Happier Grey Podcast

Episode 16 - With Claire Shelley

July 05, 2024 Helen Johnson Season 1 Episode 16
Episode 16 - With Claire Shelley
Happier Grey Podcast
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Happier Grey Podcast
Episode 16 - With Claire Shelley
Jul 05, 2024 Season 1 Episode 16
Helen Johnson

This week I'm chatting to Claire Shelley who is in the process of ditching the dye and going grey. For health reasons, Claire's been focussing on eating natural foods and avoiding putting chemicals on or in her body. Which was the trigger for deciding to go grey, perhaps earlier than she perhaps would have done otherwise.

Show Notes Transcript

This week I'm chatting to Claire Shelley who is in the process of ditching the dye and going grey. For health reasons, Claire's been focussing on eating natural foods and avoiding putting chemicals on or in her body. Which was the trigger for deciding to go grey, perhaps earlier than she perhaps would have done otherwise.

Happier Grey Podcast with Claire Shelley

Helen: Hello and thanks for joining me, Helen Johnson, for the Happier Grey podcast. I'm pro-ageing and love my grey hair, but I know it can be quite intimidating to take the plunge, so each week I'll be chatting to other women who've chosen to embrace the grey in the hope of inspiring and supporting you, whether you already have silver hair, in the process of going grey, or just considering ditching the dye.

This morning, I'm joined by Claire Shelley, who has a couple of things in common with me. Not only is she choosing to embrace her greys, but we're both Facebook Ad Strategists. Claire specializes in lead generation and I work on ecommerce. Good morning, Claire.

Claire: Good morning, Helen. Lovely to be here.

Helen: How are you?

Claire: I very well thank you. Yes. Very good.

Helen: I want you to start out by asking a little bit about when you found your first grey hairs? 

Claire: Eek. I hate to admit it and I don’t know why I hate to admit it, but I hate to admit it. It was probably in my late 20s, and I was mortified. Because I guess when you’re in your 20s everything is about image isn’t it? And looking good and going out and looking for dates and all of that sort of stuff and yeah, probably I would say maybe 28, 29.

The first few I probably just plucked out. So that I didn't have to go down the dye route. I know that other people obviously go grey later in life and some lucky people don't go grey at all. But yeah, I was quite early in my grey journey.

Helen: My mother found my first one when I was 18

Claire: Oh Really. Wow.

Helen: and I was really worried about it because one of my grandmothers went grey when she was in her really early twenties and you’re kind of not really psychologically prepared for it at that point in time.

Claire: No, that's it, isn't it? When you're young, you don't really think about it. It does come as a bit of a shock, I think.

Helen: Do you know why you were so worried about them?

Claire: I guess when, I first started getting greys, it's just the stigma, isn't it, around grey hair equals ageing. And I guess at that point, and, for quite a long time afterwards, I just wasn't ready to embrace getting older. Just in society in general, it's that sort of preconception of someone with grey hair is an older person.

And I guess I didn't relate to that. It wasn't where I was at that point in my life. And I just thought, okay, right. If I'm going to start getting greys through, then I'm going to start dyeing my hair. I went through quite a few different stages of dyeing my hair. I started off with highlights because I only had a few greys.

Helen: Yeah.

Claire: So, it was easy just to cover up with the odd highlight here and there. And then the greys were starting to come through a little bit more strongly, so then I started having to have highlights then with dark colour in between. So, I had, a mixture of light and dark. And then the greys were so prominent at one point that I thought, okay, fine, but I'm just going to have to just dye my hair all one colour.

Then I reverted to going just an all over colour and having all of my roots covered in a dark colour and sort of stuck with that for quite a few years. So that was where I was for, I don't know, probably a good 10 years of just all over dark colour just to cut completely. Cut out the greys and, get rid of them, hide them. 

Helen: Were you a similar colour to your natural colour when you were younger then?

Claire: Yes, so I've always had very dark brown hair. So yes, when I was dyeing it, I was dyeing it a very sort of similar dark sort of colour. 

in hindsight, that kind of, is worse when the greys start coming through, because your hair is such a contrast to the greys coming through it just makes them so much more obvious, because you've got the really dark colour you've dyed your hair and then suddenly the greys start peeking through and then you can see them so much more clearly.

Helen: Uh-huh. So, you had root stress then?

Claire: Yeah, root anxiety.

Helen: And how often were you dyeing your hair?

Claire: In the last few years, I was dyeing it every six weeks because they would come through quite quickly. I could probably have done it every four weeks, but that was just financially too much of a commitment and also, I didn't want to have to be going to the hairdressers every four weeks.

At one point I thought, okay, this is ridiculous, I'm going to be going to the hairdressers all the time, so I'm going to try and do the box dyes from the shops. So, I went to Boots or whatever, and I picked myself out a boxed dye and brought it home, and of course you have to do the patch test, and it reacted. And so I did this patch test on my neck and I had this really big, sore, itchy patch on my neck and I thought, oh god, no, I can't even go down that route.

That's not even an option. So, I ended up having to go back to the hairdressers to have it done. And of course, when you go to the hairdressers, it's easy, isn't it? You don't have to worry about cleaning up after yourself, because when you dye your hair at home, it's pretty messy. In some respects, going to the hairdressers was a better option, because It was easy, they dealt with it and, I didn't react to their hair dye, so that was fine.

 Obviously, there's the social side as well to going to the hairdressers. That's quite nice because I’m very much in favour of self-care and doing things that, help you feel good and, looking after yourself. And so I guess, Going to the hairdresser was part of my self-care regime and, going and having a bit of a pamper and chatting to my hairdresser and, finding out what she'd been up to.

Helen: Just means you need to find a different way to do self-care.

Claire: Yeah, exactly. And what I thought is all of the money that I'm saving by not going to the hairdressers every six weeks, I'm gonna spend on things like maybe going for a massage or treating myself to a manicure or just all those little treats It lifts your mood, I think, when you think, OK, I'm going to do something for myself and take time away from busy work and family life and just do something just for you, it does, it lifts your spirit.

Helen: Yeah, I think it gives you a total break from all the other tasks of your daily life if you're running a business and running a family.

Claire: Yeah, making that time out is so important.

Helen: Another question then, why did you decide to go grey in the end?

Claire: It's been quite a journey and, it's taken me a really, really long time to come to this decision. It seems crazy when you think about it. It's just hair, but having gone through the process, I'm now realizing it's not just hair, it's so much more than that. So initially, a few, years back, I developed an autoimmune disease.

And it made me feel really, really rotten for a number of years and, I was really struggling with it for years and the doctors were saying, take your, thyroid medication, that's all you need to do and there's nothing more we can sort of offer you. And so for many years I battled with that, not getting any additional sort of support there was no solutions out there other than, I had actually taken these tablets which didn't really seem to be doing anything.

And then fortuitously I stumbled across a webinar. And it was talking about Functional Medicine which at that point I had heard of a long time ago, but it seemed only available in the US, it was really here in the UK at that point. It must have just sort of, reminded me about functional medicine and I thought, okay, yeah, this was something I remember looking into a long time ago, but had kind of forgotten about.

So, I went along to this webinar and the lady was talking about functional medicine and how you can work out the root causes of what is causing an illness. And by changing diet and taking supplements and various other things, you can heal your body and you can, help yourself to feel better.

I kind of thought, okay, well this is really interesting because at that point, no one had ever said to me, there's anything that can be done. It was all just, okay, you know, you take the tablets, that's it. And so, I was kind of felt stuck. There was nothing to sort of move on to or to try next.

And this kind of gave me a bit of a lifeline and said, okay, there are some other options for you. Here in the UK, on the NHS, it wasn't available. So, it's something I've had to fund privately, but it's my health and I really wanted to try and feel better. So, I went down this whole route of functional medicine.

I've been working with a functional, health practitioner for a while now. And we've looked very closely at diet and things like that. But in addition to the diet, we've also been looking at chemicals, in life in general. The things that you put onto your body as well as the things you consume.

So, as well as thinking, okay, I'm going to be trying to eat really healthfully, cut out processed foods, cut out all the junk stuff, all the sugars and all the rubbish that was increasing me feeling bad. I then started to focus as well on what I was putting onto my body. I've gone through looking at all the different creams and the make ups and things that I use and, really thinking consciously about the types of products that I buy. 

I absolutely love going shopping for makeup and wearing makeup and, that side of things. And I would go into a department store they had the big makeup, and all the different products. And it would be like my happiest place. And I would spend hours, browsing around and picking out new foundations and lipsticks and all that sort of stuff.

So, for me then looking more closely at that, because we don't necessarily read labels and we don't think about what are in these products. They might look good. They might feel good. They might give you a really good outcome, but actually what's in them. And when you start to peel back the layers of the onion and, delve into this stuff a bit more, it's actually quite concerning. The amount of chemicals and things that they put into these products, that give you a great overall finish, but actually aren't particularly good for us, and aren't good for our bodies and disrupt our hormones.

All this really nasty side of it that is very hidden, and of course they don't tell us about it because they want us to buy the products. I guess as part of that journey, as part of exploring all that and, researching more into it and making a conscious effort to buy things that were not full of chemicals, that were safe to use and, wouldn't be doing me harm.

I've just got to the point where I was going to the hairdressers and thinking, why am I dumping a whole box of chemicals on my head every six weeks, when I'm going through this whole process of trying to live cleanly and improve my health. And so, that was kind of the start of it.

And I just thought, okay, am I ready to go grey? Am I ready to embrace this? And for a long time, I wasn't, I was really resistant to it and I didn't want to go grey. And I kept saying to my hairdresser, I'm not ready to go grey. So perhaps we can do some blonde. So, she put some blonde in for me. And of course, blonde isn't grey.

There's always going to be that colour contrast and you're always going to be able to see the grey. So, we did lots of different things and tried different approaches. It over time became clear that the only route for me was to go grey. Because the general upkeep of having sort of some kind of colour was too much and I wanted to move away from having the all over hair dye because that's obviously on your actual scalp. 

I then moved to highlights because I thought well, it's still using chemicals but it's not actually touching my skin so that might be better and then in the end I just thought, I just can't be bothered. I am just gonna stop and, it took me a long time to say right I'm definitely going to stop.

I had my last hair appointment in January. So, I'm now watching the colour that I did have start to grow out and I'm watching my natural colour come in. And actually, not having to go to the hairdressers every six weeks. It's actually really liberating.

I quite enjoyed that part.

Helen: A couple of things to ask you then, first of all, going back to the makeup, any brands that you found that were really clean, that you chose to use now or that you might recommend to people?

Claire: Yeah, sure. I'm a big fan of The Ordinary, they do a lot of great skincare products. They're all very, pared back in terms of they just put in the essential ingredients, and there's not lots of chemicals. 

I also use, Tropic products, Tropic do skincare and makeup. And they are all very much, plant derived, products and they're really clean and healthy. Between the two, so Tropic I would say is more of a luxury product, the price point on the Tropic products are higher. Whereas Ordinary are very, very affordable, you know, their moisturizer for example is only I think 3 or 4 quid, so it's very, very affordable.

But they're the two I've sort of been focusing on recently because, they don't have the chemicals and it just, makes me feel better that I'm not putting hormone disrupting things onto my body, as I try and keep myself feeling good and healthy going forward.

Helen: Okay. Brilliant. So, coming back to growing your hair out, how are you feeling about the stripe?

Claire: I think the stripe’s the hardest is bit, for sure. for sure, I just, oh, the grow out, oh. Yeah, I guess it's made me realise that I’m very conscious about how I look. And just having this kind of line of difference in my hair it does feel very uncomfortable. 

So, I've started wearing my hair up more. I've got more sort of hair band things that I put round, which kind of disguises the front so you can't see that so much. And then there are days like today where I think, oh, I'm fine about it. I'm, just gonna dry it and go and, not worry about it at all. But, I will admit I will be really happy when it's all grown out, because then it will just all look just normal, and all one colour and not like I'm going through some weird experiment.

Helen: You are definitely in the difficult phase. That was certainly for me. I felt really uncomfortable with the stripe because my hair was all over bleach blonde at the point I went grey. So, I had a very distinct line, and just wanted it gone. But was never one of the people who was going to go and get the pixie cut.

Claire: No, me neither. I definitely am never going to go short. Short is not for me at all. I'm just going to have to sit tight and, just go through the process. 

Helen: It's worth it. Believe me.

Claire: Yeah, Yeah, exactly. It’s interesting, isn't it? Did you go blonde try and cover grey? Or did you just fancy having blonde?

Helen: No, my stories a little bit similar to yours. In that I started with highlights. In my thirties and then they got more and more. And then, I ended up all over blonde, probably for about 15 years. And in the end, I had a paler blonde stripe down the front as well. Cause you can see my hair's very white at the front and then not so white the rest of it. 

It's weird once you no longer have the dye in your hair. That blonde didn't really suit my complexion. Cause it's quite yellow and I would never wear yellow.

Claire: Yes, that's true,

Helen: My hair is actually longer now, way longer now than it was when it was blonde, when it was about shoulder length.

Because if it got any longer than that, it just made me look really sort of drawn, and older. But I think you're kind of conditioned into doing it. So many people end up going down that route of starting with the highlights, and then ending up with a solid colour. And very often the paler colour, cause the greys show up less against it.

Claire: Yeah.

Helen: If you look around at women of a certain age, there’s pretty high amount of blondes amongst them.

Claire: Yes, you're right, you're right.

Helen: But I think for me, definitely the growing out phase, I wasn't comfortable with it. Mostly my hair was tied up, and I ended up having it in a jaw length bob.

Once the grey was getting down reasonably with some layers in it, just cause I reached that point of going, I just don't want to see the blonde anymore. And then after that, just let it grow. But yeah, it's a difficult phase, I think as well, because you're kind of adjusting to the idea and you feel a bit of a mess.

When you spent so many years deliberately not being a mess and trying to look reasonable all the time. And it's something that you just, you can't really avoid when you've got the stripe. It's there and you can't really hide it.

Claire: What I love though is, on social media is to go on and have a look at other women doing the same thing. Cause that is really motivational. And I think probably Had social media not been there and had there not been women already going through this process championing each other, and cheering each other on and making it a thing, I don't even know that I would have considered it.

It just sparked an idea, going on Instagram and seeing these ladies growing their hair out and having fabulous grey hair and I thought, oh okay, other people are doing this. I don't think I would have considered it because I don't think, looking around sort of at friends and family and that, I don't think anyone has grey hair, apart from my mum.

I think probably social media was, the reason that I thought, okay, right, well other people are doing it, I can do it.

Helen: On that subject, then if nobody around you has grey hair or has chosen to go grey, what sort of reaction have you had from people to your decision? Are they supportive? Are they questioning?

Claire: Yeah, that's a really good question. Actually, they've been really supportive. Everyone has been if that's what you want to do, you go for it, and yeah, really supportive. But when there isn't anyone else around doing something, and you're doing it, it does feel a little bit kind of exposing and a bit makes you feel a bit vulnerable.


And I guess that comes down to a bit of personality because I’m sure there are lots of people out there who are very extroverted, and quite happy to have like crazy coloured hair, like green hair and they make big bold statements with their clothes and they're a very different type of person.

Whereas I'm an introvert and I like to blend in, I don't like to make a big deal about things. And so, taking a stance and doing something different and being different, I guess that made it feel even more uncomfortable. I hadn't really thought about that. 

Helen: I was expecting negativity. I was expecting people to say bad things about it because I was, so hooked on the idea that grey roots were a bad thing, and grey hair was a bad thing. Having covered it for so many years.

Claire: yeah.

Helen: But nobody was at all. And everyone now, everyone's like, I love the colour that your hair is.

Claire: Yeah, yeah.

Helen: It’s interesting. I think your perception of how it's going to be, is maybe not the experience that most of us live through.

Claire: No, you're right. And, one thing I have noticed now that I've got quite a big root that's come through and I can see my hair and, I can see what it's going to look like, I don't feel as bad about it as I thought I might. I thought when it was growing through that I might hate it and, that I would be really uncomfortable and, want to go back to the dye.

But actually, now there's quite a big chunk of it come through. I'm quite comfortable with it and I've got used to it. And actually, I don't think it looks that bad. So now, because I don't think it looks that bad, now I just want it to all be grown out. But yeah, it's interesting, because like you say, you don't know what to expect when you start going through the process, and you don't know how you're going to feel about it.

And, actually, my perception of how I might have felt about it was a lot worse than actually what it is. Now that it's here and I can see what the end result is going to be, I'm actually quite happy with it.

Helen: I'm going to ask you one last question, which is if someone came to you and said, I'm thinking about going grey, what would you say to them?

Claire: I would say to them that it has to be the right time for them. I feel like my position was pushed by my health concerns and wanting to be clean of chemicals.

Had that situation not arisen, I don't know, would I still be dyeing my hair? Possibly. So, I think that it has to be the right decision for that person and just take your time making the decision as well.

'cause I think you do a lot of toing and froing of I do I want to go grey, I don't want to go grey, I want to. Every time I was swaying towards and I don't want to do it, then I would go back onto Instagram, have a look at the other fabulous ladies on there who were doing the same thing and looking fabulous and owning it.

And I'd go. Actually, no, I do want to go grey. I can do it. I can do it. So, I'd say don't rush the decision. Just have a look around on social media, see what other people are doing, and just take time thinking about it. And, if you do go for it, just brilliant. It's just such a liberating and, you are embracing your hair, but also, you are just accepting who you are, where you are at this, point of life.

And, you know, I'm 47. I can't change that, I'm just gonna own it and just say, right, okay, this is who I am, this is how I look. Just sort of be comfortable in that. And, you know, in 20-years-time, I'll be looking back and going, oh, I wish I was 47 again. So, I'm just going to enjoy the moment.

Helen: Brilliant. Well, thanks so much for chatting to me. Your story is really interesting. Really enjoyed learning more about you. And wish you a good day.

Claire: Thank you. Thanks for having me, Helen.

Helen: Thanks so much for joining me for this week's show. I hope you've enjoyed it as much as I have. I'll be back again next week, but in the meantime, you can follow me on Instagram at happier. grey. Have a great week.