The Expert Guide to Covering Grey Hair Colour in Between Salon Appointments
What do you do when you notice those grey roots coming through and you know you can’t get to your hairdresser any time soon? Grey regrowth can be a nightmare for those of us who usually cover it with our colour, but hiding it at home varies in difficulty depending on how much you have coming through, and which artificial hair colour and effect you have in your hair.
Blondes with highlights tend to have a much easier time, as those pesky new white hairs can be mistaken for intentional highlights for many months before a noticeable root strap is visible. However, those with a darker artificial hair colour and a lot of natural grey and white are likely to be calling out for their hair colourist after just a few weeks.
Colouring grey roots is not about achieving a specific shade; natural white hair (or grey) is the loss of all pigment, so when it comes to covering up regrowth your aim is purely to bring back a natural pigment level to this white hair. Rather than trying to create a permanent bespoke colour, approach this exercise with the sole purpose of removing white hairs – that way, it’s far more likely to work. Once those greys are under control, you can then use semi-permanent shades and coloured shampoos as a safe approach to refining your overall shade and tone.
If you cannot get to your colourist for a root touch-up, there are a few simple solutions you can use to manage unwanted grey hair at home.
Step 1: Start with a no-peroxide semi-permanent colour
Even those with a very dark artificial base colour and a lot of white hair can benefit from using a no-peroxide semi-permanent 8 wash colour in the early weeks of seeing grey roots. The lighter you are (particularly medium blondes), the longer you can use a semi-permanent colourant before you need to resort to a permanent alternative – perhaps even up to a few months.
Generally, semi-permanent colours provide very little grey coverage. However, what they can do in the early days is mute the white and blend it out, so that the white or salt and pepper root strap is less visible. Blondes may find the semi-permanent colourant turns the natural white hairs to a golden hue, making the hair appear more blonde overall and less grey.
If you only have a scattering of white hair around the highline and in the parting, using a semi-permanent hair colourant every 6 to 8 washes is really all you need in the battle against grey, and you shouldn’t need to worry about using a permanent shade. Remember, no-peroxide semi-permanent colourants are safe to use as much as you wish – so if you can get away with it, stick to these rather than trying a permanent colour.
How to Make Semi-Permanent Colours More Effective on Greys
I have always found that you can get a semi-permanent hair colourant to cover more grey if you firstly clarify the hair with a clear shampoo, skip the conditioner and then apply. As an emergency measure I have told those who use Colour Restore in shades Chocolate, Black Cherry and Caramel that they can conduct this bicarbonate of soda rinse method first and then follow with a Colour Restore treatment for grey.
In this method, the bicarbonate of soda rinse makes the hair more alkaline and porous, and able to suck up more hair colour, hence covering grey more effectively. Just be sure to follow the colour treatment with a conditioner or mask to bring the softness back.
Step 2: Apply permanent colour to the roots
Professional hair colourists are masters of understanding their clients’ hair limitations and behaviour, and will mix bespoke permanent shades that work just for you. Therefore, if your colourist is not available to cover up your grey and you have a very unique shade, do not attempt to match the colour by looking at the picture on a box of dye – it’s unlikely to work.
Instead, select a permanent colour for just one purpose: to match your nearest depth and cover the white hairs. With this approach, you just apply a base shade colourant to the regrowth.
If you select your permanent hair colour from the above categories, you will be able to cover your grey and white hair successfully. You can then work with coloured shampoos and semi-permanent shades to adjust the tone and shade of your hair colour and create the look you want.
How to Cover Grey and White Root Regrowth at Home
Thankfully, YouTube is full of great videos demonstrating how you can either apply a regrowth cover-up yourself, or show how someone can do it for you. There is one key aspect you must follow: always mix the colour in a plastic bowl and apply with a tint brush. If you cannot lay your hands on a tint brush (these are freely available on Amazon), then use an old toothbrush – it’s not quite as good as a correct tint brush, but it does the job for root colouring.
Here are some good pointers for successful grey root coverage application at home:
- Use a plastic bowl/tint bowl and tint brush/toothbrush
I cannot stress this enough: mixing a permanent colourant in the applicator bottle and tipping it over your head is the stuff of nightmares. If you want to return to your hair colourist some day and keep them happy, please just stick to careful colour application on the white regrowth areas only!
- If you have a partner, friend or relative nearby, ask them to do it
Regrowth application is always better to be conducted by a third party, as they can see all areas and manage the back of the head too. Show them a YouTube video first, mix the colour up for them and hold the bowl as they work through the hair. I liken it to painting the skirting boards while remembering not to overlap the paint onto the walls!
- If you are doing it yourself, divide the hair into four sections
Dividing the hair into four sections will really help you move cleanly and quickly through the hair. Make sure you cover partings and hairlines (all around, front and back) first, then move into the roots within each of the four sections.
Follow up With Other Products to Achieve Your Desired Shade
Now that your grey root hairs are covered with a permanent base shade, you can adapt your overall shade and tone by treating the whole hair with a coloured shampoo or semi-permanent colourant. For example, if you are a mahogany or auburn shade and have coloured your roots with a 7.0 Medium Blonde, switch to using a shampoo for redheads to bring auburn tone and pigment into the hair with each wash.
Likewise, using an ash toner will neutralise unwanted warmth in all depths (from blonde to dark), while a platinum tone will kick out yellow in lighter blonde bases.
Alternatively, you can use the permanent colour to cover the white hairs, then cover the whole head with an 8 wash semi-permanent colourant to create a solid tonal hair colour that blends the root areas to the mid-lengths and ends.