Mindy Greenstein, 53, Clinical Psychologist and Author
When my roots would show, it was like the real me showing through, and I colored it because I felt like the real me wasn’t good enough for the world to see. One day I thought, Why should the real me make me feel bad? What’s wrong with letting my hair’s natural color and texture come through? First, I stopped straightening my hair so I could get comfortable with my natural wave. After experimenting with tips from Curly Girl: The Handbook and different products, I found an easy, wavy style I liked.
This made me comfortable enough to start going silver. Also, the year before,
I’d published a book, Lighter as We Go, about the positive aspects of aging, but here I was, covering up.
I knew that my colorist wouldn’t be willing to help with the transition, so I went to a different one. She did highlights and lowlights that camouflaged the line of demarcation. It looked good and I got only positive feedback. Then I thought about why people enjoy life more when they’re older and realized it’s because they don’t care what others think.
It’s not that I’m letting myself go or don’t care about my appearance. It’s that I’m actually finding the “me” that I’m most comfortable with, that works with my lifestyle, and that I want to present to the world.
Six months after getting highlights, I decided to just go cold turkey.
I was nervous at first but excited to see my natural color. My mantra became “No more shit in my hair,” and I haven’t looked back since! Nine months later, my hair had grown in enough that I really started to like the color, and I got so many compliments.
One person even said that I looked “so badass!” I can assure you that no one had ever used that word to describe me before.
Since I’ve embraced my natural texture and color, my hair is so much healthier.
Without blow-drying and dye, it’s softer and shinier. But more than that, I’m no longer a slave to my roots or my hairdresser and I feel more like myself. This is who
I am and this is good enough. I am good enough. It’s a real sense of freedom. I know that silver can be linked to getting old, but I’m a two-time cancer survivor. To me, getting old is a good thing! Now my hair is an expression of who I am, not the artistic talents of a colorist.
A lot of women have complimented my hair and said things like “If my silver was as nice as yours, I’d go natural.” Yet the truth is, you don’t know what kind of silver you’re going to have. You have to let it grow in a little bit, and even then it changes. My silver looked different when I had just a small amount of blonde left on the ends and then when Lorraine cut it all off. You have to have faith. I did, and now I like my hair more than I ever have and feel more like myself than I ever have, too!
The day of my final photoshoot for this book was also the last day of my mother’s life. She’d died early that morning, at the age of eighty-one. She was a force of nature, having survived the Holocaust as a child. She always thought I took life too seriously, that I should try to have more fun. That’s why she loved hearing about my participation in this project. Her own hair was white, though that description doesn’t do justice to the variety of silky whites, silvers, and even a touch of pewter that framed her face.
I initially canceled the shoot, but, as I started absorbing my loss and thinking about the eulogy I’d give the next day, I could hear Mom’s voice in my head: “So what if you’re sad about me? Why should you miss out on the last chance to have your fancy photo taken?!” As soon as I walked onto the set, I knew
I’d made the right choice. Everyone was so lovely, hugging me and—Ma would particularly appreciate this part—feeding me. Even though I was choking back tears, my smile for the camera was genuine. As I turned this way and that while the photographer clicked away, her eulogy started forming in my head.
Mindy’s hair is far too yellow for her skin tone. You know there’s a lot of gray underneath because the blonde is so yellow.
Mindy at Six Months
At Mindy’s first photoshoot, all I did was cut her hair.
Typically, blondes have an easier time transitioning, because there’s not as much contrast between their natural icy ash color and the dyed blonde. Because of this, Mindy opted for the cold turkey technique.
Mindy at Nine Months
Often women who have fine hair like Mindy’s choose to color even if they don’t need to because the color gives the hair more body. Mindy’s hair has little to no frizz and waves that are easily weighed down at the scalp, making the ends appear a bit stringy and the roots more obvious. Frequent conditioning is not right for everyone, especially those with fine hair. If you’ve got fine hair that tends to get wilted and weighed-down, try this:
• Use either cleanser or conditioner but not both, and make sure to thoroughly rinse all the conditioner out of your hair.
• After showering, bend over at the waist, flip your head upside down and, using a towel, scrunch and squeeze your hair upward the way you would scrunch up a piece of paper. This will remove excess water, which can weigh hair down while preserving its natural movement. Next, lift your head upright, tilt it to the side, and scrunch the hair upward. Then, starting with the hair on one side of your face, take about a three-inch section, scrunch it up, and clip it in place at the roots. This prevents the weight of your wet hair from weighing down your locks as they dry, leaving them limp. Repeat this around your entire head. Wait at least ten to fifteen minutes or, if your hair is very fine, allow it to dry fully clipped up like this. Remove the clips and then apply a small amount of your favorite styling product, if you wish. This process will make your hair appear much fuller.
• Don’t put any product in your hair while it’s wet. Allowing the hair cuticles to open to their natural expansion gives the hair more body once it dries. Putting gel and creams on wet hair tends to weigh it down and often makes it look wet and wilted even after it has dried.
• To give hair a midday boost, bend over at the waist, let your hair hang down, and place your fingertips at the roots by splaying your fingers around your head at the scalp. Then lightly shuffle the roots. This will aerate your hair, boost volume, and increase circulation to your scalp—which feels great and can help alleviate headaches. You can also use a pick, being careful to lift the hair just at the root and not pulling the pick all the way through or the hair will frizz.
Mindy at Twelve Months
At this point, Mindy had only a tiny bit of dyed color left, so I cut her hair to remove most of it and give her hair some shape. Then she styled it with the scrunch method described above. Kristy suggested that once a month Mindy use a sulfate-free, purple cleansing wash or conditioner made for silver hair. The violet neutralizes the yellow, reducing any brassiness on the dyed hair. (For a recipe for a do-it-yourself blue/purple conditioning toner, see chapter 7.)