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let go and let gray
I’ve been on vacation in Maine, where twice a year I win a fried clam eating contest with myself at Bob’s Clam Hut. Bob’s fried whole belly clam platter is, to me, one of Maine’s most ravishing sights.
When I’m not face-down in a fried clam platter or lobster roll, I’ve noticed there’s a striking number of people up here with gray or white hair. (Maine’s population is slightly older than Florida’s.) Mostly the color is beautiful, in a wabi-sabi kind of way. Wabi-sabi: a Japanese aesthetic celebrating the beauty in imperfection and the tempering effects of age. Here’s a shortish post offering some helpful suggestions about caring for your undyed hair.
Maybe you already know that gray or white hair contains little to no pigment. But did you know it can sometimes turn yellowish because it picks up pigments from the environment?
For example, if you use a yellowish shampoo or conditioner, rather than a clear one, a trace of the color might be deposited on your hair. Chlorine and other chemical residues in water, sunlight, and even oils from the scalp can also give gray or white hair a yellowish cast. If your water is very chlorinated, install a water filter in your shower; wear a hat when you're in the sun; and wash your hair regularly. (I know the hat’s expensive—but it’s gorgeous. It’s made in Florence. And think of all the lucre you’re saving by not dyeing your hair!)
You might also like products made specifically for gray hair, like Clairol's Shimmer Lights shampoo or L’Oréal Professional AD1183 Serie Expert Silver shampoo—but don't use them more than once a week, because they could make your hair look bluish. For a daily rinse, try Garnier Fructis Triple Nutrition Fortifying shampoo. And as I mentioned in last week’s post, adding a few silvery or white-blonde highlights to your gray can zhuzh it up without getting yourself into a monthly situation. And this, I am reminded by a friend, resonates with another Japanese practice: kintsugi, which emphasizes cracks and imperfections in pottery and other objects by repairing them in gold or silver dust or resin. Like wabi-sabi, it recognizes an object’s complete history—its beauty and its brokenness.
Where I’m hanging out right now, there’s plenty of opportunity to appreciate wabi-sabi: the old fence and the side of my friend’s barn (below) are more beautiful every summer.
So, too, are the loving faces I see here.
Val Asks You
Don’t be shy! What’s your most vexing or intractable appearance issue? Send me your beauty-related questions. If I don’t have a good answer, I’ll find someone who does.