Scared that grey hair wouldn’t cut it in a youth-ob­sessed world, jour­nal­ist AMY OLIVER started dye­ing in her 20s. But she’s felt lib­er­ated since she em­braced her nat­u­ral colour (and re­veals why her hus­band is thrilled, too)

The Mail on Sunday - You - - FIRSTPERSON -

PHO­TOGRAPHS VIC­TO­RIA ADAM­SON

It has been a tough jour­ney, but I’m pleased to an­nounce that I’ve fi­nally stopped hit­ting the bot­tle. My not-so-se­cret habit was cost­ing thou­sands of pounds, hun­dreds of wasted hours and nearly re­sulted in di­vorce when my hus­band felt he could take no more. But to­day, at the grand old age of 38, there is some­thing I can say with ab­so­lute cer­tainty: ditch­ing my trusty brown hair dye and let­ting my nat­u­ral greys grow out is the best de­ci­sion I’ve ever made.

As a child, my hair, like my mother’s and pa­ter­nal grand­mother’s, was al­most black. My bat­tle to cover my greys be­gan 13 years ago when, at 25, sil­ver strands seemed to ap­pear overnight and shone from my scalp like a warn­ing to ship­ping. I ig­nored the old wives’ tale that pluck­ing them out would in­crease their num­ber threefold and, lo, they sprouted at a fierce rate.

At first I em­braced it, ig­nor­ing the stares and shock. (The mo­ment a new col­league on the news­pa­per where I used to work ex­claimed: ‘Oh my God! You’ve got grey roots! Just how old are you?’ has stayed with me.) My fate was sealed when an­other for­mer col­league ad­vised me to dye it. It was, they said, the only way to be taken se­ri­ously in a youth-ob­sessed in­dus­try. To my – and my purse’s – eter­nal re­gret, I did what they sug­gested.

Sud­denly, my hair was im­por­tant, when, in truth, it had never meant a great deal to me. For most of my child­hood, it was long with a slight wave and re­quired no main­te­nance. Dur­ing a re­bel­lious phase at se­condary school it was pil­lar-box red be­fore I de­cided to shave it all off (well, it was the 1990s).

In my 20s, I spent hours straight­en­ing it, but that was the ex­tent of my groom­ing. I balked at pay­ing more than £3 for sham­poo and thought mousse was some­thing you had for pud­ding. So imag­ine my sur­prise when a sin­gle colour tint cost close to £100 and three hours of my time at a rather or­di­nary sa­lon chain in Lon­don. Af­ter the deed was done, I stared at my­self in the mir­ror and re­alised I’d ac­tu­ally paid some­one to dye my hair the same colour as my mother’s ma­hogany side­board. It was cheap, tacky and glowed red un­der cer­tain lights; I looked like a Pound­shop Duchess of Cam­bridge.

My grey roots came through af­ter just a week. Af­ter three, the stripe down my cen­tre part­ing was so ob­vi­ous I could have lived with a fam­ily of badgers. I tried to last four to six weeks be­fore my next ap­point­ment, wear­ing my hair up or us­ing hair make-up – a bit like eye­shadow – to cover my roots. Once, I found my­self ap­ply­ing it in the bath­room at work with an­other woman do­ing the same. She voiced con­cern about the amount of chem­i­cals we were both us­ing be­cause we were dye­ing so much. ‘I’ve read they can cause Alzheimer’s,’ she said.

For some in­sane rea­son this did not de­ter ei­ther of us. Maybe be­cause the com­ments my newly dyed hair got were all pos­i­tive. ‘It takes ten years off you,’ my mother said, kindly. I wasn’t so sure, but it did mean I faded back into the ‘nor­mal’ and there­fore ac­cept­able back­ground.

On one oc­ca­sion, I was due at a party and couldn’t get a sa­lon ap­point­ment in time. In des­per­a­tion I bought a £6.99 at-home kit and slapped it on. To my eyes the re­sult was the same. Enough was enough, I thought, I’d dye it my­self from now on.

Ex­cept I couldn’t. I found brush­ing the dye on to my own roots im­pos­si­ble; I could never reach the back and couldn’t see if I had cov­ered ev­ery

Amy hid­ing her roots in 2014, left, and ditch­ing the dye in 2017

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