• Why going grey is more fun with friends.


    Why going grey is more fun with friends: Scared to ditch the dye? So were these women, until they joined forces.

    When Denise O'Niell, 52, from Belfast, went grey she had no support.

    She wrote a blog about her experience, sparking four new friendships.

    More women are turning to each other online for support while going grey.

    Going grey is a pivotal moment in a woman's life. Unkind comments and feeling that you've aged a decade in just a few months can make it a tricky, demoralising time.

    That's why more and more women are turning to one another for support, with entire sets of friends going grey together.

    Three weeks ago, writer Simonetta Wenkert wrote about how going grey made her look better, prompting scores of Mail readers to write in.

    Why going grey is more fun with friends.

    The silver sisters: Denise O'Niell, 52, from Belfast, furthest right, met, from left to right, Ros Johnstone, 50, Vanessa Mills, 52, Sharon Rogers, 51 and Rachel Tromans, 44, thanks to her blog 'Grey is OK'.

    Among their number was admin assistant Denise O'Neill, for whom ditching the dye not only improved her appearance but led to the formation of an extraordinary silver-haired support club.

    Here, the five friends reveal what prompted them to go grey - and how they now look better than ever...


    Denise O'Neill, 52, an admin assistant, lives in Belfast with her husband Jerry, 56, a social work manager, and their children Claire, 23, and Mark, 20.

    Going grey is a scary, emotional journey as much as a physical transformation.

    But when I made the decision to ditch the dye in 2008 there was no support.

    Letting roots show wasn't fashionable - it was admitting defeat. Society saw us as social pariahs and I vowed that when the whole unedifying process of going grey was over, I would help make it easier for others.

    Why going grey is more fun with friends.

    Denise felt that letting her natural roots show was 'admitting defeat' before she decided to go grey.

    I was in my mid-30s when I started covering my greys. But when I was 46, I realised being brunette was actually making me look older.

    So in June 2008, I went cold turkey. My self-esteem plummeted as my mane became an unattractive hybrid of fake brown and emerging grey. I washed it morning and night in a desperate attempt to make the dye disappear quicker and kept my head down at work.

    Dinner parties were spent endlessly apologising for the mess my hair was in.

    Logging on to the internet for help, I found none and, had I not been stubborn and spurred on by my husband, I may have given up all together.

    One year into the process I had my hair cut short, losing the last of the dye - and I knew it had all been worth it. My hair was healthier, illuminating my face and flattering my complexion. Friends tell me how much they like it, and a couple were inspired to go grey themselves.

    In September 2011, while writing a blog about my experience - Grey Is OK - I spotted new online support groups. The impassioned wails from greying women on it were all too familiar.

    One of them came from Sharon Rogers. 'Keep going, you can do it!' I wrote - and our friendship was born.

    In December 2013, Sharon and I met for lunch in London with 16 other women from a Facebook support group. We described it as a 'silver sisters' rendez-vous and as I glanced around I was struck by how attractive we all were. Going grey really does make you look better.


    Sharon Rogers, 51, lives in Colchester, Essex. She is divorced and a full-time career for her 28-year-old son.

    Peeking out of the shutters into the Italian sunshine, I watched my friends saunter to the pool - as I dug a box of hair dye out of my suitcase for yet another laborious colouring session. My desire to cover my grey had dictated my life for decades, but with the support of Denise I was able to relinquish my hair-dye addiction.

    Why going grey is more fun with friends.

    Sharon Rogers, from Colchester, was finally able to go grey after she had support from Denise O'Neill.

    My own mother had not yet found her first grey hair the day I found mine aged 15. In my mid-20s, my greys were making me feel old so I started colouring it brown.

    By 44, a little voice in my head wondered what would happen if I stopped colouring all together.

    That voice grew louder until one afternoon in January 2008, heart hammering, I marched into a hair salon and demanded my shoulder-length locks be chopped short.

    I wanted the dye obliterated with one swoop of the scissors - but was so traumatised by the haircut I fled straight to buy a head scarf.

    Why going grey is more fun with friends.

    The 51-year-old previously gave up the dye but buckled under pressure after receiving nasty comments and went back to bottle brunette, above. Now she loves her natural hair colour (photo from Sharon).

    When I took it off, a neighbour pronounced it 'horrible'. I later overheard her saying: 'She's such a pretty girl. Why does she have her hair that terrible grey?'

    By June 2010 I buckled, returned to the dye and remained in its vice-like grip until that Italian holiday two years later, when I was 48. Like Denise, I had no support going grey first time around, but this time Denise's chic grey bob and confidence incentivised me. She told me that if I believed I looked good, it didn't matter what anyone else thought.

    She was right. I would never go back to the dye. The comment I usually get is, 'If mine would look like yours, I would go grey'. But they can't know until they try.


    Ros Johnstone, 50, is a sales assistant from Colchester, Essex. She lives with her partner Simon, 39, a salesman, her son Charlie, 18, and daughter Maisie, 15 and her stepdaughter Lauren, 17.

    As I blew out the candles on my 50th birthday cake last September, I raised a glass to the women who had helped me achieve my ambition. I had succeeded in my plan to go grey before my sixth decade - and I had Sharon to thank.

    When we were introduced by a mutual friend in June 2013, haircare advice was the last thing on my mind.

    Why going grey is more fun with friends.

    Ros Johnstone, 50, from Essex, succeeded in her plan to go grey before she turned 60, thanks to Sharon.

    My son had just been diagnosed with autism and, as the mother of an adult son who also had the disorder, I was hoping that Sharon would offer me some advice.

    Which she did, of course, but after we spoke something entirely different struck me - Sharon had the most magnificent silver hair.

    I'd been toying with going grey for years but her locks gave me the impetus I needed.

    Later that evening, I messaged her on a whim: 'I'm going to need your support, because I'm going grey too . . .'


    More than seven million British women colour their hair at home.

    I'd long resented the hours that I spent in the salon every five weeks but when, by my 40s, my hair no longer held the colour for more than a couple of washes the entire rigmarole seemed particularly ridiculous.

    I was determined to go grey before I reached 50, but nevertheless the transition filled me with dread. Would I look like an unkempt relic?

    'I feel so unattractive,' I moaned halfway through to Denise and Sharon. 

    Denise advised me to take lots of pictures and motivate myself by logging my progress.

    Whenever I had a wobble she instructed me to 'step away' from the dye, her strength of feeling matched only by the compliments I garnered when I unveiled my dark grey 'do last May.

    Thanks to the encouragement of my friends I'm now facing my 50s with renewed confidence.


    Rachel Tromans, 44, is a health care worker from Dartford, Kent. She is married to Steve, 43, a civil servant. They have two children, Samuel, eight, and Lily-Rose, six.

    A succession of traumatic events made me reconsider my need for perfectly dyed hair. A friend committed suicide in 2012 and the year after that a beloved relative was diagnosed with cancer.

    As my shock turned to grief, I realised life was short and an immaculate façade didn't matter.

    Why going grey is more fun with friends.

    After a series of tragic events, Rachel Tromans, 44, re-evaluated her need for perfectly groomed hair.

    When an advert for a Facebook support group - 'going grey, looking great' popped up on my news feed in December 2013 it felt like a way to forge a fresh start.

    I started going grey in my 20s and in my 30s spending £70 dyeing my hair every couple of months seemed a necessary expense.

    But by my 40s my dyed hair started to look drab against my ageing skin. It seemed the more effort I put in, the worse I looked.

    The health-care worker from Dartford was struck by how happy the women in the support forums looked.

    As I entered the world of grey hair support groups I was struck by how happy the likes of Ros, Sharon and Denise looked. It was an epiphany: silver hair was a glamorous statement of freedom.

    At first I felt excruciatingly self-conscious, rushing straight to the mirror every morning to see if my hair had grown. I roped my husband, Steve, into taking pictures of the back of my hair and posting them online to monitor growth.

    Every fraction of grey was greeted with shrieks of enthusiasm. I had the last of my dyed hair cut off this month, after which Steve and I shared a bottle of champagne. Going grey has proved cathartic.


    Vanessa Mills, 52, is a photographer from Cambridge, married to Ian, 48, a pilot.

    My husband knew grey hair would suit me long before I did. But his reassurance wasn't enough - I needed support.

    We're conditioned to think grey hair makes you look old. So having started to go grey in my 30s, I never considered anything but dyeing it. By the time I was 50, having it coloured blonde was costing £80 every six weeks, but I had a permanent grey halo around my temples. I wanted to go natural.

    Why going grey is more fun with friends.

    Vanessa Mills, 52, a photographer from Cambridge, was spending £80 every six weeks to dye her hair blonde, which left it looking like a 'nylon wig' before she went grey because her husband suggested it

    My hair was short, so growing it out took just a couple of months. But friends said grey didn't suit me. So ten months later I dyed it the most peroxide blonde I could, leaving it on twice as long as advised.

    Over the following year, it fell out in clumps. It was hideous. The only support I found was online.

    By the time I grew out my hair again last October, I realised we are all brainwashed into relying on dye. My husband thinks my new look is lovely but I'm not sure all my friends particularly like it.

    Vanessa admits you have to be brave, but she gained confidence and now appreciates her healthy hair.

    'Brave' is a common word - and they're right. You have to be brave, because you look terrible for at least six months.

    But seeing pictures of my hair as it was, it looks like a nylon wig.

    By going grey I gained confidence, but it's the solidarity I found with the other women throughout the process that I treasure most.




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