It started out as a tongue-in-cheek way to mark the passage of time during the pandemic. The first time I posted a “gray hair update” on Facebook, I vowed not to color my hair again until we returned to the office.

There was never a doubt I would be a redhead again, however.

Eighteen months later, there is little red remaining. My hair is gray — with blonde, white and black mixed in — and some red hanging on as a reminder of maskless days when I enjoyed standing out in a crowd.

I’m embracing my gray now, and I’m not alone. People throughout Georgia are saying bye-bye to hair dye.

I am now measuring isolation by amount of gray hair showing. I'm not coloring it again until I can return to the office.

Posted by Nancy Clanton on Wednesday, April 1, 2020

“Going gray has been so darn liberating,” Kimberly Bracy said. “I have been coloring my hair for 10 years or more, and I’ve always wondered what I would look like with gray hair. So when the salons closed last year due to the pandemic, it gave me an excellent opportunity to transition to gray.”

Salons closing during the coronavirus pandemic apparently gave many people the nudge they needed to go natural.

Heather Smith said she had grown weary of the coloring process. For more than 25 years, she had dyed her hair black, every shade of brown, red and even dark blond.

“It got to the point that it needed to be done every two weeks,” she said. “I was homeschooling at the time, got involved with foster care, and decided this is not how I want to spend my time or money.

“I can’t believe the response. My friends love it. My parents love it. I was most worried about my husband, but he seems to be on board now that people have compared me to Storm.”

Angie Basiouny’s husband supported her decision to go gray. “He loves it,” she said. “He had been encouraging me for years to let the gray flow, but he’s bald, so I think his reasons are suspicious.”

Her mother wasn’t quite as accepting, she said. “I think my mom kind of struggled with it at first because it made her realize her baby girl is 50 years old now — and the clock isn’t going backward.”

Kennesaw State mathematics professor Wendy Sanchez’s mother reacted similarly, she said. “It’s kind of funny — my mother is 82 years old and still colors her hair. She couldn’t believe I was growing mine out. She just didn’t understand. But when I finished growing it out and it was all natural, she thought it looked beautiful. Her stylist told her she would have beautiful white hair if she would let it go natural. She hasn’t taken the plunge yet, and she may never. But at least she doesn’t hate mine.”

I first started dying my hair in the early ‘90s, and it had nothing to do with gray hair. My mother told me she saw red highlights when the sun shone on my head, and I wanted to see how I would look as a redhead.

“Coloring our hair is fun, and can be a great way to express yourself,” Stacy Hewitt agreed, “but owning your hair as it is has been incredibly refreshing!”

With a little gray already showing at the beginning of the pandemic, Hewitt decided to go ahead and embrace it. “I actually get lots of compliments on my gray. It’s freeing to not have the pressure of the coloring and constantly needing to be retouched,” she said.

“Overall, it’s been a fun adventure,” said Jennifer Thanepohn of Ball Ground, who played with fun colors on her gray grow-out. “I’m excited to be fully gray by my 50th birthday.”

Seeing a little silver shining through was the catalyst some women needed to ditch the dye.

“Coloring my hair has always been a laborious task,” Rhonda Meyer said, “so I started doing it at home due to the expense. At one point in August 2020 I let it go for about two months, I was impressed with the resulting roots. They were a beautiful silver! I never colored again after that.”

Apryl Smith said she was surprised when she stopped coloring her hair. “I have a head full of gray,” she said. “I am absolutely salt and pepper, and I’m not talking about that camouflaged gray that used to fall victim to a strategic part or ponytail. Nope. This is full on. I am trying my best to embrace this new iteration of myself, but if I’m honest, I’m still a little surprised when I look in the mirror. Nevertheless, it’s growing on me and I think I’m starting to like it.”

For the most part, however, embracing their gray hair has been empowering, women said.

“I love how my wisdom highlights shine. They represent me being my own, authentic self,” Pam Smith of Southwest Atlanta said. “I’ve come by them honestly, having earned each strand as a former 25-year corporate America exec, now 20-year entrepreneur; wife of 41 years; mom of two, now-grown children; and grandmother to two grands and two granddogs.”

Rose Moro said going natural at age 57 was the best thing she ever did. “My silver hair is strength and power, but it’s also softness and beautiful feminine energy — just glistening steaks of wisdom.”

Basiouny said she’s “been surprised at how this feels like such a big deal. It sounds absolutely crazy to focus on something as insignificant as hair color when the world is crashing and burning.

“I think it speaks to how much we value our hair as part of our identity,” she added. “They don’t call it a crown for nothing.”

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