On Going Grey

The last time I told my parents that I wanted to stop putting henna in my hair, they said I was too young to go grey. I don't know how much older you have to be than 38 (my age), to sport a streak of grey, but I take it as a compliment. I’m too young. 

Many years back I read an article about grey hair in one of the international editions of the magazine I worked for. The author wrote about why women should colour their hair. She gave the example of a movie (which I wish I could remember), but basically explained how the actress with coloured hair looked younger and livelier as compared to the serious, salt and pepper one. It was a surprise because I was expecting the story to glorify grey hair and not talk it down. Plus, it was a magazine of international repute, which celebrated women across ages, so to have such a strong opinion about hair colour (a very personal choice) was a startling to say the least. 

For me grey is a sign of confidence, comfort and elegance. Think about it - they always stand out, the grey haired ones. Whether they’re in their ikat sarees with smear of surma around the eyes, or standing tall in a white shirt and red lipstick. Their hair could fall in long waves or be cropped into a soft, face-framing pixie. Artistic, stylish and unique, they never fail to intrigue and intimidate.  

Of course, I’m none of the above, because I’m too chicken to stop colouring and of course too young :). So I asked three chic women (writer/photographer Nishat Fatima, yin yoga master Savira Vohra Gupta, and ashtanga expert Bindiya Sabherwal) their thoughts behind going grey. 

Did you always have grey hair?

 Bindiya Sabherwal

Bindiya Sabherwal

I started to go grey after I turned 40. I enjoyed the process because it just felt more natural to me. I didn't have inhibitions about it. During that time I also went to Tirupati and shaved off my hair. When the hair started to grow out it just felt natural and innate. But I coloured my hair two years ago because everyone said that you look so young you should colour your hair. So I thought if I had to try it it would be then. But now I’m grey again because it just didn't feel natural to me.
- Bindiya Sabherwal (B.S.)

 Nishat Fatima, photograph by Dimpy Kapur

Nishat Fatima, photograph by Dimpy Kapur

I had a little tuft of grey at my forehead around the time I was 12. I have no idea why. It started to spread in my 20s.
- Nishat Fatima (N.F.)

 Savira Vohra Gupta

Savira Vohra Gupta

No...like most women I had black hair but would experiment with colour. I believe that every stage in life requires a change in our outlook, path and oneself.  When I hit 50 is when I decided that it was time to change.
- Savira Vohra Gupta (S.V.G)

What’s the best part about it and what’s the worst?
There’s no maintenance and I also have short hair right now so it’s completely easy. The worst is the looks people sometimes give me, like young face, grey hair - they don’t get it.  
- B.S.
The best part, it makes you distinctive. It's also a little bit thumbing your nose at stereotypes of age and looks. The worst, struggling with throwing off those stereotypes myself, and not wanting it to be quite SO grey. 
- N.F.
It is already grey! I do not need to worry about maintaining the colour. Honestly there is no worst. As long as you have a great cut then you have nothing to worry.
- S.V.G

If one has been getting their hair coloured, how does one go grey?
I just went bald again and then it came back naturally.
- B.S.
A couple of options, cut your hair really really short and let it grow so the roots don't look too bad and the roots to black hair ratio is not overwhelming. Or colour it grey - you can test run it. It's hard to go from black to grey especially when it does reflect your age, so more than anything you need to be mentally clear and not be too hard on yourself which ever way you go.
N.F
I would recommend doing it in stages. Start with just a root touch up on the crown of the head (slowly reducing the circumference). Allow the back/sides to slowly go grey. With each stage make subtle changes to your haircut/style. A good cut is IMPORTANT. Add low lights closer to the face to enhance.
- S.V.G

Is there any makeup that you feel looks amazing with grey hair?
I don’t know much about makeup but we had a shoot the other day for Nicobar and they had done very soft, natural makeup and that looked really nice. When I had longer hair I would put on lots of kajal but now I only put eyeliner and a little bit darker lipstick.
- B.S.  
I have settled on what looks good on me (red lipstick) but I see Monica Vaziralli and she does totally different makeup. I think what suits your face has only a small part to do with the colour of your hair.
- N.F.
Natural is the magic word. Keeping my makeup simple and quick is the best way for me. I use a Lancôme Liqui-Pencil Eyeliner and Le Crayon Poudre to enhance my brows. Lastly I use soft colours on my lips.
- S.V.G

Do you feel like your skin is better because you haven’t coloured your hair?
My skin changes with stress - I don't associate hair colour with my skin.
- B.S.
I don't think so. I know people with great skin who have coloured their hair and also those who haven't coloured their hair. I put great skin down to genetics for most people. And a whole lot of care in others.
- N.F.
Keeping a healthy regime for my skin is important regardless of the colour of my hair, however since I have stopped dying my hair, the texture, feel and growth of my hair is fabulous.
- S.V.G

What do you do in the free time that you might have spent colouring your hair?
I don’t know how to answer this question. When I used to colour my hair it didn't take that much longer. It was just that when it went a little grey on the sides it looked a bit untidy. The touch-ups really irritated me. I went for full colour only twice in a year and a half. I go for regular pedicures in any case go getting my hair coloured was not a hassle.
- B.S.
Waste it on Twitter and Instagram, probably.
- N.F.
To put it simply...you save money. As for time I find myself at my hairdressers every 6 weeks, which gives me time to do other  fun activities.
- S.V.G

Do men find your hair attractive?
There are a few men and women who complimented me when I was bald and grey. The ones who did were definitely more mature. The best compliment I got was when someone told me that my grey hair just showed how secure and comfortable I was.
- B.S.
I don't know if any one actively seeks out white hair or even black hair. I'd say if they find you attractive, they find you attractive. Grey hair is tricky because it's considered a sign of ageing and the world will have you believe that ageing is undesirable and unattractive. It's something we have all internalised, too. Grey hair can make you feel less than your best. But if you're young and either go prematurely grey or colour your hair grey, that says different things about you than if you are older and stay grey. The way men see you depends on the age and mindset of the man as well. I don't think there's a one size fits all answer.
- N.F.
Honestly.. this never did cross my mind. I am secure in the way I look and feel. In my experience a man will find you attractive because of your personality and who you are rather than your 'grey hair'. 
- S.V.G

For how many years have you had grey hair?
Eight years now and slowly the white bits are increasing.
- B.S.
Around 25.
- N.F.
Going grey has to be done gracefully and in stages. I began the baby steps at 52, tenderly accepting this natural ageing process. Family and friends could slowly adapt to the person I was becoming. I love my grey hair and the freedom of being the woman I want as oppose to what society and media portray for a woman of my age. I have come into my own and will keep evolving into the person I want to become without the burden of media/social pressures.
- S.V.G

Lead image: Shutterstock