Originally published on Yahoo! Contributor Network January 11, 2011 – UPDATES appear where necessary.
To begin, let's change the way you think about "Gray Hair." Gray sounds drab. I prefer the term, "White Hair." It just sounds better.
And now about "old age" - just because somebody is "old" doesn't mean that he or she has to act old or look old. As one who has been interested in the aging process since I was 29 (you'll find out why below), I've had many years to research why some people who are the same age look so much older, while others look so much younger.
My research is both subjective and objective. When people ask me how old I am, they follow my answer with another question - how do I look so young? That question always surprises me, because I have white hair.
But if I do look young for my age, I think part of the reason might be that I come by it naturally. My mother (pictured above) celebrates her 77th birthday today. (UPDATE: the actual photo was taken of her last year when she turned 80.) She will probably hate me for relating that information about her, but she never reads my blogs or articles, so I'm not afraid of her (well, to be honest, I'm kind of scared - Mommy can be wicked - seriously, she is far more interested in reading fiction than she is in anything I write.
Anyway, if you look at her picture, after you get over how cute she is, you will notice that her hair is dark brown. She never dyes it - it's her natural color. My hair, however, is white (I take after my father's side of the family). Unlike television and movie stars, my mother looks great without ever having had any kind of cosmetic surgery.
EXERCISE YOUR BODY
My mother exercises on her treadmill twenty minutes each day, twice a day. Consistently. She's healthier than some forty-year-olds I've seen.
But is exercising the secret? Kind of, but it's not the AMAZING secret. Everybody knows exercise will maintain a youthful appearance, but remember, this article is for people with gray hair. My mom is not one of them, though I will refer to her often throughout this article simply because she serves as a great example of how young someone in her mid-70s can look. (Remember, she is now in her 80s.)
EXERCISE YOUR FACE AND USE SUNSCREEN
One perplexing observation I made about youthful looks occurred in the 1980s when all of the exercise videos came out. Men and women with sculpted bodies peered through my television screen looking like gods or goddesses. Their faces, though, looked weathered and old.
Because one of my "friends" had told me when I was 29 that I was going to fall apart at 30 (yes, that really happened), and I was afraid I would one day look like one of those old cotton people dolls with their pinched cheeks and lips, I decided to start exercising my face. I didn't want droopy jowls and a turkey neck, so I devised a program that allowed me, every day, to feel as if I was contributing to keeping my face from falling to my feet.
I continue the process today. First I generously moisturize my face and neck. Then I open my mouth and eyes as wide as is facially possible. I then extend my chin upward toward the ceiling. After that exercise, I relax my face. Then I repeat the process 30 times.
(I swear my mother uses this method, because we spoke about my routine years ago. However, she has never admitted to using facial exercises as part of her routine.)
I also stay out of the sun as much as possible and use sunscreen when I have to be outdoors.
KEEP IN TOUCH WITH FRIENDS
Another way my mother maintains her youthful appearance is by keeping in touch with friends. She has known some of her friends since childhood. Others are friends from the neighborhood in which I grew up. Still others she met when she working.
Every once in a while she meets her friends in Chicago or somewhere else for lunch. The point is, she maintains her friendships and meets with her friends regularly.
So is having friends the AMAZING secret? Again, no, but it helps.
SO WHAT'S THE AMAZING SECRET?
As I said, this secret is for people with gray hair only, even if they dye their hair. One thing that creates an elderly appearance in people with gray hair is their eyebrows.
When I discovered how white or gray eyebrows contributed to the "look" of aging in a person, I wondered...if I kept my hair white, which I do simply because my hair grows so fast, but dyed my eyebrows, would it make a difference in the way I looked?
I sifted through all of the hair products in the store and decided I didn't want to waste an entire box of hair dye for something as small as my eyebrows. Then I found a product that I thought might work: "Just For Men" - for mustaches.
"Just For Men" for mustaches comes with tubes you can mix together so you can use the product again and again - as opposed to mixing the tubes together and then throwing out the rest of the product.
The procedure for creating the mixture is to mix a small part of one tube with a small part of the other until it becomes the consistency of a gel. Then, VERY CAREFULLY, without getting any on the eyelid, around the skin of the eyebrow, or especially into the eye, apply the mixture to the eyebrows only.
Did it make a difference? Absolutely. That one little change made a huge difference. Don't believe me? The next time you see an old person with white bushy eyebrows, imagine how different he or she would look with darker (and trimmed) eyebrows. Believe me, the difference is dramatic.
A word of caution: black will probably be too dramatic a choice in color. Experiment until you find the right color. Start with a color that is slightly lighter than your natural hair color used to be.
2011 is a landmark year for me, by the way. I will be 60 this coming July. (UPDATE: I am now 63.)
And, Mom, if by some chance you should happen to read this one day, Happy Birthday! I love you!