Going too dark can make your color look severe, even dry.

How to Color Stubborn Gray Hair Without Going Too Dark

by Mimi Bullock

Many women turn to hair color to combat the appearance of gray hair, but if you wear too dark of a shade choice, the end result could look less than flattering. The stark difference between a dark shade of hair and your natural grays becomes more apparent as the hair grows out. If you want a believable hair color, go only two shades darker than your lightest hair color. Gray hair has a coarse texture and generally resists coloring so prepare to endure a lengthy coloring session.

Select a neutral hair color or one that has a gold or red tint to it. Neutral colors have neither cool or warm tones. "Ash" hair colors do not cover stubborn grays well, so avoid any hair coloring products described as ash. Also, darker hair colors cover grays better than lighter colors, but use caution.

Look at the darkest section of your hair. The color you choose can be up to two shades darker than the darkest section of your hair. If you plan to mix your own color instead of using a box color, select a 20 weight color instead of a 10 for the best coverage.

Brush your hair and put on an old shirt before mixing the color. For the best coverage, you should use the color right after you mix it. Have everything ready, including a timer, before you get started.

Apply the hair color to the graying areas first. For many women this is around the temples and sideburns. This will allow these gray areas longer coloring time without getting too dark of a color on the rest of your hair.

Allow the hair color to process for 40 to 45 minutes for better coverage; however, you should gauge the process. At about half the process time, rinse the color from a 1/2-inch wide section of hair from the underside of your hair. If the color is not too dark, work this section back into your hair and allow the process to complete. If the color appears dark enough, examine the gray areas for coverage. Once the dark color is locked in, you can rinse the hair and condition it.

Items you will need

  • Neutral hair color
  • 20 weight color
  • Brush
  • Old shirt
  • Towel
  • Washcloth
  • Conditioner


  • Buy a permanent hair color for the best gray coverage.
  • When coloring relaxed hair, use a demipermanent hair color.


  • Attempting to recapture your childhood hair color is not a good idea.
  • Have a damp cloth handy to rub away accidental stains on the skin.

About the Author

Mimi Bullock's writing reflects her love of traveling the back roads of small towns and sampling the local cuisine. As a regular feature writer for "Southern Hospitality Traveler" and journalist for "Beachin' Magazine," she gets to experience the rich heritage of the southern culture. She is also a licensed cosmetologist who has her own skin care line.

Photo Credits

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