How long ago did I commit to writing a post about How a CurlyHead Goes Grey? Let's see. . . it happened way back here, when Lisa of Amid Privilege posted about her own greying journey as someone with straight blonde hair -- long, straight blonde hair, which she kept long throughout the process.
For my own first steps down the Grey path, taken after several decades of constant colouring -- visits every six or seven weeks to have roots done or highlights applied -- I went the dramatic (or is that "drastic"?) route, chopping back a lion's mane of coloured and highlighted hair to something shorter than I'd worn for decades, maybe even four decades, perhaps five. It had been a long, long time since my hair had been this short.
Before and After, from photos my stylist took and then collaged together -- I can't figure out how to flip the photo so that Before is on the left, but you can figure it out, right? My clever readers...
So. Either I brave a new stylist in a different language (hey, I bought a bracelet with my limited Italian, but a haircut?!) or I find a Plan B. And that's what I did obviously. Here's how it went:
1. I'd deliberately booked an appointment as close to our departure date as possible, wanting to minimise the time away from a Cut-and-Colour. That booking, just before R hung the "Gone Camping" sign on her studio door, was almost nine weeks from my previous visit. Translation: my mane was shaggier than normal, the colour blonder thanks to extra sun time -- and the grey roots were pronounced enough, in those extra three weeks without retouching, to shock me a bit, and to invite me to think about what it might be like if . . . .
2. We chopped off most of the colour and took advantage of my time away to let me experiment with how it felt to have short, naturally greying hair. . .
What you see in these next few photos document those seven weeks -- By the end of this time, I had an inch, perhaps an inch and a half, of grey to perhaps 40% of my head, maybe more, although the back, as so often is apparently the case, stayed its original dark brown. At this short length, the curls were springy enough to disguise or distract from the incoming grey -- or, more accurately, I think, to blend it in with the remaining blonde highlights as those grew out.
These photos show the cut/colour in roughly chronological order, through Bordeaux in September through October in Rome, then Turin:
Last week of our Bordeaux September, above,
and one week into October here, in Rome's Villa Borghese . . .
Given that the scissors wielded twelve weeks earlier had chopped at hair seven weeks from any colouring, I now had roots that revealed almost five months of natural colour, a good percentage of it grey. Close to an inch of grey over much of my head. Did I blanch at the thought? Call for an emergency touch-up? Reader, I did not! Instead -- and I'm sorry, but I've searched my files and I can't find any photos recording this step in the process -- instead, I talked over the options with my wonderfully supportive stylist, and I decided to
3. cut off almost all the remaining colour, leaving my hair as short as it's been since I was ten or eleven (and even then, only for one or two of what my mother used to call "pixie cuts," supposedly à la Audrey Hepburn).
Yes, we went short short. Perhaps two inches, longest, if I remember correctly. I didn't love this bold length on me, so I may be exaggerating. I did get compliments, although they too often referenced how easy the style must be to care for. Not the primary message I want my hair to convey, quite honestly. I was, however, quite happy with the highlights we decided on -- a mix of a mid-brown and a nearly-blonde. Rather than disguise the grey, they enliven it and, okay, distract from it by giving depth, texture. And most importantly, because those roots grow out alongside the completely grey hair, there's no need to touch up emerging grey roots. What that translates into, practically, is much easier maintenance -- we add new highlights every four months, or every second or third cut. The cut-only visits, of course, are much shorter (and less expensive!) than the cut-and-colours, and I'm always a bit shocked now, to be in and out and still not quite caught up on each other's news!
Here's a Selfie I took in the Palazzo at Caprarola (about an hour's drive from Rome) at the end of January -- the curls are still too short for my liking -- I like a more relaxed, slightly wilder curl, and dislike anything that smacks, to me at least, of 50s perm -- but I do like the way the highlights and the grey are blending here.
1. the tightness I find too much of in the curls, at least as viewed straight on. . . .
And below, in a photo I took of myself in early May, you'll notice that Ronei and I changed the highlights from nearly-blonde and mid-brown to that mid-brown and a darker brown. The proportion of highlights to my own natural colour (which is a mix of grey and dark brown) is surprisingly small given the effect it makes, and for the time and expense it requires, I'm going to continue adding that much colour. I may begin to go longer between refreshing highlights, and I imagine a point when I may decide not to bother with any colour at all. I'm not there yet, but I'm very happy with the grey I'm now sporting. At our last visit, about a week or two before this photo was taken, we decided to leave the length alone so that the messiness I wanted might manifest itself -- the only cutting was to discipline the "wings" that were beginning to emerge about my ears.
In the meantime, though, for those who are curious about my daily maintenance . . . If you're a curlyhead, you probably already know that I have to wet my hair every morning. It's the only way I've ever found to erase bedhead and allow some control over the way the curls form. For two of those mornings, I rinse only, and on the third I shampoo and condition with Aveda products. After toweling dry, I work in a small amount of TIGI Catwalk Curls Rock curl amplifier, the only product that gives me the results I want every time (although I do have some doubts about ingredients, its stubborn refusal to rinse off hands without buckets of water). Once the thick cream is worked through my hair, I "scrunch" it into curls all over, and then I simply allow it to air-dry. Once or twice, as it dries, I "pick" volume into it with a wide-toothed hair pick, and I do this again once it's completely dry. C'est tout! As all curly-heads should know, Less is More when it comes to handling the curl. And never, ever, a brush!
The only change I've made to my super-simple hair care recently is that because I've been experiencing itchy scalp over the last five or six months, worse lately (I suspect stress may be playing a part), I've been trying out weekly home coconut oil treatments -- I work melted oil through in the evening and then shampoo it out in the morning. Even better, if I know I've got a day on my own where I don't have to show my head much, I'll work the oil in after a morning shampoo and leave it for the whole day -- and I've been surprised to notice that it's not bad as a styling product (for that one day, at least).
So there you have it. Good thing I'm accepting my grey because I'm sure this Big Adventure Called Moving is painting large swathes of the colour all over my scalp. . . What about you? Still colouring? Never coloured? Thinking about not colouring? Thinking you'll never stop colouring? Pin-straight hair that shows every grey root or curls that hide those roots a few weeks? Hair changing in other ways with our, er, certain age? Or is it all "tempest in a teapot" to you? Chat, please, leave comments, distract me today as we have a little something-something going on that I can't tell you about yet and that may turn out to be a disappointing nothing-at-all even as it's added a few hundred grey hairs to my head.