Glad to be grey: Why so many celebs are refusing to dye

·8-min read
CANNES - JULY 06: Helen Mirren arrives to the premiere of
Helen Mirren, poster girl for white hair. (Getty Images)

Hair can define a star's look for years - whether it's Jennifer Aniston's Californian dark-blonde waves, Susan Sarandon's fiery red curls, or Claudia Winkelman's glossy, eyeball-grazing fringe.

In the case of national treasure Dawn French, it's always been her dark brunette long bob, instantly recognisable and worn with blunt-edged, no-nonsense style in her real life and her roles - who can think of the Vicar of Dibley without immediately thinking of the hair? 

Now, however, French has used her Twitter account to signal the end of an era. 

Watch: How to Embrace Your Gray Hair with Highlights

With an image of her wearing glasses and showing off short, salt-and-pepper hair, the actor and novelist, 63, wrote:

"Hair update. I'm going for it big time. Chop chop. Bring on the silver. In my head it's v Jamie Lee Curtis, Husband says it's actually v Anne Hegarty. Don't care... both are ruddy KWEEEENS.'

A day later, over 43, 000 people had 'liked' the post, and thousands of comments were largely positive including from magician Derren Brown, who said "total success..., you stunner" and actor Sally Lindsay, who simply wrote "Fit."

Anne Hegarty, 62, star of The Chase, herself chimed in with "looks fabulous!"

Read more: Patsy Palmer reveals her famous red hair is turning grey and she's totally embracing it

But French isn't alone in her fade-to-grey transition, with midlife and older actors increasingly ditching the dye and embracing their natural colour. For some, the realisation that they're ageing is a shock, as Jennifer Aniston recently admitted.

The Morning Show star revealed that just before she turned 40, she found an interloper in her blonde mane.

"I found a really long grey hair, and it kind of flipped me out," Aniston said. 

"It's not my first, but it's the fact that it was so long. I was like, 'Oh that's been there. How many others are there, and what does that mean?' It actually brought me to tears, slightly."

26th Screen Actors Guild Awards – Arrivals – Los Angeles, California, U.S., January 19, 2020 – Jennifer Aniston. REUTERS/Monica Almeida
Jennifer Aniston. Not fully embracing the grey. (REUTERS/Monica Almeida)

Others. however, are apparently happy to accept the changes brought by age. Actor Salma Hayek, 54, has often spoken about ageing, posting that she's "proud of" her "white hair", with a selfie showing strands of silver in her dark hair.  

She later added,"The white hair of wisdom. Las canas de la sabiduría. Les cheveux blancs de la sagesse. #whitehair #hairspiration."

Even ever-youthful Gwyneth Paltrow, founder of natural beauty site Goop, has claimed to love her grey hair, too. 

"Of course I have wrinkles [and] grey hair," she told People Magazine, "But I genuinely love it. This is who I am."

Gwyneth, embracing the grey (a bit). (Getty Images)
Gwyneth, embracing the grey (a bit). (Getty Images)

Once they hit their sixties, many women simply decide to stop fighting the changes that age brings, and work with the grey, salt and pepper or icy white that's coming naturally. 

Skin tone, eyebrows and eye colour can all fade too, so an all-over dye can be harsh and look obviously 'fake', whereas gentle highlights or a groomed hairstyle in white or grey can look naturally beautiful, as proven by Meryl Streep, who first showcased white hair playing immaculately groomed mid-lifer Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada.

She has since allowed nature to take its course with her own natural colour. 

Jamie Lee Curtis - Dawn French's hair role model - also looks fabulous with white hair at 62, and wears it in a stylish, boyish crop. 

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA, USA - SEPTEMBER 25: Actress Jamie Lee Curtis wearing a dress by Alex Perry arrives at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures Opening Gala held at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures on September 25, 2021 in Los Angeles, California, United States. (Photo by Xavier Collin/Image Press Agency/Sipa USA)
Jamie Lee Curtis looking the picture of glmaour. (Photo by Xavier Collin/Image Press Agency/Sipa USA)

Other grey-embracers include Judi Dench, who has made her own pure- white crop a key aspect of her look and roles, Helen Mirren, who remains a beacon of 'perfect ageing' for many women, and Diane Keaton.

Unlike most, Keaton has chosen to keep the length in her grey hair, which suits her boho vibe and style of dressing. (Her character's unique dress sense in Annie Hall was based on her real-life look - and not the other way round.)

Diane Keaton attends the Premiere Of Netflix's Green Eggs And Ham held at the Hollywood American Legion Post 43 on November 03, 2019 in Los Angeles, California, United States. (Photo by Art Garcia/Sipa USA)
Diane Keaton, making ageing Boho and brilliant. (Photo by Art Garcia/Sipa USA)

Other silver ladies include Glenn Close, who traded blonde corkscrew curls for a chic ice-white short style, Jane Fonda, and country star EmmyLou Harris, whose waist-length dark hair is now a glorious white mid-length. 

Even younger stars who aren't going grey naturally have embraced the trend, from Lady Gaga to Billie Eilish, who have both showcased silver in recent appearances.

If you do go grey though, you may need a sharp new style to match. 

Read more: Jane Fonda, 83, reveals why she’s happy she embraced her natural grey hair

Andrew Barton, celebrity hairdresser and Headmasters Creative and Communications Director is renowned for using his scissor skills to turn back the clock on the hit original Channel 4 series 10 Years Younger. 

Andrew says, “While there used to be lots of dos and don’ts on how you should style your hair at 50, I don’t think these apply now. One crucial thing that will never change is the need for a great hair professional to help and advise you. 

"A good hairdresser will be able to advise on how best to style your hair as it changes, colour choices and how to hide or enhance your grey.”

And styling is essential, he adds. “I don’t like rules but sticking to the same hairstyle or colour you had in your 20s or 30s can actually make you look older. 

in a daylight studio
Is it time to change up your cut and colour? (Getty Images)

"There’s always a variation of the latest hair trend that will suit everyone. What worked for you before, won’t necessarily work for you now and sometimes we get stuck in a rut because it’s comfortable and we know exactly how to style it. 

"But you don’t see Jennifer Aniston sporting her Rachel cut now. A good hairstylist will happily spend time with you going through a new styling routine.”

Your changing hair gives you an opportunity to try something new, not only when it comes to your style but also your colour. Andrew explains:

“The most important thing about your hair colour as you get older is that it should flatter your skin tone which also changes as we age. 

"Very often women start to suit lighter cooler tones as these work best with more mature skin tones - that’s actually why you see so many women in their 50s really embracing blonde and silver/grey tones."

Portrait of senior woman standing outdoors against brick wall background. Copy space.
Bring back the silver gradually and embrace the natural. (Getty Images)

Stylist and Colourist Verity Clarke adds, "There does seem to be a movement at the moment for women embracing and growing out their natural grey. 

"There are even a whole bunch of Instagram accounts dedicated to it and influencers who have made a name for themselves because of it." She thinks lockdown began the trend. "A lot of women started to grow their roots out during lockdown because salons were closed and realised that maybe it wasn’t as ‘horrible’ as they thought!

"That combined with the whole ‘well I’m not going anywhere’ mentality helped women to rediscover their natural volume without worrying about what their roots looked like in public."

If you want to go grey gradually Verity advises:

Let your natural roots grow out as much as possible, then gradually cut the old colour out. Consider having a restyle and cutting in a bob once the roots have grown out enough 

Products such as silver shampoo, conditioner and mousse are great for keeping grey hair looking fresh. This can be a long process, but it’s by far the best way to achieve your natural colour in a healthy and achievable way.

It is possible to grow your roots out and then colour the hair to match, although this is an incredibly challenging colour transformation even some of the best colourists would struggle with. It’s important to know that this is not an easy or cheap way of doing things - it takes a full day in the salon and obviously the price tags that comes with it. 

As far as hairstyles go, it’s all about face shape and how you wear it. I am a fan of an edgy little crop or micro-bob on grey hair - it keeps the style looking fun and fresh and is also a great way of removing that grown out colour.

Watch: Going grey? Here's how to care for your new hue

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