There’s a vibe in the air, can you feel it? Women in middle to late middle age deciding to embrace the grey.
Everywhere I look, there’s a female contemporary taking the plunge. I like to think of myself as being slightly ahead of the curve, having made this change two years ago.
It was a big decision and took colourist Josh Wood three goes (if you are a natural brunette like me, as opposed to a natural blonde, the transition is more complicated). But the results, if I say so myself, were fantastic — not just aesthetically but psychologically, too.
Being me, I became evangelical. It wasn’t enough that I’d done it: I wanted every other middle-aged woman who was a slave to the bottle to do it, too.
Christa D’ Souza (pictured) who became evangelical when she transitioned from a brunette to grey hair two years ago, explains her decision to go blonder since UK salons reopened
You may remember it was on the cover of Inspire. Why Every Woman Should Go Grey At 60, rang the headline, with me extolling my peers to ‘stop being such a slave to youth! Embrace the grey within! That helmet of hair is beginning to look like a wig!’.
I was evangelical because going ‘greygerous’, as Josh dubbed it, made me feel perversely younger. Or maybe I mean more adventurous. Because it is quite a daring thing to do, when society expects a woman of a certain age to hide the grey, almost as though not doing so is bad manners. Well here I was, a champion of ageism making a stand.
I’m not saying I didn’t also do it because I thought it would suit me. I knew it would. I’d been flipping through Instagram feeds and magazine shoots of silver vixens for months in anticipation, encouraged by how much younger women had adopted the look.
It was a fashion moment I was piggybacking on — a fashion moment that suited me because of my light eyes and olive complexion — as much as it was about wanting to appear woke.
At the same time, I wasn’t not making a statement. When you get to your 60s and you have as much hair as I do, going a different colour can’t be anything but a statement.
Being unapologetically grey when you are approaching 60 sends an unspoken message out to the world that you believe women should be able to have their cake and eat it, too.
Christa said opting for grey hair made her feel perversely younger and she became the guinea pig among her female contemporaries. Pictured: Before
And among my female contemporaries, I was definitely the guinea pig. Although in principle they all thought it a brilliant idea, they wanted to see what it looked like before they tried it themselves. It was my own small way, as a post-menopausal woman, of performing a radical act.
And then came the pandemic. If I’d been able to see Josh and go into the salon for regular titanium blue ‘gloss shots’, I might still be a silver vixen. But lockdown forced me to look after my hair myself. And I’ve never been good at managing it, often not washing it for weeks because there is just so much of it.
In other words, I was forced to let my hair do its own thing, and it reached a kind of existential crisis after my 60th birthday in May.
Christa said an elegant ex-model in her 70s, told her she looked ten years older with grey hair. Pictured: Before
As you can see from these pictures, I’m not ‘greygerous’ any more. But let me scroll back a bit to explain.
It was during that window between lockdowns, in August, when I made my decision. My partner and I had been invited to stay with some glamorous Greek friends in Mykonos for a week.
One night, my hostess and a friend of hers, an elegant ex-model in her 70s, took me into a corner and read me the riot act. What on earth had happened to me since the previous summer? I looked ten years older! Had I lost my mind? I must go straight to the hairdresser when I get back and not only chop it all off, but dye it back to my pre-pandemic colour.
I was, of course, hugely insulted and spent the rest of the evening in a tight-lipped sulk. But when we got back, I took a long hard look at myself in the mirror.
Like many women, I’d been in a bit of a beauty coma for most of 2020, courtesy of lockdown, not being able to get Botox or filler and never having to get out of my jeans and Uggs.
Looking back at photographs of myself from last year, I suddenly realised I didn’t look so much like I’d ‘let go’ as ‘given up’. It was the old tree falling in the forest syndrome — if no one was going to see me, why bother to make an effort? And it was fun while it lasted, but it wasn’t real.
Christa realised she didn’t look so much like she had ‘let go’ as ‘given up, while looking at photographs from the past year. Pictured: after
I had never properly noticed before, but now I did: a horrid grey tide mark which ringed the circumference of my head and crinkly white hairs sprouting out of the top of it. And my ‘sideburns’, those were white, too.
Meanwhile, the ends of my hair were the colour and texture of straw, and the charming Pippi Longstocking braids I’d had all summer suddenly looked a little mad. In Zoom calls, that suddenly felt even more apparent.
Why hadn’t any of my family or my friends back home in England given me a nudge? My blunt Greek friends were quite right: I did look ten years older. Or rather, I looked my age, 60. And, in a world where 60 is the new 50, if not 40, that hurt.
Maybe they would have been less harsh if they’d seen it when it was first done and I had access to the salon. They didn’t exactly catch it in it is best light, after all. But still. You need to be a certain sort of person to pull off ‘statement’ hair.
Someone such as British Vogue’s Deputy Editor Sarah Harris, or the model Kristen McMenamy, a client of Josh’s. And I’m not sure if I am that person. Not yet, anyway.
My hair is less my crowning glory than it is my armour. It covers a multitude of sins.
Christa (pictured) decided to make her hair blonder in buttery chunks rather than all over when salons reopened
And so it was, when hairdressers opened a few weeks ago, I went back. Not to Josh, perhaps because I was feeling a bit sheepish, but to Danielle, his trusty ‘sous chef’.
We decided to make me a bit blonder than before (to accommodate all the new grey I’d accumulated over the past year), but in buttery chunks rather than all over, so as to keep it from looking too ‘done’.
The process took a few hours and involved foils, balayage — the hand painting of strands — and a lot of conditioner and gloss. Danielle warned me it would take just as much upkeep as my grey hair, but I didn’t mind. I love the way it looks.
We were in a traffic jam in London last week and a man in a white van leant out of his window and said to me, ‘Hey, Babe’.
He might have been addressing my dog, who was on my lap and is undeniably gorgeous, but I choose to think otherwise. The older one gets, the more one changes the goalposts. I know this, I realise it, but it doesn’t stop me doing it.
When I am 70, I now tell myself, I will go back to being silver-grey. And maybe when I’m 70, I’ll postpone it until I’m 80.
Does that make me a traitor to the cause? If so, I’m sorry to let you down. We all have our blind spots, and wanting to look younger than I am for as long as is feasibly possible is obviously one of mine. I do hope Josh approves.
Don’t miss Christa D’Souza’s Everyday Ageism column in Femail Magazine every Thursday.