How To Go Gray: Before and After Pictures

August 31, 2020 (updated June 7, 2022)

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. Check out my review of it.

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.

side by side before and after of a woman who went gray with a pixie cut
Photo courtesy of Savannah VanKummer

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.

side by side before and after of a woman growing out her blonde to now gray hair
Photo courtesy of Lisa Callow

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

side by side before and after of a woman growing out her gray hair with hightlights
Photo courtesy of Courtney Bedoya

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

side by side before and after of a woman with long wavy 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.

side by side before and after photos of a woman growing out long wavy gray hair
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.

before and after photos of a woman growing out her long dark gray hair
Photo courtesy of Michelle Ortiz

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? 

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

When is the best time to go gray?

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

 What’s the best shampoo for gray hair? 

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

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!

100 Comments

  1. Reply

    Nina

    This was so helpful. I did the same as you–started thinking about going grey. Then I thought maybe I would do it! Then about two weeks later I colored my hair. I knew I was ready because after that I was upset with myself because I had set back the growing out process by another month. That is when I knew I was ready to make the change.

    I am 55 and have been goin grey since I was about 16. It looks to me like my hair is pure white underneath, even though it was a fairly dark brownish red naturally.

    I am in the awkward stage and looking for some cute hats to get me through the next few months, or maybe a scarf. Any suggestions welcomed! Thanks for all the helpful information!

    1. Reply

      Lisa Fennessy

      Hi Nina! So glad you are ready to take the leap! And it’s the perfect time of year for hats and scarves (if you are in the northern hemisphere ; ) Even a cute beanie would be so cute too! xo, Lisa

  2. Reply

    Zanette

    I’m so thankful to have find you and join the Facebook group. Everyone is super supportive and encouraging. Thank you so much for creating this space! So amazing to have this and help me with my growing out the silvers 🙂 xxxx

    1. Reply

      Lisa Fennessy

      Hi Zanette! I’m so happy it’s been a positive experience for you! xo, Lisa

  3. Reply

    Rachael Cecchini

    I am 20 months in. I had long hair, but got impatient around month 16 or so. I can see I’m a lot of salt and pepper, but the back and underneath is still much darker. I see more coming in, but is this just how my hair transitions? I’m wanting to let it go back long now, but worried on the look with the back being darker.
    I’ve come this far and don’t want to give up, but I can also honestly say that posts like yours gives me encouragement and hope.
    Any suggestions to keep my hair fresh, clean and looking like I’ve “just stepped out of a salon” ?
    Happy holidays and happy new year!
    Rachaelgoesgrazy

    1. Reply

      Lisa Fennessy

      Hi Rachael! I totally hear you! The way you describe your hair, mine sounds very similar. If I pull the top layer of my hair away, most of my hair is BROWN! I would say to get that fresh fresh feel, maybe consider a cut…like a lob or a long bob depending on where your grow out stops. A new cut always does the trick for me. I also think, seeing your old hair makes it hard to really appreciate the patterns of your new hair too so once that is gone, it’s like you can look at yourself with new eyes. Hope this helps! You can also check out this post that has 10 ideas for how to grow out hair gray. xo! Lisa

  4. Reply

    Sadie

    Thank you for this! I went grey at 15 and now I’m 29 and totally fed up of colouring my hair every 6 weeks. My mum ended up having a scalp condition and couldn’t dye her hair anymore so HAD to go grey, and I’ve been thinking about what I would do if it happened to me! I really enjoy low maintenance hair, so colouring it so often is a drag. Thank you for giving me some needed courage – I think I will soon start my process of going full grey!

    1. Reply

      Lisa Fennessy

      Hi Sadie! Amazing! Love that you are considering going gray…that’s the first step! Would love to see updates posted to The Gray Book! Glad your mum is okay.

  5. Reply

    Krissy

    I’m so glad I read this! I’ve been on the fence for a few months about it out of fear I’d look “old”. I have strawberry blonde hair so it’s not going to be super noticeable but gray roots are gray roots! I think I’ll highlight for a bit as a distraction and then maybe low-light with gray… all learned from reading this! Of course, you had me at Stars in Hingham – I live in Norwell!

    1. Reply

      Lisa Fennessy

      STARS!!! Lol. I mean take me to Tosca or Stars and I’m yours! You’ve got this girl! xoxo, Lisa

  6. Reply

    Helen

    Hi Lisa,

    Thanks for your really informative post. You look amazing both before and after! I’ve been contemplating transitioning for some 5 years now as my roots come in every 2 weeks
    I’m 49 m, my first grey came in at 15. I’ve got naturally dark black hair which I’ve been dying black for some 20 years and now have about 90% pure white hair. I last dyed my hair at the end of October 2021 and currently in the really awkward phase which I’m hiding with colour wow.
    My hairdresser has suggested doing some lowlights and highlights to hide the line of demarcation. Do you know if this this route is high maintenance as opposed to going cold turkey and is it likely to damage my hair? I’m also contemplating the strip dye method however I have grey hair growing at the back too so not sure how this will work.
    I hope you have time to reply.

    Many thanks!

    1. Reply

      Lisa Fennessy

      Hi Helen! I know how you feel! At this stage, all I wanted to do was SOMETHING so it didn’t feel like I was doing nothing. From what I’ve seen, highlights and lowlights are a great option for people with lighter hair to begin with. People who have darker hair (like me) it doesn’t work so well. Here are some more gray grow out ideas to help! I tried to do all the things but in the end my hairdresser just kept saying, wait it out so I did. xo, Lisa

  7. Reply

    Regina Mileo

    I’m 56 l have alot of grey hair my roots and alot of grey underneath, very long hair, I don’t want to give up the length, how do I go grey naturally Is there a shampoo to speed up the process? Right now my hair is a medium reddish brown, Is there anything I can do,? , besides cutting my hair extremely short? My hairdresser said to get my hair stripped,that can damage the hair, Don’t want to take that risk, Open to suggestions, what does color oops do? Could that help ?

    1. Reply

      Lisa Fennessy

      Hi Regina! I know it sounds super scary right now but you can do this. You can absolutely go “cold turkey” and just wait it out OR you can get creative. Here are 9 additional ideas to help with growing out gray hair. Hope this helps. xo, L

  8. Reply

    Lisa Cole

    Hi Regina -you could be my twin. I’m almost 56 and have been coloring for about 35 years. My hair sounds about the same level gray as you and my hair is also down to my bra strap. I’m going for my first appt with my colorist on Wednesday and biting the bullet and taking about 5-6 inches off. It will be so much healthier, give me an instant feeling of success (less hair to feel like I have to grow it out over many months) and just give me a boost of enthusiasm for CHANGE on many different levels. My word of the year is “grow” – this transformation aligns perfectly with my intentions. Cheers to you in your journey!

  9. Reply

    Beth

    I am in the process of going gray – not from dyed hair, just going gray naturally as I approach 54; I’m probably at about 10% now. My question is, how do you deal with the different types of hair on your head? The gray is obviously thick, dry, and coarse, but my natural hair is thin and fine, plus my scalp is oily – so, if I try to deep condition the gray, it over-conditions the rest of my hair.

    I appreciate any thoughts or feedback; thanks for sharing your journey!

    1. Reply

      Lisa Fennessy

      Hi Beth! I would recommend using a regular conditioner (not deep conditioning) and then using a treatment like this before air drying or blow drying. It helps to sooth, condition and defrizz hair..and leaves my hair feeling so soft. I love recommending this because it is super light and water-based (not oil-based) and it wont weight hair down. If you try it, be sure to let us know what you think! xo, L

  10. Reply

    Lisa

    I am 8 weeks in and waver between feeling excited/empowered, and unattractive/unkempt. I am really sure this is the right thing and the right time but am worried I will be depressed every time I look in the mirror for the next year and a half. In hindsight I wish I had done this in my forties when I felt more confident about my youthful looks! lol My hairdresser really wants to blend with foils, but I have heard nightmare stories about this. Any success stories you can share?

    1. Reply

      Lisa Fennessy

      Hi Lisa! I totally hear you and you are not alone! I never tried foils but I know it’s a great option for some. The best advice I can give is to join The Gray Book on Facebook where over 16 thousand women who are going gray come for encouragement, support, solidarity and inspiration. I bet if you ask this exact question there you will get your answer! xo, L

  11. Reply

    Rose

    My hair seems crazy! I have used a toner since December last year. It used to be the darkest brown. Then gradually dyed it blinde . It’s been blonde for 6 years. I’m tired of having to do the roots. I think l look old now with my multicolor. I kinda go back and forth about it but it is much healthier since l stopped dying. The toner lose is nourishing.

    1. Reply

      Lisa Fennessy

      I love the idea of using a toner. I sometimes think about using a gloss to add more shine and smoothness…has anyone tried that? xo, L

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