I was probably around 18years old when I saw my first gray hair sprout up from my scalp.
Needless to say, I was mortified.
My gray strands have not multiplied yet, but my early onset has prepared me for that next stage, and I’ve accepted that it’s an inevitable part of aging.
As we get older, the pigment cells in our hair follicles gradually die. When there are fewer pigment cells in the hair follicles, the strands of hair contain less melanin and become more transparent in color, resulting in gray, silver or white strands.
For many people, this process of hair-aging is embraced and the trend of rocking gray hair can be seen all over social media. But for those of us who would rather cover up our gray streaks (myself included), regular trips to a colorist can be costly, so home coloring has become increasingly popular.
That's why we turned to Janet Zeitoun, celebrity hairstylist and founder of SOTAH hair care products, to share some at-home hair dyeing tips, and her favorite color kits for combating grays.
“There are a few things that make a good home hair dye,” says Zeitoun. “Firstly, a company that is accessible for any questions or concerns that might arise when using your dye at home. Additionally, a color kit should always come with instructions on how to perform a patch test, to avoid allergic reaction, and all the essential tools to assist with application. Such as gloves, a tint brush, a tint bottle, activators and a skin barrier cream.”
Here, she shares her best tips for doing your own dye job, as well as her favorite at-home color treatments.
Step 1: Protect, Protect, Protect
First, remember to protect your work space, your hairline, your scalp, and your clothing.
“Protecting the space where you will be dyeing your hair is essential, cover all areas that dye could possibly get to, accidents happen,” says Zeitoun.
A popular home coloring faux pas is a dyed hairline. If you haven’t experienced it, you’ve probably seen someone with it. To avoid this embarrassing outcome, Zeitoun says it’s important to apply a barrier cream before you color your hair. “If your box color doesn’t supply you with a skin barrier cream, use something as simple as Vaseline or coconut oil.”
Step 2: Part and Apply
The key to successfully dyeing gray hair is making sure the hair is fully saturated in dye. To help this process, Zeitoun recommends dividing the hair into four sections. “Within your four sections, use quarter inch partings when applying your color, this will allow every strand to receive complete saturation of the color,” she says.
Start applying your color where you have the most resistant gray hair first. “Resistant gray hair needs the full processing time required to take the color well,” says Zeitoun. Once you have finished applying the dye, cross check to see that you have covered all the gray strands but do not reapply the color. “If you keep overlapping the color, it will make your hair darker and can cause a dark ring around your hair that a professional will need to correct. Color correction can be expensive, so try and avoid this.”
Step 3: Wait on It
On some occasions you might find that your gray hairs aren’t dyeing, this is because gray hair produces little oil and tends to have a rougher surface that sometimes rejects dye, especially around the roots.
“Coloring your hair will take the necessary time suggested. Have a timer on hand to monitor the time, no cutting corners. Rinsing off your color too early can result in a translucent hue on your roots, uneven coverage, or no coverage at all,” says Zeitoun. “Another way to tackle resistant hair is by applying the color developer to the gray areas and allowing it to set for five to eight mins before applying the color. Doing this step will help to swell and lift up the hair cuticle so that it can easily absorb the pigment when you start the color process.”
What to Know About After Care
After dyeing your hair, Zeitoun recommends not washing it for three days to add longevity to the color. “After three days, use a non-sulfate shampoo to seal the color into the strands and keep it vibrant,” she explains.
To maintain a healthy scalp and hair, gray hair should not be colored more than every four weeks. Dyeing too often can cause your hair to become brittle, dull, and damage your hairline.
How to Maintain Your Color
Once you have dyed your hair, it’s important to maintain your color. Gray hair often fades from the mid section of the hair to the ends, giving a dry, dull appearance. “Many home coloring companies offer color glosses. These pigment enhancers bring your color alive and help maintain an even tone.”
Below, Zeitoun shares a few of her favorites at home colors for combating gray hairs.
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Christophe Robin Temporary Color Gel
This temporary gel color is composed of 92% natural-origin ingredients, pure pigments, and is made without oxidants and ammonia. The gentle formula immediately covers grays, blending with your natural hair color. “It can be used on multi-textures, virgin textures, and chemically-treated hair,” says Zeitoun. “The shades lean more to the darker tones and are limited to four shades. If you fancy dark rich shades, this brand is perfect.”
To shop: $35; sephora.com
Color & Co Personalized Hair Color
Take a quiz to create a unique hair profile and have a custom-made color delivered right to your door. “This company is the most hands on in helping you with your desired color,” says Zeitoun. “They have professional colorists available to help you with any concerns. The gray coverage is 100% guaranteed.”
To shop: $30; shop.colorandco.com
Dark and Lovely Fade Resist
If you have textured hair with different curl patterns that might be resistant to color, Dark and Lovely has something for you. A trusted choice for women of color, this permanent non-drip hair color provides 100% gray coverage. “This brand is a proven choice for home use and has been around for many years,” says Zeitoun. “They offer an array of shades along with a non-ammonia color gloss. They also incorporate a lot of conditioning within their color formulas, which is extremely beneficial for coily, chemically treated, or extremely textured hair.”
To shop: $5; target.com
Esalon Custom Hair Color
Looking for a color that’s almost identical to your natural color? This made-to-order hair color is individually crafted by a colorist, allowing you to achieve your ultimate color goal. “This brand has a wonderful support system for any existing concerns, especially when you have never done anything like this before, extra help to see you through is comforting,” says Zeitoun. “Their coverage for gray is 100%.”
To shop: $28; esalon.com
Madison Reed Permanent Hair Color
This two-step system comes with permanent color for maximum gray coverage at your roots (where you need it most) and a semi‑permanent gloss for the mid‑lengths and ends of your hair to gently tone, add dimension, and refresh your color. “This brand is a trustworthy go-to and is great for multi-texture and virgin hair. Their kits come with everything you need to cover your grays.”
To shop: $27; ulta.com
Schwarzkopf Keratin Color Permanent Hair Color Cream
This treatment color features anti-breakage technology that helps to repair the inner hair structure and coat the hair surface, revealing strong, healthy-looking hair. “I like this brand for sensitive, damaged or chemically treated hair. It is also great for darker hues, black and brunettes.”
To shop: $10; walmart.com
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