Greying hair is one of the woes of aging. What are some ways to treat your hair that will make you look younger? Join us in discussion with style and fashion specialist Penelope Whiteley who has some great ideas to share. Enjoy the show!

 

 
 

Margaret Manning:

My guest today is Penelope Whiteley. Penelope is a speaker and an author of four books. She is a change catalyst. She likes to help women to reinvent themselves in their 60s and to live life on their own terms.

Penelope has visited 57 countries and has lived in seven of them. She offers online programs for women who are trying to make sense of live in their 60s, and she also offers travel tours. Welcome, Penelope.

Penelope Whiteley:

Thank you, Margaret. It’s lovely to be here.

Margaret:

57 countries, that is quite the number of places to have lived in this beautiful world.

Penelope:

Yes, but there are 197 countries in the world, so I’ve still got a long way to go.

Margaret:

You’ve got tons of places to go. Thanks for being here. I browsed your website, and I can see you are a real change catalyst. You inspire and help women who are looking to change the way they are living their life in after 60.

Penelope:

Exactly. I think too many of us, when we reach our 50s and move into our 60s, still live within the expectations others place on us, instead of saying, “This is me, I’m doing what I want. Thanks very much.”

Margaret:

You are going to resonate one thousand percent with the Sixty and Me community as many of our women believe that, too. I think you have previously stated your purpose as helping women to get unstuck from the places where they find themselves and make the transition easier.

Penelope:

I think if you are going to get unstuck you might as well do it somewhere beautiful like Florence or the Amalfi Coast.

Margaret:

That is a beautiful part of the world for sure. We are bound to talk about it at some point, but today I’d like us to discuss greying hair – the phenomenon most of us face in our lifetime.

What is greying hair? Why does it happen and how do we deal with this ‘gift’? How do we go about coloring our grey hair? Can you share some makeup tips perhaps? I’m sure there are lots of things we can do to help us feel comfortable with greying hair, and you have actually written a book on this topic.

Penelope:

I have, and it’s called Grey Hair and You. I wrote it because there was a general cry of agony when it came to grey hair. So many women don’t know how to approach this issue when it arises. Some want to be blond, but can’t because their hair is grey, and it leads to disappointment and frustration.

So, I didn’t want to write about the transition from grey either because that’s everyone’s personal journey. To me, what most women want is to know what to do with grey hair once they’ve got it. The good, the bad and the ugly.

Margaret:

That is such a useful way of approaching it. I too think that getting down to the practical things you can do is really helpful. So, your book reads a little like a how-to guide, and it was published earlier this year.

If you are interested in getting a copy of Penelope’s book, visit her website and you will find out more information on where to buy it. It covers lots of topics having to do with grey hair.

Penelope:

If you sign up to my newsletter you will receive all sorts of updates and ideas, too.

Margaret:

That’s wonderful. Can you give us a teaser here of what’s in the book? I know you start out by talking about why hair turns grey, how to deal with that initial phenomenon and the myths around greying hair.

Penelope:

There is a lot of research being done about grey hair. They have actually discovered the gene that turns hair grey and are working on systems which will stop this process in the future, but I think it’s a little too late for us.

Grey hair is just a part of the ageing process. Can we stop it? No, we can’t, and certainly not at the moment. Maybe in 10 or 20 or 50 years’ time, but not right now.

That first grey hair – whether it appears when you are 12 or 76 – is the moment when you think, “Ah, I’m old, because I’ve got grey hair.” In reality, though, it’s really not that bad. You just have to learn what to do with it that suits you.

The hair shaft – whether it has color or not – is made of keratin, and it’s actually dead. When it turns grey it’s because we no longer have any melanocytes, which are color producing cells, injecting color into the melanin of the hair shaft.

When you look at a transverse image of a hair shaft that is grey, the other thing you see is a lot of air bubbles. For some reason, no one knows why, when hair starts to turn grey it starts filling with air, which is interesting. Maybe that’s why it becomes puffier, who knows.

Margaret:

My grey hair is coarser and a little thicker. Maybe that’s because of the bubbles.

Penelope:

Coarse hair certainly is one part of the greying process. For some women it really is a bit of a disaster, because their hair is not just course, it’s curly as well. If that is case, you seriously have to look at using silicon as a conditioner.

I know people say, “You shouldn’t put silicon on your hair if you are 60 or 70.” I don’t think we need to worry any longer about another 50 years of hair longevity, to be honest. Put silicon on your hair.

Also, another thing science has found out is that as we age and our hair becomes more and more grey, we are producing higher levels of hydrogen peroxide. It’s naturally produced in the body, but as we age we produce more of it. So maybe that plays a part in why we turn grey as well.

Margaret:

This is interesting. So, there is a multitude of internal events happening in our bodies, and we end up with grey hair or white hair, whatever is the case.

As you say, for some women it’s salt-and-pepper for others it’s course and curly, but overall – what can we do? If you want to color your grey hair or you want to make it part of the new you, what do you suggest? What’s the best approach?

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Penelope:

I think if you have always been dark, grey is quite a change and can be a bit of a shock. If you want to continue coloring it dark, then you must understand that you are actually going to look older. Our hair goes grey for a reason. It’s softer for our faces which now have little wrinkles and other blemishes.

Margaret:

I have noticed that dark colors have got less vibrancy and look flatter.

Penelope:

Absolutely. So, be careful if you are going to continue to be dark because it can age you hugely. If you had dark hair and your hair is now salt-and-pepper for example, there are several ways you can go. In my opinion, the best thing to do is to go for foils, light or dark.

If you have a lot of grey in your hair, try putting in some very dark foils because that would give you a bit of punch.

Margaret:

For people in the United States, foils are highlights.

Penelope:

Highlights, yes, but these are low lights as they are actually dark. Low lights are great. Salt-and-pepper women, if you want to become lighter you are going to have to look at adding foils rather than bleaching all over, because bleaching grey hair is actually very difficult.

Another way of dealing with your grey hair is to cut it short, but do you really want to do that? Some people do, some people don’t. This is something you have to decide for yourself, but in consultation with a hairdresser or a beautician.

A good experiment is to go to a wig shop and try on wigs. Find the one that suits you best – not the one you like best. That’s hard because we can’t always be objective when we are looking at ourselves. Most of the time we are very subjective because we think we know how we should look.

Margaret:

That’s a good point. So basically, what you are saying is that if you have got dark hair going grey, your options are foils/lowlights or letting the grey grow out.

What are your options if you have blond hair? I suppose it’s a bit easier because you can probably live with the grey growing out a little bit. What do you think about blond hair people?

Penelope:

This is interesting because a friend of mine who has been blond all her life suddenly noticed one day that her roots were lighter than her hair. She just let it grow out.

So, I think greying is much easier on blondes because they’ve always been blond and there isn’t a great color transition. One thing blondes can do is use a product called Magic Silver White, which is a purple shade, but I don’t know what it’s called in the States.

You can also buy shampoo that is purple. It is fabulous for blondes because it tones down the grey and makes it look more of an ash color, which is more of a natural grey. Or they can just continue to color it blond. That is entirely up to the individual, isn’t it?

Blonds are much more fortunate in a way, because they don’t have to transition from dark through different colors till they eventually reach grey.

Margaret:

Yes, and I think even with blond there is a wide variety of hues. I have gone a little bit darker with my blond, so you can’t really see the grey as quickly. You can still see it as it comes in, because it is a lot whiter, but you don’t have to dye your hair every four weeks.

Penelope:

I think many of us would gladly embrace the idea of turning grey overnight, but it doesn’t happen that way.

Margaret:

Now, if your hair is going grey, you are going to have similar challenges with grey in your eyebrows. What do you suggest for coloring eyebrows? What is your recommendation?

Penelope:

A lot of it depends on the state of your eyebrows. For example, my eyebrows are very, very thin because back in the 60s it was very fashionable to have thin eye brows. I plucked them and they never grew back, but I do still have some hair.

I found a product the other day, a Benefit eyebrow gel that is just wonderful. It gels your eyebrows – the actual hair that you have in place – and then you can add pencil to make them look thicker. You can also change the shape and give yourself a much bigger space between the eyebrow and eye.

Margaret:

And you could always wear a fringe, or bangs, which helps as well. There are some other products out there, but the Benefit one is good.

I actually found one called Wondur Brow and it’s similar. It’s got pieces of hair fiber in the mixture and when you put it on it thickens your brows. Whatever you do, I don’t think it’s advisable to pluck the grey hairs out.

Penelope:

No, don’t do that. I know people say if you pluck one five will grow back, but of course, that is a myth. It’s much the same as with hair on your head. So don’t pluck your grey eyebrow hairs, just use gel to keep them in line. Unless of course they became very course and curly.

Margaret:

Thank you for this discussion, Penelope. It has been super helpful, and I hope that people find it useful. I looked at the chapter headings of your book, and it covers just about everything that you ever wanted to know about greying hair.

Penelope:

Yes, I’ve included a broad range of problems and solutions.

Margaret:

Thanks for being here, Penelope. It’s always great to talk with you.

Penelope:

Thanks, Margaret.

Margaret:

Bye for now.

How do you deal with greying hair? Which advice speaks to you the most? Please join the conversation below.

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