A Tale of Two Colors

So, we’ve been doing this stay-at-home social distancing thing for like, what, six or seven months now? Ok, so it’s only been 35 days, but it sure feels like more. And while some of us have been using this time of self-isolation to mull over the big questions in life – why am I here, what’s my purpose, where do I belong – here’s one question that ALL of us can relate to: how’s your hair?

A lot of us can go 8-10 weeks without a cut and not sacrifice too much in the way of human dignity. But if you COLOR your hair… well, things are getting real. Your roots, for instance!

For once in my whole doggone life, I AM AHEAD OF THE CURVE ON A TREND! I’m not worried about roots right now at all. It was almost exactly a year ago, after years of covering what started out to be premature gray (and eventually caught up to being just… gray), that I walked into my salon for my regular cut and color and announced to my stylist, “I’m done. I’m not coloring anymore.”

I never thought I’d do it. It wasn’t planned. And honestly, I can’t even tell you what came over me and inspired me to make the decision (I certainly didn’t know there was an extended period of self-isolation in my future!). I just woke up one morning and said, “That’s it.” And what’s more, I made a stand and decided to grow my gray in naturally, with no aid from lowlights or other chemical cover-up treatments.

If you’ve gone this route with your own hair, chances are you know what came next. I second-guessed myself 20 times or more in the first month. By month three, I was in tears in the salon chair during my cut, saying, “I think I’ve made a terrible mistake!” But I’m grateful for a stylist who’s caring, supportive, and REAL, and kept encouraging me, saying I’d have to do this all over again eventually if I went back to the bottle. Plus, I’m stubborn. That helps.

So over the next few months, I decided to turn my time of transformation into a bit of a mission. I sought out women who were either very obviously doing the same thing I was (that glaring demarcation line is a dead giveaway) or who were a bit younger than you’d expect to see with gray hair. I told them that I loved their hair, and thought it was beautiful. And without being too dramatic, I can honestly say that these mini-ambush conversations (oh, and I’ve been brazen – I’ve stopped women in airports, in the supermarket, in restaurants mid-dinner, at networking meetings – you name it) have been the most rewarding part of my journey.

I use the word “journey” very consciously here, because it’s a word that has come up in just about every single one of these conversations. We’ve discussed facing mortality, letting go of affectation, embracing our own selves on every level. Not one of these women was annoyed by my intrusion, and some of the stories I heard were truly heartwarming… and encouraging!

Now, of course, I’m not running into many people at all. I kind of look like I’ve been in isolation for months! But, because of my timing, hey … when this distancing bit is behind us, I’ll look like I planned the whole thing!

Now, I’m not necessarily recommending that anyone use this opportunity to do something as drastic as to stop coloring and go gray. But if your hair is a source of concern right now, my go-to hair pro, Catie at Salon 700 on Main Street in Hyannis, has some good advice.

“This is a perfect time to just let it all go,” she says. “Repair your hair. Give it a break! See what your natural color looks like. It kind of feels good to stop worrying about what you see in the mirror. Be happy within and make that your focus!”

Catie suggests strongly that unless you have experience, “Put the scissors down, and don’t give yourself a cut. You might wind up with a whole new, very unintended look. You have options – hats and headbands help, as does the knowledge that we’re all in the same boat!”

Don’t stop using good products on your hair, though, she advises. “Products make a big difference in the look and feel of your hair. This is the time to use deep conditioners and masks and, now that you have the time, leave them on longer so they can penetrate better.” Some salons are offering online ordering and delivery of your favorites, and some even do curbside pickup (Salon 700 offers both!).

For those who just can’t quite live with their roots, though, Catie does understand. “If you can possibly avoid it, please try not to use a boxed color. Just realize that they are made a little differently, and you could wind up making a mess of your hair! It’s much easier to color over your natural color when you come back to the salon. In the meantime, there are root sprays and powders that help to hide the gray.”

The one thing Catie wants us to know above all else? “Your stylist misses you as much as you miss him or her,” she says. “Those connections we make mean the world to us, so come back when we open! We’ll be here and we’ll be ready!”

I, for one, can’t wait to get back in the chair. My transformation is closer to being complete, and I can’t wait to see what it looks like after a good, healthy cut. By the time we’re socializing again, I’ll be a rare silver unicorn!

Have you gone gray naturally? Or do you have some stay-at-home hair hacks (um, er, hair-care TIPS) that you’d like to share? Please reach out – I’d love to swap stories! cherylpark@ccb-media.com

By Cheryl Park

About Ann Luongo

Ann Luongo is the Marketing Writer and Lifestyle Reporter for CapeCod.com, and has been writing for Cape Cod and South Shore publications for over 15 years.

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