(Series – Part 1 of 5)
I was chatting with a friend the other day about the challenges of ageing and I realised again how much progress I’d made in coming to terms with my appearance.
I went silver at a young age. In fact I found my first grey hair when I was in High School, but coloured it anyway through my teen years because I liked to constantly change up my appearance. I look back on this period with fondness. But I can’t help but observe that whilst I often liked the colour of my hair, it rarely seemed to ‘fit’ me. It reinforced in me the feeling that I wasn’t enough and needed to change my appearance to be attractive. Through my 20’s I would colour it when I fancied a change but I could still ‘get away’ with my natural colour… until one day I couldn’t.
I was not prepared to go grey
In my late twenties it symbolised being old. So from then on I coloured it (or my husband did) until the colour wouldn’t cover all the grey.
At this point I panicked. Professional colouring would have been prohibitively expensive, and I wasn’t thrilled by the colour anyway. I had been going lighter, as advised by many hair experts who say you should go lighter as you age, so I was colouring my hair a light brown but it was a far cry from my almost black hair. But the thought of going silver in my thirties… horrible.
It sounds superficial but I couldn’t look at photos of myself with dark hair because I grieved the loss of my hair colour. I have very fair skin and had dark brown hair (kind of Celtic features) and my hair seemed to go well with my green eyes. To lose that made me feel invisible, like I was disappearing.
‘It’s just like jewellery’
I had a colour analysis (the 4-season model) as a teenager and was analysed as a True Winter. However, I hadn’t bothered with it much, tending to just buy vaguely cool-toned clothes. A lot of my clothes were soft purples and blues and combined with the silver hair they just added to that washed-out look. People commented on my silvering hair all the time, not necessarily negatively but I felt incredibly self-conscious. I tried to make more of an effort to wear clothes in my palette but something wasn’t working. I wondered if I was no longer a Winter and thought maybe I’d changed season.
Fast-forward to 2018 and I started the process of training as a Colour Analyst in the 12-Tone system, which involved me being analysed again. To my delight I was pronounced a Bright Winter and I started to understand the things my skin needed to look it’s healthiest and most radiant. Bright Winter colours are pigmented, cool and have a small amount of Spring’s yellow added. They are bold colours, but on me they looked… normal. The most surprising element to me was my hair and how it looked with these colours. It sparkled – in Christine Scaman’s words “like jewellery on top of your head”. I didn’t look old and faded, and honestly, I nearly cried. I could see my own face in the mirror staring back at me, and not that of a stranger.
I can honestly say I now LOVE my hair
I firmly believe and have seen myself that when our clothes are in harmony with our skin, our hair harmonises too as it was designed to do. I think of a woman I analysed recently who had hair some might say was a fairly ordinary light brown, yet in her best colours she had these amazing natural highlights – no enhancement needed. If I had to speak to my younger self, I would encourage her to find her best colours in clothing and makeup rather than spend all those years and money trying to change her appearance. I would also remind her that the problem wasn’t her. There’s nothing wrong with dyeing your hair if you wish to, and some professional colourists are very talented but I’m excited by the growth in the number of women who are embracing their natural colour and natural beauty.
I would say if you are going through the growing out stage, make sure you have a great hairdresser and a good cut as this makes all the difference. This struck me the most when I was picking photos of myself for this piece. I also found the texture changed as my hair silvered, so conditioning became more important. A colourist’s advice may be helpful if you want to accelerate the process of getting closer to your natural colour and have coloured your hair for many years. Also I have found that keeping my brows shaped and using appropriate tools to define them seems more crucial as my brows are silvering. This keeps definition in the face.
In closing, I would say, I am not someone who is obsessed with my appearance. I just wanted the ‘me’ on the outside to reflect the ‘me’ on the inside. I enjoy creativity in clothing and jewellery and that is just a small part of who I am. In this world of airbrushing and filters we can compare ourselves to others and feel inadequate. But people are beautiful when they realise they can be who they were created to be.