What It’s Like To Go Gray In Your 20s

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What I Learned When I Went Gray In My 20s—And Almost Ruined My Hair Trying To Hide It

10 May 2019
going gray in 20s
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Jackie Burns Brisman

Contributor

I was 25 years old when someone at work tried to pluck out one of my gray hairs—of which I already had plenty. They started popping up in my early twenties, a genetic trait that was passed down and gave even my younger brother salt and pepper strands early in life. In that moment I remember feeling attacked and embarrassed—it was the first time I thought that my gray hairs were something I needed to fix or get rid of.

Before that moment, however, I joked that the few scattered white strands I had started to collect in my dark brown mane were my “glitter hairs.” My natural highlights, if you will. I wasn’t actually bothered by my gray hairs at all… that is, until someone else pointed them out in a negative light. Suddenly, the white hairs poking through my hairline, along my deep side part, in my baby hairs, they were all I could see. Shortly after having my grays portrayed as a problem, I booked my first appointment to cover them.

 

The Single Process Phase

My first salon appointment to deal with gray hair was wonderful. After a consultation we agreed to tiptoe into the world of hair color with a gloss. I would get added shine, it would help to blend my grays into my natural color, but it wouldn’t leave me with the permanence of a single process. Fact is, I was still in my twenties and I wanted to take my hair’s true virginity on something exciting like ash blonde balayage or mushroom brown highlights, not on gray coverage. The results of the gloss were amazing. My hair felt and looked healthier, it was radiant, and my glitter hairs were still there, just not as in your face. I saw gloss as a solution to was looking for.

After it washed away I booked another… only this time was different. I wasn’t as explicit as I should have been with my colorist. I thought I was getting a gloss for gray blending, but I ended up getting my first single process hair color for gray coverage—something that anyone with dark brown to black hair and grays knows is the beginning of a never-ending cycle of root touch-ups.

While the long white strands that used to pepper themselves throughout my long, dark hair never bothered me, the short white roots that showed up every two weeks did. Their stark contrast and sharp line against my black hair felt offensive. Suddenly I felt old, I felt unkempt, I felt ugly. But keeping up with touch-ups was exhausting…and expensive.

 

The Box Dye Phase

I took a break from covering my roots as often during my pregnancy, opting instead for root touch-up sprays to prolong my time between visits to the salon, but nothing feels or looks as good as fresh hair color. After my daughter was born I felt completely strapped for the time I once took for granted and ended up going far too long between appointments—something that can result in banding if you don’t seek out a professional—and even resorted to box hair color more times than I care to admit—OK, I’ll confess, I reached for the box for months.

Personally, I found box color to be a constant trial and error—mostly error. While my grays were covered consistently—after years of watching the pros I had a pretty good handle on how to apply hair color—my hair quality was changing dramatically, and not for the better. The texture of my hair was becoming rough—while you can chalk that up to the texture of gray hair being coarser, fact is I’m still just 25 percent gray, so it wasn’t that. The shine that my hair always had even after I started getting it colored had all but vanished and left in its place was a dull, lackluster finish that was washing me out. The only change in my routine? Boxed hair color. No amount of money saved was worth losing the integrity and health of my hair—certainly not after losing so much of it to postpartum hair loss. I resolved to seek out the pros moving forward.

The New Routine

No matter how easy, cheap, and convenient it may feel—honestly, is anything easy, cheap, and convenient ever really worth it in the end?—I would only see a pro to get my hair done. Now, I see a professional now at least once a month and reach for touch-up products and try fun new styles in between to conceal the regrowth. I never, never skip a gloss. These services not only help to blend in my color, but also help to restore the shine and radiance my hair had lost.

In a way I’ve actually looked at this as a part of my newfound self-care routine. Having a child made me feel incredibly guilty about taking any time for myself, so going to the salon felt indulgent for me. Only after skipping out on my routine visits for a few months did I realize that going for a regular hair appointment was a chance to unwind, and let someone else take care of me for once. So now I go without the heavy weight of mom guilt—and, let me tell you, I’m a better mom for it.

I know many people would read this and wonder why I just don’t let nature run its course, embrace the gray, let it grow out and be a salt-and-pepper princess. The fact is, while I am all for women and men feeling empowered to embrace their gray hair, I happily feel empowered not to. So, until there’s a magical way to reverse going gray, I’ll enjoy my monthly trips to the salon for my touch-up and gloss, I’ll continue to avoid boxed hair color like the plague (if it works for you, that’s great, it just did not—I repeat, did not—work for me), and I’ll continue to be on the lookout for the best root concealers in the meantime! If you have any suggestions, make sure to drop them in the comments.

Interested in expert advice on going gray? Use our salon locator to book an appointment at a salon near you. 

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