Lady Grey (not tea)

I found my first grey hair when I was 16. Well, that’s not quite true. My mother found my very first grey hair when I was 13. It was a wispier-than-air, 3-inch-long, nearly translucent hair attached to the corner of my left eyebrow. Or maybe it was my right. I’ve tried to block out the memory. I still remember my mom telling me, “Oh, you’ve got a piece of fuzz or something on you,” and reaching over to brush it off. And then, “Oh – it’s ATTACHED!” And then me engaging in some typical 13-year-old drama like, “Omigod, what is it? Get it off! Pull it out!” while my mom went on and on about how she couldn’t believe I had a grey hair already.

Kim and Rhoda – College prom pic with original hair color. Nothing says the 80s like big hair and shoulder pads. I also drove a 1987 Camaro. Oh yeah. I was cool like that.

When I hear women lamenting their first hard-earned grey hairs in their 30s or 40s or beyond I think to myself, “You think THAT’s traumatic!” But I do consider myself lucky because I have never equated grey hair with advancing age. I used to consider myself lucky because my grey hair was actually snow-white. I think grey hair is like the photo-negative of what you typically have on your head. In my case, I had hair that was as black as a starless night. So I ended up with blindingly bright white hair. Until it wasn’t.

In the last few years, my hair formerly-known-as-white decided to yellow. But not all over. Primarily on one side. I had noticed some discoloration one summer after being in the sun. I didn’t know how bad it was until someone asked my mom, “Who’s the blonde?!” I did not take it as a compliment. (No offense to blondes by birth or choice!)

I finally realized that my hair was picking up minerals from water. Not necessarily from our shower, but when I did things like spend 90 minutes in a float tank. I only did that once. However, hair is slow-growing and once it’s discolored, it can stay that way for quite a while. I tried all kinds of natural solutions to get the yellow out. Baking soda and instant lemonade (ascorbic acid) helped, but I eventually resorted to Aveda Blue Malva shampoo. I really dislike using stuff I can’t pronounce in my food or beauty products. But vanity finally won out. A prematurely grey girl does have her herbal limits.

When my hair doesn’t need to be smacked back into submission, I like to use the following herbal shampoo recipe adapted from I use it as my “regular” shampoo and purple shampoo for “color maintenance.” Who knew that white hair was so persnickety?

Herbal Shampoo

8 oz. distilled water
[Note: If you don’t have distilled water, you can use regular water – but this may lead to a shorter shelf life. The distilled water ensures that you aren’t adding any bacteria to the mix.]

2 t. dried calendula or chamomile (rosemary or safe for dark-colored hair)

2 t. dried rose petals

3 oz. liquid castile soap

3 T. aloe vera gel

1/4 t. sweet almond oil (untoasted sesame or jojoba oils also work; toasted sesame oil will make you smell like dinner)

30 drops lavender essential oil (or rosemary or sage EO)

Variations: Feel free to mix and match herbs. This recipe uses about 3 teaspoons of dried herbal material. For darker hair, you can mix dried nettle, sage, and black walnut hulls. For dry hair, try dried violet leaf and marshmallow root and possibly add more oil to your recipe. If you have an itchy scalp and/or dandruff try adding tea tree essential oil.

  1. Place the calendula and rose petals into a jar.
  2. Fill the jar with boiling water and immediately place a lid over the jar.
  3. Let this mixture steep for a minimum of 30 minutes. You can also let the mixture stand until cool.
  4. Strain the herbs. Let the remaining liquid cool to room temperature.
  5. Place the liquid into a shampoo bottle.
  6. Add the castile soap to the container.
  7. Add the sweet almond oil and lavender essential oil.
  8. Add the aloe vera gel.
  9. Shake well and voila! You have your own handmade herbal shampoo. You’ll want to shake this mixture each time before you use it.

This shampoo should last for several weeks, unlike discoloration which lasts a very long time!