A never-ending cycle
The office worker in this photo is 58 years old. She had been getting her hair colored every four weeks for more than 20 years. She said she stopped dyeing two years ago, realizing how much time and money she spent. Staying on top of her work and visiting her mother at a nursing home left little time for trips to the hair salon.
"Getting your hair dyed is not cheap," she said. "Every two weeks I would start to see the gray coming in. It was depressing. Dyeing was a never-ending cycle."
Inspired by a feature in a fashion magazine, she saw that she could go gray gracefully. She said the women in the article looked fashionable and full of life with gray hair.
"I used to get depressed, wondering why the gray grew in so fast," she said. "Now I like the fact that my hair grows fast."
Her husband supported her decision to go gray. "I think it brings out the beauty of her age," he said.
Women over 40 are now getting together on weekends to talk about hair and aging. They think that going gray is nothing to hide and that it has opened new possibilities for them.
The office worker joined a group in Tokyo that also practices yoga. They are resisting social pressure to color their gray hair.
"I’m not doing anything wrong, and I’m not the only one," she said, adding that she's grateful to have met other like-minded women.
"Stop dyeing when you think the time is right," they say. "I can now say with a smile that I love my gray hair," said another woman in the group. Being themselves, gray hair and all, has boosted their self-confidence.
The woman who started the group is known as Negi. She has a website she calls "GRAY-HAIR TOKYO" that links women across Japan.
"Gray is just another hair color and it can bring out the true you," she explains. "I want gray-haired life to be fun for everyone."
Changing social values
Sociology Professor at Kokugakuin University, Kiriu Minashita, says aging is an expression of your life experience. "Showing your age by not dyeing your hair has become an acceptable option."
Of course, the trend to gray gracefully has not escaped notice by the beauty industry, which is coming out with products to enhance the gray rather than hide it. Natural has become the new look.