Tagged going gray

Cristina Acosta and Isabella Acosta Barna

Aging Openly and Other Awesome Side Effects of Going Gray

I call the short little inhaling gasp some people make when surprised the “in-suck”. I named it because I used to hear it so much. Consequently, the term needed a much shorter name than, “the short little……” blah, blah, blah.

Stay in shape; take good care of your skin and teeth; take your vitamins; wear contemporary styles; these are some of the usual tips for aging gracefully.

Do all of the above and you will most likely age beautifully, extending your “youthful” qualities several more years than you might expect. You’ll feel good and you’ll look good.

I’ve done all of that, continue to do that and highly recommend it. Feeling youthful is awesome. But I’m not young, I’m middle age, and there’s nothing like the reality check of the in-suck to remind me of that truth.

Here’s a typical example of the in-suck experience:  I’m at a concert, in my dance groove and having a great time. I feel a gentle tap on my backside. When I turn around, the cute 30-something guy behind me draws his hand back and gasps. One big in-suck.

Age is age, and eventually, if we’re lucky (and not dead), it catches up with us. So, I dealt with the in-suck for quite awhile, thinking of it as my own little reality-check. But those days are over.

The unexpected, positively awesome side effect of letting my hair grow gray naturally has been a complete exit of the in-suck from my life. No longer does a younger man tap on my backside and gasp in surprise when I turn around, a much older woman than he was expecting. My new gray hair is my emissary, gently announcing my middle age status from all directions and distances.

Who knew I’d be grateful for that, but I am. I swore I wouldn’t stop dying my hair until I was at least 70. But I’ve changed my mind. I am growing older and I’m in to it. The reinvention of middle age takes focus and creativity, and I don’t want to spend my energy trying to be something I used to be or am not. My gray roots had become distracting to me. I’ve opted for aging openly, it’s my new adventure.


Going Gray Awkwardly

Going gray is awkward. At least the way I’m doing it. I have long hair that I don’t want to cut off, so short-cutting to gray with a haircut isn’t for me. And I’m Latina. My coarse, curly hair can’t be bleached out to white without falling off. That shortcut to gray hair is also closed.

A few years ago I had some caramel highlights put in. Caramel highlights are the go-to for many dark hair Latinas seeking a way to “blend” new grays with dark hair. My teenage daughter hated it. I tried to like it, but within a couple of months I realized she was right, it had to go. The warm caramel highlights made my coarse, curly hair look more coarse, despite all of the “shine” product I coated it with. Besides, I felt so cliche.

Frustrated, I dyed my hair brown again. But the damage the bleaching had caused to the already dyed hair made it even more prone to rastas than in the past.

Then, to handle the grow out between colorings, I used a hair color stick. It’s a lipstick like tube of color (not a dye) that matches my hair color and when wet, coats the new-growth gray. It washes off. Easily. Too easily for my active life. Too many times I had brown streaks running down my face in a rainstorm, a hot-yoga room, or a swimming pool.

So then I tried hair dye touch-up pens, dye sets, etc. My hair grows quickly, so every week, there I was touching up and hiding gray. It seemed like I was always putting toxic chemicals on my body.

Now, I’ve quit all of that and I’m going gray awkwardly and cold-turkey. I love not having to worry about my hair color. My efforts holding back the clock with hair color are over, I find that I have more energy to direct to activities that directly help my health, like taking a walk or hitting the water on my SUP paddleboard.

And I don’t feel self-conscious about my going gray hair grow-in awkwardness. I am what I am. It’s a great feeling.


Transitioning From Colored Hair to Gray Hair with High and Low Lights

Ease the transitioning from colored hair to gray hair with highlights and/or low-lights. Highlights are white streaks that a stylist adds to dark hair to blend the gray down to the ends of  darker hair. Low lights are darker streaks (usually the color of the darker hair) that is put in the gray section of hair to blend it with the darker older hair.

Envisioning the quick fix a few highlights would have made, I was disappointed that my hair texture made transitioning to gray hair with highlights impossible. But the low lights are better than nothing. I have long hair and the texture is coarse and frizzy so my stylist nixed highlights. She said that they’d look good for a few weeks then the hair would break off. So, a couple of weeks ago I had low lights put in my hair to help transition the gray hair into the dark brown hair.

I don’t want to cut off my hair. I had short hair many years ago and prefer the ease and look of long hair. And, I’m not interested in the effort to try blending temporary dyes into my hair. So I’m going the low-light route for now, then I’ll go cold-turkey gray.  Should be awkward.