Once gray hair makes an appearance, you have a choice—to cover your gray hair or leave it alone. If you opt to cover it with professional hair color, here are some helpful tips from the hair color experts at Matrix.
Gray hair isn’t actually a hair color. Quite the opposite—it’s hair that is free of color or non-pigmented. That’s why it’s important to select the right hair color shade when covering gray hair. It must be a balanced, neutral hair color blend that contains the three primary colors—red, yellow and blue. If any of these primaries aren’t present in the hair color, the result will be too dull, too ash or too bright.
Professional hair color companies now offer a variety of excellent professional hair color products for covering gray hair. “Salon clients can request a variety of hair color effects, thanks to modern hair color formulations,” explains Matrix Artistic Director Robert Santana. “I like to tell my clients when it comes to their gray hair, Matrix has them covered!”
In the beginning, it’s often a matter of a sprinkling of gray. Maybe you notice a few silver hair strands along your part or at your temples. Or perhaps you catch a glint of something light and bright around your face. At this point, you probably don’t need or want to cover up your hair color completely. This is when Santana will recommend a demi-permanent hair color blending service, with a low-ammonia, deposit-only hair color like Matrix Color Sync. Demi-permanent hair color is sheer so it allows your natural hair color to remain as is, while toning those few gray hairs. They’ll look like highlights in your hair. The color will gradually fade away after about six-to-eight weeks, so you won’t have to worry about a line of demarcation when your hair starts to grow out. What’s more, Color Sync contains conditioning oils that nourish and soften your hair, which helps to prevent those wiry gray hairs from springing up at unnatural angles!
As the gray hair multiplies, you may find you’re at a stage where you see much more gray hair, but overall your hair is still more pigmented than it is white. At this point you have several options. If the majority of gray hair is concentrated in one section of your hair—say in front—your hair stylist may opt to continue with demi-permanent hair color in the back where there is little gray hair, and switch to permanent hair color in the front to cover the heavier and more visible gray hair. Permanent hair color contains more ammonia, and it opens up the hair cuticle to allow hair color to penetrate deeply. This enables it to cover gray hair color more completely and more permanently—it will not fade away like demi-permanent hair color.
Another option is to have your hair stylist camouflage the gray hair with highlights and/or lowlights. Choosing a highlight color that complements your natural hair color and your skin tone will blend and mask the appearance of your gray hair, and maintain lots of depth and dimension in your hair color. If your overall natural hair color is light, lowlights have the same effect, except your hair stylist will add darker color, usually with a demi-permanent hair color, rather than lighter highlights.
Eventually most hair reaches the stage where there is more white than the original hair color. At this stage, when your hair stylist confirms your hair is fifty percent gray hair or more, you’ll probably agree it’s best to use a heavy-duty permanent hair color designed to cover your gray hair completely. “At this stage, I offer my clients a choice of two gray hair coverage experiences,” says Santana. “One option is a multi-dimensional, reflective formula like Matrix SoColor Dream.Age. This is for the client who wants rich, radiant gray hair coverage with visible, multi-tonal peaks and valleys in the finished hair color result. This type of hair color brightens the eyes and skin tone. And an added benefit is the fact that these hair color formulas contain healthy ingredients like camelina oil that help soften resistant gray hair.”
If you prefer complete, “every-gray-hair-accounted-for” gray hair coverage, an opaque, full-bodied formula like Matrix SOCOLOR Extra Coverage permanent hair color is your best bet. Santana explains that this hair color provides uniform, even coverage and leaves hair with a natural, traditional appearance. It also contains ceramides, jojoba oil and soy bean to condition and smooth unruly gray hair textures.
Of course, no matter what gray hair coverage product you choose, it’s ultimately in the hands of your hair stylist to create the right hair color formula (or formulas) for your individual gray hair coverage needs. That means covering the sections of gray hair you want covered, formulating a hair color shade that’s flattering and youthful and adjusting that hair color formula over time as your hair and your percentage of gray hair changes. They also know lots of little gray hair coverage tips and tricks! For example, after observing how resistant those stubborn gray temple hairs can be, Robert Santana has learned to double up on the gray coverage hair dye in those areas, going back about midway through the processing and applying a second batch of hair color to those areas. “A smart hair stylist knows it’s important to keep gray hair coverage clients satisfied,” he laughs, “because they can be your most loyal clients. So it’s a policy in our salon to do whatever we have to do to make sure every single gray hair is covered before a client walks out the door!”