How To Go Gray: Before and After Pictures

August 31, 2020

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!

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!

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.

I figure over the past 20 years 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 pixie cut.

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.

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

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

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.

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.

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

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.
Going gray: 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
Going gray: 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
Going gray: 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
Going gray: 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
Going gray: 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
Going gray: 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
Going gray: 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
Going gray: 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
Going gray: 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
Going gray: 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
Going gray: 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
Going gray: 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
Going gray: 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

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how to go gray

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!

22 Comments

  1. Reply

    Tracy

    Hi. Thank you for sharing your grey journey. You look amazing, I love it. I’m turning 49 in less than a month and have dyed my hair with box dyes since at least my early 30s to cover my grey. I thought about stopping last year and didn’t have the courage. Than the world changed with COVID19 and most of us did with it. Last time I dyed my hair was 8 weeks ago and I am already falling in love with my silver. I look at my roots and fall in love with the color more and more each day. I look forward to my big haircut too in about 2 years from now. I am a strong believer in making lemonade when you are handed lemons, and that is exactly what I’m doing with the current pause we are all in, I’ve made the decision to go grey and not turn back. Sharing your own journey has given me even more courage to do so.

    1. Reply

      Lisa

      Hi Tracy! I’m so glad! Keep me posted on how it’s going. If you are on Facebook, come join us at The Gray Book for all things inspiration, connection and solidarity during the going gray process! xo! Lisa

  2. Reply

    M.L.H.

    Hi Lisa,
    I too am in the middle of converting to gray, thanks to Covid-19. I’m 63, and in the advertising business so appearing ten years younger than I actually am has always been my reason for coloring. But now that I see it coming in, I kind of like it. My husband has been wanting me to do this for so long. With no other options, I think the time is now. Thanks for the inspo!

    1. Reply

      Lisa

      Hi M! This is so awesome! I love that you got a sneak peek and are digging it – best of luck! You’ve got this! xo, Lisa

  3. Reply

    Carmen

    Lisa, you are so beautiful! Thank you so much for sharing your story. I have decided to go grey, also. To tired of hair dyes and stuff. Turning 51 in October. My hair it’s been through a lot since we moved to Costa Rica. Heat, sun and humidity.
    I hope that I would look as good as you.
    Pura Vida!!

    1. Reply

      Lisa

      Hi Carmen! So exciting! Good luck on your grow out. Also, I hear Costa Rica has remained mostly untouched by COVID_19 – stay safe! xo

  4. Reply

    Elisa

    Thank you for sharing! The photos of the process were especially helpful. I’m 36, but almost fully silver at my roots, and due to Covid, it’s now been 3 months since I last dyed my hair and I can really see the beautiful silver coming in. In some ways, it’s the perfect time to go through the growing process since I’m not seeing many people right now.

    1. Reply

      Lisa

      I agree! The perfect time! xo, Lisa

  5. Reply

    Andrea

    Hi. Could you share some of your favorite bright lipsticks that you wear. I find we have similar coloring and hair color and love the brights I see on this website. Thanks

    1. Reply

      Lisa

      Hi Andrea! Yes! I linked two of my faves in this post: Clove + Hallow’s Lip Velvet in Roadtrip and also OLIO E OSSO’s Lip Crema in Ibisco! I am actually publishing a post in June with my top lipstick picks for gray hair so stay tuned! xo, Lisa

  6. Reply

    Emily

    You look amazing! I haven’t colored my hair since February and debated about doing once covid restrictions were lifted. Tomorrow I’ll be getting a haircut finally but nothing else. Thank you for sharing your story. 🙂

    1. Reply

      Lisa

      That’s so exciting Emily! Enjoy your haircut (only) – a day that marks the start of a new you! Keep us posted! xo, Lisa

  7. Reply

    Pam

    I’m also growing out my hair during Covid-19. I wear hats a lot, but my baseball caps didn’t cover all the gray so I ended up buying a lot of hats from headwear.com, which is a company for sells wigs, hats for cancer patients. I do have a question about the yellow that is showing up in the gray. How do I make that go away? I wash my hair once a week using charcoal shampoo, but I think I need to try something else to clean and get rid of the yellow. Any suggestions PS. I also signed up for your FB group.

    1. Reply

      Lisa

      Hi Pam! Awesome! One of the best ways to counteract that is by using a purple shampoo. I detail out three natural options here! https://thisorganicgirl.com/best-purple-shampoo/

  8. Reply

    MONICA

    Hey Lisa! I’m hitting the 9 month mark, with tight covid restrictions our salons are just now reopening. I’ve been fine and confident all along, until a saw a picture of myself from January, right after I last colored my hair…I liked it. So, now I’m struggling a bit. I really don’t want to waste the past several months of transition though, so I just need to keep coming back here and see how great your hair looks (and potentially chop off a few inches of the old dyed hair). 😊 I love the purple shampoo by the way. It really makes my gray and white hair shine!

    1. Reply

      Lisa

      Hi Monica! Hang in there girl! You’ve made it so far! For me, I hit the 1 year mark and I started wishing my grays would grow in faster…maybe that will happen for you too : ) Have you joined The Gray Book on Facebook yet? So many fabulous women going gray there and a ton of community and inspo! xo, Lisa

  9. Reply

    Tamara

    Hi Lisa
    I bought a box of hair dye and it is sitting on the bench
    I was going through some u tube videos to dye my hair and came across your story.
    I’m so glad I did . I haven’t coloured my hair for the past 7 weeks due to lock down in Melbourne , Australia.
    My daughter has always suggested for me to go grey and now I’m going to take the plunge.
    I’m so inspired by your story and I would like to thank you .

    1. Reply

      Lisa

      TAMARA! So glad we connected! So excited for you to start your going gray journey. You’ve got this girl. xo, Lisa

  10. Reply

    sara-marie kelley

    It’s so nice to see other women embracing the grey! I’m only 30 and have been dye free for 2 years, so since I was 28. I decided at 26 to grow out a bad dye job and once I got the length, had a shoulder length cut. Mine aren’t as prominent yet, but I have clumps of grey through the front, and silvery tinsel throughout which are confused with highlights. I’m proud to be grey! I have earned them! And each one is a little silver trophy! Looking forward to trying some of haircare recommendations!

    1. Reply

      Lisa

      Hi Sara-Marie! So glad you are having a successful grow out and experience! Thank you for this beautiful note! xo, Lisa

  11. Reply

    Patricia

    I just recently found your page and i also ordered the Bruns shampoo from your page. I am so thankful i found your page. I had attempted to let my gray grow out, once, many many years ago but i wasn’t ready. Well i have been letting it grow out now for about 2 years and it feels like forever. I have natural curly black hair and the gray is there but it hides under the curls most time. I cannot wait for it to be gray. The gray has gotten less noticeable so i ordered the shampoo you recommended and i cannot wait to see how my gray looks. I did take a picture the other day to see how the gray is growing and it is, its just taking so long. Thank you for giving me information to read. Having curly hair i have to also watch sulfates, silicone’s and i also do clean products for my body and hair so its always hard to find something that helps for all. Thank you for helping us all.

    1. Reply

      Lisa

      Hi Patricia! So glad this was helpful for you! Best of luck with your grow out! xo, Lisa

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