Embracing the Silvering Crown - Naturally Graying Hair

It’s inevitable. The last frontier of a head of healthy, natural hair – the process of going grey.  We all have to face it. It will happen. All of us who are heading for a “mature” age, and even some of our younger women who have that early-graying gene, or the stress-caused change have to face it, though earlier than the rest of us.

Our hair will eventually lose its color and slowly begin to turn silver. (I am not going to go into the claims people have made about eating this and that (eg: wheatgrass juice, blackstrap molasses, nori, random vitamins etc...) and their grandma's hair not going gray even at 80 and theirs reverting back to black. I'm not saying not to try things, just that it's a subject for another blog.

We always see the photographs of beautiful, dignified, regal women wearing their silver hair with pride, in perfectly coiffed cloud-like puffs, majestic locs, intricate cornrows and sleek updos --- and always in full makeup and always with great lighting.  So we’re OK with that, right? Just look at this amazing puff on this gorgeous woman. I want to look like that one day. ONE DAY. But not today.

The reality is – we are all getting older.  Face it. We will look in the mirror one day, in that harsh bathroom light and see more and more wiry, short strands poking through in all different directions and messing with our two strand twists and smooth styles because they won’t stay put – making them even more obvious. Then face the conclusion that “I AM GOING GREY” and closely followed by “I AM GETTING OLD”. [insert frown here]

It’s a sign of maturity and a sign of ageing. It’s a sign of a wealth of life of experience and a sign of --- stress, illness injury or simple genetics. OK? We don't know why the lady over there is going grey.  When it happens due to age it causes us to think about how we see ourselves and how others will see us. On a bigger scale, if your graying is purely age-related it may cause you to reflect on how you have spent your life up to that point and how you are now closer to the end of it than the beginning. OK that’s depressing enough.

I went through a phase many years ago when I went suddenly went silver on one quarter-sized patch of my crown and was surprised by my reaction. I was forced to confront my fear of graying. To me as a young woman, graying hair represented midlife, menopause and the end of the fertile years – the end of fun and the end of youth – the approach of debility and eventual death. I saw nothing positive about gray hair and judging by all the ads for hair color to cover it up, I wasn’t alone in my beliefs.

SO, WHAT DID I DO about MY grey streak?

My partner is a hair stylist in the fashion industry, his specialty is cutting but he colors when he has to. His approach to hair coloring is that it is no big deal – not only do most women in his industry want to cover it, they NEED to cover it. They do not see grey as desirable or attractive but ageing so they pre-book weeks in advance so they are in his chair as soon as those roots are due to start coming through. So his reaction to my gray spot was a nonchalant “I’ll put a semi on it until it grows out”. So he did, it did, and I didn’t think much of it after that. It grew back in black and I had no other grey in my head. Then. Now I have greys starting to apear around my head in a few places. And I have to decide if I keep up with my rosemary and black walnut rinses or let nature take its course.


When your hair starts to grey out, you must first understand the concept that change is inevitable. But positive change is not. Where graying is concerned, YOU have a choice to make. Either it is a positive change for you or it is not. There is no point agonizing over it. Your hair is graying.  For those who choose the positive change and want to learn to embrace the transformation, there are things you can do to make your transition easier once you understand the following 7 facts:

  1. Grey hair normally grows in, replacing your colored strand that grew previously, during the regular hair growth cycle (anagen, telogen, catagen), after the shedding phase. This is why you first notice you have grey hairs, they are short. It is not because they have broken
  2. You may grey faster than normal if your hair is greying due to injury, stress, medications or disease.
  3. Grey hair strands can be thicker coarser and more wiry than your colored hair.
  4. Grey hair is just as healthy as your colored hair. It's just at a different stage of texture and type.
  5. The graying process can take many forms. It may begin at the crown, at the hairline and create streaks and patches or simultaneously throughout the hair as a kind of “ticking”, making a salt and pepper look.
  6. The speed at which you grey is individual and it can take from months to years for your crown to go completely grey, depending on the speed of growth.
  7. Your hair may never go completely grey.


Some hints to help you ease your way into your silver crown with the least amount of stress.

  1. Pre-shampooing is a must for the softest hair possible and can also slow the greying process. Try Organic Care Systems' Aqua Boost Shampoo or Philip Kingsley Elasticizer Pre Shampoo Treatment for two good ones. I prefer to use commercial shampoos rather than homemade ones, since it is important that the cuticle softens and opens and closes properly. Using a specialist pre-shampoo is recommended and not just any old shampoo. You don’t have to pre-shampoo every time, but at least every second time you wash your hair, to help it absorb conditioners and remain soft.
  2. Grey hair can pick up dyes from shampoos and soaps. Avoid using brightly colored conditioners, shampoo bars or shampoos which can leave a residue on your silver strands, turning them a dull shade of the product you used.
  3. Use a baking soda added to your conditioner to help remove color restudies left on your hair. But always condition well afterwards with a colorless conditioner. You can also purchase a commercial “toner” which will remove any color residue. However these can have some harsh chemicals in them so check the label.
  4. Use a clarifying shampoo once a month or one specifically formulated for gray hair.
  5. If you have a broad area of grey or a streak, instead of trying to blend it in with the rest of your hair, accentuate that area by styling it in a way that showcases it.
  6. If you prefer a distinctive style as you transition, wear hair accessories in pearl and pure white, which work beautifully to enhance and soften salt and pepper hair. Stay away from greens and yellows. Blues and magentas can work well also.
  7. Smoothing pomades, water sets and soft lines are a better option than rigid gels when your hair is starting to turn silver or you are salt and pepper.
  8. For a more gentle transition to grey, you can try some natural homemade hair recipes including horsetail, black walnut hulls and rosemary which can lessen the contrast between your naturally dark hair and the white hair coming through.
  9. UV still affects grey hair so keep protecting your ends as your hair grows in. Something like a light shea butter pomade or whip is a must for those ends and to keep your hair supple.


  1. DO NOT Pluck. Never, ever pluck the grey hairs out. If there are only the first few around your hairline which you want to hide, use cheap mascara or one of those color wands/brushes as a quick and temporary cover up.
  2. DO NOT Use permanent color at home. Only have a stylist apply permanent color to cover grey hair. Home results could be disastrous.
  3. DO NOT Use lemon juice on your hair when it is graying.
  4. DO NOT Use that brown gel.
  5. DO NOT Use a firm hold gel to hold in place combination gray/colored hair. Why? Because grey hair is a different texture from your colored hair. It fights against gel more than your colored hair, which will stay put where your grey won’t. Not a good look to have the greys sticking up and the black laying flat.
  6. DO NOT Put a brightly colored streak of color in your hair when it is obviously greying. Of any color. Please. Now is not the time.


What I have taken away from all this is that I still have a fear of graying but that has nothing to do with my hair and everything to do with me and my self-image. Greying is a visible transition that for many of us brings with it a mental transition, as much as we may try to deny this. Greying is a gradual process of physical change. You will need to get used to seeing yourself differently as your hair changes color from usually a dark brown/black shade, to silvery white.  

I expect to go through different stages of acceptance as my hair progresses to whatever end. My advice to you is not to limit yourself to any one response to your grey, or beat yourself up if you decide to color over it because you’re not ready for the change. If you want to color it, do it. If you want to let it run its own path, be happy with that. Like everything, going grey is a process and as individuals, we all need to go through it in our own way without judgment from other people on what we decide to do.

Make peace with your hair. Whatever you decide to do.

I would like to hear your personal opinions on going grey, if you have started, if you are worried about it or if you have already transitioned to that fully silver cloud. Have you always viewed graying as a positive thing? Or something to fear.

Last modified on Tuesday, 18 June 2019 10:48
Patricia Gaines

Patricia Gaines aka Deecoily is the founder and creator of Nappturality in 2002, the beginning of the natural hair movement. Since 2000 she has been blogging on all things natural hair, Black culture and politics.

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