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What you need to know about COVID-19: August 4, 2020
Mary Coffill Deveau made an observation recently that was enough to turn her hair grey.
During some of her recent shopping excursions, the Kentville, N.S. resident noticed that many women were showing their true roots, perhaps because they had not been able to get to the hair stylist during COVID-19 lockdown.
Coffill Deveau had never let her grey show, choosing instead to highlight it for the past 25 years. When the grey started coming in, her hairstylist switched to adding colour rather than lightening her natural hair colour.
“Now that it's growing out, I'm not really as grey as I thought I was, and what is coming in doesn't look that bad. So, perhaps I'll just wait and see how it looks rather than run to the hairstylist and get it highlighted again,” she says.
Coffill Deveau is not alone. She’s among the many women who are joining a movement called Embrace the Grey.
Lori MacGregor, of Kingsboro, P.E.I., is the administrator for the Embrace the Grey PEI Facebook group. She made the transition to grey hair four years ago.
MacGregor has had grey hairs since she was in her 20s, and says that at the time, it was not cool to let them show.
“As a woman, I feel we do what we do so we can look and feel our best, but for me, since embracing the grey I have never felt so comfortable in my own skin. I get so many compliments,” she says.
Coffill Deveau remembers hearing about hair colouring campaigns in the late 60s and 70s, like Clairol's "Does she... or doesn't she?" or "The closer he gets ... the better you look." For decades, she says, women have bought into the marketing that they need to add colour to their hair because companies convinced them years ago that "I'm worth it," she says.
Due to COVID-19, however, many women are looking at their true hair colours and deciding they are OK with the way they look.
Embrace the grey
The term ‘embrace the grey’ has been around for a number of years, says Ida Engram, a hairstylist with the Hair Factory in St. John’s, N.L. The ‘embrace’ part, she says, references the struggle many mature women have as they go grey, as it can be viewed as leaving their youth behind.
Society is helping with that. There has been a trend in recent years towards getting a fashionable grey colour, says Engram. It is a bit of a fashion statement for younger women, as many are choosing grey as a desired trendy colour, even though the pigment in their natural hair has not yet turned grey.
The grey transformations have really increased, says Engram, and the hair industry is adapting along with it. There has been a recent increase in demand for grey either for fashion or for practical reasons. Sometimes, she says, women who naturally turn grey also like their stylists to enhance their new colour.
As salons were closed for a long period with the COVID lockdown, many clients had no choice but to embrace the grey, says Engram.
“After salons opened, we had restricted hours and this also delayed many clients’ first return visit, resulting in additional grey growth for many clients,” she says.
“Some liked what they were forced to see, and others could not wait to get back to the regular coloured hair care.”
What helps, says Engram, is that over the last few years, the fashion and hair industry has embraced grey as well.
“You will see more advertising, colour classes, fashion shows, powerful women often portraying a ‘new’ grey colour, which can increase confidence and a whole positive vibe,” she says.
For women who are thinking of going grey, MacGregor urges them to just go for it. She says she had never realized how much money and time she spent on colouring her hair.
“I really felt liberated. I was not using dyes that can be harsh to your body, plus my hair felt so much healthier. I had curls that I never knew I had,” she says.
While this conversion can be difficult, Engrams says it can be made easier by consultation with a professional stylist, who will walk you through the process and make the transition easier.
Rachel MacVicar, a stylist with Interlude in Dartmouth, N.S., tells her clients it can be a lengthy process when transitioning to grey.
To do so, she starts with highlights to lighten the hair, allowing the grey blend with blonde. Eventually, the grey will just grow out naturally. But, if your hair is darker, it will take a bit longer to lighten it enough to match the grey and then let it grow out, she says.
For example, MacVicar points to her grandmother, who has a golden colour in her hair and was going grey. They did foils throughout her whole head. Two or three sessions, combined with the pandemic, meant the blonde blended with the grey naturally.
“She was able to let it grow and get it cut every so often until there was no colour left and just the grey. It looks beautiful,” she says.
Some people, though, just want to let their hair grow without doing anything to it, MacVicar says.
“So, we will just cut the hair until all the colour is gone. It can be a different process, depending on the person and how they want to go about it,” she says.
Many clients want a new style to accompany the new grey colour and get a whole new look, says Engram. This can be fun but scary at the same time, usually involving consultations and then allowing the stylist some creative flexibility.
Before you go grey, MacGregor says it’s easier if you have support, like that of her Facebook group or good friends, as there will be bad days.
“Honestly, you need the support. You could have a good month, and then one day, you're like, ‘I can't do this anymore, I am going to get a box dye.’ So, it's important to have a support in place,” she says.
MacGregor also says to be prepared for the comments.
“I had so many reactions, some from close family members that were not supportive of my decision at all. They would smirk and make comments to me, but I would just smile back and say, ‘I don't care, it's my hair’,” she says.
Since then, MacGregor, who is the youngest of nine children, says that three of her older sisters have followed suit.
From time to time, especially during COVID, MacGregor thought about colouring her hair again, but knew she just couldn't go back. With so many women ditching the dye because she did, MacGregor didn’t want to disappoint them.
“Maybe we just need to look in the mirror and see that beauty comes in many colours, not just those thirty or forty choices in a box,” adds Coffill Deveau.