You all are going to think I'm the "party pooper" but except for a few older models/celebrities (e.g. Heloise) in real life I generally do NOT like gray hair on women under 60.
I see everyone that has posted here are in favor of gray hair and I hope LoriJ that you're not implying that women over 40 should not color their hair because many, many people do not go gray that early. In the past it was actually unusual, and I personally know people older than me who barely have any gray at all. Since I study Holistic Nutrition I can tell you all with complete certainty that today's stressful life coupled with POOR diet makes people go grey PREMATURELY. The "marker" for some auto-immune disorders, in fact, is premature graying, so instead of a "badge of honor" or even normal it could just be bad health.
Also, I'm a believer in the "Color Me Beautiful" season color palettes, which match up cool and warm skin tones with cool/warm clothing and make-up colors, and only Winters and maybe Summers (the "cool seasons") gray out gracefully. I've always had an eye for esthetics (so I ended up going to beauty school) and I've observed this myself. Frankly, I cringe at seeing women with warm tones in their hair who are partially grey. One thing I learned in beauty school is that when we are graying it's not just some hairs that lose pigment, gradually ALL our hair loses some pigment which gives the hair a dull, washed-out appearance; every woman I've seen like that looks tired, some even look dowdy- not very flattering at all!
I started coloring my hair at an early age, at first just a subtle change, but gradually I went lighter (with a single process). A few times I went back dark but even my own mother (who still colors her hair at 74...) said she liked me better with lighter hair, personally I think it depends on the shade, sometimes I miss being a brunette but I chose to go lighter because of how I feel about (my) gray. The medium Ash Blonde I have now makes a much less noticeable contrast with my roots which I camouflage on the 3rd week, and if not feeling too lazy I color on the 4th.
I DO CONFESS that I get tired of coloring because I do it myself and ash shades tend to fade quickly (so sometimes I have to use rinses) and when the roots begin to show they remind me this color I love is not mine. So I have wondered what it would be like to be "natural" but I know I'm not ready yet. As a matter of fact I plan to do my retouch today and 2 days ago I asked my son what he thought about me going gray and he dodged the question. In the past both my children (who are in their 20s) have given me a flat NO because they don't think I'd look good with gray hair either.
My other reason is that I have said I'll go gray when my mother does, I'd hate to think I'll begin to look older than her, lol! She has been guilty a few times of having dull, overly colored hair and I've had to fix it for her. The last time she visited me I ran a gentle oil bleach through some thin strands and gave her a rich conditioner, which resulted in beautiful subtly highlighted hair that looked very good on her but she can't keep it that way herself. Her excuse to not go gray yet is that because she still has to work and lives in the Dominican Republic where there are all kinds of prejudice, she feels people would "look down" on her, which is really her insecurities talking. Her other objection is actually more valid, she won't just grow it out it would look...freakish (her roots are now white). She'd have to have the color stripped, a very difficult process which could severely damage her already dry hair, or cut it very short and wear a wig.
So, if gray hair is done properly and the right shade is selected women can look good for many years, the problem is too many women choose to do their coloring at home, with the wrong product, and/or don't follow the instructions well. I will never forget this co-worker I had years ago whose roots looked lighter and the rest of her hair was dull. I knew even then that she was putting all the mixture on her entire head. Gray hair is naturally more resistant so on a retouch it must be applied to the roots only and if there's any fading at all on the length, 5 minutes is plenty to brighten it and only the lighter shades, otherwise the already colored hair may continue to absorb pigment until it's like a crow's wing .
One of these days I may swing over to a beauty supply store and try on a gray wig just to see how I would look BUT that's about it. I'm single and looking right now and I don't think the "matronly" look would increase my "dateability", lol!
2A/3A, medium length, layered, colored dark/medium ash blonde - "CGer" since April '02.
"Converting the 'curlskeptics' one curly head at a time..." HWHC