Coloring Gray Hair

Although coloring your hair to hide gray is one of the most common reasons for dyeing hair, it can difficult. Gray hair often resists dye. This is a guide about coloring gray hair.

February 17, 2015 Flag
10 found this helpful

I like my gray hair but I did want to glam it up, so I got creative (after speaking with multiple salons who either wanted to color it a totally different color (until it grew out in a month), lighten it (I am just NOT a blonde) or add a few expensive highlights.

Instead I LOW LIGHTED my hair myself, inexpensively! Of course I have shorter hair which simplifies the process but I get quite a few compliments (even from my hair dresser!) and I really like the look.

Total Time: 1 hour



  • boxed hair color or Just for Men Hair Color
  • a firm brush
  • a highlighter cap (reusable too!)
  • a hooked tool or crochet hook
  • shampoo
  • Vaseline (optional)


  1. I bought a box of my original hair color and a highlighter cap at a beauty store. I've also used the hair coloring product 'Just for Men' since it's quick at only 5 minutes to process and I find good sales for it.
  2. I wore the cap then pulled only what hair I wanted colored darker. I mixed the boxed color just like I was coloring the whole head, and painted on the color onto the hair that was sticking out of the holes of my cap.
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  4. The cap even gives you choices how to color your hair: face framing with holes only around your face or for your crown, back or entire head.
  5. I pulled strands of hair out of the holes in the cap with a tool, I used a crochet hook : ) You can also ask a family member or friend to help, especially if you choose to do the entire head. This is the longest part of the process.
  6. I think it looks more natural, like salt and pepper hair rather than the totally gray that I am, since it's not EVERY hair strand that's colored. It's not the one solid dark color that coloring hair can look like. It blends beautifully and naturally and it doesn't ever look like it's growing out.
  7. I even separated a few bunches of gray hair and put Vaseline on them (to repel any color) to give myself some thicker gray highlights around my face.
  8. After the time identified on the box (only about 5 minutes for Just for Men or about 15 to 20 minutes for regular boxed hair coloring), I use the metal kitchen sink or the shower/spray attachment to rinse off the hair coloring first, being careful about covering my eyes with a cloth. Then pull off the cap and gently wash the whole head of hair.

Looks professional and really saves me money! I redo it the same way whenever the color wears off (your coloring will tell you how many washes) or whenever I feel like it!

February 21, 20150 found this helpful

I've done this for the past few years and love it. I started doing it after I developed an allergy to hair color and suffered weeks of scalp irritation. Now I have the salt & pepper look that I like and is fitting for my age, but without the horrible, horrible scalp blisters. I don't put the color right down to the edge of the cap holes.

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February 21, 20150 found this helpful

You can buy a box of hair colour to do this - highlights - and then the cap and the hook come with the box. After that, you just need to get the dye. I have heard that Just For Men is harsher on the hair than most women's brands, but I have no firsthand knowledge for this. I used to highlight my hair when I first started turning grey, so the blond highlights blended in with the grey, and camouflaged them. I think you are doing a very good job with your hair.

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April 21, 20150 found this helpful

March 30, 2015 Flag
4 found this helpful

I have just a few strands of grey hair but it bothers me. Someone mentioned tea. I either make a very strong cup of tea or coffee and comb it in and let it set 30 minutes or so. It helps blend in the bit of grey.

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March 31, 20150 found this helpful

This is an awesome and timely tip for me! I had lung cancer last year (never smoked) and had a lobe and a half removed from my left lung. I went through chemo and am just getting my hair back, and I just refuse to color my hair and expose myself to those harsh chemicals anymore. But this would be a good, health conscious option. Thanks!

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August 31, 2008 Flag
0 found this helpful

I am brunette and I am graying. I color my hair myself however I have trouble with resistant grays. I start applying the hair color on the grays first (new growth and temple area). I leave it on these areas longer then apply to the whole head. I use shampoo for color treated hair but approximately a week later the grays are back!

I did an internet search and it said to get hairdressing peroxide and apply to the grays before coloring. This is supposed to get the hair ready and make it absorb the color better. Do any of you have any ideas? Have you used peroxide? Any other tips. Thanks so much.

Edith from CT

September 4, 20080 found this helpful
Best Answer

Clariol has a few colors that are made for gray hair. Now some of the gray will be lighter but it looks like natural hi lights. The one I used was made for gray hair and it works great. Try that and good luck.

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September 4, 20082 found this helpful
Best Answer

Go to sally's beauty supply and get some "Grey magic" which comes in a small bottle and add 10 drops to your hair color. It helps hold the hair color.

Cathy from MA

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September 28, 20080 found this helpful
Best Answer

October 2, 2015 Flag

Brush 30 developer on the resistant grays. Wait 10 minutes, then dye as usual. You will find the color will hold.

Source: A hairdresser blog on the internet.

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November 12, 2008 Flag
3 found this helpful

Someone on Thriftyfun recommended Gray Magic for hard to color gray hair. I tried it last week and it worked. The instructions recommend 10 drops for one ounce of color.

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July 26, 2016 Flag
0 found this helpful

How do you get hair to take color? I have an area like my mom's skunk lock starting. Is there anyway to cover stubborn gray/silver hair? I would appreciate your help. Thank you.

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July 27, 20160 found this helpful

Well, 'Kimberly', assuming you are referring to a spot treatment rather than the whole head, here goes. I can tell you how I solved this problem. If you choose to use my method, you do so at your own risk. I say this because when I used it, it was with years of experience and I could pretty well predict the outcome.

As a rule, grey hair is more resistant to color than is pigmented hair. I found that grey hair in the temporal area was often more resistant and getting that hair to accept color was a problem.

The problem was solved by pre softening the resistant hair prior to applying color. The hair could be pre softened with a mild oil bleach, but even though the bleach would be left on for a short period of time, it would lighten the 'grey' pigment. You don't want that.

I pre softened the hair with something that would not change the hair color. I chose one of my milder permanent wave solutions. (Back then, all perms had the active ingredient thioglycolic acid. Most still do, today).

I diluted a small amount of the perm solution with about an equal amount of water. This mixture was applied to the resistant hair with a swab and allowed to remain for about 5 minutes. The hair was then rinsed and dried.

Next, the color was applied in a normal manner. I usually had very good results using this method. You might get temporary staining of the skin in those areas where the hair was pre softened. This can be minimized by removing the perm mixture with the force of the water spray only. Do not scrub the area. Do not use shampoo and most certainly, do not use a neutralizer or fixative of any kind.

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June 16, 2016 Flag
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I have naturally black hair, but about 6 months ago I got my hair dyed brown with blond highlights. Lately, I've noticed a few gray hairs popping up - especially in the patches of hair where my hair was highlighted. I know that the lady at the salon had used Schwarzkopf for the highlights. I am now panicking, because this is the first time my hair has turned gray and I am not old enough to start graying (I am 32). I did cut one off and I realized that it was an actual gray hair i.e. hair without pigment.

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August 23, 20160 found this helpful

Vitamin deficiencies are said to be a cause for premature greying for some people usually has to do with vitamin b, but it could also have to do with thyroid or pituitary gland. You may want to check it out with your dr!

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September 8, 2015 Flag
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I dyed my hair approximately 2 1/2 - 3 weeks ago. I have a grey patch of hair right in the front of my head at the hairline. It's already grey again. An employee at Sally Supply told me to use Grey Magic and a protein rinse to help with the grey. I also purchased a leave in conditioner, and a thinning hair shampoo and conditioner. It doesn't seem to be helping. My hair is damaged on the ends. I have cut 2-3 inches off. Any suggestions on what to do as far as coloring to keep the grey patch from coming back so soon? And as for the thinning I'm not sure if it's due to coloring or something else.

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September 8, 20150 found this helpful

There are these pretty cool color sticks that you can draw on your hair if you'd like to touch up that one part. you could even make it look like a gray streak/highlight. Just draw the dark line but leave one gray line in between.

I have one (just like my beloved mom used to!) that I make sure NOT to color so it shows. I always get compliments for it!

The thinning might be just a result of aging....

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September 10, 20150 found this helpful

Is it the roots that are showing grey, or is the whole grey patch not taking the colour like the rest of your hair? Actually, my advice is the same in either case -- try colouring the roots/patch with a root touch up dye.

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November 7, 20151 found this helpful

October 31, 2009 Flag
0 found this helpful

I naturally have dark hair and am now having to dye it every six weeks in order to keep the grays at bay (I'm probably 5 -10 percent gray). I like dark hairstyles with a few chunky blond highlights around the crown. I am unable to budget such a beauty treatment at this time and I am also the do-it-yourself type.

Could I dye it my normal dark color to hide the grays and then follow it with a highlight kit from the grocery store? If so, how do I handle it six weeks from now? Would I re-dye the entire head of hair and create new blonde chunky highlights all over again?

I have googled, but can't seem to come up with a good answer, as most of them do not have to dye their hair for grays. Thanks for any detailed answers you can give.

By Marla from MO

Anonymous Flag
November 4, 20090 found this helpful
Best Answer

Personally, since you're only 5 to 10 % gray, I would suggest simply doing the chunky highlights around the crown. At least try it for three or four months and you just might find you like it and you'll be saving yourself an added step headache and money too ;-)

The other thing you can try is using Clairol Natural Instincts two or three shades lighter than your natural color and your gray will be your highlight because a lighter color was deposited on the gray and barely any lifting of your natural color. It might not look like chunky blonde highlights but it will look slightly highlighted and looks really natural. This is what I do ;-)

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November 1, 20090 found this helpful

I suggest to use Fanciful hair color in between dying. You will not need to dye for more than 6 weeks. Also get a Touch up stick at beauty supply store to use in between shampooing. You can get the Fanciful from beauty supply store. You can try the highlighting. Go for it, why not? Good luck.

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November 4, 20090 found this helpful

August 29, 2012 Flag
0 found this helpful

I have a dark brownish real color hair, but I just turned 44 this month and the grey is totally stubborn when it comes to coloring my hair. I like to keep it a blond color with highlights and have noticed that after going to the salon my longer grey pieces of hair were still grey, like the color was only sticking until the first wash. I use the color shampoo and the color leave in conditioner. I know that there is nothing that I can do for the new hair growing in, but what should I do about the hair that has been colored or highlighted that goes right back to grey? I have asked at the salon and they just say yeah well some hair is more stubborn than others. I personally don't like paying people who answer me with a response like that. What would you do? I mean they have nothing at all to help me out and the lighter highlights make it look like it is just blond, but I am still so mad every time a professional can't help me! It drives me nuts. Thanks.

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