Boomerangst: Turning Dilemmas Into Discoveries – Embrace Your Natural Grey?

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Embrace your natural grey or go for a new look? Here, some expert tips on updating your hairstyle.


Q. In the big scheme of things I know this is a minor issue, but it’s a dilemma for me nonetheless. I’m a 59-year-old woman and I’ve been dying my hair for almost 20 years. I turned prematurely grey in my early 30s and left it that way for years until my curiosity got the better of me. I had to see and feel what it was like to go back to being a brunette. Some people loved my new colour (including my husband) and insisted it made me look 10 years younger. Others were disappointed and said they preferred me grey and ‘natural’. I’m contemplating going natural again but I’m torn. (I colour the roots myself so it’s not a big expense.) My husband likes my hair the way it is now. I know it’s up to me in the end, but what, if anything should I consider?

Elaine, Windsor


A. Consider that premature grey hair can look absolutely stunning in your 30s, but when you’re pushing 60 there’s no question it ages you. At least that’s Wilma Haerkens’ observation. The owner of the Ottawa-based business, Personal Stylist, has been doing makeovers for more than 25 years and she thinks ‘going natural’ isn’t always the best choice. It might make life easier, but it’s not always flattering.

“At 59 you’re still young,” says Haerkens. “If you’re trendy and well put together you can pull off white hair, but if you’re not up to snuff with your style you’re just going to look old.”

She thinks your “contemplating” could actually be disguising a craving for something different, for a change in looks. If so, she suggests considering a brand-new cut or style, or maybe a different shade of colour, or highlights. You could opt for going a few shades lighter than your original, natural brown, or maybe a little redder, and then add highlights.

Let a professional do the colouring and highlights, Haerkens emphasizes, since it’s not easy to go lighter or to get the right shade for your skin tone, plus the results are likely to be far superior than trying to do it yourself. You can dye your own roots afterwards but let a pro get you to the right place first.  But if you’re not convinced a change is what you’re really craving, then Haerkens has another piece of advice: “Go and try on wigs of different colours and see how you feel. If you love the grey wig, there’s your answer – if you don’t, understand there are options.”

But don’t let fear stop you from changing your look. That’s the bottom line.

“To me it’s more a matter of women just not knowing how to do it any differently. Sometimes we stay stuck in the way we look because we understand that. We know what kind of response we get, we know what to expect. Stepping out and doing something different – although we may want it – can be hard because we just don’t know what to do.”



Send Diane a brief description of your dilemma, along with your first name and where you live, to boomera[email protected]

A professional journalist for more than 25 years, Diane Sewell has written for some of the top newspapers and magazines in Canada and is a baby boomer herself. Her new blog “Boomerangst: Turning Dilemmas into Discoveries” is interactive with readers and focuses on life issues – like aging, dating, second marriages, sex, death, family and fashion. Diane will use her expertise to find the right expert to help solve your predicament, unearthing kernels of truth and quickly getting to the heart of the issue.