You know that I am all for kicking it tres-au-naturelle when it comes to beauty, from personal care products to makeup to scents and perfumes. I coloured my hair from when I was 17 until about 25 and then quit cold turkey. I always thought my hair colour was mousey. The truth is, it was. The shine and health of your hair (and skin, and teeth, and nails, and eyes) is directly related to how well you are feeding your body. As I got healthier, so did my hair. Now, as I approach 40 with a toddler running about, my grey hair is coming in strong! I like to think of it as unicorn glitter. It sparkles in the sunlight and I do believe I have earned and proudly own, every single glittery strand.
My mom let her hair go natural after my dad was diagnosed with cancer, and it’s gorgeous. That’s her above in the photo. My mother-in-law did it too. Also gorgeous. And I am following right behind.
Would I love to have rich dark brown hair without a strand of silver? Sure. Is it worth what it takes in terms of chemical load and money to maintain that? Not even close. If it came to the choice of wishing to have no grey hair or dramatically increase my risk of cancer, you better believe I’ll take the grey hair.
Dying Your Hair Does Not Make You Look Younger!
What I hear from woman most often when we bring up this topic on social media is that they’ll look like an old lady if they let their hair go natural.
Here is where I tell you what your friends and family likely won’t: If you are over the age of 50 and dying your hair, you don’t look younger. I’m sorry, but it’s true. You look your age, but with dyed hair. If you are over the age of 65 and dying your hair, there’s a very good chance you actually look older than you would if you just let your hair go natural.
Instead of reaching for a box of hair dye or heading to the salon, I have started boosting my mineral intake and, more importantly, learning how to embrace the grey.
Harmful Ingredients in Hair Dye
Dying your hair once isn’t a big deal. But when you are colouring your hair to cover grey, the semi-permanents rarely do the trick and you’re likely having your roots done every six to eight weeks. This means frequent exposure to an intense amount of chemicals that are making direct contact with your scalp and being inhaled beyond the 90-minute colouring treatment. You are likely inhaling those chemicals for days. You can smell it!
Over 5,000 different chemicals are used in hair dye products, some of which are reported to be carcinogenic. Chemicals in permanent hair dyes can also react with tobacco smoke and other pollutants in the air to form one of the most powerful cancer-causing compounds known to man.
In the dyes used at your salon or at home colour kits, you may find:
- Paraphenylenediamine (PPD), which has been shown to damage genetic material and cause cancer in animals, along with cause allergic dermatitis.
- Coal tar, a known carcinogen.
- Formaldehyde, a preservative linked to cancer, developmental and reproductive toxicity and more.
- DMDM Hydantoin, a preservative that is a known immune system toxin (and has been restricted for use in cosmetics in Japan).
- Ammonia, a chemical that helps hair better retain colour, can cause irritation of the scalp, skin, nose, throat, eyes and respiratory system. It also weakens and damages your hair, turning it weak and brittle.
- Peroxide, a bleaching agent, can lead to skin irritation and skin burning, damages your hair, and in combination with other hair dye ingredients, may be linked to cancer.
- Toluene-2,5-diamine can cause allergic reactions and skin irritation. Animal studies indicate it can also trigger pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory immune responses. A compromised immune system is one risk factor that may lead to cancerous processes in the body.
Potential Health Impacts of Hair Dyes
For the second year in a row, Princess Margaret Hospital the premier cancer research hospital in Canada, has done a fundraiser, Colour To Conquer, to encourage people to colour their hair to raise money for cancer research. Of all the dumb cancer fundraisers, this one is near the top of my list. Hair colour, as mentioned above, contains known and probable carcinogens.
While I support the efforts being made to find better treatments and improve outcomes, I am also in support of increased research into the causes and contributors to the dramatically rising risk of cancer.
A study of childhood hair product use showed that the endocrine-disrupting chemicals – also known as xenoestrogens –found in hair dyes can lead to early menarche (first menstruation), which increases the risk of breast cancer.
A review of studies between 1980 and 2017 found that hair dye users had an 18.8% higher risk of breast cancer than people who didn’t colour their hair.
As with a number of other beauty and personal care products, there is some scientific disagreement as to whether or not they are harmful. You will find many scientific studies that assert there isn’t a link between hair dyes and cancer, or that results are at best inconsistent and inconclusive. Some researchers suggest this is due to the studies themselves being inconsistent: “Published studies lacked complete information on timing, duration, frequency and type of hair dye product use, and this information is crucial to determining if intensity, total dose, type, and time period of hair dye use is most important in assessing risk.”
As I’ve discussed before, we are never dealing with these ingredients and chemicals in isolation. The combination of the compounds in personal care products, home cleaning products, makeup, bedding, water, plastics, clothing, toys, the food we eat, our cell phones and other technologies, and more all contribute to our toxic load. We never know what element is going to tip the scales, which is why I choose beauty and personal care products that are as chemical-free as much as possible.
Increase Risk of Multiple Cancers
Women using permanent hair dyes have a greater risk of developing non-fatal Hodgkin’s lymphoma and multiple myeloma.
In animal models, there is a proven link between hair dyes and cancer. Human links are not quite as conclusive, but there are indications that hair dyes are connected to several different types of cancers including non-Hodgkin’s and Hodgkin’s lymphoma, multiple myeloma, leukemia, breast malignancies and bladder cancer.
Hair dye use during pregnancy is associated with an increased risk of neuroblastoma (cancer of the nervous system) and brain tumors in children.
Tips to Help You Embrace the Grey Hair
Given the number of chemicals in our environments and our food that we can’t control, why opt to add more to the load? This is such a simple thing to change – it involves doing less. It’s something you don’t actually need to do to improve your health. It’s something you get to stop doing.
If you consider that the average colouring costs $100 and to keep your roots from showing, you’d be looking at every six weeks, we’re talking about $800 a year spent colouring your hair.
I know how difficult it can be when you see those grey hairs overtaking your hairline! Growing it out is the hardest phase.
Ways To Embrace The Greys
- Express gratitude. Most of us experience grey hair as we grow older (unless you are prematurely grey at a very young age). Remember that we are very fortunate to be able to grow old – not everyone does. And if you’re rolling your eyes at me on this one, keep reading!
- Be part of a cultural shift. Going grey is becoming more and more popular nowadays as a beauty trend. Change and acceptance begin with one person, and if we all start to reject the unrealistic standards set out by the beauty industry. We can start the process of love and acceptance about our hair, our bodies, wrinkles, postpartum bellies and every other part of us that deserves appreciation.
- Think of the cost savings. Many women get touch-ups or other hair colour maintenance every 6 weeks. If you transition to grey, over the years you’ll save a lot of cash, which you can spend on paying down debts, travelling, having fun, food or whatever else you’d like!
- Check for nutrient deficiencies. Grey hair may be a sign of nutrient deficiencies, which can be part of a larger problem that is more important to address than vanity. Visit a health care practitioner to see if you are getting everything you need.
- Transition the colour: If you’re not into an ombre fade from your old dyed colour into grey, transition out of the full head dye job with some lighter highlights to help ease the transition to your natural salt+pepper or silver locks.
- Get a new cut! Grey hair also has a fun new texture (read: weird and wiry). It is best suited to shorter, more tailored cuts. I’m no hair-pro and truth be told, when I am fully grey, I plan to grow it long and wear it in braids or a bun (can’t wait!), but if you want to look fresh and stylish is your jam, a tidy bob or anything really above the shoulder will be your style friend.
- Support your overall health. I have a full guide to healthy hair here, but really, our bodies work as a whole system. Anything we can do to support our overall health, whether it’s addressing our diet, lifestyle, stress management, sleep, bowel movements, exercise, relationships or toxins in the home, will help us feel wonderful from the inside out.
‘Safer’ Hair Colour Options
I say safer with a caveat. I added this section to the post only because I knew there would be readers who would ask about the brands that are safer to use. There are some, however, I have yet to see any that I would use. Henna is likely the cleanest and safest, however it’s not extremely effective at covering grey, and will usually leave your hair a little orange after a few washes and/or a touch of sunshine.
Remember: There is no such thing as 100% organic hair dye.
- Herbatint Permanent Haircolor Gel
- Naturtint Permanent Hair Color
- Tints of Nature Permanent Hair Color
- Light Mountain Natural Hair Color & Conditioner
- Logona Natural Herbal Botanical Hair Color
- Surya Brasil Henna Hair Cream
- Naturigin Permanent Hair Color
- Madison Reed Root Touch Up
- Radico Colour Me Organic Hair Color
- O&M Mineral CCT Permanent Hair Color
For more on these brands, check out this full review here.
Though your glossy dark brown, platinum blonde, or aubergine purple-hued hair may seem non-negotiable and essential to feeling beautiful, confident and happiness, you may agree that being remaining in good health, knowing you eliminated the easy stuff to eliminate, might also be a priority. Let’s skip the hair dyes and simply return to our roots!
What are your go-to natural beauty products and hair care solutions that keep you looking gorgeous without the toxic overload? Share your best tips below.
(Note that links to multi-level sales pages will be marked as spam and removed).
43 responses to “Going Grey: Convincing Reasons to Let The Silver Shine”
I loved the information in this video – both about what hair dye does to the hair and how to offset the effects of getting up there in our years. Thanks to you- I have been using Living Libations for all my beauty care needs. I decided to stop colouring my hair about six months ago and the money I save, I get to spend on beauty products that actually nourish me.
It’s been my experience that as beauty products go, there is nothing out there like Living Libations.
This is great and just what I needed to hear. A little fear goes a long way. I am 46 and have been colouring my grey for almost ten years. I don’t want to be on of those older women with aged skin and jet black hair. I think I need to rethink this colour plan. It might be time to wean off the colour and go au naturelle.
You are most welcome! My mom too let her go natural a few years ago and woman go nuts over it. It’s always gorgeous!
I’d coloured my hair for about 5 years but the smell of the solution really bothered me. It also really stressed me out trying to keep on top of the grey! And then once I started using Norwex products and realized how many chemicals we unknowingly expose ourselves to, I stopped colouring and am going for the “natural platinum highlights”!! I’m lovin’ it! Oh, I’m also loving your almonds and chocolate alternative :-)
Right? Skip the hair colour and snack on homemade bon bons instead :)
Fabulous as always Meghan! I have been toying with not coloring my hair anymore, but growing out color can look so bad! Wondering if it is better to dye it back close to my natural shade or just let it grow? Thoughts?
Both my mom and mother-in-law have gone natural in the last couple years. Both had been dying it dark and over the course of the year they started lightening it and putting highlights in to ease the transition. Within a year my mom was all natural- and surprised too that she wasn’t as grey as she thought. Best to talk to your stylist about… or call my mom!
Thanks Meghan!! :)
I love this conversation about going natural! I am 45 with very dark hair and grey at the temples. While I know that if I dyed my hair I wouldn’t look nearly my age, I insist on being natural mostly because I’m lazy and a minimalist. But I also think that being healthy and fit is far more important than being greyless.
I have a feeling our society is quite a ways from embracing this viewpoint but I do believe the change in attitude starts from our individual choices, so Meghan I’m hoping that with the megaphone of your videos/blog/website you can continue to be a voice on this. Thanks so much!
Here’s hoping. Just seems such a silly thing to risk our health over.
I don’t know Robyn. You may want to check the henna based dyes you’d find in the health food store. Depending on where you are located, you may find people in your local health food store who has been trained on natural cosmetic products.
Loving this conversation! I started going gray pretty young (20’s) and when I was 30 decided to dye my hair. I did this for 11 years and this past January (my 41st birthday) I decided to ditch the dye and grow out my natural color. It’s about 80 gray and so far I love it! I’ve got probably two more months or so before all the dyed hair will be grown and cut out. It did look funky for a relatively short while, but now it’s pretty cool looking. I’m lucky too, because my new natural shiny, thick, and SILVER. I feel great about being natural and ditching the toxins.
Have you heard of Hairprint? It seems like it may be a natural alternative to hair dye.
My sister recently asked me about this topic so I decided to look this post up because you two have similar hair color so I thought this could help her out! I too have all of a sudden sprouted gray hair. Honestly, I think stress from this time last year really kicked up the changing gray in my hair. I do have a question, you mentioned taking more minerals? Do you mind expanding on what minerals you are taking and why?
Thank you so much!
PS- You’re awesome :)
I agree with you Meghan. I tried getting gray highlights two years ago to transition letting my gray grow out. It wasn’t easy and still took chemicals and cost a fortune. A year ago I decided to just stop any coloring or highlights and let it grow out. I’m keeping it cut in a short bob and get it cut every six weeks, until it’s all grown out. I’m about halfway now, and yes I have that ombré look. Not ideal, but my hair is so much healthier and I can’t wait to be all gray. I think gray hair is beautiful! And yes, I have earned every gray hair on my head. It is who I am. Love your moms hair! Thanks for sharing!
Thanks for this great article! I am growing out my color right now so it really reinforces my choice. Cant wait until its all in!
Thanks for spreading the message! I’m almost 40 and I made the transition to grey 2years ago. I waver sometimes but honestly it’s so freeing to not have to chase your roots every 3 weeks!
I have just one thought to add: grey hair isn’t always wiry! All my grey is at the front and it’s soft :)
Great information! Don’t forget about the “blue” shampoos for silver (or blonde) hair. They help enhance the silvery shades without the brassiness. I totally agree-a trendy cut is the way to go. I’ve only ever seen 1or 2 ladies who look good with long gray hair. Shoulder-length or shorter is more flattering, & the transition is like opening a surprise! I finally, for the second try, went gray at 59. A friend & l did it together & we had fun seeing the result. Definitely lighten up a little first, going from a dark dye to gray is difficult to watch! My friend went that route & boy l admired her for it! If you need an extra incentive check out the ever-trendy Helen Mirren or Emma Thompson.
I finally succeeded in dropping the chemicals when l found my scalp was itchy from the dye. I really felt the push to get healthy. Many ladies complimented the new look which was a nice bonus.
Helen Mirren and Emma Thompson really wear it well! Glad that you are loving your new look :)
Hi there! I totally agree about chemical hair dyes. I’ve been using an organic plant blend that is henna, cassia and indigo and I just love it. I get it as a powder and add warm water to turn it into a paste. It’s actually improved my hair and it does NOT wash out. It’s very permanent. It’s like a hair treatment every time I use it. Meghan, I’m surprised you didn’t mention this as an alternative. Granted, this isn’t for everyone. While you are putting it on, it smells like wet hay so I add lots of organic lavender oil to combat that. The blend I use only takes 45 minutes to work. I tried others that took hours.
Thanks for sharing this option to try! I do hope that going grey will become more popular and perceptions of beauty will shift towards an appreciation for our changing bodies as we age.
I have not heard back from you on your position on Hairprint. I tried it once and it was lovely. It works with your on natural hair color if you are brunette. It is organic and natural. I did let my hair go grey and i love it. I get compliments all the time. Thanks for the article
I’m not familiar with Hairprint and have not looked into it. I do hope in time our perceptions of beauty will shift and going grey will be celebrated :)
This article is so timely, I just let my family know a few days ago that am no longer colouring my hair. I’m choosing to embrace the grey like so many who have commented here. Although I would only get it done about once a year I decided it was time to just let it go.
That is great Jen! Embrace the grey and let it shine :)
After 10+ years of colouring my hair every three weeks, I have confidently embraced the grey. From long and darkest brown to pixie cut and silver. I am loving the new (real) me!!
I restarted dying my hair only after I stopped breastfeeding, and then it was using Naturtint which I considered a bit less toxic than some other brands. Now at 48, the combination of having to colour my hair more frequently and of realising that the age of my face seemed to be increasingly out of step with the appearance of my hair, has made me decide to stop colouring it.
Most of grey (in some parts it is pure white!) is around the face so, with the guidance of my hairdresser, I decided to put some very subtle highlights in mostly around the front. Yes, the bleach is quite toxic but I’m only expecting to have highlights put in a couple of times during my grow-out phase to help remove the stark straight lines of colour change. Actually, with the help of the purple shampoo to remove brassiness, the effect looks really good.
I also trimmed my length to a short bob and recently read a recommendation that grey hair should be regularly deep conditioned to help keep it looking its best, so I am trying that once a week as well. So far so good….
I have used HairPrint twice with pretty good results and color that is close to my natural shade without gray (ash brown). That being said, it is extremely time consuming and messy to apply. I ended up asking my hair stylist to apply it, but the process took about 3 hours, which was not cost effective for her or me. It turned out to be just as expensive as if I went to one of their “approved” salons, not that any are in my geographic area. The other downside is there is still normal root growth like any other hair color, which I saw in about 5 weeks, even though I waited 2-3 months for the next application. It also is permanently staining to clothing and I experienced more scalp itchiness and flaking off of the color after the application. Their customer support was very responsive and helpful to some extent, and the color was natural looking even after it faded a little. The coverage was good, but it did not always completely cover the resistant gray areas despite following their instructions. If it weren’t for the time and expense, I probably would continue with it, but it didn’t seem like my hairdresser was anxious to do it again, and I do not have the experience to do it myself.
I was lucky to not have much grey hair for a long time – and I was able to leave my hair it’s natural colour. I tried the natural hair dyes but I hated the smell – it just seemed wrong. Now I’m in my mid-40s with streaks of grey in dark brown. Sometimes I envy other people, but I think of the money saved. It annoys me that men (generally) don’t dye their grey hair.
When I’m catching public transport and I see another lady with grey streaks and natural hair – I just want to go up and high-five them. (I resist the urge).
Wear your grey loud and proud Emma! *virtual high-five*
Just found your blog and love all the well-researched information. This post in particular is on the mark. I dyed my hair for more than 25 years and then finally stopped after talking to an environmental health scientist. As I poured over the data about hair dye, I was so shocked at the health risks, I wrote a book about it: “True Roots: What Quitting Hair Dye Taught Me About Health and Beauty” Feel free to connect and thank you for all you do to educate women!
I am 54 and had colored my hair for 10 years. Last June I was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer. I have no family history of breast cancer. I have concluded that it was most likely dying my hair that caused the cancer as I have have always taken care of myself. After 8 months of cancer treatment my hair finally growing back…gray. I know there’s no way to prove dying my hair caused this, but I have felt such regret. I, too, hope it becomes more acceptable for women to age naturally and proudly.
I have been colouring my hair with henna since my 40’s and I am now 59. I had to start adding indigo as the years went on because my hair was too orange. Not the look I wanted at all! I have to colour at least every 3 weeks to cover my roots, and I am getting fed up with this. I had switched to henna and indigo because I did not want the chemicals in my body.
I too am thinking of just letting it go grey. I think the majority of my hair is completely grey, so hey, this is encouraging me to take the plunge.
I was afraid to look older, but as you said…. “If you are over the age of 50 and dying your hair, you don’t look younger. I’m sorry, but it’s true. You look your age, but with dyed hair. ”
So….. I shall give this a go. 🤷🏻♀️
YES! Give your natural grey a try!
I started my transition from dyes to my natural hair color 4 months ago. The only good benefit of coviv19 is it gave me the jump start. I feared it would make me look older, and it probably will, but heh! I am 65 yrs old and been worried each 4-5 weeks when it was time to get the colour done again. Now I am starting to feel freedom but even better no more bad chemicals from dyes in my body. Thank you for this encouraging article. I will keep going!!
I’m 50 and have chosen to stop the hair dying insanity. I’m so over it. You’re right though, the worst part is the growing out phase
I have been dying my hair since I’ve been 22. I have beautiful thick brown hair and over the past few years I feel like Im thinning a lot at the back. I feel it’s the hair dye doing it. I don’t want a bald spot or to have to do a comb over lol but I am very self conscious about the back of my head. I have tried 3 times to let it go grey. I’m still a chicken. The articles are inspirational.
I dyed my hair with dark permanent dye for 25 years and 3 years ago, at 46, I transitioned away from the artificial colour to my now natural pure white. It’s softer and finer than my original brown was, and glows shiny in the light, I love it! Interestingly, it’s now becoming streaked with brown, as my natural colour seems to be slowly returning as my scalp heals from all the toxic chemicals I used for so long. I highly recommend the change, it’s so liberating!
I started graying in my 20s and now at 37 I’m dying my hair every 3-4 weeks trying to keep the gray at bay. My husband tells me to “just let it go and see how you like it” but I haven’t been able to bring myself to do it. I feel inspired by this article and appreciate the educational info on the amount of toxins there are in hair dye. Feeling inspired but also hesitant to “let it go”. Thank you.
I literally just told my husband yesterday that I think I might dye my hair again – after a whole (COVID) year of growing it out and not coloring it for 8 months! This article came just in time to smack some sense back into me! The several inches of grey melting into my dark hair looks pretty terrible. But the thought of dying it and then starting to let it grow out all over again seems worse! Deep breath – I can do hard things! LOL!
Does anyone have experience using purple or blue shampoos on dark hair that’s graying? There are some good low / non-toxic options. I’m just not sure they would make much of a difference??
Hi Meghan, I have been gray for many years now but am wondering how I can cut down on the brassiness look. When I go to my hairdresser, she wants to use the purple shampoo but I know it is full of chemicals. I generally use Living Libations hair products. Thank you so much for this article.
Hi Judy. I haven’t personally tried this, but I’ve read that an apple cider vinegar/water rinse or an apple cider vinegar/coconut oil/water rinse may help. If you use a lot of high-heat for styling, that could play a role too.