You can embrace your grays. But if you choose to color them, these expert tips will help you get the best, most natural results.
Sport your silver strands with pride or opt to color them - either option has its style upside. But if you do choose to color - and to do so at home - we know you want it to be easy and look great when you're done.
"Coloring gray hair can be tricky - and it all depends on how much gray a person has," says Susana Carranza, colorist at Marie Robinson Salon in New York City. Your original base color also plays a role; it's typically much more challenging to cover grays on lighter hair, adds Kristen Fleming, color director of 3rd Coast Salon in Chicago. Plus, the best hair dye for gray hair for you depends on different factors. So, if you prefer to go the do-it-yourself (DIY) route - which can be a great way to save both time and money - consider some of this helpful advice for how to dye gray hair.
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Why does hair turn gray?
"Gray hair is simply hair that's lost its melanin, or pigment," says Fleming. "Once the hair follicle stops producing that pigment, the outer layers of the hair can become more resistant to absorbing color."
Additionally, gray hair tends to lack natural oils, which make it drier, coarser and even more wiry than non-gray hair, Carranza points out. That's why coloring gray hair requires a different approach than coloring non-gray hair.
What is semi-permanent hair color?
Not all hair color is created equal. Demi- and semipermanent formulas deposit color onto the hair but don't fully penetrate the cortex of the hair shaft. For that reason, the color gradually washes out as you shampoo, says Fleming. She adds that these are an especially good choice to use as at-home maintenance if you are interspersing your DIY coloring sessions with professional ones.
What is permanent hair dye?
Permanent hair color, on the other hand, works by first passing through the hair cuticle (the outermost layer of the hair) and then depositing color into the hair shaft. It won't wash out; rather, you'll have to wait for it to grow out. While it will give you the most full-on gray coverage, keep in mind that it also requires more upkeep, since the line of demarcation - as your hair grows out - is more pronounced, Carranza says.
What is root touch-up?
If you’re in need of a quick fix or are just looking for a temporary solution to hold you over until you get to color again, Fleming recommends root touch-up sprays, which are easy to apply and wash out with just one shampoo.
How to dye your hair at home
How you apply your color plays a big part in the final result, especially if you're opting for a permanent color. First, you may need two boxes of color, particularly if your gray hair is very thick or coarse, Fleming says. Because grays can be harder to color, you want to make sure you have enough dye on hand to fully saturate all of your hair.
Prep your hair and skin
Prep your hair by parting it into four sections: down the middle from front to back, and then down the sides, separated at the ears, she says. Apply an ointment, such as Vaseline o Aquaphor, on top of your ears, around the hairline and at the back of the neck to act as a barrier and prevent the color from staining your skin, she adds.
How to apply dye on roots
Start the application at the crown of your head, slowly moving towards the front, but leave the hairline for last, Carranza says. "Applying it along the hairline first can over deposit on the baby hairs, making your hairline overly dark. Coloring this area last creates an illusion of a lighter, softer and brighter natural color versus one that looks too dark and inky."
Allow dye to process
Follow the directions on the particular product you choose when it comes to processing time.
Rinse your hair
When it comes time to wash it out, "massage the color around in a circular motion as you shampoo. This will help break up the product and make it easier to remove," says Fleming.
While coloring grays yourself can seem intimidating, it’s not that complicated once you break it down — making it a great way to refresh your hair color while saving time and money.