I, to my chagrin, discovered a few white hairs along my hairline the other day. Thinking that they might just be very blonde – my regrowth is dark blonde, and it’s summer, so it’s possible – I pulled one. Its texture at the colour change was distinctively different. At the age of 33 and one week, I was showing the signs of going grey.
Some women might see that as a scary sign of ageing, to be hidden with dye, or at least plucked out on sight, but I think it’s actually kind of cool. My grandma never let her hair go grey naturally, but my great-grandma had the most beautiful head of lustrous silver hair, that she always kept neatly tucked back in an old-fashioned bun. I remember one occasion, however, when I spent the night at her house, and I saw her with her hair down. It was so much longer than I had expected, and thick and shiny and simply stunning. I’ve always thought that if I could go grey like that, I would wear it proudly.
How to do it is a somewhat daunting task. My hair is waist-length, and I’ve been dyeing it red/auburn for a couple of years now. So that means that my natural colour is an elusive thing. I do *not* want to bleach my hair. It’s seen enough damage already. And colour stripping products, be they salon or drugstore brands, leave you in need of re-dyeing. Not my aim. Thus began my quest for the nicest possible way to lift some of the pigment that has been deposited in my hair without frying it to the point where I find myself chopping it all off.
The internet is a wonderful thing. So many people are using household products on their hair to try and reverse their dye jobs. Some things sound scary – laundry detergent, grease-fighting dish soap -, some bleaching, like lemon juice, and some that seemed more doable.
I decided to try the least scary one I saw. Baking soda and clarifying shampoo. After making a small bowlful of a paste, I wet my hair with water I had softened with borax – I figured if it got my laundry cleaner, it couldn’t hurt – and worked the paste into my hair. it didn’t smell bad, or sting, or do any of the things that nasty chemicals do. So I left it on for the better part of the afternoon. Oh, and the last time I dyed my hair was a couple of months ago, so it was not fresh colour. As I rinsed and then re-shampooed my hair, the water and lather ran surprisingly red. I was not expecting that much to come out! I slathered on a generous handful of conditioner and was anxious to see what it would look like dry. It was noticeably lighter. I had, however, been overzealous with the leave-in conditioner, and my hair didn’t look really clean, and it wasn’t shiny, but it felt soft. So, a success, I think, and a method worth repeating in a week or two, once my hair is back in balance.
The second thing I did was a product of more research and insomnia. Heat opens the cuticle of the hair. Some oils are able to penetrate the hair at that point. The theory behind hot oil treatments to remove unwanted hair dye is that the oil will get in there and dislodge some of the pigment. So late last night, I slathered my head with enough olive oil to thoroughly soak my hair and scalp, with some essential oils thrown in for good measure. After wrapping my head in a plastic bag and then aluminium foil, I watched a movie. My head was toasty warm, and my scalp was really happy. Not an unpleasant experience at all. After shampooing and conditioning, I could feel a difference even when it was wet. A tiny bit of conditioning spray, and I decided to let it dry naturally. This morning, my hair was even lighter! It’s still a red/brown, but much less intense. And it is now shiny and soft, and much better than yesterday.
This might just have to be my regime as I try to lift as much of this dye as I can without bleaching my hair.
And the big reason why I want this colour to go away is that if I am indeed going to go grey at this age, I want it to happen fast, and gracefully. I think I’d actually be disappointed if only a little bit changed at a time. I want a full head of gleaming silver hair. Weird, I know.