08/06/2012 12:14 pm ET Updated Oct 11, 2012

To Dye Or Not To Dye: That Is The Question As Your Hair Starts Going Gray

Once you get to be a certain age, the question becomes not "To be or not to be," but rather "To dye or not to dye."

Most people will eventually reach the point where their few stray, easily pickable gray hairs transform into a salt-and-pepper forest where plucking would take all day (and result in baldness), so they take the plunge into the world of hair dye. Coloring your hair for fun is one thing, but coloring to cover the gray becomes a commitment. Once you start, you have to keep doing it, otherwise your roots will show, and your friends will ask if you are "tired" (which is middle age code for looking old). Think of the women over 40 you admire: Oprah, Madonna, Judge Judy (my personal favorite): Not a single one is sporting her natural hair color. There are a few women who are able to look stunningly stylish in gray, and we consider them to be brave. Remember how popular Barbara Bush was just because she had the courage to be both gray-haired and overweight, as few women in the public eye dare to be.

The problem is that once you commit to covering your gray, eventually at some point you have to stop. Maintaining your youthful look is easy when you are 40, possible when you are 50, questionable at 60 and downright ridiculous once you become 70. 45-year-old supermodel Kristen McMenamy (above) abandoned her efforts to cover her hair almost seven years ago, and has yet to look back. Her long almost-white locks have since appeared on the runway of Chanel and in the pages of Vogue.

I once worked with a woman who maintained her bright red bob into her seventies. What probably looked great when she was 50 looked unnatural and unbecoming on her 70-year-old self. But she saw herself as the fun, vibrant red head she had always been, how could she just stop coloring her hair and become a gray-haired old woman? Even during a bout of breast cancer that caused her to lose her hair, she wore a bright red wig. When her hair grew back, it was a soft gray, and beautifully framed her face. She didn't look older; now she looked effortlessly elegant. That is the secret, I think, to aging. You can fight it, but you also have to know when to stop fighting and gracefully let nature takes its course.

Want more? Take a peek in our gallery below for some stars over a certain age who have continued to dye their hair and be sure to check out Stylelist on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and Pinterest.

Women over 50 with long hair