I’d been colouring my hair since I was about 16. In those days it was just temporary colour to add an auburn tinge to my boring mouse brown, then later there were the semi-permanent brunette shades to cover a bit of grey, then as that became too harsh looking I went caramel with golden blonde highlights. My hair grows quite fast, so I was having my roots done every 5 weeks. Clearly this was not a regime that was suited to vagabonding.
I decided to grow in my grey well before we left the UK so that I would have access to a good hairdresser to help with the transition if necessary. I actually had no idea what my natural colour was, other than it was grey on top where my parting was, and I didn’t want to end up with a badger stripe.
In the event it wasn’t too bad. The young girl who had been colouring my hair really didn’t have a clue – I don’t think she’d dealt with a grey transition before. She advised just touching up the top and letting it grow out underneath, but I couldn’t understand how that helped – eventually I’d have to stop touching up the parting and that was the biggest problem. So after a couple of sessions I switched to an older stylist who knew exactly what to do. She applied a half head of ash blonde highlights with no base colour and sent me away with a bottle of ash blonde rinse. The rinse would help blend in the grey, and I would have more highlights in the new growth every few months.
As it happened I only needed one more lot of highlights – my stylist cut my hair slightly shorter than usual, and soon the caramel and gold ends were disappearing. It perhaps took 18 months for them all to be gone, and then growing out the ash highlights was no problem as they were hardly noticeable. I can’t claim that my hair looked wonderful during this period but it wasn’t awful – I continued to work in a professional job where I needed to look reasonably presentable. When the highlights were mostly gone I stopped using the ash toner, and that was that.
It turns out that I’m a nice silver grey on top, but there’s still a lot of quite dark brown at the back – it just looks naturally streaky now. It probably makes me look my age (in the past I was always told I looked younger) but I’m happy enough with it. When I return to the UK I might have blonde highlights to add some warmth but one thing I do know – I’m definitely not going back to 5-weekly root touch-ups!
UPDATE Aug 2016
We’re back in the UK and spending the summer in a small town in mid Wales, and it’s been a revelation. In the Thames Valley I would often be the only grey-haired woman under 80 around, but here there’s lots of us! As I walk down the high street I estimated only around half of the women my age have dyed hair. I don’t know if this is for economic reasons (there’s very little work here) or just that people are less superficial or competitive. I don’t know if it’s a rural thing or a Welsh thing or a combination of both. Whatever the reason, I like it!