Many Of Us Went Gray During The Pandemic, And Aren’t Going Back

by Kristen Mae
Originally Published: 

I know I’m not the only one whose natural hair color grew out during the pandemic. I’ve spent the better part of the last two decades of my life with some variation of highlights covering my naturally brown hair, and for the first time, not only could I not get to the salon, I also had no reason to bother attempting to do home color since I wasn’t seeing anyone anyway. The color it grew it out to is darker than I expected — more of a chocolate brown than the lackluster dirt-brown I was expecting. And you know what? I’m digging it.

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What I’m digging even more, though, is watching how my friends and other femmes on social media have grown out their gray hair during the pandemic. And they’re not just growing it out as a placeholder until they get their butts back in the salon chair — oh no, they’re rocking it. As in, they’re planning on keeping those sumptuous silvers as-is. We may be getting vaxxed and starting to get back to the salon, but these stunning women are owning their gorgeous grays.

When men start to go gray, they’re generally viewed as having even more sex appeal. That “salt and pepper” look is a mark of experience and maturity. Not so much, for women. Too often, for women, we simply equate going gray with growing old.

And growing old is not generally considered desirable except in the sense that it’s technically better than the alternative. But I guess we mostly forget to think about that part, don’t we?

Still, thanks to the pandemic limiting our access to the salon, all around me, women have been growing out their gray and embracing it. It’s even safe to say that gray hair is on-trend right now — and not just for older women. Younger people with zero natural gray to speak of pay hundreds upon hundreds of dollars to turn their tresses silver. The other day I saw a picture of a teenager dressed up for prom sporting long, silver hair.

I’m 41, and I don’t yet have any gray hair aside from one single solitary pube that keeps sprouting up like a tiny tenacious silver dandelion (honestly WTF tho, why just the one?). But even if I wanted to change my natural brown to silver, I don’t have several hundred dollars lying around to do so. Hell, I don’t even want to spend one hundred dollars to go back to my highlighting routine. All set.

Plenty of folks start turning gray naturally in their twenties and thirties. There’s always been a weird societal pressure for women to quickly dye those grays lest anyone catch them — gasp! — aging. The pandemic seems to have made a lot of us question why it is that we feel we must cave to this pressure of hiding our grays. During a time when we were forced to reexamine what’s important to us, many of us have decided that coloring our hair no longer makes it on the list.

And anyway, age aside, can we just acknowledge that all of these women are freaking magnificent? The pandemic may have been the impetus for many of us to embrace whatever color happens to be growing out of our scalp, but it’s also added a whole new level of solidarity that I think probably surprised most of us. We don’t actually have to color our hair if we don’t want to. We don’t have to conform to any arbitrary beauty standards we don’t want to. No one should feel compelled to adjust their looks to what’s “youthful” or “trending.” Your hair, your body, your face, your style. Your choice, always. But also? Gray hair looks fucking badass, can we get an amen.

Though, to be fair, it’s kinda cool to be able to naturally rock a trend on which other people are dropping multiple Benjis. If I had a “skunk stripe” growing in, you’d better believe I wouldn’t think of coloring it away. This trend to embrace gray — but more importantly, the trend to embrace all the natural, glorious beauty of women — is one I am totally, 100% here for.

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