In an episode from the latest season of Grace and Frankie, uptight retiree Grace, played by Jane Fonda, is sporting some very noticeable grey roots. “This is who I really am,” Grace says when confronted about her new look. “I stopped letting the colour of my hair dictate how young or old I feel.”
The moment is a case of art imitating life. Fonda made headlines in 2020 when she debuted her grey hair at the Oscars. Lately, Fonda, now 83, has been joined by other actors going au naturel including Andie MacDowell, Helen Mirren and Jodie Foster, who all sported grey ‘dos at the Cannes Film Festival in July. And it’s not just women of a certain age who are letting their salt and pepper strands shine. Actors Will Smith and Matt LeBlanc both recently entered the silver fox den.
This moment of hair honesty is resonating well beyond the red carpet. “I’ve always wanted to do it,” says Donna Libbey, an account manager who lives in Erin, Ont. Libbey has been professionally colouring her hair for the better part of 30 years, and for the last decade was doing it to cover her grey roots. “I would go every six to seven weeks to get that done,” she says. “It’s a vicious cycle.” When her salon appointment was cancelled in March, 2020, Libbey decided to take advantage of stay-at-home orders to grow out her colour.
At Brush Salon in Vancouver, co-owner and stylist Calvyn Cass says that many of his clients embraced their grey during the pandemic. Unlike Libbey, however, only a handful of them were able to stick it out. “For the most part, it’s a hard one to commit to because hair takes so long to grow out depending on where someone’s length sits,” he says. On average, hair grows about six inches in a year. That means that someone with a shorter cut could achieve the transition in three to six months, while shoulder length hair and longer would take at least two years to change completely.
Cass says that having expert guidance on cut and colour can ease the transition, which can be both an emotional and costly process. “Consulting with a professional who has experience reverting coloured hair back to natural is important,” he says. Book a consult with your regular stylist and don’t be afraid to seek out a second opinion. “It will likely be the most expensive investment a woman makes in her hair colouring journey because of the many steps it takes to make it seamless.”
Cass cites his mother, a medium ashy blonde who is going white, as an example of how the growing-out process can be made a little gentler with the help of a pro. “The last time I coloured her hair, almost two years ago, she decided she wasn’t ready to be grey but also didn’t want the upkeep of a solid colour,” he says. Instead, he did a full head of highlights that matched her natural blonde to blend out the white. “Then COVID hit and we just never did it again but it blended because, tonally, it was almost identical.”
Between salon appointments, caring for grey hair at home requires a different approach, says hairstylist Jen Atkin. “Texture does change a lot,” she says. “You might want to try different products in the shower and styling products, maybe hydrating [hair] a little bit more with a finishing cream or an oil if it tends to get a little dry looking.” The hair oil from Atkin’s line Ouai contains a blend of ama, borage and baobab seed oils to treat damage, reduce frizz and hydrate.
“Fine hair is more fragile generally,” Cass says. He recommends Olaplex treatments, which promise to repair and prevent breakage, in the salon and at home for this hair type. Coarser textures can be more prone to frizz and Cass suggests hydrating with Oribe’s Moisture & Control Deep Treatment Masque or the Urban Moisture line by Shu Uemura for softer results. Cass says that grey hair tends to be lacking in the nutrients needed for shine, moisture and health. “My personal favourite for illuminating colour is Oribe’s Silverati and, for health, it’s Kerastase’s Chronologiste,” he says.
For Libbey, more than a year and a half has passed since her last colour treatment and she hasn’t gone back to the bottle. She’s currently sporting her salt-and-pepper hair in a chic shoulder length lob and says she hopes her hairstyle will encourage others who are considering going grey to take the leap. “There’s comfort in numbers,” she says. “If someone feels empowered because they see I’m doing it, then that’s great.”
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