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The Best Way To Color Gray Hair

Staring to go gray doesn’t have to mean the end of dying your hair to match the color you’ve always had, or even dying it a new color altogether. In fact, having gray hair as a base gives you more options than you might think. Still, it’s important to stay on top of upkeep, and watch out for potential pitfalls. Here’s everything you need to know.


Photo: Getty

Is it difficult to color gray hair?

“The good news is, although some gray hair is more difficult and more resistant to hair color, the technology around the products used to color hair now is amazing,” says Adam Reed, hairstylist and founder of Arkive Headcare. Amy Fish, a colorist at Larry King, agrees. “The ingredients and technology are so much more advanced,” she says. “They’re all oil-based now and much better for the hair. Most color is vegan and gives an impeccable shine and natural color, versus the old color products that were quite heavy, and made it obvious your hair was colored.”

What to ask for at the salon

“You can color gray hair any shade,” notes Reed, who adds that it is always worth getting advice from a professional before you go wild in the supermarket aisles and attempt to cover your grays at home. “Decide what you’re happy to upkeep, and speak to your hairdresser about what all the implications are of that – hair grows quickly, so you’ll see the grays coming through. Remember, you can’t slow hair growth!”

Fish concurs. “Everyone is different when it comes to getting their hair touched up,” she says. “Some people can leave their roots for six to eight weeks between appointments, and then some people cannot stand to see one gray, so they might come into the salon every four weeks.” Whatever your approach to maintenance, she recommends salon color over DIY dye. “Regardless of time, a professional colorist should always assess your hair: you might need a gloss or moisture treatment on the ends, or it might have lightened, so we might need to adjust the formula slightly.”

What to expect from your first salon appointment

First things first: book a consultation. A hairstylist will assess your hair and its needs and give you a patch test if you’re new to the salon, Fish explains. “Chat to see if you need just your roots colored, or if it needs to be taken through to the ends of your hair.” Whether you want to match the color to your natural shade, or if you just want to refresh the ends with a gloss, your colorist needs to understand your vision. “Sometimes images are a good way of showing what you want,” Fish says. “Everyone sees color differently so it’s good to be on the same page and have an understanding of what a color means to you.”

If you’re coloring grays at home…

“The biggest mistake that people make when they color their hair at home is making their hairline too dark and heavy,” notes Fish. “When you color at home, you tend to focus on the front and the top section of your hair and can’t really get to the back section.” She also recommends investing in color-saving shampoos and conditioners, to boost hair color in between salon appointments or coloring sessions. It can keep your color looking fresh – look for sulphate-free and paraben-free products.

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