Growing Out Gray Hair: 10 Ways to Go Gray

February 19, 2021

If you’re thinking about growing out gray hair, here’s lesson numero uno: There’s no “right way” to go gray. Learn this one upfront and, sister, it just makes everything easier.

woman with wavy gray hair

Also, while we are at it, let’s call out the other elephant in the room: Going gray is really hard. Full stop. 

But guess what? Going gray is also not necessarily a linear experience. 

For some women, it’s highlights and lowlights. For others, it’s a big chop and for others still, it’s fun accessories, extensions or playing with color. 

All ways of going gray are valid and beautiful

It’s important that women support each other during this very personal experience—no matter what path each woman takes (including the path of choosing to dye or not to dye). 

Growing out gray is not a place where “right and wrong,” “black and white” or judgmental thinking thrives. 

Thriving here means finding the strength to move forward, and finding acceptance within yourself. It’s about taking risks and fostering growth. It’s about seeing (actually seeing!) the beauty that lives inside and out.

So, in the name of empowering women, changing our collective mindset and opening up possibilities for each other; here are 10 ways to go gray.

10 ways to grow hair out gray

1. Highlights

Highlights and lowlights are a fun way to transition. They soften the grow-out line and they provide an “ease-into-it” approach. This typically works better for women with light brown or blonde hair. 

Woman with gray hair and highlights
Photo courtesy of Jackie Schindler Moffatt.

Jackie Schindler Moffatt explains how this method helped soften the line between gray hair and dyed hair. “The first time I went in after deciding [to let my hair grow in gray], my stylist suggested instead of a full color we just do some blending. Just did a few strands, no color since, and I feel like that has made a subtle difference in how my hair has grown out. It helped blend that demarcation line.”

woman with gray hair and highlights
Photo courtesy of Lisa Callow.

Lisa Callow says, “How fabulous is my hair?!! My absolutely amazing hairdresser and friend wove silver highlights through my existing blonde to brighten my hair!! It feels so silky smooth!! I’m obsessed!!” 


2. Shave your head 

Yeah, we just went there. And we did it in style too. 

woman with gray hair and shaved hair
Courtesy of Kiva Sherr.

Kiva Sherr shares how it felt after shaving her head to expedite the growing out gray process. “Two weeks of growth! It’s been interesting and wonderful. The biggest challenge is my whole sense of self and style changing. I’ve been standing taller and allowing myself to feel all the feelings this has inspired. No hiding behind hair anymore.”

Woman with her shaved head gray hair
Photo courtesy of Eleanor Ensing Verkoeyen.

Eleanor Ensing Verkoeyen agrees: “I couldn’t handle the bronzy color growing out with my natural color showing more and more clearly underneath. I love my natural color and I love the buzzed look, not at all regretful!”


3. The big chop

You can also do a big chop without bringing it down to a number 1 all around. 

Black woman with short, curly gray hair.
Photo courtesy of Twyla Jackson via Pinterest.

4. Try extensions 

Throw in some extensions and call it a day. Like, why not? If you’ve never had extensions, you know you always secretly wanted to anyway. 

Woman with gray hair wearing extensions long hair
Photo courtesy of Sabine Simon.

Sabine Simon adds, “I wanted to keep my hair long but I also didn’t want to have grey roots for a long time. I thought about it for a while and this idea hit me one day. The braids are my first step for going grey and I’m excited for what’s to come.”

Woman with gray hair extensions
Photo courtesy of Carol Love.

In the midst of the pandemic, Carol Love says, “I’m kinda over the DIY hair-at-home situation. But these twists have saved my sanity.”


5. Balayage 

Why not take the reins back like and see which end gets there first with some on-trend balayage?

Woman wearing highlights and gray hair
Photo courtesy of Lisa Parker Gresham.

We love the look of dying hair at the bottom gray for a couple of reasons. First, it’s edgy and fun. And second, it draws the eye away from “work in progress” roots and anchors it on those intentional ends. 

Lisa Parker Gresham muses, “I was on the fence about whether or not I should just cold turkey stop all hair coloring or if I should just do fun balayage hair with toners while the gray comes in.”

RELATED: How To Go Gray


6. Cold turkey 

And then there is the grin-and-bare-it method that most women “in the biz” refer to as going “cold turkey.” Some consider this the hardest way to transition, but we think it’s one that will surprise you the most.  

Going gray cold turkey woman hairstyle
Photo courtesy of Cindy Verret.
Woman with gray hair going cold turkey
Photo courtesy of Julianne Statnick.

Cindy Verrett is rocking her grow out like the best of ‘em! And Julianne Statnick screams it from the rooftops like, “Almost 19 months growout! I LOVE this journey!!! Smooth sailing from here!!!!”


7. Braid it

Braids just make everything better. Dimension and depth shine through in ways we never knew possible. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE.

Gray haired woman wearing a braid
Photo courtesy of Kateřina Kortusová.

And while you’re at it, why not throw in some purple extensions like stunning, 52-year-old Kateřina Kortusová. 😍


8. Try a toner 

Whether it’s an at-home toner like Overtone or one from the salon, this is a great way to bridge the grow out gap. A toner provides an overall wash of color making hair look more gray/silver as well as softening (if not erasing) that pesky “line of demarcation.” 

Woman with gray hair and overtone
Photo courtesy of Susan Mello.

Susan Mello is all-in explaining, “This is my second highlight and third toner.” She says she anticipates needing one more highlight in about 4 months and then she’ll be done!  

RELATED: The Best Natural Purple Shampoo for Gray Hair


9. Rock some accessories—obvi 

Whether it’s some fresh new glasses, red lipstick, a matching headband or a fun hat….just do it girl.  

Woman with gray hair wearing hats
Photo courtesy of Tari Walsh-Kelley.

Tari Walsh-Kelley could have written the book, “Winter Fashionista! Hats, scarves, thigh-high boots, leggings, leather gloves (or matching knit gloves) and berets.”

Woman with gray hair wearing beanniee
Photo courtesy of Irina Duncan.

Irina Duncan says, “Thank God for hats!” while running errands.

Photo courtesy of Gabrielle Bass.

Gabrielle Bass is rocking those glasses AND pearls. Get it, girl!

Woman wearing winter head band. gray hair
Photo courtesy of Shyanne Hall.

Shyanne Hall is celebrating a snow day in style. 

Gray hair pixie hairstyle
Photo courtesy of Barbara Mariani.

And Barbara Mariani looks dope all around from cut to glasses to accessories. Yes girl. YASSSS. 

RELATED: 5 Going Gray Don’ts 


 10. Wear it wavy

A great way to blend new growth with dyed hair is to put some bend in it!  

Kristi Ellis Harris, Alicia Vander Kooi, and Nikki Soward Corey know what’s up!

Woman with gray wavy hair
Photo courtesy of Nikki Soward Corey.
woman with gray wavy hairstyle
Photo courtesy of Kristi Ellis Harris.
woman with gray wavy hair
Photo courtesy of Alicia Vander Kooi

For more inspiration, support, friendship, and solidarity around all things going gray, be sure to join The Gray Book on Facebook

By Lisa

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!

12 Comments

  1. Reply

    Mary

    All the ladies going gray are beautiful! I am on the journey as well.
    Thanks Lisa for paving the way with grace.
    Love to all.

    1. Reply

      Lisa

      Thanks for reading Mary! Rock those grays girl! xoox, Lisa

  2. Reply

    Michele S

    I am not sure how much longer I can get by wearing my winter cap, so I finally have an appointment for my first real “cut the majority of my leftover old color off” on Monday. Platinum silver au natural here I come. Thanks for your insight!

    1. Reply

      Lisa

      Hi Michele! That’s awesome! Enjoy this huge step, you’ve worked hard for it! xo,Lisa

  3. Reply

    Janet

    Hi I’m also doing the cold turkey bit, I’m in the UK so a Brit’s doing it 😎 I have to say it’s going to be a long slog and my boyfriend is in Dorset (South England) and I’m in the North of England at present so it’s going to be a bit of a shock for him! Love seeing all the cuts and words of wisdom and I’ll be very glad when I’ve got this year out of the way! U are all fabulous ladies

    Janet UK ❤️

    1. Reply

      Lisa

      Best year ever to go gray! Enjoy it friend! xo,Lisa

  4. Reply

    Diana

    My final highlights were just before covid shut down the salons in March 2020. I went cold turkey! I wore a baseball cap all summer. Now my hair is 1/3 white (at hairline), 1/3 brown (nape) & 1/3 auburn highlights on the ends. My sisters, neices & daughter have all encouraged me throughout this process. I love my sparkling white hair.

    1. Reply

      Lisa

      Yes Diana! So glad you are loving your experience! xo, Lisa

  5. Reply

    Mary

    I am undergoing chemo (did not lose my hair but thinning slightly) with all the chemicals I HAVE to take coloring my hair felt wrong. Hope my self esteem can handle the grey. I have not had color since last November (6 months) so I am well on my way. I love the body that color gives me. I think I will miss that the most. I believe the secret is a cut cut…..I willl be 69 net month…..it’s time.

    1. Reply

      Lisa

      Hi Mary! Hope you are feeling well. I’m excited for your going gray journey. It has its ups and downs but if you can make it past the first few months, it gets easier. Try adding a little blush or some lip color for added color if you feel it’s right for you. That can help add color back into the face when it’s no longer in our hair. xo, Lisa

  6. Reply

    Diane

    Q: Are there down sides to using toners? I’m wondering if toners have potentially harmful chemicals that can be absorbed. I’ve been growing out my gray since I stopped coloring in 11/20. I was asked to officiate a wedding ceremony this summer and want to look polished so I’m considering a new cut and asking the stylist about toners when I’m there but don’t want to backtrack on the progress I’ve made.
    Thanks so much !

    1. Reply

      Lisa

      Hi Diane! I haven’t looked into toners much BUT many of the women in The Gray Book Facebook group have had luck with washout sprays…they are great for a short amount of time and then wash out. I totally hear you on the backtracking…so much hard work, we don’t want to go backwards! ; ) xo, Lisa

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