'My hair went grey at 18'

SILVER STRUT: Helen Mirren owns her silver locks, but there are no female stars below 60 that fly the grey hair flag.
SILVER STRUT: Helen Mirren owns her silver locks, but there are no female stars below 60 that fly the grey hair flag.

My hair started going grey when I was 18. There I was at university studying and partying - and secretly dyeing my hair so the boys didn't think I was a mature student.

I'm now about to turn forty and I'm 85 per cent grey. I'm still dyeing my hair. The roots are so obvious I have a permanent booking at my hairdresser's every three weeks. As well as the obvious expense, that's a lot of time sitting with goop on my head reading trashy mags.

There are lots of reasons hair turns grey: genetics, stress, poor diet.

But the science behind it is simple, as we age the follicles at the base of the hair shaft cease to produce melanin. Melanin produces pigment. With age, the pigment cells in a hair follicle gradually die off.

For me I hit the genetic anti-lottery.  My Mum is in her 60s and she's pure white and it looks fabulous.  My grandfather had a shock of white hair. I look forward to being pure white as it looks snazzy - but the salt and pepper - well, not so much.

I whooped when I heard a pill is being developed to help hair keep it's natural colour. 

Shelly Horton exposes her grey hair, which she's been colouring since she was 18 years old.

Then I sighed when I read it's only for hair that hasn't already turned grey.

I wish I could celebrate my grey hair as the gaining of wisdom, a rite of passage, as a billboard for growing old gracefully - but I can't. I just find it embarrassing. If I let my frizzy curly hair go completely natural it would resemble a Brillo pad and my self-esteem would go down the drain too.

Am I vain? Sure.  But what role models do I have to look up to? I'll name two famous female celebs with grey hair - Helen Mirren and Judi Dench. I love that they both wear their white with panache. Now name another three for me.

Much harder, huh?

Naming male greying celebs is easy - George Clooney, Bill Clinton, Anderson Cooper, Barack Obama.

Men with grey hair are called 'silver foxes' or 'distinguished' whereas women with long grey locks are 'old hippies', 'crazy cat ladies' or 'those who dabble in the dark arts'.

Yet another unfair double standard.

Hoping to change this, in New York earlier this year a group of fabulous grey haired women staged a protest called the 'Silver Sister Strut.' So maybe it's time for a shift in thinking?

Clive Allwright and Kelly Grant are co-owners of Our Place Salon in Sydney. They are both in favour for embracing grey hair rather than hiding it.

''Just the other day at the airport I saw a very stylish woman with grey hair pulled up into a french roll,'' says Allwright. ''She'd had one dramatic black streak dyed in the side so it twisted around her head.  It looked amazing.''

''I think it's down to the individual,'' says Grant. ''If it doesn't go coarse and stays shiny it can look stunning. As your hair greys it becomes more coarse so it's important to put time into the hair's condition. Use shampoos designed for grey hair. Then add serums and pearl drops to close the cuticle down and give your hair a sheen.''

And how many of their clients are asking to enhance their grey?

''None,'' sighs Grant. ''I don't have a single client who has grey and who's embracing it. There's a stigma with grey hair. I wish there wasn't.''

I think it will be a while until I'm doing the silver sister strut.

Should prematurely grey people go for the natural look? Or is dyeing your hair just a part of your beauty routine?