More women are embracing their natural gray hair color

By Adrienne Johnson Martin
Sunday, January 23, 2011

RALEIGH, N.C. - Every now and then, Deborah Holloway says, people ask where she gets her hair colored. "I say, the Lord does this."

Turns out the color they're admiring is the silvery, shimmering gray in the Raleigh woman's neat parted bob. Yes, gray hair, and Holloway is okay with it - now.

When she started graying, she dyed her hair blond, then black when she tired of blond. But "I got tired of the hassle, the frosting, the foiling," she says. "I decided to take what I've been blessed with."

Although Holloway's decision seems a matter of practicality, it's actually emblematic of a slow-building revolution. It's hard to track precise numbers, but, in the midst of a Botoxed, nip-and-tuck, youth-driven culture, more women are choosing to let their manes age gracefully. Some attribute the shift to the boomer generation's affinity to counter prevailing culture. Others see echoes of the trend toward "greener" living and concerns about chemicals used in hair dye.

Clairol doesn't have anything to worry about yet; Americans spend billions annually to color their hair. But women who embrace the gray say it's more than a cosmetic choice. The outward act is a reflection of inner change; a self-confidence and comfort in who they are and who they are becoming.

Diana Lewis Jewell heard some of those women's stories as she researched and wrote her book "Going Gray, Looking Great!" But when her publisher first asked if she would do a book on going gray, Jewell, a Charlotte resident, admits she was reluctant.

Then, she wasn't embracing the gray; she was a single-process blonde who got highlights four times a year. "I was a happy little blonde," she says, a sassy tone punctuating her memory. "I said, 'I don't think so.' I didn't think it was a beauty topic."

Jewell would later eat those words, and the first course was served after she relented and decided to write the book, then assembled a focus group made up of women who had transitioned to gray.

"The colors were fabulous - silver, pewter, snow, ice," she says. In that moment, gray didn't equal age or fading away. It was beautiful.

Soon after, she made the transition, too. "Mine came in white around my face and charcoal salt and pepper in the back," she says. "But that's okay. I believe you make the first impressions coming in. I don't care what people do when I turn around."

Two years ago, she launched, a Web site that serves as a gathering place for "Great Grays" and "Silver Sisters" from around the nation and in 110 countries. She's talked about the transition on "The Today Show" and, recently, on "The Nate Berkus Show."

High-profile examples

Indeed, TV isn't a bad place to look for high-profile women letting their gray show. There's actress/yogurt pitchwoman Jamie Lee Curtis, singer Annie Lennox, food maven Paula Deen, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Oscar winner Helen Mirren. And some younger celebrities such as Kelly Osbourne, Lady Gaga and supermodel Kate Moss have played with the look, giving it a nice dose of hipness.

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