The New Trend of Going Gray

Woman with gray hair who has a natural look

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What does the term “going natural” describe in a post-pandemic world? For some, it seems to refer to escaping today’s materialism and conventionality for a simplified, back-to-the-Earth experience. Homesteading, building “tiny” homes, living “off-grid,” traveling the country in RVs and choosing flexible online jobs and fleeing traditional lifestyles and institutions could be the extreme version of going natural. Simple and manageable may have seemed very attractive, especially at a time when business employees were sent home, schools closed and the world was struggling to stay upright.

For others, the threat of this new killer disease, the uncertainty of how to best treat it and suspicion about medical misinformation led them on a journey to explore more-natural health cures. The potential of little-known herbs and long-abandoned home remedies suddenly became paramount, particularly, among those in the 31 to 64 age group, who already were health conscious. They invested in researching non-traditional health care options, practices and products, as well as natural supplements and self-help techniques to build immunity against COVID.

With fewer restaurants and fast-food places to frequent during the lockdowns, many families learned to appreciate eating home-cooked meals together. Some even explored baking whole-grain breads, growing sourdough starter and kombucha and experimenting with healthier ingredients and recipes. Their conversations focused on the true nature of organics, home-grown fruits and vegetables, healthy carbs, herbs and foods high in vitamin C. Savvy self-educated shoppers became label readers, knowledgeable in identifying and critiquing product ingredients.

One commonality during this time might be that despite major lifestyle interruptions prompted by the COVID pandemic, most men and women still cared about their looks. When the pandemic closed beauty salons, the latter group responded with an increased interest in natural do-it-yourself beauty care. Online sales increased across the board for healthier skin, nails, hair and bath-and-body products. According to the NielsonIQ report, in 2021, 15% more hair cutting was being done at home, while 19% of multicultural consumers were choosing a more natural look and 26% were wearing less makeup overall.

Both the African American and the Hispanic communities have traditionally spent more on beauty products compared to other minorities, and the closure of so many beauty salons during the pandemic only increased the desire for at-home hair, nail and skin care. The result has been a steep rise in Black-owned beauty brands that offer natural and self-care products. Again, NielsonIQ reports that 21% of Hispanic shoppers have also been seeking more natural products.

Finally, for some, “going natural” has been as simple as using stay-at-home time to let those annoying gray roots finally grow out. Only a woman who has colored her hair for years fully understands how time-consuming, tiring and expensive the cover-your-gray process is as a part of trying to maintain a youthful appearance.

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It has also helped that celebrities such as Miley Cyrus, Cindy Jacobs, Andie MacDowell and Kim Kardashian have boldly heralded the current popularity of silver hair and made it not only acceptable but stylish. However, as fashionistas will, these and other influencers probably will soon move on to other looks, and their devoted followers will switch styles and colors once more. It remains to be seen if the graying of America will be a lasting trend.

Time will be the judge of which pandemic lifestyle changes will become permanent and which ones will go the way of fads or temporary impositions. While it does appear that many health-conscious people are choosing to continue the natural lifestyle changes they have adopted, the only certainty is that “going natural” in the future will continue to mean many different things for different reasons to our diverse population.

By Janet E. Perrigo

INFOGRAPHIC: Going Gray By The Numbers

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