Friday 6 July 2018

50 Shades of Nay. How I'm ending my relationship with hair dye and embracing the grey.

Hey you. 

If you follow me on Instagram - @withjuliekirk - you'll already have a heads-up on this because I spent much of the day posting IG Stories while I tried out a hair dye removal cream in the hopes it would reveal the grey beneath. (Spoiler alert: it didn't).

(BTW: I've saved all of those stories in my 'Grey Hair' section of my IG ‘Highlights’ if you fancy watching me attempt to wrap my head in clingfilm. And why wouldn't you want to do that?)

So, yes, I've decided to share my flirtation with grey here and Instagram. And, because I'm not above using a terrible pun in telling you all about it, please welcome the new no-dye blog series I'm shamelessly calling... 50 Shades of Nay.

I don’t like being ‘found out’.

If I’m entirely honest, I find it weird enough when people know things about me that are general knowledge, so having people know something about me that I’m actively trying to hide is, at best, rattling.

And, having my grey roots breaking free and glinting shamelessly in the sunshine, revealing their natural naked selves to all and sundry, has come to feel too exposing. Too out of my control. Too furtive.

But rather than spur me on to do a better job at hiding them, maybe by buying one of those root sprays, I’m doing the opposite: I’m exposing myself.

No, wait. Hang on there. I didn’t mean it quite like that. Let me rephrase …
  • I’m no longer waiting for my roots to give me away.
  • I’m going to hide them in plain sight instead; by growing them out.
  • They’ll no longer be able to scream ‘grey roots’ when the rest of my hair is grey too. 
  • (Yes, I accept that going grey is going to bring with it its own delightful set of neuroses ... but I'm saving those for a future blog post!)

So, for the foreseeable future at least I’m laying down my disposable gloves, because I’m done dyeing.

I’m not ruling out ever turning to dye again. After all it can be fun. I mean, that’s why I originally started dyeing it. It was a relatively quick and easy way to play with my image, to temporarily become someone else and often, in doing so, step further into myself.

Thinking back, there's been:
  • The perfect peach streaks that delightfully appeared when I experimented with an all-over copper on top of blonde highlights.
  • The sharp red bob with a fringe the summer I took a film-making course.
  • The brazen burgundy streaks on a white hotel pillowcase, from where my hair was drenched in the rain the night I saw Benedict Cumberbatch in Hamlet.
  • Plus all the shades of rich woods, precious metals and gemstones a shop shelf can hold.

But then, as more grey began to emerge, I started to leave the fun colours behind. 

The regrowth from those would leave me wearing three distinct colours
  • the dyed shade, 
  • my own dark-brown roots,
  •  … and the greys in between.
Which is when I took up cafĂ© colours instead, turning to ‘iced coffee’ and ‘frosted chocolate’. Which, as well as making me peckish, reduced the obvious distinction between the dyed lengths and my natural roots. Which offered less of an obvious regrowth and yet ... there were still the greys making their way through to the surface like an invasive plant forcing its way from the darkness of a tumbledown shed and out into daylight.

And then, more recently I've been using the underwhelmingly titled ‘Dark Brown’ as a cover-up and now - along with the enthusiasm of whichever copywriter named that shade - my desire to dye has just fizzled out.

(I suddenly feel like getting on my hands and knees. looking up to the sky, shaking my fists and yelling 'I don't wanna dye!!!!' But then ... maybe I breathed in too many fumes from the dye-stripper.)

My first step towards going grey: making the decision to stop dyeing. 

(AKA: Saying 'nay' to dye. Because '50 Shades of No' doesn't roll of the tongue as easily.)

The last time I dyed my hair was 11 weeks ago, on the 16th April (2018). 

Then I used a lighter brown than usual (probably called something inspiring like ‘A Lighter Brown Than Usual’) and it didn’t really cover the grey. So at that point, fed up with wasting the time, money and mental energy hiding grey had begun to take, I already had one foot out of the dyeing door.

Finally, when I got a fringe cut in, two months ago, a lot of the grey which had  - until then - been skilfully lurking beneath my parting was suddenly pulled front and centre. And became really obvious:

At this point I'd begun to think life would be much more streamlined if I just stopped worrying about going grey, and allowed it to happen. 

Kind of like a 'Frankie Goes to Hollywood approach to hair dyeing': Relax don't do it, When you want to go to it. Relax don't do it, When you want to ... erm .. grow out your grey. 

Or something like that. 

It was about this time that, in order to speed up the process, I genuinely considered either cutting it very short ... or just shaving it off altogether and seeing what grew back! 

I think I'm over that urge now.

However, the next time I see my stylist I will definitely be asking for something a bit shorter than usual. (I won't be mentioning shaving it off though, because judging by how excited she was when I got her to give me an undercut 2 years ago, I think she might leap at the challenge!)

So, yes, cutting it off is one way to get rid of the over-dyed lengths, but I'm impatient. And I hate the way you can see the grow-out line and so ... I turned to chemicals. 

My second step towards going grey: hair dye removal cream.

Faced with a calendar's worth of waiting for a full head of grey, I wanted quicker results and so I bought myself a hair colour remover product.

Ahem ... I may have taken the opportunity to take some super-flattering photos that - should I ever become a singer songwriter - I will consider for use as album covers. 

I turned to this method - the colour remover - not the stunning 'Old Towel Portraits',  mainly to remove the annoying band left behind from those lighter dyes I mentioned. 

If my hair is going to end up two-tone dark brown / grey for the next however many years it takes for me to go as white as all of the flesh that's suddenly gone on display during this heat wave, then so be it.

I'll call it zebra-hair and it'll be on-brand. 

But I don’t need black, white and a big four inch strip of  lighter brown too. Plus, if the remover managed to "Remove all types of dark colour build-up" - as was promised on the box - then all the better.  

However ... as anyone who's watch the Instagram Stories I filmed during this lengthy (and sulphurous) process will already be aware ... 

Reader, it didn't work. 

Rinse until the water runs clear it said.  The water ran clear from the very start. Nothing moved. 

So far, so disappointing.

But that's not all.

Not only did it not remove that band of lighter colour I was so keen to wave goodbye ... 

Reader, it brightened it and made it MORE OBVIOUS!!

I mean ...

I suppose there's a chance I could have better results if I go to the salon and have my stylist work her magic on it but, for now, I'm just going to live with it, and look for the positives (I'm digging deep for these, people. Deep.): 
  • the conditioning treatment it came with made my hair really shiny and soft, like after dyeing. Which I haven't had for the 3 months without dye so ... that's something
  • It's kind of, almost, blended out some of that annoying harsh regrowth line. That, or the colour's just so bright now it's dazzled my yes and I can't see straight!
  • And ... I got an unexpected new colour for summer! 

But all of this has now left me faced with the one method I was trying to avoid: patience. 

Because that's something I've got in abundance. *Rolls eyes so hard they vanish beneath my newly ginger fringe*.

But I'll give it a try. What choice to I have? 

In the meantime I'm laying down at the feet of the Pinterest gods and pinning images of all the stylish grey haired women I can find. 

To motivate me.

To stop me from slowing down in the 'Permanent Colour' aisle the next time I'm walking through Boots. 

To keep me going. 

To keep me going grey


Now I want to hear from you
  • Have you let your grey grow out? 
  • How long did it take? 
  • How did you stay motivated?
  • What have you learned?
  • Did you go back to dye?
  • Has anyone had grey highlights put in to blend it through .... that's my next big plan! 
  • Anything else I should know?
Oh and ... 

If you dye your hair, please know this:
  • We can still be friends. 
  • This is a personal experiment based on aesthetics and a desire to be free of hassle ... it is not a moral/ethical/social judgement!
  • I am not going to become a militant pro-grey activist but I will be occasionally blogging and Instagramming my journey to the grey side!
So do get in touch - whether that's here in the comments, or on Facebook, Instagram, email, in the street (ew, on second thought maybe not, I don't do casual talking in the street.)

Under this newly orange, brown and white hair ... I'm all ears. 

Julie x 

p.s: Feel free to pin / share this image if you think your friends / followers would be interested in reading this. Thanks in advance! 


  1. I like this new feature of yours. Among my friends, I was the last one to even start coloring my hair...they started doing it in their late teens/early 20's. I started in my mid-40's to cover the grey. What was quarterly is now about every 8 weeks. Both my Mom and Grandmother colored their hair well well into their 60's, I think my Mom recently stopped, prob when she was about 72. My family says I should stop coloring, I'm not quite ready :)

    1. It's definitely something you do in your own time. The idea's gradually grown on me in the last few months and has only felt truly comfortable in the last week or two! So I know just how you feel.

  2. This has been a fascinating read, no genuinely because I stopped looking at my face and hair in the mirror about 60 years ago when a "friend" said hurtful things about how wild my hair was and how with my nose I should never get rid of my fringe. I went and checked in the mirror and my hair is definitely grey and for the first time in my life I can actually see my scalp along the parting line. The sensitivity of my skin has always prevented me using colours so I watch with envy as my daughter changes between purple and pink and orange and green and blue. Grey is just grey and should be rejoiced - I would have mine made white if the chemicals didn't bring me out in a rash - and grey is sooooo fashionable now

    1. Oh my. What a thoughtless 'friend'! I'm so sorry you went through that.

      I'm always amazed that I'm generally OK with dye - considering how sensitive the rest of my skin is! Although .. .there was that time my upper lip went numb ...

  3. I stopped dyeing my hair five years ago (although I slipped once for a family wedding 4 years ago) and love my hair colour much more now than I ever have. Takes a bit of getting used to, but is worth embracing!

    1. Thanks for the glimpse into my grey future Cate! I'm looking forward to loving it like you do!!

  4. Ah well, I feel as though I went on a similar journey to you only I had a lot more silver (or white) at the front on my crown. When I announced I was fed up and wanted to embrace the grey, my hairdresser almost went the same shade then said, no, you're too young, I'll tell you when you're ready. Unfortunately, at the time she had broken her arm so I had to go ahead with my plan, unaided. So I went down to the supermarket, bought a gentle hair stripper. I had a similar experience to yours only my hair looked as though it had gone lighter then I was back where I started. At the time I had gone really dark brown (gosh that was a mistake) everytime my hair grew out a little it looked like a badger's bottom. Anyhow, the solution to this, as my hair was well and truly wrecked was to wait till my hairdresser was fully recovered. She advised me that I needed it all cut off, and I mean short. This I did, as hair grow back right? And when it did I was left with a gorgeous head of silver grey (white as I insist) at the front and darker grey at the back. I've been like this for about 5 years and I don't even think about it. However, I can have a splash of colour if I fancy, which is usually purple.

    Loved reading this post.

    1. Thanks for your support Phiona! I have more grey at the front of my crown too ... how does the grey know where's the *least* convenient place to start growing?!!!!

  5. I'm due at Annie's (my hairdresser) on Thursday. She is also my sister and so absolutely honest about what looks good and doesn't on me. It's been 12 weeks since I last coloured, and there's a good 5cm of my natural silver-grey at the front. I quite like that bit, but I'm not sure how the rest looks. I expect Annie will tell me on Thursday! I am seriously considering joining you in embracing the grey, but I'm not quite sure yet. I'll watch your progress with interest, no matter what I decide.

    1. Thanks Margot - it really has boosted my confidence to know there are people interested in following this! I think it's important to chat about it - otherwise we're all feeling unsure on our own!

      As for your silver grey at the front ... me too. I had planned to grow out my fringe *but* ... if I get it cut in again there's a chance that all the dye will be cut out too. And I'll have at least one part of my hair that's totally natural. Which should give me a good idea of how the rest will look!

  6. I am not quite ready to embrace the grey just yet, although I don't colour my hair all over, I have highlights and low lights put in so I guess I have about 50% of my natural hair colour still on show. I think that I'm quite fortunate in when I was young, my hair colour was auburn and seemed to have natural highlights of different shades in it. So it just looks now as if I have increased the number of light bits in it! My mum never coloured her hair at all and she had the same colour hair as me. By the time she was in her 70s it was more 'salt and pepper' rather than grey so maybe it won't be too bad when I finally make the decision!

  7. I have really enjoyed reading this! Cheering you on :). Your hair does look beautifully shiny and soft (I typed 'shinty' originally - should be a word for SOMETHING, don't you think?) ... I've never dyed mine all over but was persuaded for a few years to have a 'half-head of highlights' with a swish of colour on the bits above my ears to hide the encroaching grey.I stopped that a few years ago now in favour of just letting it all be. And it's fine. Yep, the grey shows at the sides and now a bit more through the front, and I'm really don't care any more. (It's the wrinkles that get me!)


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