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      Growing Out Grey, the Terror and the Glory

                 “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken” - Oscar Wilde


So you've been thinking about it, eh? Getting a little tired of fending off invading armies of grey roots, knowing they're reloading as fast as you can mow them down? It would be nice to know what it's all going to look like if you do let them have their way. If your hair is going to be mousy enough to make you look like an actual mouse, maybe it's not time yet. But on the other hand, you might be putting the final touches on the confident, gracefully radiant, mature woman you know you are. For those contemplating the big leap, I've got your back; no need to approach a decision of such magnitude alone and unarmed. Here's everything you'll need, and then some.


Let's have a look at the opportunities for either side:


The up-side of colouring your hair:


  • You can have whatever colour you want (more or less).

  • In most cases, you will likely look younger (more about that in a while).

  • The colour is often better for skin tone.

  • There's usually more volume, shine and smoothness (assuming the salon colour is of excellent quality and your stylist knows what they're doing).

  • You get to take part in keeping your hairstylist fed and clothed.

The other side:

  • Requires time at the salon.
  • Cost.

  • Possible damage to hair (if your stylist is not so great).

Before we go any farther, I'd like to get something straight: I'm not for or against either option, colouring your hair can be a great way to express yourself, so can not colouring your hair. I like colour and I like grey. I endeavor to celebrate beauty, individuality and creative expression in whatever way you choose to do it.



One can never really know whether the actual growing out process will be only slightly uncomfortable or cause for the invention of new swear words. There are many factors involved and it's quite a unique experience for everyone, but I'll lay out the main considerations to help you make a conscious, clear decision.

So far, we hairdressers have yet to come up with a perfect way to grow out grey, so it may not be without some challenges, but there are most certainly ways to help it go as smoothly as possible.

1. Highlight and/or lowlight the incoming roots to break up the root line and blend everything to a more tolerable degree. A good approach, but if you do so many highlights that you can't see much of a line anymore, you'll get almost as much of a regrowth line from the highlights, balance is required. You want just enough highlighting to keep you from kicking the cat when you look in the mirror (well okay, maybe a few more than that). Your stylist can make adjustments as you go along.

2. Cut it all off. A drastic, but effective choice. What I usually suggest is grow the grey in as much as you can tolerate, then cut off as much as you can bare and highlight the roots.

3. Don't look in the mirror for one year and totally ignore anything that comes out of anyone's mouth beginning with “What the heck's up with your...”. You can supplement this technique by covering your ears and going “waa, waa, waa, waa”.

4. Have a semi-permanent colour. This will blend the grey roots, but you're going to get roots from it. Contrary to what many people think, you'll still get roots from a semi-permanent colour.  They may be less drastic than those from a permanant colour, but they're still going to show up, especially after you do the colour two or three times. So what about all that advertising that says “washes out in six weeks!”? Lies, or at least highly misleading. 

5. Go on a long holiday, somewhere where people don't give a rat's rear about your grey, come back transformed, then simply let the world adjust to what you're already comfortable with. (This technique also works well for getting through the difficult stages of growing your hair longer).

Everybody that considers reclaiming their grey hopes they will have that nice grey you see every so often. If they can have that grey, no problem! Usher forth the beauty! And you just might. Usually, but not always, most of the people who have that nice grey had dark hair when they were younger. Lighter haired people usually run more of a risk of becoming a mouse.

Some skin tones look quite nice with grey hair, others … well … not so much. When your skin color and your hair color are too similar, it can really wash you out. If you do grow out your grey and notice you're being followed around by a funeral director, some moderate highlights and/or lowlights might be in order.

Will you look older? Perhaps, but that's only one facet of the entire scenario. I'm also an artist and it's amazing to watch how a painting changes, depending on the room in which it's placed. The painting and the room, together, create the impression. Think of the grey hair as the painting and the rest of you, the room. Why not use the grey as inspiration for some creative changes in clothing and overall style? I'm not talking about piecing together a new, artificial you in an effort to tolerate the grey, that's just adding to the struggle. I'm suggesting feeling out the opportunities your grey may be offering; it may have more in its pockets than you suspect. Picture yourself with grey hair, feel it. Can you find and begin celebrating the new you? Start from that feeling, allow it to be a creative adventure.

I also suggest being ready for mind noises that speak of fear and comfort zones, whether they come from your social programming or other people's. Not everyone is going to applaud your new vision. Looking older is a bad thing in our society and it seems to be at an all time high right now. Hollywood seems to have taken this fear into the realms of the bizarre. So as with all big adventures, you must expect that a few will cheer you on, one or two might even join you, and some will want to hold you down and get you back to “normal”. Well, bless them as they duct tape you to the styling chair, they're even more scared than you may be. If you do anything outside the box in this lifetime, you're going to piss off the herd, so you might as well go big. I'm not at all against being in creative harmony with aging, what I do endeavor to ignore is the human propensity for sacrificing personal truth to live up to cruel and foolish ideals. Real beauty cannot exist without individuality, it's an aspect of it, just ask any flower.

It doesn't have to be all or nothing. You can still have some highlights and/or lowlights along with your grey. This way, some of the grey will be covered. You may be able to get away with refreshing the highlights a few times a year, as long as you keep them to a moderate amount. Keep in mind though that if you have longer hair or a blunt cut, they'll eventually begin to build up before they have a chance to get cut off and you'll be right back in the root game again. But overall, it's a nice option; highlighting can really help give some zing to the grey. 

I don't want to paint an overly-rosy, unrealistic picture of all of this. For most of us, rediscovering our grey isn't going to be an easy transition. Not only will we have to deal with the root line as it slowly grows out, but witnessing all that grey we've been hiding can be challenging. The only way we're really going to know is by trying it. And you won't get a clear picture until at least a few months in. Many people feel an abrupt waning of inspiration at about the three month mark. That's the hump, that's when reality truly presents itself. But there's no down side, either you find out that you really are ready or that it's not time yet. If it's not, so be it, all is well, approach it again down the road a ways.

I wish you well on your adventure, and you can rest assured there will be at least one hairdresser out there who backs you on whatever your heart tells you, even if you do end up looking like a mouse.

Jay Lamb

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Jay Lamb is a hairstylist with over 30 years experience, a visual artist and a budding writer. For more information on Jay's hair salon, please visit:

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Jay Lamb

Flow Hair Salon


403 281 1704

Solace in Umber. Glass. 55 by 30 inches.
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Copyright 2015 Jay Lamb, All rights reserved.

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Jay Roma Lamb Art · 34 Lissington Dr. SW · Calgary, Ab T3E5E1 · Canada

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