When 83-year-old icon Jane Fonda accepted her award at the recent Golden Globe Awards ceremony, her sleek suit took second fiddle to her striking silver hair. Jewish Atlanta women are riding the curve, using COVID – or not – as an excuse to let the natural gray shine through.
Amazon Prime Video came out with a new documentary, “Gray is the New Blonde.” Everything old is new again, as the Peter Allen song goes.
Medically, as we age, melanin pigment cells in hair follicles start to die, according to WedMD. Without pigment, new strands grow in various shades of gray, silver and eventually white. Once a follicle stops making melanin, it will never again produce colored strands, WebMD reported.
Not the wife’s tale of stress from raising wild teenagers, but genes determine this path.
Revealing their color decisions are a handful of Jewish Atlanta women, many of whom are their “mother’s daughters” in seeking sassy silver results.
Susan Shapiro McCarthy eschewed going into a salon at the beginning of COVID. When her silver started peeking through, she thought fondly of her mother’s beautiful shock of white hair. Later, another hairdresser trimmed McCarthy’s ends during the months of the “grow out process.” She said, “Now after the COVID year, I am finally 100 percent silver and getting tons of compliments.”
Denise Gelernter noted that “Before COVID, I spent an average of four hours every three weeks at the hairdresser, which is ironic because I’m pretty low maintenance. The last time I colored my hair was March 2020.
“Months later, when the salon reopened, I wasn’t comfortable spending hours in a small salon. I felt it would be safe enough, but … I took this opportunity to be low maintenance and allow nature to take its course,” she said.
“I began to appreciate how much time and money I was saving. I also realized how much less stress I felt every three weeks, and I didn’t have to worry about something coming up and having to reschedule a four-hour appointment. On the flip side, I worried about looking older, as a 58-year-old single woman.
“When family and friends tell me I need to color, the compliments I receive from random strangers encourage me to continue down this road. I’m embracing my “gray-bré” (it’s not quite ombré), giving myself grace AND feeling empowered and brave for sticking with it!”
Rhoda Webber sported a light brown auburn shade for decades. She bemoaned, “It was just too hard to keep the roots covered. During COVID, I wanted to see it grow out, if I would really like it. My hairdresser lightened the ends during the process to blend in along the way. It is indeed a radical change which I will maintain.”
The last time Renee Berg colored her auburn hair at home with L’Oreal was March 2020, and now she says, “There is no going back.” She plays virtual mahjong with her fellow retired educators, many of whom have gone gray. “My hair is thick and easy to handle,” she said, “and turned out to be pretty, like my mother’s white hair. And it gives me freedom.”
Robin Mendel Kromis recalled, “When the pandemic hit and hair salons closed, we faced the quandary of how do I keep myself up? Even before the shutdown, I toyed with going natural because my mother had such a pretty platinum color. I went back and forth: free myself from being a slave to hair color; face my age and embrace the wisdom of aging gracefully; have a lifestyle less dependent on beauty appointments.
“The process has been a journey. Some friends opined, ‘It will definitely make you look older!’ I follow an Instagram page Grombre where the women are on my same wavelength. I find their candor inspirational. It feels like a sisterhood. I’m enjoying the color (which is still in transition) and get many compliments including, ‘It really doesn’t make you look older!’”
In contrast, sisters Joan Bannett Brown and Dena Bannett Hammond “went natural” two decades ago. Brown admired two of her mother’s friends who had beautiful silver hair and thought she would go “all in” herself since she was seeing some “salt and pepper” emerge. She recalled, “My husband encouraged it. And now ‘me is me’ No need to be somebody else.”
She jokes that she gets tons of compliments. A movie was being filmed on her street when some of the crew shouted out “Beautiful hair!” as she strode by.
Who said, “Blondes have more fun”? And ditch the Clairol campaign, “Only her hairdresser knows for sure.”