salon secrets

Sophie Fontanel: Grey Hair Do Care!

August 24th 2017

Fashion journalist and writer Sophie Fontanel, has published a book telling the story of her switch from colored to grey hair. With her characteristic humor and directness, she tackles the issues linked to this change: femininity, seduction and the fear of growing old. As well as liberation and how to deal with the lengthy transition from colored to grey hair. Here, she talks openly to FAB. 

FAB: You’ve had grey hair for two years now – what made you want to let your grey hair grow?

Sophie Fontanel: I had already been considering it for some time but I couldn’t quite bring myself to make the decision alone. My excellent colorist at the Delphine Courteille salon told me: ‘Your hair is too dark, I can’t make it any lighter as you’ll end up with orange hair.’ That hypothetical coloring “transition” set me free! I also asked myself whether men would still look at me with grey hair. I thought it would be like closing myself of from men.

FAB: Has your grey hair changed your relationship with men and with other people?

S. F.:  I’m 54 years old, when I was younger, I dated older men and I realized that those men didn’t really see me for who I was. So perhaps it’s a blessing to no longer be a sort of ‘prey’ for men looking for younger women. Also, I work in fashion, which is a very liberal environment, and if you come in with green hair and you’re matching it with nice blue clothes, everyone will love it! I’m discovering that men don’t dread growing old; some of them adore wrinkles and grey hair.

FAB: What advice can you give to women who are hesitant about leaving their hair grey?

S. F.: Every woman must do what she feels is right, but the question is: what do you really want? If you forget about your husband, your children and your social circle, what do you really think about that little lock of grey hair that keeps coming back? I looked at it and I found it beautiful. Then when I looked at other women with grey hair, I found them beautiful. In the 1960s, there was a movement called ‘Black is Beautiful’, which encouraged the African-American community to be proud of their frizzy hair and dark skin; my approach is the same.

FAB: Is there a particular age when it’s easier to take the leap and leave your hair grey?

S. F.: When you start getting a few grey hairs, you tell yourself you’ll get rid of them. Often women say that one day they’ll let them grow… But in fact, it’s when you’re young that you should leave your hair grey. We have the ability to send a ton of signals to make people perceive grey hair as beautiful. Rihanna had grey hair and everyone loved it. My grey hair icon is Sarah Harris {@sarahharrisuk, Fashion Features Director at “Vogue” UK}, she looks wonderful with her long grey hair.

FAB: Do you think that women who dye their roots today are forcing themselves to abide by overly strict beauty standards?

S. F.: No, there are women who dye their hair and it suits them. And going to the hairdresser is a treat to yourself. It’s a break, when we take care of ourselves. It can be a time for letting go. When your hair is being washed in the sink, you’re forced to put down your cell phone. It could almost be a moment of meditation. It would be awful to say that women shouldn’t dye their hair. In some American prisons, women are forbidden from dying their hair and it’s truly humiliating.

However, now that my hair is grey, I see all of the bad dye jobs. The sunlight ruins the color and it turns orange or green by the end of the summer. Sometimes, you can see when a woman has just dyed her hair. You need a real coloring genius to obtain a natural-looking result!

FAB: You work in fashion. Can you give us some fashion advice to accompany grey hair?

S. F.: I know how to compensate through the way I dress. If you don’t have that ability and you dress a bit tartily or you’re not that self-confident, or you’re not really brave enough to take the leap, that might be a sign that you shouldn’t leave your hair grey. Otherwise, I love wearing a nice men’s shirt with a good blazer, for example. Women who know how to style their hair well are also at a great advantage.

FAB: What advice would you give to women who follow in your footsteps and experience a long transition period as the grey hair grows back after coloring?

S. F.: I opted for a radical transition to launch the debate, but there are three solutions:

– You can start the transition in summer and cut your hair short to begin with.

– Cut your hair to shoulder-length, let several centimetres grow to see your real color and ask your colorist to bleach the dyed hair to match the natural color as closely as possible as it grows out.

– And finally, the method I went for: as soon as the grey hair starts to grow, twist a few locks and put the dyed hair up in a bun. This way, the bun is black and the scalp grey. It’s a great hair look!

Credits: Sophie Fontanel

FAB: Did your hair stylist, Delphine Courteille, help you with the transition ?

S. F.: Absolutely. She even encouraged me, something that not all hairdressers would do. At the beginning, when I went to her salon with roots, it was her who advised me not to touch them. Hairdressers see everything. They know straightaway what works and what doesn’t as soon as the customer walks in.