In the last few months white-gray hairs have been sprouting on my head like it’s going out of style. Hair color, and especially going gray, is a tricky topic for any clean girl. One we haven’t discussed in some time…
So what are the options? Dirty dyes, magic markers, or long meditations on acceptance? Here’s how I see it breaking down.
The Dirty Way: We’ve always said that this clean thing is an 80/20 game. Siobhan and I both get infrequent highlights, and I truly believe that if coloring your hair is making you happy then that’s worth a whole lot of something. BUT, we wouldn’t be us if we didn’t remind you (and ourselves) that several ingredients in hair dye are known to be carcinogenic in animals. According to current research, the risk that hair dye causes cancer in humans seems slim, but this type of research is notoriously difficult to conduct. That’s why our motto is to avoid these types of chemicals whenever we can. And given that dyes are created to last, even the semi-permanent ones, when you dye your hair you’re living with these chems for a long time.
Do you dye your hair despite the known risks?
The Natch and Semi-Natch Solutions: Rebecca is a big proponent of henna, though even henna has not entirely avoided controversy (most of it around black henna tattoos). Then there are the so-called natural hair dyes (are they ever really natural?), which Siobhan ventured to try when we were writing the book. The results sucked, but that was a while ago.
Has anyone here found a natural dye they absolutely love?
Beyond that, there are the true hippie tricks like using coffee and tea and lemon juices to change one’s hair color.
Does coffee color grays in brown hair?
Diet and Prayers: We believe that what we eat affects how we look at feel, but can certain foods actually reverse grays? I wrote about this a while ago, when I met a woman who had been dosing on kelp—and, lo and behold, her white hair had started growing in brown at the root. Donna Gates, the author of The Body Ecology Diet—who also eats a regimen rich in sea vegetables—is well into her 60s and doesn’t have a single gray. When I met her she told me it was the diet and the twice-weekly colonics she’d been getting for years. You can’t make this stuff up.
Have any of you experimented with diet to reverse or prevent grays?
Acceptance: And last but not least, it seems more and more women are happily rocking their grays. My mother does it, and I think it looks great with her eyes and skin tone. The 38-year-old woman pictured above also looks incredible.
For the moment, I’m practicing semi-acceptance and going to be upping my kelp intake. But I’m not ruling anything out. If these grays continue on their war path, I may just have to take up arms.
So, which camp are you in?
The last dirty product I ditched was hair dye. I loved the fun of coloring, but more than that I am very emotional about covering my grey. One day I hope to rock an edgy silver bob, but that’s a decade or two off still.
If you are one of those who embrace your natural aging process—and your grays—more power to you. But if, like me, you want to cover them and stay clean, henna is a great way to do it. It’s also a fun way to play with color, and easy too.
Almost everything I know about henna I learned from Henna For Hair and from experimenting on my own. I highly recommend checking out that site for recipes, techniques, and the chemistry of henna. They cover everything. And they sell the body art quality henna I have used for over a year.
Here are seven things you should know.
1. Henna, in combination with other plants known as cassia and indigo, can do any color from strawberry blonde, through the reds/auburns and browns to black. It cannot do a true blonde, and it cannot make your hair lighter.
2. High quality henna covers grey beautifully, and is permanent. You will need to do your roots as often as you would if you were using conventional dyes. Every so often you will probably want to pull the color throughout your hair, since, just like your natural color, exposure to the elements can fade color.
3. Real, pure henna will not damage your hair and is non-toxic. Sometimes there are boxes at the store that say henna on them, and it might be some version of henna mixed with other chemicals. I’ve never seen pure henna at any store.
4. Transitioning from conventional dye to henna is not as hard or scary as it seems. You can henna over conventional dye. There is a learning curve with henna, but once you get your routine down it is easy. Gorgeous, healthy hair is well worth it to me.
5. You have to plan ahead. The henna I use must be mixed up several hours before I use it to allow the dye to release.
6. Yes, it can be messy. But if you plan ahead and are careful it’s totally manageable. If you get henna on your skin or anything else, just wipe it off with some warm water on a paper towel. A proper mixture is pretty thick and won’t be dripping all over.
7. The color you end up with depends on your color to begin with, your ratio of henna to indigo or cassia, and how long you leave it on. Also, the color will deepen a bit in the few days post-application. The website has a chart with the basics, and many additional recipes. You can call them for advice (I did before my first time). Also, I did some experimentation with hair saved from my brush, and it alleviated my concern that I would end up with a weird color.
In Part 2 I’ll cover my personal recipe and techniques.
Have you tried henna? Do you want to?
Aging sucks, right? Gray hairs, wrinkles, sagging skin, and all the gifts of girlhood gone in the blink of a birthday candle. Certainly according the the beauty business it’s enemy number one. Flip through a magazine and you’ll see just how much money goes into researching—or is that branding?—the latest and greatest anti-aging ingredients. And while few turn up sound science, and others are downright sketchy, women pay out the nose for these products because we seem to have accepted that this is our fate: to fight aging, well, until the death.
Obviously we all want to look our best. But on a recent drive back from Vegas—a strange place indeed—I got to thinking about aging, and why it is that I’m not really buying how bad it is anymore for our looks. And it’s not for lack of vanity: I can obsess over five pounds and that cyst on my chin with the best of them. But in my twenties, it was this idea of aging that really got to me: Every tiny new crease came under the looking glass, every new hair in an unwanted place was bemoaned. And it’s not that any of this has magically stopped, but I definitely don’t dramatize these changes like before.
Then it clicked. The reason I don’t obsess about aging with the same fervor as I once did is because I don’t buy, or buy into, the anti-aging products. My word… Natural beauty, you really are the gift that keeps on giving!
So I slather on the best creams and oils I can find, say a few prayers to the skin gods, try to stress less, eat sardines, and hope for the best knowing that I’m doing my best. And it turns out, if you’re not too worried about wrinkles and gray hair (I’m still a little worried obvs) getting older is kind of awesome. Here are six things I like about it. (Siobhan will do a similar list some time soon!)
And we would love to hear yours! (Note when I say aging, that may mean changes you’ve noticed from 20 to 25 or the things that you’ve learned now that you’re 60.)
1. Your skin is more consistent. Except in more extreme cases like the one I described here, according to our experience and the testimonials of other women, your skin does balance out with time.
2. You’re more comfortable in your body. Putting aside those five pounds or the cellulite on your thigh, living longer in our bodies often helps make us more at ease in them too. We realize sometimes the weird quirks make us interesting, we finally understand that the stuff we’re so unhappy with are things the lovers in our lives rarely notice.
3. You dress your body better too. And luckily these days fashion is all about dressing to the beat of your own drum anyways. Don’t look great in skinny jeans? Me neither! As we get older we’re more inclined to find the uniform that makes us happy, rather than trying to mold our bodies to the latest trends.
4. Unhealthy habits are easier to kick. Personally, my older body is a lot more sensitive than my ten-years-ago one. Case in point: After a few days in Vegas, my lungs nearly collapsed when I exercised, which apparently is what happens when you spend four days in second-hand smoke and scented air. This kind of sensitivity generally makes me less drawn to unhealthy foods, excessive drinking, smoking, and other bad habits I used to relish.
5. You don’t sweat the small stuff as much. With time we realize that even the crappiest of moments do usually shift. People get forgiven, arguments get resolved, bad hair days give way to good hair days. Such is the cycle of life.
6. You’re rewarded for your hard work (on yourself). Siobhan and I talk about this A LOT. If you are willing to put in the work, face your issues, look at what you’re holding onto from the past, you will be rewarded. How? Depends on each person, but maybe you’ll be less reactive, generally more content grateful, and less anxious. Maybe you’ll smile more which, as the photo above exhibits, is a very beautiful thing.
Other reasons getting older isn’t as bad as they claim: Meryl Streep, Helen Mirren, Susan Sarandon and French women. OK, let’s hear what you think!
Sea vegetables have come up a lot this last week and—to cut right to the beauty benefits—several people have told me that they can prevent, and even reverse, gray hair. In fact, during a panel discussion on health and natural beauty at the wonderful RakSa wellness center (if you live in LA, you must go) one woman in the audience seemed to have proof right there on her head. While her ends were white you could clearly see that her roots were growing in brown—yuh huh!—and she chalked it up to seven months of heavy dosing on kelp.
Now, I’m am by no means telling you that you can reverse your gray hair with some seaweed. While I’m excited to learn more about this supposed phenomenon—and we obviously both believe strongly in the powers of diet on appearance—I don’t have the slightest clue if it’s a reliable method. (PLEASE share in the comments if you know anything about this.) But it definitely got me thinking about sea veggies!
Seaweed, whether we’re talking dulse, kelp or good old nori, is an acquired taste. And even though I like it, I’m not always up for a full mouthful of the stuff—seaweed salads have been known to set off my gag reflex in the past. But these vegetables of the sea contain all kinds of wonderful nutrients, including A, C, E, B complex and B12 as well as calcium, potassium and iron. They even contain some omega-3 fatty acids. I got that straight from Dr. Weil, so. Of course, these nutrients are especially important if you lean more towards vegetarianism—but everyone can benefit!
That’s why I picked up the super convenient, organic and tasty Sea Seasonings pictured above. I’ve seen these at most health food stores and they are downright delicious. They are also a great low-sodium salt substitute if that’s important to you. I like them sprinkled on all kinds of things but here’s a simple salad recipe that works great…
Cucumber, tomato, avocado, chopped green onion, lettuce of your choice.
Dressing (for one serving):
Combine about 1 tbps olive oil, 1 tsp bragg’s, and a splash of an acid you like (lemon juice, apple cider vinegar and rice vinegar all work well with these flavor profiles). Add some black pepper if you want but you won’t need salt.
Toss your salad and sprinkle it with the dulse, kelp (or both) and a teaspoon of nutritional yeast if you have it.
This salad will seriously up the nutrition value of any meal. And if you’re looking to turn it into a full on vegan lunch or dinner, you can toss in some brown rice and a protein of your choice. I know tofu and seitan are controversial but I still have them on occasion.
Are sea vegetables a part of your diet? And more importantly: Do you know anyone who’s reversed gray hair with them?
We’ve asked you a a few times if you dye your hair, and it sparked a passionate and interesting discussion, particularly among those of you who dye your hair to cover up grays. Men, we know, have it easy when it comes to graying: They get called a silver fox, and are celebrated for looking even better than they did before the hands of time changed their hair color for good.
Do women get the same treatment? Hells no.
Still, many of you have never dyed your hair (looking at you, mom) and never will. And because famous people are our de facto (and unfortunate) arbiters of beauty norms, it helps that some famous ladies rock their grays. And while I can acknowledge that, beauty ideals being what they are, having gray hair as a women means you’re somehow “braver” than those who do dye, there is something inherently condescending and ass backwards about that.
One of my closest friends has some salt in her pepper and she told me a while back that not infrequently, people will point it out to her as if she hadn’t yet noticed. “Wow! You have a lot of gray in your hair!” Is it an insult? Not at all. But no one would ever say “Wow! You have so many pimples on your face!” because acne is thought of as something a woman can’t do a whole lot about. It’s not your fault you have a bunch of zits, so it would be unkind to point it out. But your hair—whoa, you know you can do something about that, right? Gray hair, then, is viewed as a CHOICE, which makes no sense because it’s actually the result of not choosing—of letting your hair be.
Anyway, we totally understand those who do, and we understand those who don’t. But after a conversation with a coworker friend, who dyes her grays and is particularly interested in what other women have to say about the matter, I thought I’d put it to you:
Do you dye your grays? If you don’t have any yet, do you think you will dye them when you do go gray? And if so why? We really want to know what informs the decision. Is it to look more youthful? Because you think it’s more professional? Because _________. You tell us!