
“I’ve been colouring my hair for the past 7 years (I’m in my late 20s). I do it as a way to change up my look and try different colours that compliment me. I also like to be bold and dying my hair allows me to show that on the outside.” – Anna B.
“…I have been blonde, brunette, redhead, purple-haired. I am 31 and have been coloring it some of the time (not always) since I was maybe 12? It’s a self-expression thing, all the way. Of course, there’s vanity to it. Sometimes I feel more beautiful blonde or whatever — but it’s more just who I am and how I want to feel. I see it as a way to be fashionable when I don’t have the body or energy for the clothes I want to wear. I see the purple or “non-natural colors”, and the frequent change, as a [screw you] to the corporate world, the rules about how we look and what that suggests about what we’re capable of, etc.” – Kayla N.
you’re not a fan of your natural shade
Another reason to color your hair? If you’re not digging your natural shade, coloring your hair is a fun and easy way to fall in love with your look again.
“I’ve been coloring it since teenage years – used to be bright red, now it’s black. Why? For fun honestly, and my natural shade doesn’t really spark joy.” – Bogici
“… my natural color is more boring! I like to try different looks every once in a while!” – Courtney M.
you can change colors whenever you want
One of the great things about hair color is that, unlike your job or where you live, you can always easily change it if you don’t love it. During these last 18 months or so, when so many things have seemed out of our control, hair color is one of the few exceptions. And, because hair color needs a refresh every 4-6 weeks (depending on hair growth), it’s an easy way to shake up your look every so often.
“I change mine allllll the time. Sometimes out of boredom, sometimes because I’m having lots of feelings and it gives me something to be in control of, sometimes because it just needs it.”- Laura K.
“I view hair as like makeup or clothes — something to accessorize for fun. I’m often motivated by something in my life-changing or the want for some change (it’s like an adventure of something different, new and fun).” – Brittany N.
it’s a form of self-care
Not only does hair color offer you an avenue to express yourself; it’s also a great form of self-care. As the saying goes, “When you look good, you feel good.”
“It offers a temporary change to my look, allows me to appreciate myself, and feels like another branch of self-care. – Sheeta V.
“…I have dyed my hair regularly since college. I first did it just for fun. But it eventually became an important part of my self-care routine. When I’m struggling with other things (like my weight or stress) it gives me a mood or confidence boost that is much needed.” – Heather
you’re not ready to go gray yet
Let’s face it – no matter your age, you may not be ready to deal with gray hair yet. Luckily, hair color is a quick and easy way to cover grays and help you regain confidence in your color.
Are you curious to learn how to color resistant gray hairs at home? Check out our blog post here!
“I color my hair. I did it for a while just for fun and change color, but I’ve been doing [it] regularly for the last few years to cover my gray hair (I have gray hair since I was 17) since I’m not ready to go all gray yet.” – Karina C.
“When I do color it, it’s to cover grey roots. Or add highlights for some mom pizzazz. I don’t color it when I am lazy and don’t feel like making the effort.” – Danielle C.
“I started coloring my hair in my 30s b/c I started going gray. I held out as long as I could and just started with coloring the gray but now I add highlights and make it fun. I just like it… and now, I can’t ever stop.” – Shane S.
“I totally [color my hair] for me. Looking ‘younger’ in the ad business is still a thing, but now that I’m running my own place, I don’t feel that pressure as much. I mostly just want to feel happy and healthy for my age. If I do start going gray, I’ll likely keep coloring until I’m ready to embrace gray someday.” – Jennifer H.
Not to dye: reasons to embrace gray hair
Now that we’ve examined the pros of coloring your hair, let’s take a look at the other side in favor of embracing your natural hair color.
While gray hairs have long been associated with aging, that’s not truly the main cause. Genetics are actually the culprit here and play a major role in determining how fast (or slow) you’ll go gray.
A silver lining to going gray? The hair color that was once viewed as a way of going against conventional beauty standards is now being seen in a new light. Instead of being ridiculed, there’s been a shift in the conversation, and gray hairs are now embraced and even celebrated.
In the spirit of celebrating natural and gray hair, here are a few reasons why the women surveyed choose to rock their silver locks.
save time and money
In the last few decades, there’s been an uptick in the number of women saying goodbye to the time and upkeep required to maintain colored hair. Instead, they’ve chosen to embrace their grays and spend their time and money on other items they deem more important in their lives. For some, this choice was influenced by the pandemic; for others, it’s been more of a long-term decision.
“I don’t color my hair…haven’t for at least 15 years. I would rather ride my bike then spend time in a salon on my days off.” – Christina K.
“I started [coloring] at 15 and stopped just last year! It was a COVID decision coupled with the fact that I didn’t want to maintain it anymore. I didn’t like spending 3 hours and a lot of $$ on a Saturday at the hair place.” – Laura M.
“I am 54 and don’t color my hair… I’m salt & pepper now. My hair grows very fast so I would be doing it all the time. I’ve earned every grey hair I have and I’m proud of it! I’d rather spend my money on other things.” – Pat O.
“I don’t color my hair because it is too expensive to keep up with and I haven’t (knock on wood) found any white hairs yet. Although I’ll probably embrace it when it happens. I am for the natural, not expensive look.” – Cassandra Z.
you like your natural hair color
Additionally, women are choosing not to color their hair or are stopping coloring because they’ve embraced their natural color. A few of our respondents were also unsure if coloring their hair would affect the hair’s texture.
“I stopped coloring mine and am surprised at how nice my grey is!” – Kathy B.
“I like my natural hair color and I already have drier hair so I fear it would damage it more. – Alexis W.
“When I was young, my hair was jet black and so shiny that strangers would compliment me on it. When it started to change, it came in silver. Now it’s mostly gray and still shiny. Recently a stranger stopped me to admire it. I think the sheen is because I never colored my hair.” – Laurie L.
“No, I don’t color my hair. I’m tempted to but I worry about the after-effects. Such as texture issues and then having to keep touching up the color. Also, I love my black hair! – Vasundhara M.
“I don’t color my hair because my greys are faint and all throughout my hair. I am going to fully embrace when my hair turns full silver. I like the gradual changes in my appearance.” – Domonique H.
upending beauty stereotypes and ending the stigma around going gray
For centuries, women have felt societal pressure to conform to certain beauty standards. But nowadays, many women are ditching these unrealistic standards and leaning into self-love instead.
“I didn’t color my hair for 5 years […] but just last month, I did lowlights and a toner. I am 60% grey and didn’t like how my hair looked pulled back but I was very proud to rock grey hair and try to fight the stereotype around aging.” – Natalie B.
“I’ve never colored my hair. To be honest, I’ve been torn about it. I’ve always liked the idea of going gray naturally and embracing the aging process instead of trying to fight it. But then I started getting gray hairs in my early 20s… which was way earlier than I’d imagined it in my head. Now I’m closer to 30 than 20 and I’ve got quite a few grays. For now, I’m still not coloring it. If I wanted to color my hair simply because *I* liked it that way, then I’d be all for doing it! But I can’t justify spending that much time and money on something just because society tells me I should. That being said, I fully admit I might change my mind down the road.” – Emily A.
“I used to color my hair. Since having children I have stopped. My main reason for stopping was for my girls. I want them to be happy and confident with the hair color they were given and not feel that one color is superior to another.” – Lydia B.
To dye or not to dye: the decision is up to you!
So, what’s the correct answer of “to dye or not to dye?” The correct answer is that there is no correct answer. The decision is up to you!
And if you’re looking for a way to maintain gorgeous hair color without pricey and time-consuming salon visits, be sure to check out our line of permanent hair colors. Whether embracing your grays or coloring your hair feels more like you, we’re here to support you at every step of your hair journey!