How does one quit coloring and allow the hair to go grey? This is something I’ve often wondered myself. I inadvertently began coloring my hair in my mid thirties and haven’t missed a month since.
Inadvertently I say because many years ago when I strode into what was then the premier salon in New York, Oribe at Elizabeth Arden, my intention was not to get color but to go from long hair to short. I made an appointment with the master himself. After a short wait I was led past rooms with dozens of chairs all filled with clients, their stylists buzzing around them. All the way to the back overlooking Fifth Avenue was Oribe’s room and there I was seated in the most coveted chair in the house. My little speech to describe the short, devil may care do I desired was at the ready. Finally Oribe appeared trailed by a posse of assistants. After abrupt hello’s and before I could dive into my speech he began assessing my hair. Picking up chunks of hair and letting them drop. All was silent, this was serious business, I’m thinking this is why he’s the master, he will know exactly where to lay scissor to hair and unleash the full potential of my mane. Then he speaks, “Do you like the grey?” What? I didn’t see that one coming; it caught me totally off guard.
I knew I had grey, I found my first grey hair at 19, but it was a negligible amount, I could live with it. However, Oribe had me just where he wanted. Of course I didn’t like the grey. Arrangements were made for me to go immediately to get color. They had to pull some strings with the colorist’s schedule and of course Oribe’s but it must be done. And thus began my long career of coloring my hair.
Flash forward twenty years and I’m still devoted to color. I’m not ready to go grey yet, but many ultra chic women are. Embracing our age with more emphasis on wellness rather than subterfuge is a good thing and allowing the hair to go grey is part of this. But what if you’ve been coloring for years and then decide to take the leap to go grey, how does that work logistically? This is what we’ll examine every step of the way as my friend Karen takes us with her on the journey.
I’ve known Karen for nearly twenty years. She’s a successful interior designer and owner of K Hartmann Design. It’s fair to say she has a strong personality and approaches all aspects of her life, from food to fitness (a yoga devotee), to her meticulously detailed oriented design work, with great passion. She sweats the details so this makes her the perfect subject to follow on this journey. She also has a very impressive head of hair, thick, curly, long and red. We met recently for our first interview of the series with more planned for the coming months.
Jolain Muller So when did you start coloring?
Karen Hartmann I would say, maybe 7 years ago, I really noticed that I was going very grey. Then I would have been in my early fifties our friend Gregg said to me no, you cannot go grey now, so I said Ok and I started to dye my hair and I had never dyed my hair before.
JM So this is close to your natural color?
KH This is very close to my natural color.
JM It looks very natural.
KH Well this part underneath, this is the natural color, this has never been dyed. The top part and around my face is where it was going grey. Now I’m at a point, I turned 60, where I just don’t want to do it anymore.
JM So you have to go every 3 weeks?
KH I have to go every 4 weeks, and if I go much passed that it’s a marked difference between the grey and whatever’s dyed. So I would say about a month ago I decided to start on this journey of going to grey. I went to see the colorist, Cara Craig at Suite Caroline in Soho (NYC), but then I had henna in my hair.
JM She wasn’t your regular colorist?
KH No, at that time I was just doing plain natural henna in the hair. That worked out OK. I went to see her and she looked at my hair. I told her what was in it and we talked about getting it out. She was concerned it might turn teal, and I thought oh well maybe. At any rate she lifted out the henna and I have to say the girl is a genius, this lighter portion here is what she bleached, she bleached the henna out. So this is where we’re starting now. It’s been a month; you can see a little bit of the grey that’s coming in.
JM It looks about fifty-fifty. So do you have to just let it grow until it’s all the way grey? How does that work?
KH I have to see what happens now with this. Do I need to go back to have another color or highlights put in or something to blend the roots? I don’t want to have the line; I want to have some gradual natural looking thing. I don’t know how it’s going to work; she probably knows how that works.
JM She’s guiding you through this journey.
KH Exactly my guru, I’ll do whatever she says because so far she’s done a great job.
JM You’ve seen her once, when’s your next appointment?
KH I would say in about a month because by that time this is going to be quite grown out, maybe an inch or so and I think I’ll be really able to see the grey coming in. This color is lighter than the henna color was so it’s more forgiving. The thing is it has to be forgiving during the transition. I can’t wait I’ll be so happy when it grows out.
JM Then what are you going to do, will you keep long hair?
KH Yes I’ll keep it long because I go to yoga, I sweat, and I have curly hair. I want to be able to put my hair up in a bun, and I want to have a big fat bun, when I put it up there, so I’m never cutting it, that’s it.
JM Even my girls said, “Is that really Karen’s hair?” because it’s so thick. That’s why I really wanted to do this story with you. Your hair is a big part of your persona because of the color and I always think of you with curly hair, big hair and red, it really has impact. If someone has to describe you it’s easy.
KH Right it’s dramatic it is, it’s statement hair.
JM Exactly, that’s why I think this will be a good story. I’ve seen other stories once the process is over but I think it’s interesting to follow you through the journey, with pictures as we go along. I love it, my check in with Karen.
KH I Hope I don’t lose hope.
JM (Laughs) Well that’s a story too, get the dye back! Either way, thank you so much Karen, we’ll see you in a month!
How did my haircut go with Oribe you may wonder? It didn’t, he talked me out of it and gave me a trim. Things don’t always turn out as you plan.