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Coloring Gray Hair

Category Coloring
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.


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By 10 found this helpful
February 17, 2015

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.
  3. 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.
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  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.
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  8. 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.
  9. 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.
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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!

Comment Was this helpful? 10
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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By 4 found this helpful
March 30, 2015

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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October 2, 2015

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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Ask a QuestionHere are the questions asked by community members. Read on to see the answers provided by the ThriftyFun community or ask a new question.

By 0 found this helpful
August 31, 2008

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

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By guest (Guest Post)
September 2, 20080 found this helpful
Best Answer

I've had good luck with a product that seems fairly new called Perfect 10 by Clairol. If you don't mix it together all at once, I can get 3 applications out of it.

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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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By guest (Guest Post)
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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By 0 found this helpful
February 6, 2017

Does Nice and Easy hair dye work on stripped out hair that is all white gray?

Answer Was this helpful? Yes
February 6, 20170 found this helpful

There is a Clairol hotline. The number is 1-800-252-4765. I have called them a couple of times. They have experts there who really know their products.

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By 0 found this helpful
October 31, 2009

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

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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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October 31, 20090 found this helpful

Here is a link regarding a natural hair dye for gray hair: http://www.pion  com/graydye.html

I too will be using this technique in the near future.

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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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By 0 found this helpful
August 29, 2012

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.

By Katy M

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August 31, 20120 found this helpful

My hair is naturally dark brown as well, and I have some unruly greys as well. What I do, is go to Sally Beauty supply and buy the Ion colour Golden Blonde Hi Lift. After I colour, I mix the leftover colour with colour protective conditioner and leave it on for about 10 minutes, but after the initial colouring. This will help with any leftover strays. I never go to salons any more, because I like doing my own hair because I feel more rewarded in the end knowing I did it myself! Hope this helps!

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August 31, 20120 found this helpful

I have the same trouble I usually use a temperary hair color that comes in a tube with a brush like mascara. I have bought it from Beauty Supply Warehouse catalog. It is just a temperary fix and washes out. There is something that I want to try called 28 day mascara. It comes in black or brown. One application is supposed to last 28 days. I think it would work on my hair inbetween coloring. It is in the Hariet Carter catalog.

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August 31, 20120 found this helpful

I have the same problem. I'm totally white around my face. I get my hair professionally highlighted. She uses I think 2 different colors. To keep me from looking white she now has to use a dark brown on me and the result is light blonde. At some point I'll probably have to quit coloring altogether because my hair just does not want to take the color. It gets lighter after ever shampoo. I'm using a sulfer free shampoo she told me to use which helps a little to keep from fading as fast.

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By 0 found this helpful
September 8, 2015

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

You probably have a patch of grey that is more resistant to color. Since the color does not penetrate as well, it does not 'hold' as well. In such a case, the professional colorist will pre soften that patch before applying color to the entire head. This can be accomplished by keeping the patch wet with a bit of developer that came with the color, for about half an hour. Then, dry the patch (Do not wash or rinse), and apply the color, beginning with the resistant patch.

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By 0 found this helpful
July 26, 2016

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.

Answer Was this helpful? Yes
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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By 0 found this helpful
June 16, 2016

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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By 0 found this helpful
February 22, 2006

I have been coloring my hair since it has started turning gray. I don't like the texture of my hair for about a week or longer after I've colored it. The dye makes it very slick without any body. I can't even keep it in a ponytail because the slick texture causes the elastic to slip right off! I don't have thin hair really. Anybody have a suggestion on how to avoid this slick texture after coloring? After about two weeks it feels normal, then in two more weeks it's time to color it again.

Mary from Denver

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By guest (Guest Post)
February 22, 20060 found this helpful
Best Answer

It sounds like you're skipping the step where you add water and work into a lather - the places you miss will be slick. Also, you might want to use a deep conditioner after you color. The slick hair could be damaged. Hope this helps :)

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February 22, 20060 found this helpful

try spraying your hair lightly with hairspray or using a little bit of "gummy-type" hair dressing before you attempt to put your hair in a ponytail. I have found this helps the problem. Also, rinse your hair well after coloring and don't use much conditioner on it for the first week if at all. All that conditioner could be what is making your hair so slick. hth.

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By guest (Guest Post)
February 23, 20060 found this helpful

My hair dresser says that slick, slimy hair is damaged hair.

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May 27, 20141 found this helpful

I have been wearing a wig for some time. I now have virgin gray hair and I do not like it. I do want to be able to wear my hair out, so what homemade product or natural product can I use to dye virgin gray hair?

By Barbara B.

Answer Was this helpful? 1

March 16, 20140 found this helpful

I have been using the standard boxed hair color for years to get rid of my gray hair. But the past couple of times I colored my hair, using the same procedure, it's like I didn't do a thing. The grays were still there. Am I doing something wrong? Are they developing a resistance? Do I need to start pre-treating with peroxide? Help!

By Cynthia

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March 17, 20140 found this helpful

Yes it is a pain isn't it. I have the same problem, did some research, and found a product called Gray Magic you add to your color solution prior to coloring. If you get too much red in your hair, you can followup with Unred also by Ardell.

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March 18, 20140 found this helpful

Gray hair is stubborn to dye. You may need to go to the beauty shop and have it professionaly done.

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January 2, 20150 found this helpful

I have spent 8 months growing out dark hair color. My hair dresser suggested using dark blond and it's been working. Today I used Gray Magic in my blond solution, and my hair turned almost black. I'm devastated. What can I do to get this out? I immediately shampooed my hair, but it didn't do any good.

By Jgreen

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January 30, 20150 found this helpful

Did you read the bottle of the grey magic? Some is for blonde hair and some is for brunette hair. Did you get the right grey magic? You only use 10 drops per ounce of hair color.

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August 26, 20130 found this helpful

I used a 6N Shades EQ with drops of Gray Magic. It went 2 levels darker. Is there anything I can do to take it out?

By Jean

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February 17, 20160 found this helpful

My friend had this issue and the hairdresser had her wash her hair with dawn dish detergent twice then deeply condition over the next few days. Hope this will help you.

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