Should Grandparents Go Gray?

More Options Let Everyone Should Find Acceptable Solutions

Germany, Bavaria, Woman with grandchild relaxing in lawn chair, smiling
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If you've been debating whether to color your gray, here's the good news. Women of all ages have more latitude than ever when it comes to hair color. Some young women are even going to the salon to get fashionable shades of gray and white. But if your hair is losing its pigment naturally, you still face the dilemma: to color or not to color. 

Why Color

In the United States, about 50% of those over 50 have hair that is at least half gray. That means that many women are graying even before they are grandmothers. The traditional reason why most women color their hair is to cover up early gray. Frequently they feel that the gray makes them look older. Some women are in careers where a youthful appearance is an asset. Others dislike appearing to be older than a husband or significant other. If they are unattached and looking for a relationship, they may feel that gray hair makes them less desirable. In addition, some women dislike going gray or white because it's easy to look washed out, not because they otherwise have a problem with gray. 

Reasons Not to Color

Some women choose not to start coloring their hair. Perhaps their social milieu is not focused on youth and appearance. Perhaps their personal values include embracing aging and the natural look. Some women simply like the way their graying hair looks. Some gray manes develop beautiful natural streaks or highlights. On the other hand, many blondes find that their gray doesn't really show but that their overall hair shade just gets subtly lighter, so they feel no need to color or cover.

Even women who don't love their gray may hesitate to start a coloring regimen. Keeping hair color on point can be an expensive, time-consuming and somewhat stressful process. Those who opt for color must synchronize their social events and travel with hair coloring appointments. Of course, some opt for DIY color, but they still must find time to do it at home. Those whose natural hair color is dark can get really obvious roots in a few weeks. And those who use a permanent dye in order to get the coverage they want risk drying and damaging their hair. Natural hair colors are less damaging but also give you significantly less coverage. 

More About Aging Hair

Color isn't the only characteristic of hair that changes when we age. The aging process affects hair in several ways. For one thing, when hair loses its pigment, it also loses some of its oil-producing ability. That means that gray hair can seem coarser than one's natural hair and a little wiry or frizzy. It's important to realize that opting for hair color doesn't undo this process. 

Those who have struggled with fine, wispy hair for years may find this change not altogether unwelcome. Those those who find their gray hair really hard to manage can adapt their hair care routines to deal with the issue. Avoiding heated dryers and curlers, using products for dry hair, and experimenting with moisturizing treatments can keep gray hair manageable.

Stopping the Process

Those women who have colored their hair and want to stop face perhaps the most difficult decision. If they have been coloring their hair for a while, they are likely to have a significant amount of white or gray. They will probably have a significantly differently look when their hair grows out.

The in-between stages can also be challenging. Some women wear hats. Some opt for really short haircuts, which can be stunning on certain women. Today, however, roots that show are less of a fashion faux pas than they used to be. In fact, the growing out process sometimes results in a look that is very close to the trendy ombre look that some women go to the salon to get.

Those who find the roots bothersome can opt for a root cover-up product, available in wands like mascara and in powder form. A temporary or semi-permanent hair color or a glaze can make hair look better during the growing-out process, although these products won't completely mask the roots. 

Grandmothers and the Age Question

Some assume that if a woman is a grandmother, she shouldn't mind looking like a grandmother. Many women, however, wholeheartedly embrace grandparenthood but still want to have a hip look. Curiously enough, today being different often means flaunting your gray. After all, with about three-quarters of American women coloring their hair, those who choose not to color are often the real standouts.

Still, those who want to wear youthful styles may find that gray hair adds a discordant note. Some adventurous older women opt for unorthodox hair colors, such as pink or purple, instead of covering their gray. Some let their gray show but add fun tips or streaks. 

Even those grandparents who opt for a more conventional way of covering their gray should be careful to present a positive image of aging. They should avoid telling their grandchildren that they color their hair because they don't want to look old. Many young people have irrational fears or serious misconceptions about aging. Grandparents can be good role models in this area as in many others. 

Many grandmothers with older grandchildren consult them about hair coloring decisions. Asking their advice can be a positive bonding strategy, but grandmothers should avoid promising to take their advice. After all, the bottom line is that grandmothers should model being comfortable in their own skins, and they should also opt for the hair color that feels right to them. 

A Word About Grandpas

Many fewer grandfathers than grandmothers choose to color their hair. Conventional wisdom is that a little gray, especially at the temples, makes men look distinguished. Men with facial hair may face additional challenges, however, as hair on the face may not gray the same way as the hair on the head. That can lead to some striking looks but also to some discordant effects.

In the United States, at least, it is less accepted for men to color their hair. Men who opt for color usually want it to be natural-looking, and they avoid letting their roots show, which means frequent touch-ups. That's easy if their hair is short and the gray is mainly at the temples but less easy for those with longer hair or more gray.