I’ve always been drawn to natural beauty. My preferred place to be is by the ocean or in the woods. If I could be in bare feet all day, I would. I’ve never been a high-maintenance person, never really enjoyed shopping for clothes, have worn high heels a handful of times and never been all that fussed in general (though I’m a staunch believer in pedicures and happy feet). My core desired feeling for everything is cozy. My home, my clothes, my office, my food, my body.

I don’t know where that came from, to be honest. My mother is the polar opposite. Like most South American women of her generation (we’re from Chile), she could run a marathon in 4-inch heels and raised me to wear lipstick if I was leaving the house to buy a treat at the corner store, because “you never know who you will run into, Andreita.” I was more interested in the treat than the lipstick but from early on the ideals of beauty and femininity were constantly being ingrained at every opportunity. For many years I conceded, dove deep into Vogue and Seventeen, explored all the shades of eyeshadow and rouge before I settled on a quick whip of mascara and a little eyeliner.

I started to go gray in my early 20s. It’s hereditary on my Dad’s side. After yanking out the first few, I let the streak come in and for many, many years it was my little f-u to beauty expectations. I liked it, I liked what it said about me, I liked that it made me feel just a touch different. Until one day, I was at the Cannes film festival at a cocktail party and a woman I didn’t know came up to me and asked me, “Why do you have gray hair?” I responded, “Oh, it’s hereditary on my Dad’s side.” She responded, “No, I mean WHY do you have gray hair? Why don’t you colour it? You would look much better.” I was 33. No one besides my parents had ever made comments about my hair, certainly not a stranger. But there in the south of France, at a fancy film party, I inadvertently found myself in the spotlight of societal beauty expectations.

I came home and couldn’t stop thinking about the stranger’s comments. I started to notice all the women who coloured their hair and yes, they all looked great. I noticed the women who didn’t colour their hair, and yes, they did look older. I started noticing that all the women did it: my mom, all my friends, my cousins, my elderly grandmother (who on her deathbed at 99 still had a relatively fresh shade of red). My two kids were little at the time and my third was being contemplated. I was fit, I was young. I made the decision to do it.

Colouring your hair is a whole new world if you start later in life. I had two gray streaks at this point that punctuated my dark brown hair. I had no idea that making this choice would mean having to make it repeatedly, forever, until the end of time. At first I started with simply dealing with the gray. But soon the gray started to fight back, coming in stronger and more aggressively as though it was standing up for what it believed in. My hairdresser retaliated with highlights and colour and toner and more chemicals than I care to know. 

I will say that there is no feeling like fresh colour. It can reinvigorate you, make you feel beautiful and definitely gives you pep in your step. But I had to do this every 6-7 weeks, then every 5-6, and soon every 4. Every time I had it done, I felt “ah yes, there she is!” only to be reminded a few weeks later that the woman I was recreating monthly didn’t actually exist anymore. It started to feel like I was clinging to a version of myself that was built on a house of sand.

In my 40s I tried to just let the gray grow. I tried to do this 6 different times. Encouraged by the rise of the #silversisters movement on social media, I made it to 3 months the first time, 5 months another and I once got as far as 10 months only to cut it all off and colour it again because I had an important event and didn’t have the guts to go with my weird multi-natural-coloured-damaged hair. I had made it through TEN months and in a moment of insecurity covered up all that patience with the stroke of a brush.

Then the pandemic happened. The desire to be fresh and pretty was replaced by long walks, homeschooling and bread-making (I never made the bread but I did love all the videos). The pandemic will be remembered in history for many things: the implosion of our healthcare system, the impact of science, the great reset and migration outside city life, and the emergence of skunk-haired women everywhere.

If you ever want to go gray here is the hard truth: unless you shave your head and start anew, expect your hair to look like complete shit for at least 6-8 months. I had the benefit of doing it at a time when the only people who witnessed the transition were close family. Once you get past 8 months it won’t look like you’ve just let yourself go, it will start to look like it’s a purposeful decision. You will start to notice how the gray actually brightens your face, sparkles in the sunshine and can make you even look younger. If we accept for a moment that going gray is normal, perhaps it is nature’s way of highlighting our god-given beauty. 

Would I like to have my beautiful rich, dark brown hair back? In a nanosecond. But my dyed hair wasn’t my beautiful brown hair. It was a second best and I was constantly reminded of that within a week of visiting my lovely hairdresser.

So here I am now, 2 years almost to the day of my last dye job. My hair is soft and healthy and very gray. Do I still think about colouring it? Occasionally, but usually it’s when I think about having turned 50, that my kids are almost adults, and when I’m feeling particularly nostalgic. I can’t go back. None of us can—and the part of going gray that I most love is the idea that I’m embracing the future. I’m learning to love the woman I am today, not the version of myself that no longer exists. 

I have zero judgment for those women who still have the fight in them to battle the grays, honestly, more power to you. But personally, I’ve had so many changes in my life and I’ve lived through some things: moved cities, birthed and lost babies, raised children, divorced my best friend, traveled, left a dream job to build a business I love, found a life partner, danced on tables, cried buckets of tears, grown in spirit, and pushed way outside my comfort zone. Every one of these changes are reflected in every strand of hair on my head—why would I want to cover that up?