My Crowning Glory

Besides skincare, who doesn’t spend a lot of time and effort on their crowning glory?  I know I do.  In my life time, I had kept my hair long, had it straightened and permed, dyed and highlighted, and worn it short.  Unfortunately, I am not one of those blessed with smooth fine hair.  My hair is coarse and thick.  Worse, it started greying in my 20s.  Yes, I have been dyeing my hair for almost 30 years.  I spend about S$200 for each visit, dyeing my hair and getting it treated so it would not be so dry, every 6 weeks.  And in between salon visits, I touched up the roots myself because the growing white patch looked so ugly.  I even had spray-on brown colour dye which washes off easily for the times when I didn’t have time to touch up.

My last dyeing session was in May this year.  My hair stylist told me I was almost 100% grey and encouraged me to embrace silver and go natural.  I felt so sad.  I had long straight hair then, after straightening it in early Dec before I left for the US.  I thought I looked lovely.  With my good skin and slender built, I was able to pass off as early 40s.  To go natural grey would be like admitting to the world that I was old.  I didn’t want to be called grandma.  But some friends encouraged me to try it especially now that I am not working.  What is the worse that can happen, they asked?  If I hate it so much, I could always go back to dyeing.  If I don’t try it, I will never know.  Besides, grey seems to be the in-thing these days.  A lot of youngsters are getting their hair bleached and dyeing it silver.  But I can’t keep my long hair anymore — I think it would look absolutely ghastly to have long silver hair.  Cutting it short has its advantage — Singapore is so hot and now that I am not working, I spend a lot of time outside of air conditioning.  So keeping my hair short was good.

So on July 1st, I had my long hair cut short, getting it ready for my journey into silver.  For the first time in 10 years, my hair stylist didn’t have to mix the hair dye for me.  It felt liberating.  She gave me a light perm to add some body to my hair (and to lighten my previously-dyed dark brown hair) and I walked out of the salon with short, wavy hair.  Over the weeks, I had to let my grey hair grow out and to resist all attempts to cover my fast-growing grey roots.  Yes, I looked a sight.  I resorted to wearing caps and head scarf to cover the growing silver patch on top of my head.

Transitioning to grey was the hardest.  If you want uniform grey, without the 2 tones, you have to bleach your hair.  There is no such thing as colouring your hair grey.  Our naturally dark hair cannot take a light colour.  Imagine when you do water colouring, and you are trying to add different colours to your black paint!  Nothing will show up unless you add lots of white paint into your black colour until it finally turn greyish.  Only then can you start adding in other colours and even then, the colour never turn out right.  Adding white to black paint is the bleaching process.  I didn’t want to bleach my hair and damage my scalp and hair — my hair quality is bad enough (even with regular treatments) with years of dyeing and straightening.  I don’t need my hair to become hay!

Now began my torturous journey!  I looked a sight as my silver top expanded ever so slowly.  I resorted to spraying temporary brown colour which washed out easily when I shampoo.  This turned my hair into 3 tones — silver (because you can’t spray every grey strand!), fading brown (from previous dyeing), and the newly sprayed brown.  So out came the cap and head scarf, which can look quite cool if you ignore the greying hair at the bottom of your head.  Invest in a nice head scarf and ignore stares from people who think you are balding from chemo treatments!

Finally, on Aug 25th, when I had enough of the 2-tone, 3-tone hair, I went to my hairdresser and said “cut off all the brown and give me a short and snazzy look with all grey”.  I had to close my eyes as the brown hair fell away with each snip.  My heart fell and I fought back the tears.  This is it.  I am turning to Granny-hood. When all was done, I couldn’t bring myself to leave the salon.  I didn’t recognize the silver hair lady staring back at me in the mirror.  It was more traumatic than I imagined.  When I finally had enough courage to walk to the MRT station, I stared back at people looking at me, silently defying them to pass a judgement or make a comment.

I am still trying to accept this silver look.  I wear a cap when I take the buses and MRT so as not to stand out in a crowd.  I am starting to notice more people wearing their hair silver too, so perhaps there is really a movement into ditching dye and embracing silver.  Good for you, all the 50plus who have embraced silver.  It took courage and I am proud of you.  I think as long as you continue to take good care of your skin and health, and exude confidence and happiness, you can beat any dark-hair 30plus and 40plus.  I didn’t find a lot of photos of silver hair Asians on the Internet but if silver-haired Nancy Wu in one of her TV roles can look this good, I am sure I can too.  Add 20 years to her of course!  Here’s to all of us who have embraced silver.  High five!

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