With years comes confidence. For Ondine, that meant finally embracing the feature she spent years trying to cover up—her gray hair. Here, the story of how she accepted herself.

By Lisa DeSantis
May 18, 2020
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How to own your gray hair - Ondine
Credit: Tawni Bannister

Ondine’s hair started turning gray when she was just 15. “They call it ‘shock gray,’” Ondine, now 54, says—which is fitting, given that it happened when her adoptive father died. The grays came in “as a whole chunk,” she says. “I actually used mascara to cover it.” Around that time, she was scouted by a top modeling agency, and—in the interest of looking like the young woman she was—she began dyeing her hair.

But then, at age 20, she was diagnosed with lupus, and she underwent nearly three years of chemotherapy. When she was hairless, she experimented with various wigs, but when her hair grew back, she reverted to trying to “fit in” by dyeing it dark brown.

Then she got pregnant at 37, and her habits changed: After two decades of using treatments to manage her curls and cover her grays, she decided to avoid chemicals completely. “I thought, ‘Well, they’ll probably think I’m her grandmother,’” she says, laughing. (So far, no one has made that mistake.)

Her daughter, Ella, is now 16, and if family history is anything to go by, her brown hair will someday bear a telltale stripe. The day Ondine met her birth family, eight years ago, her aunt looked at her and said, “You’re definitely a Fitzgerald.” She understood what that meant when they showed her an old photo of another aunt with the same gray streak: “Finally, my hair made sense,” Ondine says. “It’s who I am.” Ella too—her own grays have started poking through.

Ondine’s Go-To Products

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How to own your gray hair - Clairol

1 Brass Buster: Clairol Professional Shimmer Lights Shampoo

“I noticed the white of my hair going yellow, so someone turned me on to this purple shampoo. If I don’t use it, my hair starts to get brassy.”

To buy: $14 for 16 oz.; ulta.com.

How to own your gray hair - Ouidad
Credit: Courtesy of manufacturer

2 Frizz Fighter: Ouidad Advanced Climate Control Collection

“This line has been tremendously successful for me. The Heat and Humidity Gel in particular really seals the curls in my hair.”

To buy: From $10; ouidad.com.

How to own your gray hair - Redken

3 Curl Enhancer: Redken Curvaceous Full Swirl Cream Serum

“I have dry hair, so I moisturize it a lot. This helps tame my curls. If I don’t put anything in my hair, it’s going to be Diana Ross on a bad day.”

To buy: $21; ulta.com.

This article originally appeared in the May 2020 issue of Real Simple.