WORDS BY NIKKI SORBELLO
It’s been lauded as the newest red-carpet style. Something appropriated by young women looking for an edge. It may seem like grey hair is the new black, but how many are actually brave enough to surrender and let their natural locks flow?
For those who have the courage to ditch the dye, there appears to be empowerment on the other side. These women talk in an enviable way. They talk a lot about freedom – of time, of youth-obsessed culture, of money and of worry.
Maria Ebert (pictured left), Samantha Ephraims (centre) and Donna McMah (right) had never met before their Crush Magazine photoshoot, but in an easy camaraderie they were soon swapping very similar stories about going grey. From having to find new hairdressers to realising they needed a new wardrobe.
Sam was 35 when she had a “realisation”.
“I was sitting in the hairdressers trying to entertain my kids and thinking, ‘this is crazy, it’s ridiculous, I’m just out’. It was just taking up so much time and I realised I wanted the time back more than I wanted brown hair,” Sam said.
At 50, the decision was more gradual for Donna, but now she wishes she had done it 20 years earlier.
“I’d thought about it and wondered about it quite a bit. But it took my eldest sister to actually go grey to inspire me, because she looked fabulous. After that my mind had been made up,” Donna said.
Maria experimented with her hair, going grey twice, first at 37 then again in her late 40s.
“When I was 37 it was a very silver grey, not the white grey it is now. And then I went back to a darker colour, then to blonde, now to this and I just love it,” Maria said.
Despite the fact momentum is building for the grey movement, there is still a lot of stigma around women allowing their hair to be grey. While men are affectionately called “distinguised” or “silver foxes”, for women it is still regarded as a hair colour of the elderly.
Sam said embracing grey hair wasn’t the same as accepting “looking old”.
“I think there’s this whole idea that it is letting yourself go, like you’re not interested in personal care anymore,” she said.
“But for me, it wasn’t about letting myself go. It was about embracing who I really was. And I’ve spent that time working on other parts of myself.
“I’m not letting myself go, I’m just taking a new direction.” For Donna, there was freedom in showing her true colour.
“People say they feel defined by their hair, and I have always felt that too, but now that I am grey, I still feel that way. I love my hair, and now I’m not worrying about getting in the pool, or how my hair is going to look for a special occasion. It’s just liberating,” Donna said.
Maria said her grey hair had enabled her to feel the most confident she has ever felt.
“I think it suits me better. I feel like I actually look better. I used to think I’d look sick if I let my hair go grey. But I look back at my old photos now and think the opposite. I think I actually look healthier now,” Maria said.
The process of embracing their natural hair has also flowed into wardrobes and makeup bags.
“I’ve never been the sort of person who would get ‘my colours’ done, but I just couldn’t get my makeup to look right,” Sam said.
“You also need to adjust your wardrobe and even jewellery. I found I switched from gold to silver.”
What would you say to someone curious about going grey?
Maria: “Grow your permanent colour out, and then you’ve got greater flexibility to use rinses and have a play and see what makes you feel the best. Then if you do want to make that change it’s easier and a bit quicker.”
Sam: “As a person with long hair, I wish I’d taken the opportunity to get a pixie cut. In hindsight I wish I had just chopped it all off and grown it back out from zero.”
Donna: “Just do it. Fight the fear and just give it a go.”