Elizabeth Collins was 13 years old when she started going gray . As any teenager would do, she colored her hair dark brown, sometimes black to cover up her gray hairs, settling into a cycle of coloring it every four weeks. But four years ago she decided to stop. "I was pregnant with my fourth daughter and knew I wouldn’t have the time to do it myself or get it done," she says. "I'd been thinking about it for a couple of years, and once I decided to do it, I knew nothing would stop me." Now, at 31, she's documenting her transition into gray on an Instagram account she made specifically to track her progress, @young_and_gray29 .
She's not alone. You might have noticed that lately gray hair is on a redemption tour. You could even call it cool—so much so that women are now seeking it out advice on how to grow it out instead of frantically googling "Does tweezing a gray hair really mean that three grow back in its place?“ (For the record, the answer to this is no.)
The collective embrace of gray hair is inarguably a good thing. After all, chasing away grays can be as futile, time-consuming, and expensive as trying to locate an actual fountain of youth. "Coloring my roots every three weeks was getting expensive," says Nicole Andrus, who's in her midthirties and goes by @nic_went_gray on Instagram. Plus, the burden to conceal gray hair falls disproportionately on women. "I was really annoyed with the double standard for men and women when it came to gray hair," says Collins. "My dad, whom I inherited my premature gray hair from, had never felt the pressure to color his hair. Yet it was expected of me." Even the language we use when describing men who have gone gray is favorable— salt-and-pepper,silver fox,distinguished —far from the "you'd better cover it up" messaging targeted at women.