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!

96 Comments

  1. Reply

    Debbie

    Hi Lisa,
    I am a natural dark brown who has been coloring and touching up my roots for years. I have finally decided to go gray and have noticed that my hair has that brassy look that everyone is talking about. I’ve been doing some reading online about using blue or purple shampoo to get rid of brassiness. You say use purple and others have said to use blue on brown hair. Would you please clarify which one should be used and the best brand. Should a moisture rich conditioner be used too as I’ve read that these shampoos can be drying.?

    Thanks,

    1. Reply

      Lisa

      So if you look at a color wheel, you want to use the color opposite to cancel out the undesired color. So when you look at yellow, the opposite if purple. If you look at orange, the opposite is blue. So people with brown hair who tend to get that orange brassiness want to use a blue shampoo while people with gray hair that’s yellowing want to use a purple. The thing to keep in mind when using blue shampoo with gray hair is that if you have yellowing on gray hair and then apply blue shampoo….yellow + blue = green. That’s not what most people want. If you are in that stage where you have gray roots and brown hair that’s brassy that you are growing out, you could just use blue shampoo on that part of your hair…or you could try and wait it out…or you could try using it all over but just keep an eye out to see how it’s effecting your roots. Shampoo treatments typically last 7-10 days so it’s not the end of the world.

  2. Reply

    Terry

    What are the worse color wardrobe to stay away from when going gray

    1. Reply

      Lisa

      Hi Terry! I think it depends on your overall coloring…some people are salt and pepper while some people’s hair is snow white. Some people’s skin tone is darker and some is lighter. I think really the answer may be; don’t be afraid to play with color ; ) While the color is washing out of our hair, we can add it back in via our makeup and clothes in new and fun ways. xo, Lisa

  3. Reply

    Alyssa

    This was so great to find! I stopped dying my hair at the beginning of this pandemic and have gone through ups and downs of wanting to dye my hair. I was trying to find a good shampoo/conditioner combo and ran across this. I am curious if gray hair ever gets less wire-like?
    I still have the urge to dye my hair (my husband is saying he cannot deal with me looking like my mom so much) and I’m like that is what comes with being married to me 🙂

    1. Reply

      Lisa

      Hi Alyssa! So excited for you! I think hair texture improves over time. It’s so noticeable at first because it’s in contrast with dyed hair PLUS as it gets longer, the flyaways are less too…stick with it! Your husband will come around ; ) xoox, Lisa

  4. Reply

    Bonnie

    I’m driving myself nuts trying to find a good shampoo and conditioner as I transition. I’ve always used what I thought were good products… I’ve been using It’s a 10 which isn’t terrible and to date has not affected my strip at all. Have not had any salon services in 3 months and I’m ready. In retrospect would have been nice to have decided a year ago before SIP but I wasn’t ready then. I have a nice 1 to 2inch strip. A natural brunette, I currently have red hair. I’ve spent too much time reading about shampoos and am still confused other than to know most of what I have in the house has to go.

    1. Reply

      Lisa

      Hi Bonnie! You could probably still use a blue shampoo for now if that’s what you have been using. I agree it’s hard during the transition because you literally have two types of hair to treat. You will eventually want a purple shampoo for your grays if they start to turn yellow but I am guessing that is not happening yet so a blue shampoo would still work for you! Hope this helps! xo, Lisa

  5. Reply

    Kathy

    I tried self lightening at the beginning of the pandemic turned my hair yellow. I wanted to go gray and hated what I did. I took my dogs grooming sheers and cut it all off with the 1” guide. I loved it all natural gray and I received such positive comments. It was so easy to take care of. Now it is shoulder length and mostly silver in the front looks like I get it highlighted. I figured it will grow back and I am really glad I cut it when I was inside most of the time. I love my gray.

    1. Reply

      Lisa

      This is one of the best going gray stories I’ve ever heard! I LOVE IT! And so glad you are loving it too! xo, Lisa

  6. Reply

    Pat

    My hair is silver white on top and salt and pepper in the back. I’m considering going silver all over and have had my first highlight treatment, which my hairstylist recommended. My next full silver treatment is in 2 months. Is this a standard practice? My hair is shoulder length and the “pepper “ is dark brown.

    1. Reply

      Lisa

      Hi Pat! Everyone’s hair is different. I wanted to go the highlight/lowlight route but my hair was too dark to do that so I just let it grow while people who have lighter hair or medium colored hair have more options like that ; ) Hope this help! Lisa

  7. Reply

    annie shah

    I’m 36 and i started growing my grays when i was 34,after my 30’s i started getting grays n kept colouring them for 3 to 4 years but i was tired of it soon,everyone around me kept discouraging me,bcz they all have grays but not the courage to grow them out but luckily my husband never discouraged me though he did ask me at the beginning to colour them but he is okay with the way they look too. In short i had zero support but what encouraged me was looking up granny hair in google & the pictures that i saw made me fall in love.i have more pepper than salt right now and i love them.

    1. Reply

      Lisa

      So glad you found some inspiration Annie! xo, Lisa

  8. Reply

    Candace

    This is awesome! I’m hoping to find some inspiration here. Unlike you who chose your time to go grey, I have no choice. After 20+ years of dyeing my hair constantly, at 38yrs old I developed a hair dye allergy. Then a few weeks later I used a new eyeshadow brand and ended up with an allergic reaction that caused blepharitis- so now I can’t use make up or hair dye and I’m at a loss. I wasn’t ready for any of this and none of it is by choice. How do I find the good in this situation? When it was just the hair dye I was ready to go grey figuring I could use all my fun makeup to balance me out and not make me look “old”. Now I can’t even use eye cream. 💔

    1. Reply

      Lisa

      Hi Candace! I’m so sorry this is happening to you! Is this just a temporary pause with using makeup and eye creams too or is that just as much an allergy like hair dye? Sending love! xo, Lisa

  9. Reply

    Debra Childers

    Hi Lisa, I am 10 months into a cold-turkey outgrowth of my 70% white hair. The remainder of my salt-and-pepper is dark brown. I have some seriously wiry zigzag style short white hairs springing out of my head that are very unsightly. Overall, my hair is pretty coarse with a loose curl and I wonder if a clear gloss or glaze would help the texture and shine. Have you had any experience with any of these products? Probably not, as they involve some chemicals, but I thought I’d give it a shot. My other idea was Olapex. Not sure if it would be my first choice, as it is supposed to help damaged hair, and my hair isn’t damaged, but I certainly could use some shine. Not having much shine makes me miss my dark brown dye.

    1. Reply

      Lisa

      Hi Debra! I totally hear what you are saying. Honestly, why not go to your hairdresser and get a clear gloss applied? It’s like a hair color or hair dye but clear. I sometimes think about doing the same and maybe I will..I miss that uber shine too! xo, Lisa

  10. Reply

    Nana

    I will be 67 in a couple of months. I have a serious autoimmune disease. I have colored my hair since I was 49. This past year I have become allergic to hair color. I was so tired of coloring anyway. Unfortunately my hair is more “mousy” gray but I’m hoping it will get more silver as It grows. My problem IS that the honey colored highlights are still in the back of my shoulder length hair. My hairdresser said the only way to get them out besides bleaching, which she doesn’t really recommend and I don’t want to do that either, is to cut them out. I cannot “do” a short pixie hair cut style. It just is NOT a flattering look on me. Plus, my husband loves my shoulder length hair, and he would hate it. Any suggestions? I suppose extreme patience is the only answer? lol!

    1. Reply

      Lisa

      Hi Nana! There are so many ways to go brave the grow out process. We talk about 10 of them here but there are so many more. I love the idea of adding extensions. My hair is already grown out but I’m thinking of getting extensions just for funzies. I miss that feeling of going to the salon and coming out all fresh and new so this might be a fun way to evoke that feeling a bit.

  11. Reply

    Lauren

    Embracing my “silver” was by far the best thing I ever did for my hair.
    Be prepared for a lengthy process and cut it regularly if it helps you to avoid the temptation of coloring. After a few years, your hair will be beautiful and so much healthier than before! And honestly, being able to embrace your natural self is so much more empowering than you could imagine !

    1. Reply

      Lisa

      It really is! I 100% agree Lauren! xo, Lisa

  12. Reply

    Rebecca

    Great article! I’m 34 with tons of white hair and have no desire to color it. I want to keep it healthy though so I have a question. What does level 8 or higher mean regarding gray hair? Thank you!

    1. Reply

      Lisa

      Hi Rebecca! If you look at the photo I included in this post and imagine it was black hair to white hair instead of brown hair to blonde hair…you can see the level of color density I’m talking about ; ) Hope this helps! xo, Lisa

  13. Reply

    Cecilia

    Hi Lisa,
    Just stumbled across your site.
    First of all, you are BEAUTIFUL! I’m sure you’d look great with any color hair or none at all.
    Thank you for this website, very helpful and encouraging.
    I’m 47 and have stopped dying my hair for about a year now. Hubby is super supportive, some family members, not so much, but that hasn’t stopped me. I figured that it’s not permanent. As long as I grow hair, I can do anything with it. And if I lose it all, there are plenty of wigs to choose from.
    Anyway, what I’m here for is to give some of my silver sisters some tips.
    I found some spray on products from Clairol and I believe Loreal, that last till you wash. I use a little in between my layers when I’m not feeling the grays and it works great! It’s a really good way to help transition. Also, I started using Living Proof shampoo and conditioner and have been pleased with the results. I read about this product in another “going gray” blog. I’m a natural med/dark brunette, but my ends are a bit lighter from the sun. I feel like my hair is more neutral and hydrated now using the color care line. They have four to choose from and you can find them at your local grocery store, like Kroger’s.
    Anyway, thought someone might be able to benefit from this. Good luck to all you lovely ladies, own it, rock it! You got this! 😉

    Cecilia

    1. Reply

      Lisa

      Thanks so much Cecilia! I’m sure your message will help so many! xo, Lisa

  14. Reply

    Sarah

    .Hello Lisa, great post! I am just beginning the process of going grey I haven’t dyed my hair since February. My natural colour is medium brown. Some of my dyed hair has a more orange tone now. To make sure that I am understanding – I would use blue shampoo (but not on new grey growth)?

    Have you ever heard of us in overtone – extreme silver? My understanding is it is used on the roots to transition. Any insight would be fantastic!

    Also, do you have a go to conditioner?

    Thanks, Sarah

    1. Reply

      Lisa

      Hi Sarah! Okay, so to take the brassiness out of gray hair, use a purple shampoo. To take the brassiness out of brown hair, use a blue shampoo. I think your medium brown is turning brassy because you haven’t dyed it in so long and the color is fading. In my mind it would be really hard to use a purple shampoo on your roots and then a blue shampoo on your hair…it might be one of those things where you just have to wait and continue to trim the dyed bits of hair out. OR you could try extensions, or something fun like that. I haven’t tried Overtone but so many women in our Facebook group have: The Gray Book. It would be helpful to get in there and ask if people have liked it or not. There are a ton of before and after photos too. I like the BRUNS Conditioner! xo, Lisa

  15. Reply

    Joyce

    I’m 40 years old & loving my gray hair. What is best shampoo for natural gray hair? I haven’t done my hair in years.

    1. Reply

      Lisa

      Hi Joyce! I love the BRUNS purple shampoo – have you tried it? I also talk about some more purple shampoo options here!

  16. Reply

    Pat

    Hi, I managed to talk my colorist into selling me brown hair dye from March through December last year. When they shut us down entirely she was not able to get more and I had to go cold turkey at Christmas. Problem is, I managed to get layers of brown color that is more apparent now that time has taken its toll. My gray ‘stripe’ was about 2 ” in February when she was able to bleach out some of it and apply high lights and low lights, which really blurred that line and helped a lot. My roots are mostly silver white and the rest light brown with streaks of very light color. There is definitely a texture difference between the virgin gray and the processed hair.
    I tried purple shampoo and it helps keep the yellowing out. I use it once a week.
    My question is, If I get more low lights put in my hair, do I need to hold off on the purple shampoo products before hand? How long, a couple of weeks?
    My biggest concern is getting my hair in shape for my 50 year class reunion scheduled for mid September. Fortunately my hair grows really fast. I imagine I will need to cut a lot off by then, but I like it between chin and shoulder length. My hair is very fine, slightly wavy and I blow it out straight with good results.
    Thanks for any advice.

    1. Reply

      Lisa

      Hi Pat! I don’t think you need to avoid using purple shampoo before adding low lights. BUT if you want to just to be safe, the effects of a purple shampoo last about 7-10 days so you could plan on that if you want. Have fun at your reunion! xo! Lisa

  17. Reply

    Teresa

    I stopped coloring my grey roots 6 months ago, now it is grey (WHITE) ON THE TOP BUT BLACK ON THE END, IT IS HORRIBLE LOOK. I WANT TO TURN THEM ALL INTO SILVER , PLEASE ADVISE WHAT IS THE BEST I CAN DO. I DONT LIKE PEOPLE TOUCH MY HEAD, SO I AVOID TO GO TO HAIR SALON, I EVEN CUT MY HAIR MYSELF, ANY PRODUCT YOU CAN SUGGEST I CAN USE AT HOME TO MAKE THEM SILVER.? Tha k you

    1. Reply

      Lisa

      Hi Teresa! I don’t have any experience with this but we have a Facebook group called The Gray Book and there are over 10K women in that group who are all going gray or who have gone gray and everyone is so inspirational and helpful, you could join and ask there! xoox, Lisa

  18. Reply

    Thomas

    I have blonde highlights on the top part of my head and my sides are faded with no color. I am starting to notice more and more grays on my sides. Is it from the purple shampoo? If so, what do I do to make my colored blonde hair stay blonde, example: using purple shampoo and conditioner. And what do I do so that the greys are not as noticable? Is the purple shampoo making my greys lighter? Or am I just getting old? Thank you!

    1. Reply

      Lisa

      Hi there! Okay, purple shampoo will not cause you to have more gray hair. To keep colored hair vibrant, I would recommend a gentle, color safe shampoo made for colored hair – this will keep the shampoo from stripping your color. If you don’t want the grays to be noticeable, you could considering coloring them or adding blonde highlights there as well. Use purple shampoo and conditioner to cancel out any brassiness or yellowing that may occur in blonde and gray hair from UV and heat exposure as well as product buildup and environmental “pollution”. Hope this helps! xo, Lisa

  19. Reply

    Gayle

    I’m experiencing no support from friends and family while I’m trying to let my grey salt and pepper grow out. My hair is shoulder length and I do not want to cut it short. I am determined but need a to know if I can do high lights or whatever to help the growing out process? I’ve tried hair color sprays and they leave my hair clunpy. What do you suggest??

    1. Reply

      Lisa

      Hi Gayle! I’m sorry you don’t have much support. That can be really hard. The good news is there are a ton of ways to go gray and some are easier than others. Here are 10 examples, maybe one will speak to you! xo, Lisa

  20. Reply

    Tery

    I’m 43 and stopped coloring my hair 4 yrs ago. The top of my hair is white, I love it, but the ends look yellowish. I’m about 40% gray. I have level 3/4 hair and I think it’s where my hair is transitioning to white. Is there anyway to help get rid of the yellow? The only products I use are Oribe Silverati shampoo/conditioner and their Goldlust hair oil. I appreciate any advice.

    1. Reply

      Lisa

      Hi Tery! I wish I could see a pic of your beautiful white hair! It sounds like you don’t want to trim the yellow bits off yet so some other options…I haven’t tried this but you could look into Overtone…OR you could ask the salon for help to strip the yellow and blend it with your natural white hair. It would be a one time thing and over time you would cut that bit out anyways as it grows. Hope this helps! xo, Lisa

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