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How to Color Gray Hair

Kritika Parwani
Graying hair is one of the biggest reasons behind opting for hair dyes. If you wish to overcome this sign of aging, it is important to understand the hair coloring products and their application.
About one in five Americans use hair color, and most of them use it to conceal gray hair. Salt-and-pepper hair can often make many people look older than they feel. Graying can strike at any time, whether you are 29 or 49. It appears when the hair loses all the pigment that gives it color. Hence, artificial color is one of the most common, easy, and best solutions. However, it's important to remember that gray hair reacts differently to color, than normal hair, and hence, you should understand the process of selecting the best suitable dye.

Hair Color Types

Semipermanent Color

If your hair has just begun to turn gray, and you have never colored your hair before, it is best to start coloring it with a semipermanent hair dye. Most of these temporary dyes will not lighten your general hair color, and will blend easily by infusing it with a small amount of color resembling highlights. This type makes the gray fade out gracefully, without noticeable outgrowth. For a natural look, choose a shade that matches the original color of your hair, or a slightly lighter version of it.

Permanent Hair Color

Semipermanent colors are okay if you have 20% to 30% graying. If you have around 50% of your hair turning gray, or if it is particularly coarse or curly, a permanent hair color is the only option to give you the best coverage. It generally comes in a two-part package.
One part is usually in a plastic squeeze bottle. This is peroxide (usually 6% dilution) in a cream or lotion base. To this, you add a cream, powder, or liquid that provides the actual color.Following package directions, combine these two ingredients, and use the mixture immediately. Since you are using peroxide,you can lighten your hair all over if you like.
There are two big advantages to this:
  • There will be less general contrast. So, when the gray hair reappears, it won't be so noticeable.
  • When the roots grow out, they will look darker, not lighter.
Light roots can be very aging; everyone can see that you're trying to cover the gray. However, if you want the best possible coverage of your grays, a darker color may be a better choice. With more coverage to start with, gray hair will be less obvious post each coloring. But, you will need to color your hair regularly to avoid telltale roots.

Tips On Coloring Gray Hair

In today's age, changing hair color is as easy as changing your clothes. While some people prefer to get it done at salons, you can do so at home easily.

Pre-soften Gray Areas

Most stylists recommend softening your gray hair before starting the procedure. By doing this, the gray hair will absorb the dye faster. All you need to do is use V20 peroxide (generally 5-6% dilution) which is available at any beauty supply shop, apply it on the gray areas, and comb thoroughly. After five or ten minutes, rinse it off. Towel dry your hair, and then apply color.


One very important point to remember is that gray hair usually takes longer to absorb hair dye. So, apply it to the gray areas first. It can take up to 45 minutes for the color to penetrate those particular strands of hair. With careful timing, you can achieve even shade throughout your hair. For example, many coloring products develop in 25 minutes. So, begin to color the gray areas 10-20 minutes early. Then, apply the dye to the rest of your hair. When you rinse it off, the results should be uniform.


  • It is important to remember to apply the color mixture to dry hair, beginning with the roots, and working your way down to the tips.
  • Part your hair in sections to make sure you saturate and cover every strand.
  • Secure the hair with a clip, and use a plastic head wrap or shower cap to cover up.
  • After the indicated time has passed, wash your hair, preferably with a shampoo for gray hair, and keep rinsing it till the dye is removed, and water runs clear.
  • Don't forget to use a deep conditioning product. Most at-home hair color kits come with a specially designed conditioner, to soften your hair and replenish hair moisture.
One thing you have to remember is that you will have to keep retouching your hair every 4-6 weeks, to avoid telltale roots. Also, it is very important to use hair products that are specifically designed to maintain hair pigments for a longer period. Now that you know how to color gray hair, go ahead and add color back into your life!