My Father’s Alzheimer’s disease led to my Natural Hair

2-months after this writing my father passed away.

Note: Posts about natural hair, white/silver are from my own personal experiences, conversations, and learning as this adventure unfolds This is my own transition from dyed hair to natural “virgin” hair. If you are thinking about taking the dye-free plunge you might find useful tips here to help you start and carry-on.



No matter my hair colour or style, I knew when I was no longer recognized by my dad–who was in the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s disease–that the time had come… I was free and ready to ditch the hair dye and go natural.

© photo Terra Wise, March 2014
Photo on 2014-04-02 at 18_fotor










The turning point for me in my decision to transition to gray was the realization that my father, who has advanced Alzheimer’s disease, no longer recognized me. My life-long brunette hair makes no difference to his knowing who I am now. It did not matter if I wore it down in the familiar style he knew best or pulled back. All my rationalizations, all the stories I told myself about why I should keep colouring were falling away– falling almost as fast as my shedding hair…

I was 16, sitting in a hair salon getting my shoulder length brunette hair trimmed when my stylist found gray hair, lots of it. Not only did he find gray, he called over the entire salon staff pointing at my head saying, “Look at this, she must be 50% gray already!”

I interpreted his words in such a way that I felt unattractive and old. I was not the most secure teen to begin with and his words and actions embarrassed me terribly. I started using henna to cover the gray, and then salon dyes, and eventually  drugstore box-dye for the next decades.I’m now 56 and well into my transition and quite enjoying the freedom.

Hiding my roots had become an utterly exhausting chore for me. Every 10-days my white hair would peek through. I felt trapped in a loop, a victim to my peek-a-boo roots and yet uncertain of how to go natural.I had given plenty of thought to going gray over the years, always wondering how to do it? How do I stop colouring without getting a buzz cut? I wondered if I could ever transition in an elegant no-one-will-notice-way?

 place collage photo here

In November 2013, two months prior to my 56th birthday I simply stopped. I couldn’t stand to cover the white again and again. The condition of my hair was straw dry and I’m not getting younger – the brown dye colour was not going to hide that reality, in fact it seemed to highlight it.

And so I accepted there is no elegant way to go gray-AND-still keep my hair long while growing out short choppy layers. The only option I saw was to just take a leap and let it happen, both the gray and the growing length.

As the white hair comes in and the permanent dye grows out I’m more committed to this transition each and every day. The last time I coloured was for a dinner party early in October 2013. I didn’t want to, but I was worried about how unattractive the skunk stripe would look if I did nothing. But at the same time I didn’t want to fall victim to feeling a need to colour for other people’s comfort.

Maintaining a lie was getting to be a huge nuisance. I didn’t like my self-imposed internal pressure to colour ever time there was an event, a family get-together or for any other possibilities that might occur someday in the future (romance perhaps).

whitehead May 21, 2014


All those feelings, the exhaustion, the powerful hold that colour had on me was wearing me down. I didn’t like the secret, did not like hiding my authentic self. I became tired of the worry about traveling, that I might need to colour while on a trip, or if the wind blew my roots would be seen. I was just damn tired of the effort to hide my own hair, my own truth. I was done hiding. The willingness to change required self-reflection. I’d always loved my dark hair, it felt most like me.

But then I asked myself, if my hair was now white was that not truly most like me? Everything coalesced one day as I looked in the mirror at my white roots with a box of colour in hand when I heard a loud clear voice in my head say, Stop! Don’t do it! That was in November 2013.

That inner voice had a lot of good advice. I’m doing this for me, I’m single, I have no one but me to answer to and if I do meet someone down the road, the truth of being authentically myself is most powerfully liberating. Plus, for me personally I don’t want to be 80-years of age still dying my hair, or dealing with the grow-out at years from now.


We each do what is right when it is the right time. It was the right moment in time for me to embrace my white hair and to allow my uninhibited self to shine true.



Final thoughts: A couple of people said I am brave. In my opinion brave is running into a burning building to save lives. I am only providing myself the right to be natural. More than this being about bravery it is about self-empowerment!

On occasion I miss my youthful brunette hair, but I realized it was time to let go of illusions. I am ready to stand proud and step forward into my white-head authenticity. None of us can hold on to a look that comes from decades earlier in life and expect to look the same. I feel free in shedding the past and letting go of impossible expectations. I’m eager to see the final reveal, but even the day-to-day experience is an exciting adventure.

As of this writing, I currently have a few shades of hair, similar to a Calico cat. Eventually I hope to be something like Daenerys  Targaryen, ‘The Mother of Dragons’ from the HBO show The Game of Thrones with her long white waves.

It is a slow process to transition from dyed hair to natural while keeping the length long, but that was my choice. Many women look great with a short pixie cut and will see their silver much sooner. In my case, my virgin hair is coming in, but the top layers of old dye still hide much of the white roots.
Happily the new virgin growth looks shiny and healthy. Yes, I’m a virgin again!
– Terra