Expert Tips for Covering Gray

More than 72 percent of American women color their hair, and gray coverage is the number one reason. It’s a quick way to look younger, no surgery required. Though gray hair can be stubborn and resistant to total coverage—the strands are coarser and wiry, making it difficult to drive color into the hair shaft—these expert tips make it a lot easier to achieve the results you want and your clients’ demand.

When a client’s gray hair doesn’t get completely covered, what should you do?

“Nine times out of ten, a lack of coverage comes from incorrect formulation or incorrect product choice,” says Victoria Usher, Education Development Director for L’Oréal Professionnel. Review your formulation, first checking the natural level of uncolored hair, and then the level and developer selected. A great rule of thumb is to do a 50/50 mixture when covering gray hair. That’s 50 percent of your formula as a natural shade on the desired level, and 50 percent of a target or fashion shade. Since gray hair is missing the three primary colors—blue, red and yellow—this will ensure enough of the three primaries to achieve gray coverage.”

Is a pre-treat method necessary? 

“Presoftening works when dealing with very resistant gray hair. It opens up the cuticle layer before color placement. When using a translucent shade, pre-treating can help. Apply 10-volume developer just on the gray regrowth for 10 minutes, and wipe off. Then, apply your color formulation,” says Usher.

What is the most effective technique to color gray hair?

“A single process is good for creating a monochromatic background. But re-creating hair’s natural dimension before it went gray is the best option. This can be achieved by using a slightly lighter shade of coverage with foil on the surface of the hair. This creates the illusion of soft multi-shading. It also distracts the eye from seeing a strong horizontal grow-out line when new regrowth happens,” says Rebecca Hiele, Goldwell National Artistic Director.

Do demi-permanents cover grays?

“Opaque demi-permanent hair color can cover gray hair, but hair type and quality plays a factor. The coarser the hair, the more likely a permanent color option is needed,” says Usher. “If a client is just turning gray, and the texture is medium to fine, demi-permanent is a great option. For example, L’Oréal Professionnnel DIA Richesse mixed with 15-volume and processed for 20 minutes can achieve up to 70% coverage of gray hair.”