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

    Olivia

    Absolutely beautiful

  2. Reply

    Lucinda Branch

    Hey! I am 13months in my grey transformation, I always wanted to do it but did not because my husband said I should continue dying it. I decided to do it in July 2020 and I can now say I absolutely love it. My husband past away last year but I know he would have loved it as well. You have given me the courage to cut more of my ends the next time I get a cut. And everything you said about learning who the new you (really the unveil you) is and transforming inside and out certainly resonates with me. I’m 56 years old; I wished I did it much earlier on.

    Thank you for your inspiration:)

    1. Reply

      Lisa Fennessy

      Hi Lucinda, I’m so sorry to hear about your husband. Very sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing your experience with us. I’m so glad you are loving your decision and the unveiled you. xo, Lisa

  3. Reply

    Magnolia Powers

    I’m 40. Ive been “going” grey since I was 17. For a long time I dyed it, when I do I look like I’m 17. I have a huge white streak in the front. But for covid I dont go anywhere and so I thought why cover it? But im going to visit friends and meet a bunch of new friends from online and I ‘m worried what they will think. You are gorgeous and hopefully I will learn to accept it before I go for my visit.

    1. Reply

      Lisa Fennessy

      Hi Magnolia! I totally understand how you feel. The best thing you can do is just start getting out there. Facing your fears in this sitch is truly medicine for the soul because most times these fears are internal and constructed and not universal truths. It’s like my son who is starting 2nd grade who says to me daily, “I’m scared to go to school.” And I keep telling him, everyday you go, the fear gets a little smaller and before you know it, it will be gone. You’ve got this! xo, Lisa

  4. Reply

    Madeleine

    I am 58 years old. Diagnosed with cancer April,2021. With the chemo and radiation, didn’t really want to dye my hair. After 4 months of treatments(by the way, I’m in remission), my head is really full of grays. So I thought, I might as as well stay this way. With support of my sisters. I’m not getting any younger.

    1. Reply

      Lisa Fennessy

      Hi Madeline! I’m so sorry to hear about your diagnosis but happy to hear you are in remission 🙏🏻 We are here for you and offering all of the support. You’ve got this! xo, Lisa

  5. Reply

    m

    Hello there, I wanted to thank you for writing this article. There isn’t any help out there for what shampoo and conditioner is recommended when transitioning.

    I found your article because I was checking out green shampoo.

    I have been using purple shampoo and conditioner for a few weeks now and having read your article I know I have been wasting my money as my hair is mainly darker grey. My hair is a lot like yours was.

    Are there any products out there for transitioning or should I just use my usuals until my hair goes light silver grey? I have heard that grey hair needs protection as it more vulnerable.

    Thanks, M.

    1. Reply

      Lisa Fennessy

      Hi M! So glad this was helpful! And YES! I would recommend a heat and UV protectant. This one is my favorite one. I write more about it here! Hope this helps! xo, Lisa

  6. Reply

    Violet

    Read at the right time. My hair is 75 percent grey. I didn’t have to grow out color but as it gets more grey I get comments that 52 is too young for grey. I know it makes me look older and I was considering lowlights to bring back the clock a little. Thanks for the vote to be who I am.

    1. Reply

      Lisa Fennessy

      Totally! I love when people say, “you are too young to be gray” ….I’m like, well. My hair is ACTUALLY gray. So…I guess I’m not too young for that to happen…lol. xo, Lisa

  7. Reply

    Pepper Dansie

    I will be turning 60 in January. I started going gray when I was 16, and was dying on a regular basis by the time I was in my very early 20’s. You talk about in your blog how when you are ready, you will just know. Well I am ready, but my husband of 7 years is not quite so sure. I know from watching my roots grow out that I am probably pretty much all white. I have naturally curly hair, and I just think my 60’s birthday is my day to start. I won’t pretend I am not scared. I have already had the friends say, “Don’t do it, you will look old!” Well I am 60, and I don’t feel old. My skin is still in pretty good shape. Like you, I really don’t wear a whole lot of make-up. Maybe mascara and a little concealer under my eyes and some blush and lip stick. I have not decided if I will do the ombre approach, or just stop dying. With the natural curl it is easy to hide that abrupt grow out because my dye color is dark chocolate brown. I don’t think I have the dedication to wait out the whole grow out, so I thought the ombre was a little more meet it in the middle kinda thing. Thanks for your support. I will be following and posting before during and after pictures.

    1. Reply

      Lisa Fennessy

      Hi Pepper! Thanks so much for this. It takes us time to warm up to the idea of going gray but we can easily overlook that it takes our loved ones time to warm up to the idea too. Some of us think about this change for months before we even say the words out loud. And then we do and we are sad when we aren’t met with overwhelming support from others. Give it time. He will come around. Your smile is still your smile. Your heart is still your heart. Your hugs are still your hugs—and that’s what people see and feel and how they know you most. You can do this. xo, Lisa

  8. Reply

    debora

    Hi! My hair is dark brunette. What purple shampoo do you recommend for between 4 and 5 on the brown color scale? It’s a tad yellow now and I need to brighten it up. I had lowlights put in in july, which I loved, but now they’re on the yellow side. Thanks for your help.

    1. Reply

      Lisa Fennessy

      Hi Debora! Do you have any blonde or gray hair? If your hair is all darker brown (4-5) then I fear a purple shampoo will not be effective. It might be something where you have to go back to the salon to get re-toned potentially…?

  9. Reply

    Nury Castro

    Hello! I am 39 years old. The last time I dyed my hair was on 12/31/2019. This week I have been thinking about dyeing it again but I am not sure because I will get almost 2 years away from dye it.

    1. Reply

      Lisa Fennessy

      OOOO! I love this. There are really no rules to going gray. You do you girl! Especially when it comes to your OWN hair. xoxo, Lisa

Leave a comment

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