Andie MacDowell shows what the gray hair movement can teach us all about beauty and aging

The first sighting of a gray hair can be anxiety-inducing for many, even for those who pride themselves on self-love. It’s seen as a sign of aging and the beginning of the end of youth. And if you have more than one, it can feel like you’re doomed. It’s easy to believe that your beauty, and consequently your worth, will begin to fade away.

Instead of viewing the appearance of gray hair as a sign of the end of our prime, what if we could see it as a new chapter in our lives, with its own unique beauty and opportunities to shine? What if we could embrace this change and present it proudly to the world, rather than feeling the need to hide or cover it up?

In July 2021, actress Andie MacDowell caused a stir at the Cannes Film Festival by embracing her gray hair. MacDowell’s hair has always been a prominent aspect of her appearance, but she had previously dyed her hair black to maintain her distinctive look, at the request of her managers, as per an interview with Vogue.

However, when MacDowell’s children told her that the salt-and-pepper look was “badass,” she began to see embracing her natural hair color as a “power move.” So she acted on this impulse, and as you probably know, it caused quite a stir on social media.

In a conversation with Interview Magazine, MacDowell shared her thoughts on how liberating the experience was. She said, “I feel better like this. Honestly, it’s exhausting to have to be something that you no longer are…I was finally like, ‘You know what? I’m not young. And I’m OK with that..I feel so much more comfortable. It’s like I’ve taken a mask off or something.”’

Don’t we all struggle with this battle? Rather than embracing our progress, we often expend so much energy attempting to turn back time. Yet, in the midst of all this fuss over stalling the inevitable, we overlook the fact that aging is a magnificent gift, one that’s not guaranteed.

The phrase “embrace the gray” often carries the implication that aging is something to be feared and braced against like a daunting force. But where’s the beauty in that? While it can be unsettling to face the unknown as the end of life approaches, the process of aging itself might not be so terrifying.

MacDowell expressed her dislike for the term “embrace” in the same interview, saying that it implies a sense of having to tolerate something, which she doesn’t feel. This perspective is admirable. Instead of just accepting aging, why not appreciate it? Let’s return to the true definition of the term and greet it with open arms.

MacDowell continued “We do have something unique to offer. You can’t be young forever, but you can always be considered beautiful, fashionable, and glamorous.”

One might be skeptical and think, “sure easy for someone who’s already glamorous to say that.” However, MacDowell is not alone in her discovery. Many everyday women have had the same revelation.

The pandemic forced the closure of salons across the country, and coupled with major pay cuts and job losses, many women were unable to continue coloring their hair. However, what began as a forced restriction for many became an opportunity for reinvention. In embracing their natural hair color, many women discovered that their silver strands were not only acceptable, but also empowering.

Gray hair is now even considered trendy and making a comeback, and it’s not just celebrities who are embracing it. Women of all ages and backgrounds are recognizing the beauty and power in their natural hair color.

The movement towards embracing gray hair is not only about appearance. It represents a larger idea. Our society holds onto negative beliefs about aging, especially for women. We place importance on being included in the “30 Under 30” lists, using the strongest skincare to eliminate all signs of aging, and cringing at the mere mention of the word “ma’am.” However, it doesn’t have to be this way. All phases of life are valuable and deserve to be acknowledged.

I firmly believe that confidence is the key to glamour. And as we age, we become more multi-dimensional, more complex, and more fascinating. If that doesn’t boost your confidence, I don’t know what will.

The quote “beauty is truth, truth beauty” resonates in stories like these, where aging with grace and fearlessness is truly beautiful. Embracing oneself and practicing self-acceptance can be empowering and inspiring.