Embracing the Grey

One of the sure-fire ways to know you are getting older is when Doctors and Police start looking like teenagers in cosplay outfits.

No, you cannot look at my boobs until I see your degree, kiddo.

Another sign is the death of pigment cells in our hair follicles, turning them more transparent, which comes across as white, grey or silver depending on how much melanin you still have.

Grey, you still have some. White or silver, congrats, you now have the same hair follicles as a polar bear.  Of course, for certain people, this depigmenting can even happen in their 20s and 30s. It is, primarily, a genetic trait.

There is a big difference, however, in GOING grey and BEING grey.

Going grey often takes on a ‘hide the sausage’ vibe for a surprising number of people.

The truth is that most of us will discover the odd grey hair on their body somewhere in their 30s.

It may not be on their head. Eyebrows tend to get attention because, well, they are right on your face. The same with any facial hair, but leg hair, armpit hair and, yes, pubic hair often start going grey at the same time.

It is both insulting and demoralising to discover grey pubes before you notice grey locks. True story.

Plucking out a grey hair will not encourage two to grow in its place, that is a myth. The reason you see more after you have plucked one out is because your grey hairs now have your full attention.

Studies by industry specialists like L’Oréal and Garnier have found that just over 50% of all women and up to 20% of men over 40 dye their hair.

Research conducted by Garnier during the Corona Virus Pandemic discovered that, even in lockdown, 33% of women were still dying their hair at home. The reasons they gave were interesting. Most women were covering their grey, but some also tried out wilder colours because they didn’t have to go into work, and many gave ‘boredom’ as their primary reason.

More than 50% felt they went greyer faster in the past two years due to stress, but, again, this does not carry a lot of scientific water.

In reality they were probably spending more time looking at themselves on screen or in mirrors than they normally would and, lo! There they were. Those pesky grey hairs. Even in their pubes.

The question that needs to be asked is, why are we so keen to cover our grey anyway? What does grey hair mean in our culture that we will cover ourselves in chemicals and dyes to disguise it?

Mature hair sits on mature bodies. Is that a bad thing? And why are women the ones most likely to spend money to hide a truth?

These are rhetorical questions. In our culture, youth and beauty are considered one and the same, and who doesn’t want to be seen as beautiful?

Grey or white hair implies colourlessness, dryness, the passing of a use by date.

Grey hair is for old people, and being old is…

What exactly? Something to be ashamed of? Defeat? Becoming an empty husk?

So, dye our hair we do.

We know that the darker the hair, the more the grey and white shows up, so there is a pattern to the way things work when it comes to ‘younging it up’.

Aging blondes get brighter highlights, fair brunettes become blondes (and then get highlights), red heads might go for richer, redder tones because white can look like copper, and anyone in the dark brown to black haired category goes for something with all over coverage. From a practical standpoint, this makes sense.

After all, if Snow White spend half a day getting highlights it would just look like she was going grey.

And on and on it goes until women in their 70’s will easily spend at least two hours a month sitting in a salon chair trying to prevent themselves from looking like a skunk.

Men have it easier. Most men who still have hair after 60 walk around looking like they have won the lottery and the F1 on the same day.

Older men with a head of grey hair are called ‘silver foxes’.

Older women with a head of grey hair are called Nana.

Thankfully, there is a quiet but steady movement away from the madness of judging a book by what’s under its hat.

Brave and beautiful women in the public eye have brought the words ‘sexy’ and ‘grey’ into the same sentence.

Actresses like Jodie Foster, Jamie Lee Curtis, Dame Helen Mirren, Dame Judy Dench and prominent women like the IMFs Christine Legarde all rock white locks. No one could accuse any of these women of looking anything other than strikingly beautiful and totally in control.

They are, also, silver foxes- only the female kind. Foxy Female Foxes.

There is nothing wrong, of course, with wanting to change your hair colour. You do you, boo. Always.

If highlights or a nice semi-permanent make you feel stronger, do it. Dye your hair unicorn colours if it makes you feel pretty. It’s YOUR hair, after all.

Just remember that true beauty radiates from loving the skin you are in, and you have every right to be proud of having made it this far, regardless of the colour of your pubes.

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