Coloring Your Own Gray Hair at Home
For years, I paid a stylist to color my hair at $90 a pop plus $30 for trims. I always hated the way my hair looked. Even though I told my stylist over and over that my hair seemed orange, she never fixed it. I would see photos and my hair was clearly orange-tinged. One day, I went in and asked for a specific cut (even had a photo) and asked for some white-blonde highlights. I walked out with a layered cut (I never do layers other than long ones) and caramel-orange highlights.
That was the day I decided I’d had it. I knew I could do at least that well with a box kit. Thus began some experiments that I’m going to share and hopefully you can learn from.
Store Bought Kits to Color Your Hair
I started with a kit I bought from Walmart. I went with an ash color because I knew that ash would tone down how orange my hair looked. I did take the time to study the color wheels and how stylists balance color. This made me understand that my stylist really didn’t understand this balancing act, not even a little. This is why my hair was always orange, even when I told her it had a tendency to go orange.
In a nutshell:
- If your hair is orange, you need to add purple to tone it down or an ash color or toner.
- If your hair is green, you don’t have enough red in it.
As you lighten your hair, you strip out pigments. So, if I wanted highlights that were blonde, I’d have to lose all the red from my hair through several stages. It is not easy to highlight hair at home if your hair is dark and I really don’t recommend it for a beginner as you might fry your hair. However, you can start with a 20 volume toner and some powdered bleach or one of the kits at the store, which is the same thing. You just might have a hard time getting away from it being orangey at first.
The light ash brown I put on my hair did tone down the orange, but it was a flat color and I still wasn’t thrilled with it. I realized that the color I loved on celebrities and friends was not made up of one color. I started to really study their hair and what it looked like and I realized there were layers of different colors, highlights and lowlights that gave them that look.
What Hair Color to Buy from Sally’s Beauty Supply
I then headed to Sally’s, because I knew it would be cheaper to buy several different colors. I was lost. There are so many colors and there are some that are specifically for gray hair (these are amazing and make your hair soft and shiny). I knew I wanted a light ash brown base, blonde highlights and medium golden brown lowlights. So, I chose a light ash brown, a medium golden brown, some highlighting powder and 20 volume toner.
I put on the brown base first. Then, I mixed the bleach and put it on with a toothbrush where I wanted it. My hair takes forever to lighten, so I knew I’d have to leave it on the maximum, 90 minutes. I left it on an hour and then went in and added the golden brown lowlights where I wanted those. 30 minutes later I rinsed it all out and conditioned.
The result? While not perfect, it was 100 times better than what I’d paid my stylist $90 for and it was not orange. There was a slight red tone to my lowlights as I’d chosen golden brown, but they were a pretty slightly auburn type color. I got many compliments.
Other Things to Do to Camouflage Gray Hair
One of the biggest problems I’ve had is that my gray hair is actually snow white. However, I suspect it doesn’t matter what shade your gray is. You likely still want to cover it. If you’re like me, your hair grows fast. So you might color it and a week later gray is peaking through. No one wants to overprocess their hair. There are some things you can do to camouflage it.
- Touch up just the roots. This only works well if your hair is all one color.
- Create baby lights. This is something I’ve recently started to do and I love this look so much. I put a chocolate brown at the top, which is about a shade or so darker than my natural color. I then go down about two to three inches and twist sections and bleach them. The look is subtle but adds a lot of pretty lights to my hair, especially when I let the waves go natural. When the gray starts to come in, I just touch up that part at the top or even from the top down about two inches. I don’t have to do the ends, which are often the most fragile. It is a quick touchup.
- Some people use touch up pens. I’ve not tried these. They are a temporary fix.
- There are some rinses you can use to add color to your hair, but they aren’t great at covering gray.
These are just a few ideas. You have to find the color that matches your own skin tone and that you love. The ladies who work at Sally’s always help me out and are usually right about the colors to choose and how to fix problems. For example, my blonde kept going orangey or straw yellow. I could never get it where I wanted until a gal at Sally told me to bleach it and then do a lightest ash blonde toner over it at the end. Wow! No more orange. Such an easy fix and makes my hair look BETTER than when I had the salon do it.
Whatever method you choose, it is an ongoing effort to keep gray hair covered. You can do it and you’ll look breathtakingly beautiful.