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What to Know Before You Color Your Gray

You know the scene: One day, you spot a gray hair. And then, just like that, 100 more show up to the party. (And if this isn’t you, you’re blessed!)

Whether you’re sprouting a little bit of salt with your pepper or you’re covered in snow, here’s what to know before you visit a pro to color your gray.

Demi-Permanent Color: Why should you choose it?

Your colorist may ask if you want demi-permanent or permanent color — and there is a big difference between the two when it comes to covering gray. “Demi-permanent color gives approximately 90-percent gray coverage and then fades over time because it deposits color on the hair cuticle rather than penetrating it,” says colorist Izabela Dziak of Salon AKS in Manhattan.

Why choose demi? For one, it doesn’t use ammonia (which can irritate sensitive scalps) but also “because it fades, it won’t show a strong line of demarcation when your hair grows out, making regrowth less obvious,” Dziak says. The one caveat: Because it’s not permanent, the color fades around the 24-wash mark. Those with coarser, grayer hair will see less coverage as well.

Permanent Color: Why should you choose it?

If you simply can’t stand to see your grays shimmering like silver highlights and you don’t mind regular trips to the salon, permanent color might be right for you. “Permanent hair color gives full, 100 percent gray coverage. The ingredients penetrate the hair cuticle to deposit color, and can either darken or lighten the hair,” Dziak explains. In effect, the dye job lasts (hence, the name “permanent”) — until you cut your hair off. But, be forewarned, when hair starts to grow, you’ll see a strong line of new growth. The only way to combat that is root touch-ups.

What to Know Before You Color Your Gray Hair

What should you ask when you’re in the chair?

Before you even settle into the salon chair, be sure to ask yourself about coverage. Be honest with yourself: Do you want full coverage or are you OK with allowing some of your gray hair to shine through? Once that is settled, it all boils down to maintenance — another point of self-honesty. Do your lifestyle and budget allow you to visit the salon often? Think this through, as you won’t really want to be caught with 3 inches of gray regrowth.

Dziak suggests asking your pro these questions, no matter your stage of gray:

  • How quickly will my color fade?
  • How soon will I see regrowth?
  • How often will I have to return to the salon?

Once you’ve determined what you feel comfortable from coverage and maintenance standpoints, you’re good to go!

What if you are you are just beginning to go gray?

For those not flaunting a full head of gray hair, there are more options. Before simply settling in for demi- or permanent all-over color, Dziak suggests considering highlights, low-lights, or semi-permanent color (lasts up to 12 washes) to blend and camouflage grays instead. Those with very few gray hairs can consider “spot treating,” or painting only the grays, Dziak says. This requires much less maintenance. “You don’t have to color your entire head,” she says, adding, “so, not only do you save money, you save time too!”

And if none of this sounds good to you. We say go with it. Embrace your gray!

Photos: Laflor, GlobalStock

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