5 Going Gray Don’ts

July 27, 2021 (updated September 19, 2021)

My going gray guide for anyone making a decision about if growing out gray hair is for them. I share some of the pitfalls that trip people up when going gray, and give you tips for success by avoiding these 5 going gray don’ts. And don’t forget to check out more of my going gray guides below!

By: Lisa Fennessy

1. Don’t use blue or green shampoo

First of all, you may not even need a toning shampoo at all. The first couple of years I grew out my hair gray, I was convinced my experience transcended purple shampoo.

Then, three years in, my hair started taking on a brassy tinge. I couldn’t tell if my whites were actually white or if they were browns that hadn’t turned white yet. It was all getting a bit muddy and I found myself craving something to add brightness, definition, brilliance and clarity to my grays.

Thankfully, a purple shampoo will help remedy that, which is why it’s so important to a going gray guide.

Purple shampoo is the best toner to use when it comes to gray hair because it neutralizes brassiness caused by heat styling, medications, product buildup, sun, salt, chlorine and environmental pollutants. Why purple shampoo? It’s basic color theory: Yellow is opposite from purple on the color wheel, indicating these two tones cancel each other out. For more, check out how purple shampoo works and my top natural purple shampoo picks.

That’s also why blue or green shampoo is NOT the choice for gray hair. When we look that same color wheel, we know that yellow + red make orange and red + blue make purple etc. So when someone with yellow-y gray hair uses a blue shampoo, guess what color you are going to get? That’s right. GREEN! Blue shampoo is not designed to be used on gray hair; its function is to neutralize orange tones in brown hair.

collage of pictures showing different shades of hair from darkest black to lightest blonde
Madison Reed hair level chart.

Lastly, purple shampoo will only work for gray hair that is a level 8 or higher (which in this case, means lighter), so if you have darker gray hair or dark hair with just a few grays, purple shampoo may not work for you.

RELATED: The best all-natural purple shampoos for gray hair (or silver or white or blonde hair).

2. Don’t start until you are ready

It seems a bit counterintuitive for me to be encouraging you not to go gray but seriously, don’t start until you are ready. How do you know you are ready? YOU WILL KNOW.

Sometimes this knowing will arrive via a slow build over time or sometimes it strikes via a “straw that breaks the camel’s back” moment. This could be someone glancing at your roots (AGAIN), or an unsupportive hairdresser telling you not to go gray, a boiling frustration with having to schedule a hair appointment every three weeks or even seeing another beautiful woman rockin’ her grays.

When you are ready, your inner voice will sound something like, “That’s it. I’m not going dyeing my hair anymore.” (Or something a little louder with a couple trash-mouth swears thrown in.) And that’s when you will know it’s time.

My inner dialogue convinced me to dye my hair again just ONE MORE TIME (which you can read all about in my Going Gray: Before and After Pictures post).

If your inner dialogue still sounds like, “I want to go gray, but I’m not sure.” Or “I will go gray…just not yet.” Or, “It looks great on you but I could never.” Don’t force it friend. Give yourself some more time to build the confidence and desire to jump in. Find inspiration in other women, find other women’s going gray stories, read going gray books, search Pinterest or join a going gray group like The Gray Book. This will help you build confidence; I promise.

Then, at some point, something will happen and you will feel your inner voice getting louder and louder. And when it starts screaming words like, SCREW THIS!, that drive, that commitment, those feelings of being fed up will propel your experience forward and give you more strength and more tenacity to ride the ups and downs to come.

For me, it was deciding to go gray and then immediately chickening out. The moment I announced I was going gray, I made a hair appointment to get my hair dyed. I didn’t even last a week—haha! But going to the salon, sitting in that chair, looking at myself going through the motions one last time really gave me the closure I needed to move on. I often equate this last hair appointment with “breakup sex.” I needed that one last rendezvous to be sure—and it ended up being just what I needed to move forward.

RELATED: Need more going gray inspo? Check out our Going Gray Lookbook, with real women’s going gray journeys.

3. Don’t go gray alone

One of the most major keys to my success was having support. My husband was super supportive and he really gave me the guts to start. Then as I starting talking about the process publicly, I started getting words of encouragement from readers and even random people around town and it was just so….helpful.

I wish I could say I had the strength to do this alone but to be honest, there were several times along this journey that I needed to hear: “Your hair looks good.” These words of encouragement and this external affirmation really TRULY helped me continue on.

So, seek out support from friends and family, because it will make such a difference. I also realize that not everyone’s friends and family are supportive so I started a Facebook group for women to convene, exchange stories, support and identify in each other, grow, lead, follow….all of it, in one place, for your going gray guide. You will find support here. Come join us!

Download your free going gray lookbook graphic

4. Don’t limit your options

There’s no one way to go gray! I personally went cold turkey even though I begged my hairdresser every time to give me some highlights or lowlights or a gloss…SOMETHING to take the edge off. She never agreed because my hair is naturally so dark and she said it would just take too much processing to lighten it to where we would want to get it. She said she did that for a client once and it made the client’s hair so weak that when she put her hair up in a bun at the beach, her bun fell off. And…that’s what convinced me to just wait it out (and to share it in this going gray guide).

But there are so many different things you can do during the grow out like getting highlights, lowlights, ombre blonde or gray, a cute pixie, a shaved head…I’ve seen so many creative approaches.

I especially love this one woman’s approach: She told me she grew out her grays in her early 40s and then decided to start dying it again when she turned 45 and now, a couple of years later, she’s growing it out for a second time.

There are no rules, friends! Have fun with it.

RELATED: Easy braid styles for gray hair.

5. Don’t listen to naysayers

A big part of a going gray “guide” is this: Don’t listen to people who tell you not to do this. It can really change our trajectory when our mom or our dad looks us in the eye and says, “Don’t do this.” Or, “You’re too young to go gray.”

This is a classic example of “result” and “intention” clash. People who say that genuinely MEAN WELL. They truly think they are doing you a favor by “telling you something you don’t know.” They think they are enlightening you, bringing you out of the dark. Sharing knowledge. Helping you.

The reality is, it’s just really hurtful, unsupportive and it makes us feel less-than and alone. That’s not the intent of their words, but it’s the effect.

I wish every woman could have a picture like this of themselves before starting out…

two side by side images of Lisa that show her transition from dyed hair to naturally gray hair
Three years later…

A gray hair crystal ball if you will. I used to pull and pry at my roots while covering my dyed hair with my hands to see, Am I gray enough? Will it look too mousy? Do I hate it? Do I love it? What will this all look like in the end?!

This 👆 is me a little over three years into my journey. And I would choose this route every time. Again and again and again. And I think other people would be supportive from the beginning as well if they knew this was my outcome.

These types of comments come from fear, inexperience, ignorance and love. Until we have more women walking this earth with their natural grays glowing, we will continue to have our loved ones respond this way. They want the best for us and their idea of “best” is shaped by history and societal norms.

Change starts with you and change starts with me. But first we have to get there so FIND SUPPORT along the way.

Looking for a go-to going gray guide? For more on going gray, check out:

Xo, lisa
Download your free going gray lookbook graphic

FAQs for our going gray guide

Should I use green or yellow shampoo on gray hair?

Neither. You should use purple shampoo on gray hair to combat brassiness. Learn more here.

How do I know I’m ready to go gray?

Don’t start until you’re ready. If you’re having doubts about it, give it some thought, connect with women going through this journey, or join a group like The Gray Book.

What’s the best shampoo for gray hair?

Purple shampoo is definitely the best choice because it neutralizes brassiness. Check out how purple shampoo works.

By Lisa Fennessy

Lisa is the founder of This Organic Girl. Passionate about clean beauty, organic eats and nontoxic lifestyle, Lisa writes to create awareness. Conscious consumerism and informed decisions will impact the marketplace, our health and THE WORLD!


  1. Reply

    Sandra B

    My mother in-law (83, still colouring her hair a soft light brown and she looks great!) is my negative voice. With the kindest of intentions, she keeps advising me not to go through with this. She’s the only one, and so far I’ve been able to quiet her voice in my head.

    My question for you is, did you have anyone who was negative in the beginning, but has done a full 360 now that you’re fully transitioned to your gorgeous natural silver? I’d love to hear the story. I’m wondering if my mother in-law will eventually see things differently.

    1. Reply


      Hi Sandra! Oh my gosh – TOTALLY!!!! Everyone was really quiet at the beginning. I had one family member tell me, “Don’t do it”. But in the end, even that one person came around and said…”I’ll be honest, I didn’t think it was going to look good but it looks great!” This is not only a huge change for us as women but for all the people around us too. They need time as well. I love them for that ; ) You’ve got this!

  2. Reply

    Heidi Young

    Hi 🙂 I just happened to find your blog when I was searching for natural hair dyes, and saw your post on hair print. But now I’m feeling really confident about growing out my hair, which I’ve thought about before but never seriously considered until now.

    Thank you so much for your wealth of information!! I’ve been spending probably way too much time over the last week learning about transitioning to gray hair.

    I know you mentioned not everyone will need a purple shampoo, but I’m wondering if during the process, I do start to notice yellowing, should I try to just use purple shampoo on just my gray hair? Will it be bad for my dark hair? I have dark brown hair and about an inch of growth so far, but I have a LOT of gray hair at the roots, at least 50 %.

    Thanks again!

    1. Reply


      Hi Heidi! That’s exactly what purple shampoo is for! Yes, if you are noticing any yellowing or brassiness, try a purple shampoo – it will help cancel that yellow color out. It wont harm your brown hair at all ; ) xo, Lisa

  3. Reply


    This is amazing and encouraging. It has been 6 months since I colored my hair. Thanks for the encouraging words.

    1. Reply


      So glad this was helpful! Thanks for reading!

  4. Reply


    I went grey during Covid quarantine in New York City . I had shoulderlength curls. I used to get my roots done every six-eight weeks, had highlights /balayage. I really was getting tired of the routine and the expense.

    Then got COVID March and sick in bed for 7 weeks and quarantined at home, 3 inches of gray growth and then like many people who recover from COVID I started having hair loss called Telogen Effluvium what I learned it’s common from the high fever and stress of a virus .

    As soon as I was out of quarantine and completely better and salons opened. I went straight to the salon and I got a pixie cut, so now I have gray hair and a cute short short haircut!! And so happy to take the plunge cut it off.
    It was fast cure for the dreaded root when going grey. No turning back now .
    I need something to brighten the grey now that my hair stopped falling out.
    Will be trying the Bruns products.
    Thanks for your very informative articles .

    1. Reply


      Hi Ruth! So glad you are okay! And thanks for sharing your going gray story! The BRUNS is mild in cleansing power and mild in toning/color so it’s a fantastic/gentle way to treat hair. I recommend applying the shampoo to dry hair and letting it sit for 10 minutes before washing for a more dramatic effect. It sounds like it would be perfect for your type of hair! Let me know what you think if you try it! xo, Lisa

  5. Reply

    Michelle Wagenseller-Belnap

    Hey Lisa, Great article. I’m not ready to go grey yet but I just have to tell you it was such a sigh of relief to read your article. Let go of the pressure knowing its okay and normal to have grey hair. I’m 48 and started going grey at 21. I grew up with a hairdresser mother who would wouldn’t be caught dead with a grey hair showing so I have a lot of shame around aging and greying hair. I’m using Madison Reed right now but when the time is right, I’ll go grey and still feel beautiful. Thank you for writing about going grey and normalizing it.

    1. Reply


      Hi Michelle! You are not alone! Many women feel this way. I did too. I love that you said “when the time is right” because that is so important. Going gray is not something to feel rushed into or pressured in to doing…nothing good will come from that. It’s about showing up for yourself and doing what feels right during a moment in time which is different for all of us. xo, Lisa

  6. Reply


    I found your advice on Pinterest. My own mum told me I would look 10 years older so I didn’t ditch the dye but now I’m just so tired of it, the chemicals, the expense, the fact that men don’t worry at all about going gray but we’re conditioned to believe getting old is just….well……. unacceptable, I’m 48, today I threw out my shampoos for coloured hair, decided to go cold turkey on transitioning and my husband who would still find me attractive with a bald head is very supportive, excited, my sister (2 year’s older) thinks I’ve “let myself go” and she’s right, I’ve let the chemicals go and feel excited (but impatient) but happier because it’s not just about “hair” it’s about how you feel about aging, women are so pressured to look younger, it’s really ridiculous, at 48 I’ve finally realised that. X

    1. Reply


      Hi Paula! You are absolutely right. This is less about hair and more about how you feel about yourself. So glad you are getting the support you need. I’ve found that even those who are unsupportive, with a little time, come around too. Thanks for reading! xo, Lisa

  7. Reply


    I’d love to hear your thoughts about dealing with the texture changes that come with gray hair. I started letting my hennaed hair go gray a month before the pandemic hit. I love the color of my new silver hair, but the new silvers stick up like antennas all over my otherwise smooth, baby-fine hair. It’s the texture, not the color, that makes me feel old and crone-like.

    1. Reply


      Hi Judie! So glad you are loving the color of your hair. I can totally relate to the hair sticking straight up. I used hairspray to get me through that stage. Once that new growth grows in then that won’t happen any more! xo, Lisa

  8. Reply


    I found your blog while looking for recommendations for a purple shampoo and do I really need one. I have been wanting to go grey and waited until I turned 65. Because of the lock down earlier this year I decided to try it. I happily realized I had lovely white hair surrounding my face as it decreases to a darker grey toward the back. I am also losing my hair in the front which led to my decision, the hair dye made my hair very soft and the brown color showed my hair loss evidence. Now the white is a little more coarse but it is easier to style and my hairstylist told me that my hair likes being white. My skin is pale and with my white hair my hair looks thicker. I have had a lot of compliments for the white. I will say this…the white does make me feel older and I would still like to have my brown back but having it colored every few weeks and the hair loss I believe the white looks better.

    1. Reply


      Hi Judy! I wonder if you have joined The Gray Book group on Facebook? You will find some wonderful inspiration, before + after pics and a ton of support. It can be done friend. 90% of it boils down to mindset. We (all of us women in the group) can help! xo, Lisa

  9. Reply


    Hey Lisa,
    I am a German girl who turned 50 last year and first, please excuse my English. I have been dying my hair since I was 13. Turning 22 I already had many grey hairs and as I always wanted to be a redheaded girl, I started dying with a Henna Mixturen. Over the years, red hair became my trademark for the next 30 years. Now, I am simply tired of dying and 4 weeks ago I decided to go grey. I see from the roots that around 90 percent of my hair are already grey, on the upper head even white. Of course people try to talk me out of transitioning to grey because of my trademark hair and that is the toughest thing for me. Will I lose my Identity? How to establish a new one ? Torn between I want to be free, grey, wise , a strong woman who of course will be happy with the grey outcome ( I know that I will look good and young ) and the fear of losing this red haired girl I was to me and the people around me for all of my life. But I am empowered and sooo determined to let the transition happen… So here I am: Nicole, searching for her new soul.

    1. Reply


      Hi Nicole! I totally hear this 100%. It’s so hard when you feel like you are losing a part of your identity. I felt the same way. That’s how I look, that’s how I’ve always looked. How am I supposed to make room for this new person? What I can offer is even though you are “losing” a part of yourself…you will still be you..just a little bit more whole. xo, Lisa

  10. Reply


    Hi should I use blonde color on my gray hair or can I get by with just the purple shampoo?

    1. Reply


      Hi Paula! I would try purple shampoo and see if that helps first! xo, Lisa

  11. Reply


    I am going grey naturally. I have never colored my hair but lately I noticed that my hair is a little dull. I do you have more black than gray right now. My question is what would you recommend to brighten both my brown/black and gray hair?

    1. Reply


      Hi there! I would recommend a purple shampoo – I am partial to BRUNS available at ShopThisOrganicGirl.com – and then I would recommend a EVOLVh’s SuperFinish Polishing Balm which is a heat protectant that also smooths adds shine! Code THISORGANICGIRL will save you 15% at EVOLVh!

  12. Reply


    I sure wish I had found your site 6 months ago. I was already thinking about going gray when Covid hit. I had waist length hair and always loved it, until it started getting thinner and dried out. My husband was laid off, I had quit my job due to a back injury and we suddenly had no income coming in. We had been going camping in our RV and never saw anyone that knew me anyway, so I let the gray grow out. I had 3 inches of silver roots and decided I needed some help to transition. My stylist moved away, I went to a salon that I had never been to before. I called prior to going in and told them how long my hair was and what I wanted. I had pictures of what I wanted and they quoted me $270 with a level 5 hair dresser. I told the stylist that I could not afford that, what was the price of a level 3. They told me that I could get a nice cut and transition to gray for $125. I thought that was ok since my hair was so long. When I got there, they said that it looked different than in the pictures I texted just 5 days before. It was more damaged, so it would cost more. I didn’t want the stylist to miss out on the 5 hours that I was booked for, so I agreed to $226. Then after coloring and cutting, it needed a glaze for $20 more and and then a conditioning treatment. When I left it was $317. I left her a 20% tip. I cried all the way home. My younger sister went gray at the same time and went to a Penney’s hair salon, they cut her hair short like mine and it cost her $40. My hair looked nothing like the pics that I wanted. I have always had thick and full body hair so I felt that I never asked for cuts that couldn’t be achieved. Stylist told me that if I wasn’t happy, to call her. It went from dark brown with silver roots to blonde, light brown and gray. She covered my 3 inches of silver with a blonde. She said it would take 3 more sessions at that same price to achieve what I wanted. I wish she had told me that before. I finally cut it myself and cut most of the yellow off. Now it is a short hair cut and silver with darker on the back of my head (naturally the way it grows) but still have about 2 inches of blonde to grow out. It felt mousy brown/blonde after her cut. I am glad that it is gray and the purple shampoo is helping. Thank you for being encouraging and helping us out.

    1. Reply


      Hey girl! I’m so sorry for your experience! I also got charged $375 for a one-hour haircut once and I was like….how do I tip on this?! Lol. Anyways, it sounds like you’ve recalibrated and are heading in a direction that’s good for you now. Be sure to join our Facebook group THE GRAY BOOK for support along the way – the women there are awesome!!!

  13. Reply


    Hi Lisa,

    You are another silver beauty I’ve come across on my journey to transition. You truly are GORGEOUS and I admire you for being a “pioneer” in this “awakening”. Every. Single. ONE of you I see look so much more beautiful once they have gone gray. Every. Single. ONE, has been an inspiration to me. Here is where I am at…
    I thought about transitioning a little over a year ago. The first woman I came across was Monique Parent on YouTube who I thought was just GORGEOUS! Little did I know there were several “Gray Foxes” out there – models in the classic sense and boy are they beautiful. I overloaded on Monique for a good week but never got up the courage to approach my family (except my oldest) about my thoughts (which I feel is important), and everything just kinda fell by the wayside. Fast forward one year…I’m in my local health food store picking up a few things and I see a woman in my aisle who has a full head of absolutely GORGEOUS gray hair and she looks to be about my age, 53. Same hairstyle as mine too! I wanted so badly to tell her how beautiful her hair was but chickened out. That was about five months ago.
    Fast forward to Christmas Day 2020…my daughter hosted a family get together and my MIL was there along with my SIL. I hadn’t seen my MIL for a good three months and last time I saw her, she was complaining about not getting to the hairdresser for her usual touch up due to COVID, so her grays were really coming out. Keep in mind, she is an AMAZING 87 year old, absolutely GORGEOUS woman who has been coloring her hair forever. She is Japanese and wears her hair in a short bob. So now, Christmas, I see her and her hair is completely grown out and she looks A M A Z I N G ! My sister in law is there too and she has done the same – she wears her hair very short and layered so this transition was much quicker for her. My first thought upon seeing them is “I’m jealous” cause I wish I had taken that step so many months ago. But now, we all talked and I told them how beautiful they both looked and how I SO MUCH wanted to do the same. Well….I’ve decide…I AM taking that leap of faith! It’s been a few weeks since I colored my hair FOR THE LAST TIME, and due to the weather here, I wear it up in a bun on top for the most part. For Christmas, I had sprayed it with the temporary color to hide my roots (I hate the feel of these temp colors BTW and only use them if my hair is up)…I figure since I live in Hawaii, and its so darn hot here, my hair is up more than 90% of the time so I can just pull it up into a top bun and wait it out the next year…lol. I can cover the growth in with the temporary color spray and be done with it. My oldest daughter who is a former model is SO supportive, has been telling me to go natural since I first brought it up over a year ago. Well…I’m there NOW. I am SO excited for this journey and my natural hair can’t come in soon enough. Not that I want to rush the process but because I want to see what the good Lord has in store for me!. I am seriously looking forward to my “skunk stripe”! I had my first gray hair in sixth grade so we shall see how this all turns out. Wish me luck!

    1. Reply


      Hi Lauren! You’ve got this girl! Thanks so much for reading. Reading your comment make me smile – you sound so ready and I’m excited what this next year and a half brings for you! Be sure to check back in and let us know how it’s going! xo, Lisa

  14. Reply

    Marcia Schweikert

    Hi, I am 56yrs old, and thinking of letting my gray hair come in. I’m naturally dark brown, but I am getting tired of dyeing my hair.

    1. Reply


      Hi Marcia! Girl, try it! If you hate it, you can always turn back. Nothing is final in this process. Why not try something new and see where it leads? You never know! xo, Lisa

  15. Reply

    Tricia Ruffino

    I am 65 and since the Pandemic and no Hairdresser. I am now 10 months into my Silver Journey
    I can tell you everyday is a like it , love it or not sure day! lol
    My thoughts of turning back are squelched when I think of how long it has taken to get this far. I am not a very patient person and this is not a fast process so …. patients is a virtue and I am learning to calm myself with meditation.
    Thank you for your encouraging words I will keep them close to my soul.

    1. Reply


      Hi Tricia! All of this is SO TRUE! There are definitely good days, great days and hard days. One day at a time. Meditation sounds like a great tool You’ve got this! xo, Lisa

  16. Reply


    Girl you made my day! I needed to hear this!

    1. Reply


      Get it girl! xo, Lisa

  17. Reply


    Decided to also go gray. My sister said it took her a year which I find hard to believe as I’ve not colored mine since March 2020 and its only grown out approx 5 inches. Its just that my last hair dye job is lightening and looking brassy not my gray. Is there anyway for my old hair dye job to stop lightening up? It looks so weird! Oh, and I’m not in the sun much due to skin cancer. Do you think the people shampoo would help at this stage?

    1. Reply


      Hi Sharon! Hope you are okay. I’m sorry to hear about your skin cancer. So the purple shampoo will only help to keep grays bright. it will not help to keep brown hair brilliant or less faded in anyway. Sorry. Hope this helps! xo, Lisa

  18. Reply


    Sorry, that should read do you think “purple” shampoo would help at this stage?

  19. Reply

    Brigitte Kaye

    Wow! Your words are exactly what I went through last week. I knew it was finally right and I was there. I had about eight weeks growth and one night, I decided to go for it. I have short curly red hair, so it was easy. I started cutting, leaving about 2 inches. The back looked exactly like a macaroon, white with burnt tips, and I decided I couldn’t be seen like that anyway so I figured that I might as well go all the way. It’s cold here, I wear hats to walk the dog, no big deal. I ended up with a 1/2 inch of lovely, shiny, white hair which looks far better than I ever imagined and, I had the foresight to put on makeup for a more uplifting result. I had planned on keeping this to myself but ended up telling a few neighbors and received all positive re enforcement. I had the same feelings as Nicole, who said that her whole identity has always been being a redhead but I’m feeling totally confident in my new transition…even a little excited. Thank you for such an informative insight.

    1. Reply


      Hi Bridge! So excited you are feeling confident! It is weird getting to know yourself in a new and different way but it’s also kind of exciting too..I’m glad you are having a positive experience! xo

  20. Reply


    I normally have my roots done every 4 weeks but with the pandemic and UK lockdown this hasn’t happened and have decided to embrace the gray. I am about 2 months into going grey/silver from dark brown and already hate my roots and feel embarrassed by them. Its OK when I’m at home, but when I go in to the office a couple of times a week I’m very conscious of them. I keep thinking ill get a colour and dye my hair, but know I’ll regret it. Any ideas how to get past this stage would be appreciated. I have a a pending application for the gray room facebook group so hoping I can get some inspiration. TIA Carole

    1. Reply


      Hi Carole! I totally hear you on this. Honestly? You are in the hardest part right now. If you can muscle through the next few months it starts to get better around the 6,7,8 month mark. Also, check out our most recent post for some more inspo! (Growing our your hair gray is hard. AND you can do hard things Carole. You’ve got this!)

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *