Jennifer Aniston is going gray — and people have a lot to say about it.
The 54-year-old actress has long been admired for her hair since her Rachel Green days on Friends and has inspired countless haircuts to this day. And while she’s seemingly shown few visible signs of aging, some are having quite the reaction to a recent Instagram post where her grays are on display.
“Well done for allowing grey to come through,” one person commented on Aniston’s post, in which she promotes a new product from her hair care line, Lolavie. The intensive repair treatment has nothing to do with her hair color, but the gray streak at Aniston’s roots was deemed “refreshing” by onlookers.
“If that is grey hair I’m honestly here for it! You still look young and adorable with grey hair!!” another wrote. “Jen your hair is just a masterpiece and everybody agrees,” one person said.
However, not everybody is on board with Aniston going gray.
“Grey hair doesn’t suit you yet,” a commenter wrote. “Save it for later.”
Despite differing opinions, Aniston has already shared her take on the matter when she was asked about aging in Sept. 2022.
“You do you! If you want to go gray, go for it! If you want to keep coloring your hair, that’s great too,” she told Glamour. “I think everyone should feel confident in whatever choices they make, including embracing natural color or texture.”
Holly Thomas, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh and clinical researcher of women’s sexuality and age, explains why it’s still a big deal to see.
“Gray hair is of course associated with aging, and in our culture, gray hair on women is not always favored,” Thomas tells Yahoo Life. “This is in contrast to men, where we hear positive terms like ‘salt and pepper’ or ‘silver fox.’ But I think in recent years more women are embracing their natural silver strands as beautiful.”
Aniston isn’t the only familiar face to allow her grays to grow in.
Andie MacDowell, 64, has openly spoken about her decision to embrace her gray hair, noting that she liked the look of it. “It’s something that I’ve wanted to do for a while,” she told Entertainment Tonight. “Then when COVID happened and I saw the roots coming in, I thought it suited me.”
Tia Mowry, 44, has also kept a positive perspective when it comes to the evolution of her natural hair color. In a 2022 essay for InStyle, she explained that she found her first gray hairs in her 20s, before they started coming in heavier in her 40s. She has never been “alarmed” by it.
“I’ve always had this perspective that it is a blessing to get old,” Mowry wrote. “There are so many people on a daily basis that are not making it to the age where their hair starts to gray. And so when I see my gray hair, it actually is a blessing because it means that, yes, I’m getting older and I’m still here. I don’t take that lightly — I really, really don’t.”
Both Mowry and MacDowell also spoke to a sense of relatability that comes with embracing a visible sign of aging. “The one thing we all have in common as human beings is that every day, we are aging,” Mowry wrote, while MacDowell said, “I just want to embrace the time where I am and be as real and honest as I can, not only with everybody else but also with myself.”
Still, going gray isn’t without stigma.
In 2022, prominent Canadian journalist Lisa LaFlamme shared with her followers that CTV News made a “business decision to end my contract” after decades with the network. Some speculated that LaFlamme’s termination was tied to her full head of gray hair.
And while researchers have found that authenticity is in fact a leading reason that women aren’t concealing their grays, the desire to welcome the natural process of aging is still challenged by negative associations.
Women reported being shamed, ignored or even perceived “as incompetent or unpleasant” with gray hair, according to an April 2021 study published in the Journal of Women & Aging.
Mahaliah Little, assistant professor of gender and sexuality studies at the University of California, Irvine, tells Yahoo Life that it may seem counterintuitive to see someone like Aniston refusing to “fight the [aging] process in a publicly legible way.”
“Aging is supposed to be a phenomenon that women roil against — it is a significant driver of the beauty industry. American audiences tend to have more grace for women aspiring toward an unrealistic beauty standard and failing to reach it than those not attempting at all,” Little says.
Women in the spotlight are particularly impacted by the stereotypes of aging, according to Thomas.
“Celebrities are definitely held to a different standard with regards to aging. It’s difficult because they either get criticized for looking too old or criticized for looking like they had work done,” Thomas says. “So I appreciate Jennifer letting some of her natural hair shine through.”
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