How To Go Gray: Before and After Pictures

August 31, 2020 (updated September 19, 2021)

Growing my hair out gray has been one of the scariest and most rewarding experiences. Documenting the first 18 months with photos, products I used and more!

going gray 18 months
18 months since my last dye: Look at that transition!

By: Lisa Fennessy

One day I caught myself fantasizing about going gray. Not in the sense that it was a utopic scenario. More like, I caught myself wondering what I would look like gray.

Keep reading for more of my going gray story or jump to my going gray before and after pictures here!

IN THIS ARTICLE:

I have always been obsessed with my gray hair since I started growing them in at 19-years-old…and not in a good way.

I used to pluck them all out with my Tweezerman’s but when I couldn’t keep up, I started hitting the salon every 2 months, which turned into 6 weeks which eventually turned into every 4 weeks as the years passed.

Over the past 20 years, I figure I’ve spent almost $17,000 and just about 30 entire DAYS in the chair getting my hair dyed. And I was a die-hard. Let me tell you, with the conviction of a thousand men and in my deepest heart of hearts I just knew I would NEVER stop dying my hair. NEVER.

These are just two of the benefits I’ve discovered while transitioning to gray hair but I’ve detailed out 18 more in this video!

Then one day, I saw this beautiful woman in a restaurant in Hingham, MA. (Stars on the harbor to be exact – for all my South Shore, Massachusetts friends).

The day I decided to go gray naturally

Anyways, she struck me because her face looked so young and her hair looked so…gray. And she was… BEAUTIFUL! Beautiful skin, a joyful smile, cute sassy curly hair – and she seemed, happy. She was enjoying a bottle of wine, dinner, and a few laughs with her hubs.

In that moment, she kinda blew my world open.

And then something came over me. I couldn’t help myself. My legs got up and started walking right toward her.

The next thing I knew I heard myself say, “Hi! My name is Lisa. Your hair is gorgeous. How did you do it? Was it hard? Did you have to cut your hair? How about hats? What did your friends say and HOW OLD ARE YOU!?”

She was 45, it was hard at first but then it got easier. Her kids didn’t like it but now they are indifferent. And it’s been 3 years and the best thing she ever did.

This woman changed my life. It took my curiosity from back seat to turn up the music, put it in cruise control and roll down the windows because MAMA’S DRIVING!

This woman had such an impact on me and she will never know it. After I saw her, my thoughts started changing and instead of thinking “I wonder….” I started deliberately thinking; “What if?” and “When?”

And just as thoughts get louder and louder the longer you sit with them, it got to the point where I couldn’t turn it off. So one day I casually mentioned to my husband, “Maybe I’ll stop dying my hair.”

I’ll never forget what he said because it was the final push I needed. He looked me right in the eye and said, “You should totally do it.”

So the following month I made a hair appointment and…dyed my hair. Hahaha!

I don’t know why I did that. I think I just needed one last time. It’s like the boyfriend you broke up with but you get together with that one last time just to kind of make it all final.

I think I needed it to really solidify that I made the right decision. To give myself the opportunity to officially say goodbye. It’s was almost like I wanted to create and opportunity to commemorate the experience, really give is space, honor every part of it.

And then let it go.

Photo of a woman with hair dye applied to her head, dying her hair for the last time.
April 2017, the last time I dyed my hair.

And then…I let the growth begin.

How long does it take?

For anyone planning on growing out gray hair or for anyone wondering how long it will take, I would say to plan on a solid 2 years for the grays to grow past your chin. This will give you a long bob type of hairstyle.

But that being said, it’s not 2 years of hats, scarves and hiding. I would say it’s a solid 9 months to 1 year of “making due” and then another year of just waiting it out.

I documented the cut I got at the 2 year mark in the video below. I call this my “final cut” because it’s where I cut off all the remaining dyed bits of my hair marking the first time in over 20 years that my hair was 100% it’s natural color. Check it out…

My daily nontoxic haircare staples

It’s been a lot of trial and error to see what products work with my gray hair and my new gray hair needs. After three years of caring for my grays, these are the top 5 products I keep going back to and they are what I recommend for anyone going gray.

  1. BRUNS purple shampoo is the most natural purple shampoo on the market formulated with nourishing hair ingredients and no nasties! Read my full review here.

2. EVOLVh’s SuperFinish Polishing Balm defrizzes, adds moisture, softness, shine, strength, prevents breakage, splitting and is a UV protectant that helps avoid hair yellowing. More here!

3. Innersense Hydrating Hair Masque to keep my hair conditioned, strong and hydrated.

4. Josh Rosebrook Hairspray to hold down the flyaways.

5. Dyson Supersonic Hair Dryer for the fastest hair dry. Less drying time = less damage.

How to grow out gray hair that is colored

There are SEVERAL ways you can grow our your colored hair to your natural gray hair. Some of these approaches include:

1. Bypassing the entire grow-out by either shaving your head or getting a cute shortie or pixie cut.

short gray hair style
Photo courtesy of Twyla Jackson via Pinterest

2. You can dye all of your colored hair gray to blend in with your gray roots. This is more of an option for lighter-haired people. I tried to look into this but my colored hair was too dark to lift to gray. My hairdresser said we would have to lifts my hair so much it would turn brittle and break off so…I took her word for it.

woman with gray hair and highlights
Photo courtesy of Lisa Callow

3. Try low-lighting or highlighting your hair to blend in your new growth with your existing hair color.

Woman with gray hair and overtone
Photo courtesy of Susan Mello

4. You can try Balayage which is lightening your ends. This will help that demarcation line seem less stark.

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

5. If you have wavy or curly hair, rock it! I have wavy hair and I chose not to blow my hair out straight during most of my grow out to help make the demarcation line appear less prominent.

woman with gray wavy hairstyle
Photo courtesy of Kristi Ellis Harris

6. And then there is the “cold turkey” method which I personally chose to do. Cold turkey is when you simply do nothing and grow out your colored hair to it’s natural gray. This “sit and wait it out” method worked well for me.

Woman with gray hair going cold turkey
Photo courtesy of Julianne Statnick

RELATED: For more, check out 10 Ways to Grow Out Gray Hair

The scoop on going gray cold turkey…

Overall I would say months 2-5 are probably the hardest because you walk around looking like you missed a hair appointment. It’s like being pregnant in your first trimester where you just feel fat but you don’t look pregnant yet.

I was really emotional at this stage which you can see documented in this video. I had a lot of thoughts to work through as I tried to make sense of this time in my life. Maybe you can relate.

But once my grays grew in long enough to where I could almost tuck them behind my ears (around 6 months) it starts to look intentional rather than questionable and at that point it all started to get a bit easier.

Of course you can wear cute hats, scarves and headbands. Braids, pony’s and buns are super cute too. But really the hard work is just waiting.

While you are waiting be sure avoid these common pitfalls while going gray. There’s not a lot of rules when it comes to growing out your dyed hair to gray but these are 5 things NOT to do for sure.

The hardest part about going gray

The hardest part about going gray for me personally was deciding to go for it. Once I made up my mind that I was going to go gray, I just had to lean into perseverance after that.

Perseverance got me through the first 5 months or so and then it was less about perseverance and more of a waiting game.

Honestly, once you decide to go gray and you get through the first 6 months or so, it gets so much easier!

That being said, the best thing you can do to help ensure your success is find some support. This can be your sister, mom, friend, husband, wife or finding anyone else who is going gray to connect with.

If you don’t have any of that, consider joining The Gray Book. This is a private Facebook group designed to inspire, create community, share insights, spark conversation and provide solidarity. Thousands of women have found success in this positive and supportive community, we would love to have you join us!

More info on transitioning to gray hair

Now I can say that going gray and loving it is a reality. For more information on going gray naturally, you can follow along here where I’ve journaled about my experience along they way.

I thought I was just growing my hair out but little did I know I was growing and changing on the inside too. This has been a true transformation both inside and out.

Going gray before and after pictures (and every stage in between)

Photo of a woman who
is growing her hair out to be gray. This photo shows what the hair color looks like 1
month into the graying process.
1 month
Photo of a woman who
is growing her hair out to be gray. This photo shows what the hair color looks like 2
months into the graying process
2 months
Photo of a woman who
is growing her hair out to be gray. This photo shows what the hair color looks like 3
months into the graying process
3 months
Photo of a woman who
is growing her hair out to be gray. This photo shows what the hair color looks like 4
months into the graying process
4 months
Photo of a woman who
is growing her hair out to be gray. This photo shows what the hair color looks like 5
months into the graying process
5 months
Photo of a woman who
is growing her hair out to be gray. This photo shows what the hair color looks like 6
months into the graying process
6 months
Photo of a woman who
is growing her hair out to be gray. This photo shows what the hair color looks like 7
months into the graying process
7 months
Photo of a woman who
is growing her hair out to be gray. This photo shows what the hair color looks like 8
months into the graying process
8 months
Photo of a woman who
is growing her hair out to be gray. This photo shows what the hair color looks like 9
months into the graying process
9 months
Photo of a woman who
is growing her hair out to be gray. This photo shows what the hair color looks like 10
months into the graying process
10 months
Photo of a woman who
is growing her hair out to be gray. This photo shows what the hair color looks like 11
months into the graying process
11 months
Photo of a woman who
is growing her hair out to be gray. This photo shows what the hair color looks like 12
months into the graying process
12 months
Photo of a woman who
is growing her hair out to be gray. This photo shows what the hair color looks like 13
months into the graying process
Photo of a woman who
is growing her hair out to be gray. This photo shows what the hair color looks like 18
months into the graying process
18 months
Photo of a woman who
is growing her hair out to be gray. This photo shows what the hair color looks like 2 years into the graying process
2 years! (the final cut)

View my “final cut” video here!

Xo, lisa

Commonly asked questions about going gray

Should I use blue or purple shampoo on gray hair?ย 

Depending on your hair type, it will probably take aboutย 2 years for gray hair to grow past your chin. Check out my first 18 months here.ย ย 

When is the best time to go gray?

The hardest part about going gray was actually deciding to go gray in the first place, committingย to the process, and just starting. Groups like The Gray Book helped so much providing support and inspiration.

ย What’s the best shampoo for gray hair?ย 

There are many ways to go gray including getting a cute pixie, blending grays with lowlights and/or highlights, shaving your head, getting extensionsย or going cold turkey. More ideas here! ย 

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!

75 Comments

  1. Reply

    Vickie Miller

    This sounds crazy, but I had a few streaks of silver framing my face. I am 69 and wear a short, wavy style. I waa loving it and using the purple shampoos. Here is the crazy part. Just went through 6 weeks of radiation to my optic nerve. I was told that I might loose some hair, but didnt think I did. Until, I noticed that the pretty silver around my face was gone! Still have gray threads throughh my brown hair, but giving me the salt and pepper look, which was my biggest fear when I was young. Nor, did I ever had the skunk strip at the crown. Not sure what to do. Hightlights, color or tough it out. Oh and the radiation was a success!

    1. Reply

      Lisa

      Hi Vickie! So glad the radiation was a success!๐Ÿ™๐Ÿป You can try either way girl…that’s the fun thing about going gray…there are really no rules! Be sure to join The Gray Book on Facebook for more inspo! xo, Lisa

  2. Reply

    Marianne

    You look stunning!
    Whatโ€™s the lip color your wearing in the haircut video ?
    I might need to rethink my lipstick colors as I go gray and your coloring is similar to mine ๐Ÿ˜Š
    Thank you for sharing your journey !

    1. Reply

      Lisa

      Hi Marianne! This is KW Red!

  3. Reply

    Susie

    I stopped dying my hair almost 5 yrs ago (dyed it myself because of how ridiculously expensive it is at a salon and I have really short hair). My last dye job was June 2016. It was FREEING! I was finding it harder and harder to cover the whites, plus the brand I used changed and did not cover my roots like it had, and I just got frustrated.

    The first few months were fun seeing just how white and gray my hair really was, and around the 6 mos mark it was really fun! I had numerous compliments on my hair cut and color, like they’d never seen gray hair before on a woman, especially young girls. I used to thank them and tell them it was a process called Frosted Ombrรฉ and I had it done in Toronto! LOL The first time I said that my husband looked at me after the lady walked away and asked “What did you just say?” I shrugged, told him, “I don’t know why I said it, it just flew out of my mouth!”. We both had a good belly laugh ๐Ÿ™‚ But, it was my story and I was sticking to it…and I did!

    My hair grew out into a shoulder length bob thanks to Covid, I just let it grow to see how I looked. My hair is very fine but I always had a lot of it, though it’s thinned out a lot now…thank you PCOS and menopause! And I’ve got a wave in it, which explains lots of body when it was short. I’m planning on going back to short hair and searching pics online is kinda making me long for my dark ash brown color again. However, I do Not want to mess with dying it myself again, I do not miss doing that At All! Nor do I want to get into the products to hide root growth between monthly coloring, or the salon coloring cost. My cuts for short hair are $85 with tip, that’s enough of a monthly hair maintenance cost in my mind.

    I do like my soft salt n pepper color, I’d actually like More silvery white in it. Maybe I’d do that around my face at a salon since I think I could do it every few months. We’ll see. For now, I cannot stand washing and styling my long hair…shoulder length to me is long since I’ve always worn it short short most of my life. I don’t know how to wear it longer, it does nothing for me. I find it such an annoying hassle to wash, conditioner, then 30 minutes to blow dry.. by then I’m hot n sweaty n over it that I can’t style it further! Kudos to anyone with long hair that can tolerate the chore that I find it to be. Short hair is “me”, it’s what looks best on me, it’s what makes me feel sexy.

    O’h boy, I really digressed! lol sorry!

    1. Reply

      Lisa

      “Frosted ombrรฉ” – lol, that’s awesome! So glad you have had such a fun journey. My hair is pretty long too right now and I prefer it short because it’s way easier to dry and style – I agree! xo, Lisa

  4. Reply

    Mary Ann

    We loved reading your blog about going grey and it’s something we wish more of our clients would embrace! Thanks for the inspiration and your excellent photos showing how it’s done…

    1. Reply

      Lisa

      Thanks for reading Mary Ann! xo, Lisa

  5. Reply

    Patricia

    My hair was getting very mousy looking- brown with gray but in the sun it looked completely gray, but a steel gray. Not very flattering. So I went to my hairdresser and she added lighter highlights and it looks great now. I will keep this look until I have total gray hair. Highlights are a good way to transition. Find someone who knows how to work with gray hair.
    Patricia

    1. Reply

      Lisa

      Love this, what a great way to own your experience. So glad you love it! xo, Lisa

  6. Reply

    L. Katrina Bates

    Hi,
    Lily here. I started going grey at 16. I am 61 in a couple weeks. I had been. trying to find the right colour. I no longer wanted chemicals topically seeping into my body.
    I wanted to embrace my age. I had it done platinum in one sitting.
    Yes there is damage so I trimmed it regularly and never did a blow dry. I also left my conditioner in. I am grey and white but love it. First time with longer hair.

    1. Reply

      Lisa

      Hi Lily! So happy you are finding your way and loving it. It feels so good, doesn’t it?! xo, Lisa

  7. Reply

    Chi

    I’m 38 and I have some white hair – not even gray but full on white. I’m African American and I don’t relax my hair, so it’s extremely coily and the white hair is coarse. I have been using semi permanent dye and gloss and experimenting with color but it is starting to look skunky and weird. I am beginning to think I should just let it do what it is naturally doing. My mom went through this process as well and eventually had the most gorgeous silver hair. I think it will be a while before I get there. But I am nervous about the major contrast since the rest of my hair is so dark. Thank you for the inspiration.

    1. Reply

      Lisa Fennessy

      Hi Chi! I wish I could see a pic of what your hair looks like! Have you joined The Gray Book on Facebook yet? So much, inspo, support and inspiration from over 11K women who are all going gray! If you join and post a pic, tag me so I can see. I always like to remember that with hair, you can always change your mind later if you don’t like the way it looks…but since you love your mom’s look, I have a feeling you will fall in love with yours too. xo, Lisa

  8. Reply

    donna

    Thank you for the inspiration! Im month 2 and going crazy at this point. You have transitioned beautifully.

    1. Reply

      Lisa Fennessy

      Thank you Donna! Best of luck with your grow-out! xo, Lisa

  9. Reply

    Jacie

    I guess I am super lucky because my hair grows incredibly fast. I shifted to grey in 6 months with medium length hair. Iโ€™m very grey in the front but still have my natural colour in the back and sides. Itโ€™s a cool look. And most people think itโ€™s a dye job.
    I absolutely have no regrets. No more salon visits, no more skunk line at 2 weeks (remember,my hair grows fast) and no more dry hair.
    My hair is now healthy and in such great condition. I only need to go to the salon twice a year now instead of shelling out a couple hundred dollars every two weeks.

    1. Reply

      Lisa Fennessy

      Isn’t it the greatest feeling?! I actually haven’t been to the salon in over 2 years which, HELLO, I need to go but I’m just taking this time to love my hair as it is now..it’s never been this long and the bits at the end were my very first pieces of gray that I welcomed! Anyways, just agreeing that less trips to the salon brings a different experience for sure. I’m loving it.

  10. Reply

    Linda

    I am just now beginning this journey and am already feeling freed. I was not surprised to hear that this could take awhile and I’m stealing the frosted ombre line when the time comes. That was just too clever. Thanks for all your info

    1. Reply

      Lisa Fennessy

      “Ladies? Frost yourselves!” – Matthew McConaughey in How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days…anyone?! Lol…love that line too. So glad you are feeling so free! xo, Lisa

  11. Reply

    Alicia N Garrity

    I’m starting my journey to gray. I’m a hairstylist and even though I know I’ll continue to color below the root line, the transition is so time consuming. I’m so used to changing my hair. I have pretty curly hair that I blow out maybe every couple weeks. I don’t love it short so collar length is about as short as I’d go. So I’ll help the process along by lightening and toning to slowly get there. I have to keep it looking good because I’m also trying to keep clients wanting color ( girl gotta get paid) but encourage the grow out also. Im walking a fine line because I support both but make my money this way. Im taking it as a learning experience as well as a teaching opportunity to keep everyone happy with whichever decision anyone else makes. I’m excited for it.

    1. Reply

      Lisa Fennessy

      Totally hear that! And also respect everyone who chooses to continue to color their hair. This decision is not for everyone. So do you always leave like 1/2 inch of roots when you color your hair or? xo, Lisa

  12. Reply

    Denise

    I stopped coloring my hair seven years ago, saving $65 every 6 weeks. My hair is very thick, natural curly, long layers and in super condition from not coloring. I started graying at 19yos and am now 68yos. I use purple shampoo/conditioner twice a week, take biotin daily. I receive compliments everyday and have never regretted going to my gorgeous gray strands.

    1. Reply

      Lisa Fennessy

      I love this testimonial Denise, thank you! So happy you are loving your decision. xo, Lisa

  13. Reply

    Jessica T

    Thank you so much for sharing your journey to gray! I especially love the fact that you documented everything – itโ€™s totally inspiring. I am 39 years old, and I currently have to color my hair every 4 weeks. Well, two days ago I think I decided Iโ€™m done. Like you, Iโ€™ve been coloring my hair for probably 20 years (I even colored it with Kool-Aid when I was a teen). I feel like this gray/silver hair of mine is part of me, and Iโ€™ve just grown tired of feeling like Iโ€™m covering up โ€œme.โ€ I donโ€™t think I can do it as naturally and gracefully as you have, but Iโ€™ll get there, lol. Iโ€™m going to the salon to add silver/gray highlights to blend my colored hair to my roots. I am very excited for this process to begin! Thanks again!

    1. Reply

      Lisa Fennessy

      Hi Jessica! This is awesome! So excited for you. Was there something that sparked your decision 2 days ago? I’m curious! xo, Lisa

  14. Reply

    Kate

    I’m going (white/gray) being a natural light redhead it is so hard to find the right natural red so at 60, I have decided to stop colouring. Do you have any advice for me to transition? I am about 2 months since last colour and have a pretty white not really gray 2 inch growth. My red colour has faded out on rest of the hair. I am going to salon next week, thinking of getting highlights to match the roots. Still scared and unsure of the whole thing but I figure it’s fall and I love to wear hats so by spring it should be halfway there!

    1. Reply

      Lisa Fennessy

      Hi Kate! So excited for your transition! This post lists out 10 ways to go gray and might help spark an idea or something to try. Let us know how it goes! xo, Lisa

  15. Reply

    Annie Ernst

    Hi Lisa – I just watched your video about 20 benefits to going gray. First of all, thank you so much for all your insights and support. I am 69 years old and decided about 3 weeks ago that I am DONE dying my hair. Yes – all the negative things influenced this decision, but primarily the fact that I keep losing so much hair in the shower from breaking off. My hair is long, curly, and dark brown and even using Madison Reed coloring, my hair just seems to break off no matter what. Also, my roots seem to need dying every 3-4 weeks. But mostly hoping that the health of my hair will improve once I stop dying it. I also stopped trying to straighten it with flat irons, etc., about 1 year ago, as I thought perhaps this was contributing to damage. I look forward to the journey! It definitely feels right and I am proud to “look my age” naturally. (ha, doesn’t mean I will stop wearing makeup, though) I will be a first-time grandma this year too. I look forward to my 70s being natural and healthy and gorgeous! You look so beautiful with your gray color. It’s inspiring. But most of all I just wanted to thank you for encouraging and supporting the rest of us with your truthful journey and courage! So thanks again, Lisa. a fan

    1. Reply

      Lisa Fennessy

      Hi Annie! So excited for you to start your journey! I know so many women report healthier hair that feels thicker and stops falling out so be sure to keep an eye out for thatโ€”it’s not far fetched by any means! Thank you for your beautiful note and congrats on becoming a grandmother this year, what a beautiful gift! Wishing you the best. xo, Lisa

  16. Reply

    Valarie

    I’ve been graying sinse I was 24 when I had my first child my baby girl. I went back to college the same year and now I’m a few semesters away from ym teaching credential in California. I had my son 6 months ago and this is also my first semester transferring into sacramento State… I’ve had medical issues worsen the past 4 years and I just moved into a bigger home. All that to say.. It’s proof gray hair also comes when you’re stressed because now I’m about 45% gray, at 28 (29 in December). Could also be karma from making fun of my parents for going gray around 45. My husband is 29 almost 30, bald but has some gray on his beard. I was having a hard time with it but then decided heck… These kids are spending 200+ on gray hair and I’ve got it naturally, sure I’ll take it. Lol. That was a random and disorganizated post, but yeah… Love the gray and the confidence behind it, all these wonder men and women ready ans embracing it!

    1. Reply

      Lisa Fennessy

      Hi Valarie! I’m so glad you mentioned this because recently I’ve been thinking my hair is getting whiter too. I guess that is bound to happen but it’s like watching grass grow, you don’t actually notice it until it’s obvious. Have fun with your grow out. It was one of the best things I ever did for myself! xo, Lisa

  17. Reply

    Lina

    Hi Lisa, what interesting journey and story you shared. Thank you. Every single paragraph you wrote it was really I look myself on mirror because that’s my struggle, questions about this graying proses. I’m Indonesian and 51 yrs. I’ve been dye my hair about 10 yrs and I actually having psoriasis issues. As asian woman, I was afraid to look not fresh with grey hair eventhough I’m still 50s (so much denial๐Ÿ˜ƒ ). I’ve been thinking to stop dye my hair and let it be gray. Your journal have made up my mind. Thank for your detail sharing. It’s a lovely journal much appreciated โคโค.

    1. Reply

      Lisa Fennessy

      So excited for your going gray journey! Thanks so much for reading and I’m glad you felt inspired. It’s not easy to make this decision but it gets easier to accept and embrace it with time. You’ve got this! xo, Lisa

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