Coloring Gray Hair

Parent Q&A

  • Going grey gracefully - professional help?

    (5 replies)

    After many years of coloring the grey my dark brown hair, I'm considering going au natural. Can anyone provide advice about options for doing this while maintaining a professional image for the workplace? I'm particularly interested in recommendations for hair professionals in Berkeley/Oakland/Lafayette who might specialize in doing this.


    A few years ago I had the black dye stripped from my hair and had my hair dyed a medium brown.I keep going lighter and now my hair is a light brown color,which hardly shows the gray roots.It would be easy to go gray now,but I like this color.I had the original procedure done in Philadelphia.

    Hi,  my haircutter does magic with color.  We did some highlights and low lights as my gray grew in and I maintained a professional look.  She is Lida Lahidji at Salon 1757 on Solano Avenue.  510 703 0499.   ALL my middle aged friends get their hair cut and colored there.  She's fabulous.  I've gone to her for almost 30 years!   tell her that Diane sent you!  good luck!

    It took me almost 2 years to grow my hair out after coloring it for 27 years. I cut it shorter, but not super short, to make the transition faster.  I wish someone had suggested gradually adding grey and sliver highlights instead of waiting until the grey entirely grew out. I don't have a salon suggestion, but young women are coloring their hair grey/silver intentionally, so there must be colorists out there who can do that for you, if you're interested. 

    It is very liberating to not be concerned about grey roots. Good luck with the process!

Archived Q&A and Reviews



Coloring Gray Hair Inexpensively

Nov 2010

Help. My medium brown hair has been about 20-30% gray for years, and I have a fantastic colorist who is unfortunately quite expensive. I can't stand my obvious gray roots which are getting worse, especially bc I have a public facing job, so I have to get color every 6 weeks - at a minimum. The cost is really killing me - I've been hit by some huge unanticipated expenses recently and have to cut some corners. Does anyone have a colorist who is inexpensive but talented, especially for brunettes? My color isn't fancy with highlights, but it is important to me to look natural and great. Or, can anyone recommend products that really work to cover gray, for at least 4-5 weeks at a stretch, and can be used repeatedly? Any advice appreciated! sw

I use henna (the basic one - red) over my brown-going-gray hair. You can use it as often as you like (it eventually wears off) and I like the smell too. The best thing about it - the gray ends up picking up the color so well that for me, it looks like fabulous highlights. When I had all-brown hair, it wasn't that obvious that I had henna'd it. Now, it really looks nice. The color is also natural looking. I don't know how the other 'colors' of henna work since they must have some sort of dye in them. becoming a red-head

I, too, have brown hair that I was paying to get professionally colored. I was using semi-permanent color and getting it done every six weeks. I found out that I could buy the product the salon was using online and asked for the formula from the salon and now I do it at home. I have to do it every four weeks but my new stylist says that the semi-permanent won't damage my hair doing it that often and I sometimes do just the top and do clear at the ends and just pull the color through for the last ten minutes. Originally I told my stylist I needed the color formula because I was going to be away for awhile and wanted to make sure the new person did it right. I suppose I could have been honest about it but I felt bad about taking away that business. In any case, doing it at home is fine as long as you buy a few basic products (gloves, squeeze bottles, etc) and protect your cabinets and floor. I am assuming that the salon product (Goldwell Colorance in this case) is better quality than what I would buy in the store. The cost is probably 1/6 to do it myself. Good luck. Home Colorer

I hate to be the bearer of bad news but if your hair grows fast, your original/dye color is medium to dark, and you have a lot of gray, then how fast the color grows out has nothing to do with how it is colored. I had dark brown hair when I was younger that started going gray in my 20's. By the time I turned 40 the only way not to have visible roots was to dye my hair about every 3 weeks. As a parent of a small child, I decided this was just not feasible. So now I have mostly silver hair (I do think I am lucky that the color is vibrant and with a lot of good conditioning, the texture is great). While I do occasionally get called ''grandma'' (remarkably even when my son is calling me ''Mama'') I also get lots of compliments on how beautiful my hair is (way more than when I was dyeing it). Just a thought. Since I no longer have to pay for color, I can splurge on high quality hair care products that keep the gray looking pretty. gone platinum

I'm a brunette who has been coloring my own hair inexpensivly for about 30 years now (I'm 50). I have lots of gray now and I use Loreal Permanent Hair gel or dye. There are tons of great brunette shades and if you follow the instructions you should get at least 8-10 weeks of coverage for about 12.00 or so... I get compliments on my hair color all the time and it isn't obvious I dye it. Good Luck home colorist

I had exact same problem - can't afford my fancy colorist. Tried for years and finally found a terrific solution - Loreal Feria, No. 40. Easy to do yourself. Looks super natural. Under $10 at Walmart (although you can find it absolutely everywhere). You can also buy the root touchup kit for in between, although I haven't tried that yet but plan to. fem

Hi - My medium brown hair first turned dark, dark brown between 35-38, then started to go gray, increasingly so. I had it colored for a while, now I've used Clairol Natural Instincts for a few years. It's the SAME as my professional was doing (I never got into highlights, that's another story). I mix the dark brown, #28 with #28G (G is for gold which is actually a goldish-reddish tinted brown). The #28 by itself was severe and the #28G by itself was reddish. It's $8 or 9 per box. I buy the two colors together and mix the color, using the second mix 5 weeks later. Even if you went 4 weeks, that's $1 a week. The color totally stays permanent. It's shiny dark brown with some sparkles of red or even gold in the sun. I have maybe half gray by now (I don't wanna know!) and I leave the stuff in at least 25 minutes. Applying is is really easy, you don't have to be exact, do temples and gray areas near the face first and I just do roots every time, although it spills down some. Part down middle, clamp left side, go from top down the right in 1/2'' lines or so using the tip of the color bottle, rub in with fingers, do next line & so on. Repeat on left. Then I fling my head down upside down and use my fingers to put it in the back which has hardly any gray and isn't as important. If you have gray at the top of the neck you'd do that.

When my economics are better, maybe I'll let a professional take me back to medium brown with highlights. For now, this is fine. - go for it

I am also a brunette and LOVE my hair-coloring product called, ''Satin''! I've been using it for 3+ years and would never go back to salon color. I am also in a public position, (frequently videotaped) and it always looks great, even on camera. I get numerous compliments by people (including hairdressers!) on the color and it lasts beautifully for at least 6-8 weeks. I use a color called ''3N'' (dark brown) but they have a range of shades. I use level ''20'' Satin Developer with it, perfect for brunettes. It's very easy to use (my husband does mine for me), but my friend does her own because it doesn't drip. It's sold in beauty supply stores all over the area, the company (DeveloPlus Inc, Corona, CA 951-738-8595) has an easy store locator on their website so you can find it conveniently: Don't hesitate to try it, you will save so much $$$, and love it! bara

Someone else mentioned henna, so I just wanted to add to that. If you use pure henna (rather than a mixture of henna and ???), I think it is generally a bit easier on your hair than standard hair colors. However, I just want to note that if you decide to use henna, using an ammonia-based hair color after that can be really damaging to your hair. Henna's can contain metallic salts that bind to your hair. When you use an ammonia-based hair color after that, it can cause damage, sometimes as extreme as melting your hair. The Colorist

Getting rid of yellow tint in grey hair

Jan 2010

I have grey hair with some white sections. I want to know how to get rid of some yellow tint in the white sections. I'm using Aveda's blue malva shampoo (for over a year now), and tried also another ''cheaper'' product bought at Longs, designed for grey hair. Neither one seems to have an effect on the yellow tint. I don't smoke and am very healthy. I haven't been in places where the air is dirty. At my stylist's suggestion, I also tried a ''hair cleanser,'' to remove build up, but this had no effect. I wash my hair once a week and blow dry it briefly. I'd love to hear about other suggestions to try. I love my grey hair, otherwise. Woman with grey hair

Use the shampoo for grey hair- bought some for my aunt she is happy. Dont remember the name I think its pantene for silver or something like that. Sheali

The old gals / my revered ancesters, used laundry bluing. I think you can still get it at Target. Personaly, I comb in permanent hair dye to lighten up the part that isn't gray yet. I think that it looks warmer and I avoid roots this way but my gray isn't pretty and it sounds like yours is going to be nice. Diluted vinegar was also part of the rinse for shine.

I've been mostly grey since my late 30's. I use 2 products regularly to get rid of the yellowing that occurs in my hair.

I use Pureology Hydrate shampoo in a lavendar bottle. I also use Joico Color Endure Violet about 2 times per week. (If you use this product more often your hair will turn purple).

I get them both at Pure Beauty in El Cerrito Plaza where i'm a member of their club and get 10% off purchases and then during the summer I buy large bottles during their liter sale (enough to get me through the year). I use the conditioners that match both shampoos.

Basically you want to use any purple based shampoo on grey hair. I did experiment with other products but I really hated the smell of some and the way my hair felt after using them. These 2 are basically odor free and my hair doesn't have a funny feel to it after using them. Good luck and welcome to the no hair dye club! grey too soon

Not Yet Ready to be gray - home coloring?

Nov 2008

Given current economic times, I am considering giving up my salon visits for hair coloring, but I'm not quite ready to let it all go gray. I would welcome any recommendations of brands to use at home or tips of how to apply the color evenly when doing it myself. Not Yet Ready to be Gray

I am irritated by roots. I also dislike looking at brassy red and old fur coat looking hair on women. OK,so, waddaya gonna do?

I buy 'on sale' hair color and mix equal amounts in a plastic cup. Store the part you don't use in it's origional package for next time. (depending on how long your hair is, you can get up to 3 uses from each package this way) Put your color on in tiny bits, with your fingers and using a plastic comb, comb it out to the ends...BUT, only put it on tiny bits here & there. Do this every other week or so, and you will not show roots.

Vary where you put it and the colors you buy. It will look pretty normal and a bit of gray will show. I think it is prettier if there is some silver showing, just warm it up with some lighter and darker colors because your natural hair color will cool down as you get older and the warmer colors will be more flattering than 100% natural.

Every once in a while, put a nice temporary color over everything to blend it all together. Remember that even ''temporary'' color will lift a bit of your natural color and it is very drying. VO5 or any mens 'little dab'l do ya' type hair dressing is great for moisturizing. I have better results on my own than at a salon.

I too have reluctantly stopped getting professional highlights in light of a new house and new mortgage. I have a ton of gray in front and top, and have opted to use a semi-permanent purchased at Beauty Center. The brand is Satin and I think the developer can either be permanent or semi-permanent. The semi-permanent (or demi-permanent) products tend to be gentler on the hair although they do fade/wash out after about a month. My hair is quite dark, so the fading is nice in that the gray regrowth is not as dramatic when contrasted with the lighter brown as the weeks progress. I wouldn't recommend doing any permanent or bleaching without more professional consultation, although I have had friends manage with some success. Good luck and email me with any questions. Andrea

I am coloring at home using the same professional products, formula and method as my stylist. She uses Goldwell Colorance. I asked for the formula one time so that I could give it to someone else (another stylist) when I was traveling. I looked online and, even though the products were supposed to be for professional use, they were readily available. I converted the milliliters to teaspoons and bought a few things - gloves, bottles, coverup, etc and I am good to go. It takes some work not to be messy and I don't really know how to adjust it but it seems to be working pretty well. I feel better using professional products and every 6-8 months go get it done once professionally and look again at the formula. Good luck. Coloring at home

I too take a break from the high cost of salon coloring when times are tight financially... now don't get me wrong, I have not gone natural! Do not even know what my true color is any longer.... Here is what I do.

Went to local beauty supply shop, Beauty Center on Mountain in Montclair and spoke with the expert there. She recommended one of the professional haircolor products. The worst part is they come with NO directions... NONE!! So listen carefully and write down what they tell you at Beauty Center. They recommended I get a couple of colors and mix them together, you have to also buy the solution that goes with the tubes of color. Get a haircolor brush while you are there, they are cheap and make it much easier to apply the color and part the hair.

Mix per instructions, apply to dry to hair... I mainly part a small section and apply color with the brush to the roots. Part, apply, part apply, it does not have to be perfect. Leave on the recommended time and then comb the color through the rest of your hair and wait another 5 minutes or so. Rinse, shampoo and see your new do!! Have fun. DIY hair color

I have been home hair coloring for about five years. You need to work in a space that has good light and allow yourself about an hour and a half from start to rinse. I like the Satin line at the Beauty Center on Solano. Get a semi permanent color in a shade you like, no ash or anything too gold. Get a color brush, gloves and developer. Ask for help, the young women who work there are fairly knowledgeable. If your hair is long, you will also need some clips to section it. Mix your color as directed in a bowl with the the brush. Start with a side part and paint your root growth with the color, an inch or so up the hair shaft. Take the point end of the brush and make a new part about a quarter of an inch parallel to the first, lay the colored hair over, and paint the other side and the opposite side with color. By repeating this method you will go across the top of you head touching up the roots in parallel parts from ear to ear. The back will require some finesse, or a mirror ! in which you can see the back of your head. Work the color the same way from top to hairline, using the clips to keep the hair out of the way if necessary. Once you have covered all the roots you can work the remaining color out to the ends with your hands. BE SURE watch the time from the start, leaving the color on too long will lead to it being too dark, less time is better than too long. Once you have mastered this technique, you might try using more that one color, layering it in with foil. A few lighter strands through the top will give the color more depth and is fairly easy if you do it first, then work the base color in. Hope the detail is helpful. happy home colorist

I've been using Clairol Natural Instincts (semi-permanent) for many years. It's ammonia free and not smelly. not ready for the gray either

Gray hair -- roots touch-up kits?

May 2008

I am appalled by the amount of money and the time I am spending at my inexpensive hairdresser having my gray roots touched up on a regular basis. I am not ready to go gray yet (if ever) and do not like the henna products or the wash-in color kits that gradually renders my fine flyaway hair to a haystack. I do use a hair color crayon between salon visits, but I am not thrilled by the way it makes my hair look. Recently I have discovered the roots touch-up kits they sell in Walgreens for a few bucks. I have been very impressed with the results and recently bought two kits and did a not-so-bad job of touching up the roots of my crown and the back of my scalp.

My question is: I realize these kits do not replace the expertise of my hairdresser, but is there any reason why I can't use these every three weeks or so for a couple of months (or even three) until I see my hairdresser?

How do other busy moms who like to look good justify the expense and time of regular salon visits or is there something I don't know about? Prematurely gray and always vain

I just figure the price of my hairdresser into my budget. I don't go out to eat a lot and don't buy expensive clothes (thrift town, clothing exchanges, Mervyns, etc.) I get my hair colored about every 2-3 months, and cut once inbetween. I've never tried home coloring. My treat is to go to my hair guy(who happens to be a dear friend) and have that special few hours to myself with my bud. He cuts my hair in a way (and colors) that my roots don't show immediately so I can get away with it a tad longer. anon

I've gone through the same thing and found the touch up pens not to work well either. While its not sold as a root touch up kit, I recommend the Italian brand Herbavita hair color to cover the grey. It is ammonia-free unlike conventional brands sold at drugstores. I have black hair so my grey really stands out and this brand works so well. You can get Herbavita at Whole Foods or other natural stores. It's more expensive than the drugstore brands, but one box will last me for two or three touch ups if I only mix what I need each time. I brought the color chart to my stylist to have him help me pick out the best color for my hair and that worked really well. I was upfront with my stylist that while he does a fantastic job, it was getting too costly and time consuming to come every three weeks like I needed. He was very understanding. Good luck! Stacy

Dyeing gray pubic hair?

March 2006

I'm 40 and unhappily noticing an increasing amount of gray/white pubic hairs. I've plucked quite a few out and it really hurts! Has anyone had any experience dyeing their pubic hair? anon

LOLOL!! I dye mine every time I dye my hair red. No prob! I also dye my eyebrows while I'm at it, also no problem. But remember, stand sort of with your legs open in a sort of squat so none of the dye gets onto the sensitive mucous membranes inside. AND LOCK THE DOOR to the bathroom, lordy if any my kids walked in on me standing there like that..... Liz

I'm 50 and looking at Rogaine AND Lady Clairol! Just kidding - I'm leaving everything the way it is. I can't imagine how painful plucking is! I was thinking though, that if you did dye it you wouldn't have to worry about ''roots'' since that hair doesn't get any longer. Maybe it would just be a one-time application. Anyway, if I were really thinking about doing this I'd call a salon where nobody knew me and ask all the questions I wanted. From my phone with blocked caller ID. Signed - Silver Streak

Covering the gray

March 2005

A few months ago, after two kids and a dramatic decine in income, I decided to stop having my hair colored in a salon. But now my natural color is growing in, my gray is showing, and truth be told, I look a fright. I need to color my hair again (SOON!), and I realize that I should just pick up some dye and get to work, but I have no idea where to begin. I'm terrified of using the wrong product and ending up with dull, flat, yucky color. I'm also worried about getting good coverage of the gray -- which, in hairdresser lingo, ''doesn't want to grab the color.'' Is there anyone else out there with coarse graying hair who's found the brand of perfect hair color? Thanks. Old Gray Mare No More

I too have grey hair that is ''resistant'' (my beautician's term) to color. The only product that seems to work effectively in covering my grey hair is called ''Bijen''; it's available at most drug stores -- paricularly those specializing in holistic health/alternative medicine like Elephant Pharmacy on Shattuck. I'm afraid to color my own hair so I have not used this product at home. In any case, even though it's a permanent color, it is very gentle to my hair (and I get two chemical processes -- a perm and a color -- in alternating months). Moreover, I have been using Bijen for almost 10 years now and have had no adverse effects on my hair. Good luck. Antoinette

In my 30's - should I go gray?

Oct 2004

I am in my early 30's and married with two kids. I have a ton of gray hair and have been coloring for several years. It's at the point now where the roots need to be done every 4 weeks or so because my hair is dark brown and the contrast is very noticeable. I always said that at 40 or 45 I would cut it real short and let the gray grow out, but I've been toying with the idea of doing it now. I'm sick of maintaining it -- the time and the cost. But I'm worried that I'm too young to show so much gray. I have a very young face and people frequently think I'm in my low-20's. My husband is also very young looking and is in fact a couple years younger than me. Has anyone else gone through this decision? anita

Hi, i'm in early 30', i decided 3 months ago to stop dying my gray hair, a lot of gray. i'm a mother of 2 girls, i couldn't find the time to dye my hair each month. And finally the last time, I had so much allergy problems.. so it helps me to take the decision. I'm now with 3'' roots. I find a way to let grow without being scared in my mirror, i tryed a new product, it's a Non Permanent color, no ammonia inside, and the publicity for this product says ''blends away gray naturally''. And it's true, nobody notice that i change the color, nobody notice that i have roots, and no more allergic problem, I did it 1 month ago and don't need to do it right now, i can wait an other month. I don't want to cut my hair short, there are medium, so I cut little by little the old permananent color. A friend says ''it's sophisticated to have gray hair'', so I will see in some months how i feel. And if something wrong with my husband or my mirror, i will dye again. But I want to try first. Good Luck ISa

Yes, go for it! I started going gray in my teens, and dyed my hair off and on for a number of years. I didn't actually mind the gray, but I wanted to have a ''dramatic'' look so I dyed my hair black. When I met my husband at age 26 he convinced me to ''go natural'' and see how much gray there was. It had really taken off, and the gray itself provided its own dramatic look. I grew it out completely and most of the top layer of my hair is very light silver. I have never gotten as many complements on anything as I've gotten about my hair. People either like it a lot or they're just curious about it, wondering if I colored it gray. (I'm 31 now). So people will probably talk to you about it, and say things like ''you look too young to have so much gray!'' If you don't mind this, I say give it a whirl. I may dye my hair again when people STOP commenting on it, but for now I'm enjoying looking unique. liz

Have you considered lowlights? This is like highlights only dark. It's kind of a compromise between being very gray or dying your hair completely. Your hairdresser matches your natural (old) color & paints it on in streaks. It's easy to maintain since the roots don't show as much & looks very natural. I too went gray very early & went back and forth between being gray and dying, now I do lowlights every four months or so & am very happy with it. My hairdresser is Julie at Circle Salon in Kensington. not ready to be gray either

I am a hairdresser and I just talked with a woman the other day about this... How grey are you? Would you mind your hair being really short? All over 'grey covering color' is a pain in the but! Hair color should be for enhancing your color or for fun, not to hide it. Have you thought about low lighting? It's when some grey is taken away, instead of all of it... and the grow out is more forgiving. I'd be happy to talk with you to help you make a decision-- chickmama1

Don't go grey!!! I am pretty much gray and only 31. As much as I like grey hair in older women I don't like it on younger ones. I don't die it professionally (too expensive!) I use a product called herbavita (elephant pharmacy - $9) and do my roots using only 1/2 of the product every 3-4 weeks. Do the whole head the first time though. It looks very natural, contains no ammonia and leaves your hair shiny. It covers 100% grey hair. I think I will cut it short and let it go grey when I'm 40 or so! will be gray

Lighter color for grey streaks?

April 2003

I have been coloring my hair at home but I am not quite satisfied with the ''uniform'' solid color I am getting. I was wondering if anybody tried to color their hair using a lighter shade than they would normally use (I am a brunette) so the gray hair becomes lighter in color and the rest of the hair is darker, therefore getting ''natural'' highlights. Am I making sense ? Young but with gray hair

Check out the hair coloring kits at health food supermarkets such as Whole Foods, Berkeley Natural Foods (or whatever it's called) on Gilman, etc. There are two or three brands which cover gray as they color and don't contain much in the way of harsh chemicals, so your hair doesn't dry out. It might take a little experimentation to get the color you want; I ended up combining two shades. Light Mountain henna is also good and looks very natural, but is messy to use. Melanie

I have used haircoloring one shade lighter than my normal hair color (very dark brown) and I did get highlights, but the way the gray picks up color, I thought they were too brassy. Clairol says this is good to try if your hair is less than 25% gray, a category I surpassed at about 30, and to use ''golden'' rather than red or ash tones. The other problem is you have lots of gray is ''coverage''- if you try this, CLairol also says leave the color on longer than the directions call for to color gray completely. I am excited about a new ''double'' process home haircolor, Colour Experte, by L'oreal (at Target). You color your hair and then add highlights. But of course this is more work for a busy mom, so I haven't tried it yet. I've been investigating because for coloring gray, I felt paying for professional color is a waste of money, didn't come out any better and must be reapeated every 3 weeks if your color is dark because the roots really show. prematurely gray

I do just what you're talking about and it works for me. I get a blond semi-permanent color, usually 7N, and apply it to all of my hair. The grays are highlighted and the dark is not changed. What I like best about this method is that when the grays grow there is not a huge contrast between the highlighted hair and the new growth. I also get professional highlights every six months or so and they also pick up the color differently, which adds a lot of interest. I would recommend a gentle semi-permanent color, like Colorence by Goldwell, which you can buy at beauty supply shops. Home Color that Works

Doing my own grey roots?

March 2003

I have had my hair professionally highlighted for several years and I'm very happy with the look. Because the highlights aren't so different from the base color, I've found that I've been able to let four months or so elapse before going back to the hairdresser for more work.

Recently, though, I've discovered my brown roots aren't brown anymore. They're gray. EEK. This means I go back to my hairdresser every four weeks to color my gray roots (I still have highlights put in every four months or so).

The cost isn't too bad -- about $40 -- but what's problematic is the time. Most hairdressers juggle clients these days and I find this simple procedure can eat into too much of my day -- time that I should be spending with my kids.

I do not want to go gray. And I do not want to color my own hair at home (done that before). But I am wondering how feasible it would be to touch-up roots myself. I welcome any feedback! Prematurely gray and hating it

My hair is also prematurely gray. I know just what you mean about the time needed to touch up your roots in a salon. Mine begin to show after three weeks. It is simple to dye them yourself. The only problem is that the chemicals available in drugstores tend to fry your hair. After a couple of years your hair is likely to become frizzy with an artificial looking tint. You just cannot buy the dye which is relatively gentle and looks good. I finally solved this by finding a stylist who would sell it to me ''under the table'' for a small fortune. I do not save any money, but the time saved is invaluable.

Like you I got tired of the long sessions at the hair salon, not to mention escalating costs of having my roots done professionally.Since I was a bit nervous at the thought of doing it all myself, I have hit upon a method that works great for me: I alternate between salon appointments and the at-home method,and the results have been quite good so far. At home, I have been using ''Color Spa'' (formerly called ''Casting'') by L'Oreal, which doesn't contain ammonia and comes with a very nice conditioning treatment. I haven't noticed any dryness or damage to my hair.

Two tips: If you hesitate between two tints, make sure to choose the darker one. You will get better coverage that way. Also my colorist has assured me that it is absolutely safe to keep the product on the hair longer than the prescribed 10 minutes. I do it up to 20 minutes (roots only) to make sure that I get visible results. Laura