Deciding to let hair go gray didn’t come easy

“Gray is groovy.”

“Gray is groovy.”

“Gray is…”

That’s my new mantra, about how beautiful I will look with natural gray hair. Just when I decided that was it, I was growing out my hair, two friends said they made the same decision.

Will any of us bail, and resort to a bottle of dye? We didn’t bet on it, but three of us are taking the plunge.

We are all going gray.


My idols these days are Helen Mirren, Jay Leno, Bill Clinton, Heloise, Taylor Hicks, Harrison Ford, Richard Gere, George Clooney, Clint Eastwood and Beethoven.

All proud gray-haired people.

I won’t be proud to be gray, just hoping for healthy hair. So far, I am half gray and blond. Unattractive at best; ugly really.

My retired sister in Ellensburg went gray years ago. It’s pretty, with some white in it, which she got from our dad. Our mom doesn’t dye anymore and she is salt and pepper.

Based on personal experience, I don’t believe Heather Locklear’s TV commercials about hair dye for a minute. I have never found that the product she pushes makes my hair softer, more lush or luminous.

In fact, hair dye makes my head itch. And when you dye your hair, with the same color each time, it always comes out a different shade than it was the day before. It’s embarrassing when people say, “Hey, you dyed your hair?”

Not “I like your hair.”

It’s like, “Oh, you got a new dress.”

That’s shorthand for “I don’t like your new dress.”

What should you say when someone at the office, school or day care arrives Monday morning with different colored hair? Should you mention it? I always hoped that nobody would notice when I went from Sahara to Sandy Beach.

On a splurge, I had my hair professionally dyed before my last trip to Las Vegas. It cost $120.

A hundred and twenty dollars!

Plus a tip.

I don’t know about you, but that’s more than I wish to shell out professionally coloring my hair four or five times a year. To save money, most of us amateur colorists go to the drug store and look over the 247 hair color selections from five different manufacturers promising long lasting, full coverage, multi-tonal and extra-body coloring products.

But should you select a warm or cool shade mentioned on the outside of the box?

You have to decide if you want semi-permanent color, demi-permanent color (lasts for 24 shampoos, with no ammonia) or permanent color with ammonia and peroxide.

Think about that. We are putting ammonia on our heads. I use rubber gloves to put ammonia on my toilet.

I’m sick of it all. Whatever you purchase, every hair shaft on your head will accept or deny the new color at its own whim.

Baloney on that. I am going to have gray hair. I sure hope my tresses will be luxurious. Shiny would be such a gift. So I will look 10 years older. Anyone who asks will be surprised at how young I really am.

And I won’t be feeding carcinogens through my scalp if I stop dyeing. According to the American Cancer Society, referring to a study done in 2002, women who regularly use permanent hair dye may increase their risk of bladder cancer.

Manuela Gago-Dominguez, MD, of the University of Southern California School of Medicine in Los Angeles, said, “In our study we found an association between hair dye use and bladder cancer, which does not necessarily mean that hair dye use is a major cause of bladder cancer.”

But when her team compared 897 patients with bladder cancer who used hair dye to a similar number of adults without bladder cancer, researchers found that the women who used permanent hair dye at least once a month were twice as likely as women who did not use permanent hair dye to develop bladder cancer.

Women who reported using permanent hair dye at least once a month for 15 years were three times more likely to have bladder cancer, and subjects who worked for 10 or more years as hairdressers or barbers were five times more likely to have bladder cancer compared to individuals not exposed, according to the study.

Maybe they all ate Twinkies too, but it’s food for thought.

To back up my decision, I found a sweet little quote by Edward G. Bulwer-Lytton, a British politician, critic and novelist. On gray hair, he mused, “It is not by the gray of the hair that one knows the age of the heart.”

My heart wants to go gray, but I’m not sure my head will agree.

Columnist Kristi O’Harran: 425-339-3451 or

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