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The first time I ever wrote about gray hair for Allure, I was a 20-something beauty editor without a single strand of gray. My assignment involved contacting a top colorist and asking him to spill his secrets for camouflaging those pesky, silvery wires that other people — older people — had to contend with. The colorist offered helpful tips and practical advice, but he also suggested that the real stigma attached to gray hair had nothing to do with age. We don’t see a woman with grays and think, “Wow, she’s old,” he explained. Instead, we think, “Wow, she let herself go.”
That was over a decade ago, and plenty has changed. For one thing, fresh, young beauty editors don’t write anti-aging stories anymore. For another thing, we’ve abolished the term anti-aging. And there are lots and lots of things (two kids, genetics, sluggish cell turnover, that summer I spent smoking in Italy) that have conspired to give me grays. They form an alternating pattern of light and dark, like pinstripes. They glisten when I look in the mirror so that the first thing I notice about myself is my gray hair. It’s probably the first thing that other people notice about me, too. And I’m in good company. More and more women are embracing natural pigment loss, proudly defying the worn-out (and, frankly, insulting) notion that snowy hair is an elegy to youth, beauty, sensuality, and relevance.
What’s the reason for the dramatic attitude adjustment? Search me. But I do know I’m too busy engaging with life to spend hours and hours erasing all evidence of it. And that gives me some actual, long-overdue insight into this cultural shift: Having a head full of grays doesn’t mean women are giving up. It means we’re living on our own terms. I’m fine with that, and so are then five gray-haired models we asked about embracing their natural gray hair.