Why I Stopped Coloring My Hair and Embraced My Silver

Silver. My hair is not gray, and it’s definitely not blonde; it’s silver.

Today I’m taking a break from talking about adoption/foster care to talk about hair – funny, I know.

Silver Hair, Maybe

I was in my mid-twenties when I noticed my first gray hairs. No matter, I thought as I plucked them out.

By thirty, there were too many to pluck, and a friend suggested I cover them with temporary hair color, keeping my natural dark brown color.

This began a routine I maintained for twenty years. As my natural hair became more predominantly silver, it became far more difficult to hide the bright color shining through. I colored my hair and it seemed within one week a bright streak would show along my part.

Sometimes I colored it myself; occasionally I had it colored professionally, but, of course, nothing changed how quickly the silver reappeared.

I tried many products to hide that streak, from colored mousse to something akin to hair mascara, to regular dark brown mascara itself.

By my mid-forties I began talking about letting my hair go natural and be silver. I looked at loads of pictures of younger women with silver hair, read articles, and talked with Russ and my kids.

At one point I began the process, even adding lowlights and highlights to break up the bright silver stripe of my roots, but after two months I couldn’t bear it and reverted back to the box of hair color under my bathroom counter.

Yet, I was always self-conscious about my roots showing and I was tired of the color.

The decision-making process began again.

17 months into the process

Why Not?

There were a few reasons I was hesitant about going silver.

1. |  The process. I knew there would be awkward phases of my hair growing out, no matter how much I tried to hide it. My friend and hair stylist, Kelly, was committed to helping me make the transition and was reading about it as much as I was. She had ideas for lowlights and highlights, so I wasn’t completely on my own, but no matter what, the silver hair had to grow in.

2. | Looking old. Would having silver hair make me look older? Probably – maybe? Or would I look more interesting? I wasn’t sure.  Some people make the simple assumption that gray hair (those people wouldn’t say silver) means old. Could I make up for my hair by not looking “old” in other ways?

3. | Having young kids. Would it be fair to my younger kids? Honestly, to little kids, I already look old compared to their moms, and when I go to my boys’ baseball games, I am the oldest mom there, so why not let my hair be what it wants to be?

4. | What if I changed my mind? The process of letting the silver grow in was slow – think 1/2 inch per month. Many women cut their hair short, but I was not prepared to go short. Many months into the process, I knew I couldn’t go back because I would never want to start over.

Going Silver

1. | Who cared about the color of my hair? If I liked the silver and Russ liked it, who was I coloring it for? Was it to keep people around me from knowing I had silver hair under the dark brown? Why did it matter if they knew? I was fifty – should I be ashamed of my age? Age is the strangest thing; every thirty-something person I know will be fifty some day. Nearly all of them will have silver hair one day too. What’s the big secret?

2. | I like being different. Frankly, I like being different. None of my friends had fully silver hair yet, and I was pretty sure when mine came in, it was going to be bright and bold. I felt ready for that. I’ve lived my life differently from lots of people, and I’m comfortable with it.

3. | I wanted to be my authentic self. Coloring my hair had begun to feel like covering something up, like I was ashamed of my silver, and I didn’t want to do it anymore. I wanted to be more fully authentic – that’s not to say I think you should stop coloring your hair to be more authentic! This was my own journey – you be whatever color you want to be! As a side note, sometimes color is just plain fun. My daughter put a temporary blue streak in my hair which I fully enjoyed until it washed out a few days later. This is all about breathing deeply and enjoying being yourself.

4. | I wondered about the chemicals. I put chemicals on my scalp every few weeks for twenty years. I have an autoimmune disorder and just the smell of the hair color made me question myself. Do I still use not-so-good cleaning chemicals in my home? Yes, but I don’t rub them all over my head and let them soak in until a timer dings. Maybe one day I’ll stop using those too.

dark hair

The Process

I had grand plans to blog my way through the process of going silver, then our accident happened about six months into the process and, as you know, everything else became of little importance. I took a few pictures along the way, and there are family pictures too.

The process felt slow at times and required my friend, Kelly, to experiment a lot with subtle highlights and lowlights. She did all the work, I did a lot of angsty reading online and pinned lots of pictures to our shared Pinterest board.

nine months

I knew I didn’t want to look blonde, and sometimes the color got too warm for me so we had to correct it. It was a learning curve, but we were both willing to keep trying.

As the silver came in, people began to notice and comment; it was shiny and they liked it. Other women, even strangers, confided they wanted to let their silver come in but hadn’t had the courage.

At one year, the transition was going well and my hair looked decent.

nearly one year

At eighteen months, I felt nearly there; I also cut it a little shorter to speed up the process.

18 months

At two years the last bits of blondish tones from highlights and lowlights were gone and from then on, the color of my hair was my own. What you see now is just the way it grows out of my head.

From time to time I see pictures of my dark hair and I miss it, but most the time I feel confident and healthy with my silver hair.

Last year I pierced my nose – somehow it seemed like a nice balance to the change of hair color. I’d been thinking about piercing my nose for a decade and the timing seemed right.

[Edit: This post is seriously so much fun, I keep coming back and adding little things. I’ve gotten several comments about piercing my nose at 52. I have to share the best story about it here. I asked one of my best friends, Kathleen, if she thought I was too old to pierce my nose and this is what she answered, “I think you’re old enough to do whatever you want!” I still laugh every time I think of it. I like my nose. Russ likes it. I’m pretty sure that’s all that matters!]

One more thing: Shampoo absolutely matters for keeping silver hair looking good. I use Matrix Total Results So Silver.


Question:

How about you? What are your thoughts on silver hair? Are you old enough to have any yet? Do you think you would embrace it? Do you have silver hair?

I would love to hear from you! It’s kind of a fun conversation compared to lots of what we talk about, right?


I have lots to do in preparation for heading to Seattle Wednesday morning. I may not be back on the blog this week unless I can squeeze in a little time while I’m on the road. I’ll try to post on Instagram!

I hope your week is off to a grand start.

If you’re thinking about ordering a custom Mother’s Day necklace, the deadline for ordering in time for Mother’s Day delivery is this Wednesday, May 3rd.

Thanks so much for reading, friends.

Lisa

This post may contain Amazon Affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Let me introduce myself. Russ and I are the parents of twelve children by birth and adoption, and sometimes more through foster care. I'm the creator of One Thankful Mom which has been as much of a gift to me as to my readers. In 2011 I became a TBRI® Pracitioner* and have lived and breathed connected parenting ever since. I'm deeply honored to be the co-author, together with the late Dr. Karyn Purvis, of The Connected Parent; it is her final written work. I love speaking at events for adoptive and foster parents. I'm also the co-founder of The Adoption Connection, a podcast and resource site for adoptive moms. I mentor and encourage adoptive moms so you can find courage and hope in your journeys of loving your children well.

39 Comments

  1. Stephanie
    May 1, 2017

    I am in my late twenties and have SO much silver hair. My husband likes to tell me that our pediatric cancer journey turned us both silver. However he is older then me and I have more silver hair go figure! I recently dyed it for the first time in 4 years because I just couldn’t take it. I plan on letting it grow out now though because I too don’t feel as authentic. Thanks for sharing this!

    Reply
  2. Lisa Thomsen
    May 1, 2017

    I love this blog post SO MUCH Lisa … At 55, I’ve been trying to decide how and when to go natural! My mom has lovely white and golden natural hair, and I am hoping mine does the same … She also ended up with a little curl when she let it be natural (go figure). Now all I have to do is get my hair stylist on board … She’s much younger than me and doesn’t understand why I would want to do it! Thanks again … Always enjoy reading your blog 🙂

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      May 1, 2017

      Thank you, Lisa. I really do feel free – free to stop worrying about my roots showing and about coloring my hair often enough. My stylist embraced it with me and we had fun with the process. Avoiding getting too blonde was the hardest part – but I’m very happy with how it all turned out.

      Reply
  3. Corry Sims
    May 1, 2017

    I’m late 30s and at the stage where there are just too many to pluck. I’ve been coloring but am also intrigued by the silver. I tell people it’s not gray – I grow glitter strands 🙂 I’ve been on the fence about letting it grow out, worrying if I’ll seem too old, as well. Haven’t discussed it with my husband – at 40 he’s very salt and pepper himself…but somehow men become more ‘distinguished’ while women simply appear ‘old.’ I saw your nose piercing at C4C and it helped push me over the edge on my decision to get mine done for my birthday – my family wasn’t thrilled but I think they’re adjusting 🙂

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      May 1, 2017

      Love that, Corry! A friend told me that when an older relative asked why she got her nose pierced, she told him she wanted her sparkle on the outside to match her sparkle on the inside. That makes me smile. Let me know what you decide to do with your hair!

      Reply
  4. Michelle Thompson
    May 1, 2017

    My husband told me that he married me to grow gray (silver) with! How could I not want the same. I decided I would never dye my hair. This August we will be celebrating our 32nd Anniversay!

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      May 1, 2017

      That’s great, Michelle. I wish we could share pictures in the comments; wouldn’t that be fun?

      Reply
      1. Emily
        May 1, 2017

        Lisa, you should have everybody who’s gone silver (who wants to) email you pics and you can do a follow up post with them 🙂

        Reply
        1. Lisa Qualls
          May 2, 2017

          That would be very fun – maybe I will put up a quick post asking for pics later this week when I’m traveling.

          Reply
  5. Melanie
    May 1, 2017

    Your hair is a beautiful compliment to your inner beauty! I too am on the journey of going silver! I just wanted to be who I naturally was! It’s very “freeing” to go silver! I started in December and can’t wait till it all grows out!
    It’s a judge lodge of color right now. Going pretty short Friday to make it quicker! Love you and your hair friend!

    Reply
  6. Kirsten
    May 1, 2017

    Gray hair is a crown of glory;
    it is gained in a righteous life.
    ~ Proverbs 16:31 (ESV)

    Reply
  7. Karen
    May 1, 2017

    I am 47 and stopped coloring my hair several years ago. I have had a pixie cut for several years (aside from an ill-fated attempt to grow it out) and I think that has helped with the gradual lightening of my hair. I have had a few people ask if I had highlighted it and I always tell them that God is doing it for me! My hairstylist doesn’t always understand why I like my silver, but having a funky, short cut that she can experiment with helps her get over it. I think your hair looks beautiful!

    Reply
  8. Michele Rice
    May 1, 2017

    At age 65, my silver hair has been coming in very slowly for about 15 years. To this day, I am still basically a brunette. I am just letting it happen naturally, and am happy it was not an early change. But now my hair is thinning fast, so my major hair related age process is going to be “When do I switch to wigs?” Embrace your silver whenever it comes. It could be worse!

    Reply
  9. Portia
    May 1, 2017

    I stated coloring my hair in my 30’s because it was boring dirty blond. Through my 40’s I fought the light roots. As I approached 50, I was is a bible study with several women who were much older. The older women I thought were beautiful and had aged gracefully had natural grey/silver hair. So I took the plunge went through the ugly root stage then cut it short and have never regretted it. No matter your hair color at some point your face gives away your age anyway – just decide to grow old gracefully!

    Reply
  10. Piper
    May 1, 2017

    Hi Lisa! I’ve silently read your blog for about the last 8-9 years. Not sure why I picked this post to comment on for the first time as so many of yours speak to me deeply. But alas, here I am. 🙂 Every time I see a picture of you these days, I’m reminded of how much I LOVE your silver hair! I stopped coloring mine at 37 and embraced my “natural highlights”. They’re slowly becoming greater in number, but I truly wish they would pick up the pace! I come from a family of young, silver-haired women, so there’s hope for me yet. 😉 And for the record, I have thought for a long time about piercing my nose also…but my husband might keel over if I actually did it. Maybe I can wait until 45 and blame it on a “midlife crisis”. 😉 Thanks so much for all your posts. I love your heart and authenticity. Big hugs from Texas.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      May 2, 2017

      Thank you for commenting after all these years! If I could hug you through my computer this morning, I would. I say go for the nose piercing, unless your husband really hates the idea. Maybe he’ll come around in time. I told Russ if the extent of my mid-life crisis is piercing my nose and becoming a foster mom – we’re doing good. 🙂

      Reply
  11. Erin
    May 1, 2017

    Lisa, I’ve followed your blog for years now and have been so impacted by your story and life as we’ve parented a special needs daughter and lost a child as well. And this post about your silver hair and nose piercing just makes me love you more! I’m only in my mid thirties but the stress of life with a special needs child and our loss has my grey, ahem, silver hair start coming in! Thanks for this inspiration!!

    Reply
  12. kimberly Mukes
    May 1, 2017

    I let mine go about a year ago. I get soooo many compliments on it. Sometimes I think it makes me look like an old women, but I had white hair when I was little too:)

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      May 2, 2017

      I would love to see! I’m thinking about way we can share pictures.

      Reply
  13. Emily
    May 1, 2017

    I loved this post!!!! I love your silver hair. I think you are beautiful. And I think you have earned your wisdom and “crown of splendor” through years lived fully and well!

    So question, do you wish you had just never started coloring it? I only get the occasional silver hair now but I kind of think maybe I just will let it come in as it does. I guess we’ll see when that happens. I have a close friend who did that and I think she looks awesome- she’s 36 now and is very salt and peppery. She was probably the only significantly-silver-haired mom of a 2 year old I knew, but so what?

    I also think I’d end up being really bad at upkeep of coloring my hair so it might just be better never to start.

    I really do think when I see silver hair that people have earned their wisdom and their hair color reflects that 🙂 I want to be someone who grows more beautiful with age due to growing in love and wisdom, and I don’t want to pretend to be younger than I am!

    …but maybe this is all really easy to say at 28 🙂

    One last thought: I LOVE when I see gray hairs in Ben’s hair or beard 🙂 like another commenter said, I married him to grow old and gray with him! It reminds me that we get to live our whole lives together and that makes me happy.

    LOVE you and love your hair and your heart.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      May 2, 2017

      If I could do it all again, I wish I hadn’t colored my hair because I think I would have had silver hair when I was fairly young, and then I think it’s really unique and makes a statement – and I kind of like making statements 🙂 That being said, I guess it depends on how it looks as it comes in. I would give it a try, and if you don’t like it, you could try highlights to help it blend in until you have enough to really go fully silver. It’s a fun experiment! Full color is a commitment though and the roots are a huge pain you may not like…given how well I know you 🙂

      Reply
      1. Emily
        May 2, 2017

        I really think I wouldn’t. My patience for beauty regimens that take significant time and THEN have to be repeated again relatively quickly is really quite small. 😉

        Reply
  14. Laurel
    May 1, 2017

    Hi Lisa. Your silver is beautiful. At 55, I don’t have much grey coming in (but, mine is definitely grey and not a beautiful silver). I had never colored my hair until age 40, and only then to keep my medium blonde that I’d always loved (rather than it getting darker as I aged). I still only get mine colored once every 4 months with my stylist, and do my own little root cover up on the in-between 2nd month. So, I’m not doing a lot. I, too, am definitely the oldest mom on the sidelines of my kid’s activities. 🙂 So, I like still “looking young”. But . . . if I had beautiful silver coming in like you, I think I would be embracing it, as well. I’m going to be “in your neighborhood” the 11th-13th. Maybe we can meet for coffee.

    Reply
  15. Emily
    May 1, 2017

    Also- I’ve read this post twice and both times at first glance at the “18 months” picture I thought you were Hannah (and Claire was Annarose actually ;))

    Reply
  16. Paula
    May 1, 2017

    Very timely! My hair is growing in after my chemo and it’s curly (!) …and much more silvery than I thought! I too have been dyeing mine for years. I still have a lot of brown, so it’s not a gorgeous cascade of silver like yours, but I think I’m going to leave it natural. Who knows when I might need chemo again and it will all fall out? My one concern is one you expressed…I’m already the oldest mom hanging at the elementary school (almost 54) and I feel like it makes me look older. Seeing how great you look gives me a bit more confidence!

    Reply
  17. Deb Romero
    May 2, 2017

    This was a fun read! Going silver really is a personal journey! I received my first silver strand at the time of my first pregnancy. They continued to come in mostly around the front part near my temples. I began coloring in my late 20’s. As you might remember, I had dark brown hair. When I was 40, I was still wearing it long (elbow length). It was around that time, as I hit 40, I embraced my age fully. I was tired of being “in bondage” to my hairdresser. If I ever had to cancel an appointment, that would mean at least 2 weeks before I could get back in and the result would be lots of those silver roots all around my face! I was too chicken to go silver with my long hair, so I began cutting it in increments. (I wish I had been bold and cut it all at once and donated it, but I did not.) The process was painful even with the highlighting and low lighting that my hairdresser did. I can’t remember the time frame now for how long it took. That was almost 18 years ago! I love my silver hair and the ease of it’s care. I get compliments all the time on it! Some people have even asked if I get it colored thais way. NO! It’s 100% natural. I shampoo it with a regular shampoo and that is it! It represents my many years of life, the journey of it all, and I believe this natural color God gave me is one of His gifts for me. Yours look beautiful! Thanks for sharing about it, I really enjoyed it!

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      May 2, 2017

      So fun to hear from you, Deb! I love your silver hair and I’m glad you embraced it.

      Reply
  18. Kristin
    May 2, 2017

    What a delightful post! I stopped coloring my hair about four years ago–the chemicals were burning my scalp each treatment! I couldn’t handle it! I will turn 40 this year and love my freedom from the pressure to cover up what God has given me (I’m sure there is a spiritual lesson for me in this!). I will now call it silver hair! I have been calling it gray but I love silver!!

    I am very proud of those silver strands–they were “earned” through being a pastor’s wife for six years and adopting our three precious kiddos (our oldest daughter was adopted internationally, our middle daughter is from a hard place, and our youngest son is an open adoption). Your blog has been a mainstay for me the past three years when we brought our middle daughter home–I found your blog after reading your posts on Empowered to Connect (we live in Fort Worth and had the privilege of meeting Dr. Purvis during our first adoption in 2006).

    Anyway, I thank you so much for your candor and vulnerability in your writing. It has brought me great comfort on many difficult nights with our child from a hard place. Most recently as we went from homeschooling to putting our two older girls in school. I know I’m not alone! We have started play therapy with our middle daughter, age 7 (filial therapy) and have seen great progress. We are hopeful. And are also trying to mend the bridge with our oldest who took a backseat while we were dealing with the difficulties that come with bringing a child from a hard place home. It impacts everyone and everything. (That dark place of trauma wants to take up residence in my home and by the grace of God, we are fighting it on our knees daily. It’s an ugly beast.).

    Please continue to write! It is making a difference! I’ve pointed many adoptive Mommas your way who have struggled. Thank you! You may have already done this and I may have missed it, but it would be really neat to hear from one of your kiddos not from a hard place–how they dealt with it from a sibling perspective?

    Many rich blessings today–❤️
    Kristin

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      May 2, 2017

      Kristen, thank you for your comment today. I’m so glad you found me all those years ago through ETC. I am still so honored I was able to be part of ETC; what an unexpected blessing. Dr. Purvis even had Russ and I come down to TCU for TBRI training way back in 2011; I had no idea how fortunate we were back then. She will always be one of my heroes. As for the “other kids,” my daughter, Annarose and I are writing a book about Giving Voice to Siblings and I’ve been speaking on the topic for awhile. It is a passion of mine! We’ve developed a breakout session together and will be debuting it at the Mosaic retreat in CA this fall. I’m so excited to speak with her and hope to speak more with my kids. They have a lot to say about how their lives were changed and how they’ve been shaped by having siblings from “hard places”. God does amazing things in amazing ways. Thank you for asking! I need to invite them to write more for me – you’ve prodded me to do that.

      Reply
      1. Emily
        May 2, 2017

        Lisa, do you have a link to the talk you gave where Isaiah came on stage and spoke at the end? I loved that. 🙂

        Reply
        1. Lisa Qualls
          May 2, 2017

          I loved that too. I don’t have a link to it, but I can ask if it is available somewhere.

          Reply
  19. A Moscow Mom
    May 2, 2017

    I think your hair is fabulous and just as God made you!

    Reply
  20. Gwen Spencer
    May 3, 2017

    Lisa,
    I started coloring my brunette hair when I was 38 for my 20th reunion to “cover the silver.” Our youngest was 3 and our oldest 18. I always said that when the youngest graduated from high school I would stop coloring my hair. The week before his graduation I spent over $300 at my hairdressers. That was it. I haven’t turned back and I haven’t colored it since. At the 2 year mark I was finally finished with the growing out period. It has been a wonderfully freeing experience. We were on the east coast recently where I got a lot of compliments on my hair, looking around I realized that literally no one else was silver. Your post is a great inspiration! Thank you for your transparency.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      May 4, 2017

      I heard from a mutual friend that you’ve grown yours out too! I hope to run into you sometime and admire your silver.

      Reply
  21. Michelle Howard
    May 4, 2017

    I always thought I would go red when my hair started turning grey. However, I started getting my tinsel about five years ago, and I quite like it! Not only that, but I’m far too low maintenance to mess with dying my hair, now, and roots are totally unacceptable!!! So here I am, forty, with strands of tinsel scattered all over my head.

    Reply
  22. jen
    May 7, 2017

    I love, love, love your silver! I have never dyed my hair and intend to go gray gracefully! I am grateful for older (though not by much) women who embrace who God is making them and confident enough to not feel that they have to cover up their age/hair color. Thank you for sharing your story.
    (I do have to say I wish there was a picture that showed your piercing though!) 🙂

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      May 7, 2017

      I think you can see it in the photo at the top of the post – sort of. I chose the tiniest diamond stud I could find, so it’s small; Annarose’s is larger. Hers is on her left side and mine is on my right. I’m glad you liked the post!

      Reply
  23. Carolyn
    May 23, 2017

    Silver hair is beautiful. It has so much character and well maintained, the shine is so pretty. My husband is mostly silver with a few dark hold outs and he is funny, he tells me I need to let mine go as well. But he still colors my hair for me because he loves me. I told him it is his job, you cut it, so you have to color it. Part of the job description you signed up for the first time you gave me a haircut. Eventually I will go silver, but I am not quite ready yet. I get a lot of compliments on my tresses, the henna gives me such great color that I am reluctant to give it up.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      May 23, 2017

      You’ll know when you’re ready. I started to go silver once, and then went back to my dark color, but when I started the process the second time, I was finally ready to do it for good.

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

I accept the Privacy Policy