While more and more women choose to wear their silver strands as a powerful fashion statement, we know that embracing gray hair isn’t for everyone. Luckily, there’s an array of options available to you if you plan on covering those grays—you’ll just need to be strategic about how you do it. That means choosing the best hair color for gray hair that will last and flatter your complexion.
Tricia Cosgrove, L’Oréal Professionnel artist, gave us her top tips for finding the best hair color for gray hair. We even share some of the latest salon innovations that conceal your grays in 10 minutes. Keep scrolling for everything you need to know, plus 22 inspirational looks that prove anything is possible with gray hair.
Are highlights or lowlights better for gray hair?
The best coloring technique for gray hair ultimately depends on your desired look and how much coverage you want. We suggest opting for an all-over color service to fully mask every gray hair on your head with a uniform shade. However, highlighting may be better if your goal is seamlessly blending your grays.
What type of hair color covers gray hair the best?
Many women tackle their grays in the privacy of their own homes with box dye, but there’s nothing better than salon hair color if you’re dealing with grays. Have you ever noticed that gray hair is coarser than pigment-producing strands? That’s because as follicles stop producing color, they also stop creating sebum that keeps hair soft and moisturized. This results in a wiry texture that can make it difficult for the at-home dye to penetrate and latch onto strands. A professional colorist knows how to color these rough hairs best, giving your grays the coverage they need to ensure the best results.
The best tip I have is to consult a pro! Professional hairdressers are well-educated in the chemistry of hair color. This really isn’t the type of thing most people can tackle themselves, and corrective [sic] color gets expensive!” Cosgrove explains.
It’s not just the color of the dye that matters, either. Formulas that are only available to professionals cover grays better than others. Cosgrove recommends demi or semi-permanent hair color for gray hair with a push toward permanent if you’re ready to commit to a new color. As a bonus, your stylist can offer tips for keeping your gray hairs as soft and manageable as possible. Who doesn’t want dreamy, silky hair?
If you’re unsure which coloring method is best for you, here’s a quick breakdown of three of the most common solutions.
Permanent Gray Coverage
Looking for permanent hair color for gray hair that also rejuvenates coarse, wiry strands? Let us introduce you to Redken’s brand-new, breakthrough hair color line (available in 29 shades, only in salons): Color Gels Oils. Formulated with two percent apricot oil, Color Gels Oils are the first permanent hair color to treat all symptoms of gray hair while boosting hair health. The ammonia-free range offers 100 percent gray coverage on every shade while leaving your mane conditioned, shiny, smooth, and manageable.
However, if you just need quick gray coverage or a touch-up, ask your salon if they’re stocking up on Redken Color Gels Lacquers 10 Minute Color. These permanent formulas provide 100 percent gray coverage on select shades and one level of lift in just 10 minutes. Color Gels Lacquers 10 Minute Color comes in 14 shades and offers fast gray coverage whether your strands are blonde, brunette, or copper.
Demi-Permanent Gray Coverage
For long-lasting (but not permanent) results, you can opt for a hair gloss like Redken Shades EQ. These demi-permanent, ammonia-free hair gloss formulas can provide temporary color change in just 20 minutes, including gray coverage. The results last four to six weeks, meaning you can try a new hair color for gray hair without the commitment.
Temporary Gray Coverage
Can’t make it to the salon every time your grays start to show? We get it. Luckily, temporary hair color for gray hair exists. You can conceal graying hair between appointments with formulas like L’Oréal Professionnel’s Hair Touch Up Root Concealers. Available in seven shades, these formulas give quick, easy, natural-looking gray coverage that lasts until your next wash day.
How often should I dye my hair to cover gray?
Because gray hairs can be so sneaky, maintaining a lapse-less hair color schedule is probably the most important part of managing them. How often you’ll need to come back depends on the difference between your natural shade and the salon color, as well as the technique your stylist uses. It’ll be a little bit different for everybody, but certainly not an opportunity to walk away for six months at a time.
How do you care for colored gray hair?
Between appointments, focus on using color-protecting products to help your hue last (and keep your grays totally disguised). We recommend Redken’s Color Extend Magnetics Shampoo and Conditioner. This sulfate-free system gently cleanses and conditions color-treated hair to enhance shine and hair color vibrancy.
Another way to prevent your hue from dulling is by keeping a heat protectant on hand whenever you reach for hot tools. We love Matrix Mega Sleek Iron Smoother Leave-In Spray, which smooths strands and simultaneously protects hair against heat damage up to 450 degrees.
We already know that gray hair grows drier and coarser, but a deep-conditioning hair mask can keep tresses silky and healthy. You can streamline your routine with a nourishing mask that also protects the vibrancy of color-treated hair, like Pureology Hydrate Superfood Treatment Mask.
Is it better to go lighter or darker to cover gray hair?
Now that you’re set on the kind of dye you need to cover gray hair, you need to determine which shade to choose. Neutral shades like soft blonde, mushroom brown, light copper, and caramel blonde balayage are the easiest to blend gray into (and maintain over time without wanting to shave your hair off).
Plus, Cosgrove points out that it’s easy to overwhelm your face with color. Go lighter, then add more if you want to make a dramatic statement.
I think the most common mistake is going too dark. It’s important to remember that as our hair loses pigment, so does our skin. A softer color than what we had before we went gray is probably best,” she says.
Wondering, “What is the best hair color for gray hair?” Keep scrolling for the 22 best hair colors for gray hair. You’ll want to tuck these away for inspiration before heading to the salon!
The 22 Best Hair Colors for Gray Hair to Try Now
Afraid of going dark because you fear your silvers will still poke through? That’s where Redken Color Gels Oils in Shade 5NN Cafe Mocha comes in. The liquid formula contains adhesion technology for deep, saturated results that completely mask even the most stubborn of grays so you can rock brunette hair at any age.
A vibrant red may not have been on your gray coverage bingo card, but hear us out! Your stylist can combine Redken Color Gels Oils in shades 6RR Blaze, 5RV Sangria, and Clear to achieve this stunning red shade with unrivaled shine.
A shade like white blonde will seamlessly blend with your gray regrowth. Note: Achieving a shade as light as white will require a few bleaching sessions with your colorist, so be sure to use repairing products like Redken’s Acidic Bonding Concentrate Intensive Treatment. Part of the Acidic Bonding Concentrate system, this highly reparative rinse-off formula works within your hair to strengthen bonds weakened by stressors like hair color and lightening.
There’s no need for us to sell you on caramel balayage because it basically sells itself. This warm, lighthearted take on blonde hair suits every skin tone, makes you glow, and fuses your grays. Who wouldn’t want to try it?
Ensure lightened brown hair remains bright, not brassy, with Matrix Brass Off All-In-One Toning Leave-In Spray. This conditioning leave-in spray uses blue dye color-depositing technology to neutralize brassy and orange tones that plague lightened brunettes and dark blonde hair.
Curious about what highlights are best for gray hair? We can name so many reasons why blonde highlights are a top choice. Blonde highlights soften the root area where grays start to peak through and let your colorist specifically target gray-prone sections.
Blonde Herringbone Highlights
Ask your stylist about herringbone highlights if you want to work with your grays, not against them. Instead of placing your foils on top of each other, your stylist will place them diagonally. This helps the cool and warm tones mesh together in a gorgeous fusion of color that intentionally includes your grays in its final result.
We’ve seen every blonde rendition on planet Earth, so believe us when we say this soft, creamy blonde shade is unique in its neutrality and dimension. Fight the urge to bleach your grays into oblivion and choose this darker blonde instead. A little leftover warmth is never bad, and you can always ask to go lighter or brighter next appointment.
Add dimension to your brown hair color with subtle lowlights. Strategically placed lowlights can help hide graying hair while adding depth and dimension to your brunette strands.
We’re obsessed with this gray coverage result on medium brown hair using Redken Color Gels Lacquers 10 Minute Color in the shade 05N Walnut.
This caffeine-inspired hue uses Redken Color Gels Lacquers 10 Minute Color in the shade 4NN Coffee Grounds.
Craving chocolate? Ask your colorist to use Redken Color Gels Lacquers 10 Minute Color 6NN Chocolate Mousse for a warm-toned look with 100 percent gray coverage.
Redheads have a reputation for not going gray, but ginger shades lose their pigment over time, resulting in a lighter, duller color. Your colorist can refresh your fiery hue with a permanent hair color formula.
One caveat: Salon red hair is notoriously prone to premature fading, so make sure you’re ready for the commitment before you dive in. You can also invest in an at-home color refresher, like Pureology Color Fanatic Top Coat + Tone Copper, between appointments.
Sugar and Spice Copper
For a lower-maintenance take on red, have your stylist apply copper, brunette, and bright blonde highlights and lowlights. As brilliant as it is beautiful, this multi-tonal look helps your existing grays blend nicely and prevents a harsh line of demarcation for any new gray growth.
Ginger with Lowlights
Give your ginger shade dimension while hiding any stray grays with blended lowlights throughout your mane. Need extra help with graying around your temples? Have your colorist incorporate a money piece into your final look.
Think twice if you think balayage is only meant for the mid-lengths to ends of hair! Sweeping a few strokes of trendy greige (gray and beige) balayage near the roots creates a sun-kissed glow that seamlessly infuses your natural salt and peppers.
If you can’t beat them, embrace them! Lean into your natural grays with a full-on deep silver shade. It’s on-trend and customizable for every skin tone.
For a shade as bright and cool as this one, we advise using a shampoo and conditioner like L’Oréal Professionnel Serie Expert Silver Purple Shampoo and Conditioner once or twice a week to contrast yellow undertones.
A full head of silver hair may not be for everyone, which is why we recommend silver balayage for a more subtle take on the look.
White with Lowlights
Lowlights will tone down a white shade while adding tons of dimension to your mane. If you notice your bright white fading within two weeks of your last color appointment, consider incorporating a system like Redken Blondage High Bright into your regimen. The line’s Pre-Treatment, Shampoo, and Conditioner are powered by its Brightening Care Complex and vitamin C to lift impurities that darken or dull blonde hair.
Like the delicious mushroom, this ashy, portobello-inspired shade appears to be standard brown hair at first glance. Upon closer inspection, you’ll notice the light gray hues peeking through without stealing the whole show.
Lavender is a top contender for the best hair color for gray hair. Purple hair may seem like a big jump, but the ashy tones in a muted lavender perfectly mesh with grays and give your overall look a youthful edge.
Dark Ash Gray
Want to conceal grays while still embracing the richness of a brunette hue? Dark ash gray lets you have the best of both worlds. This ashy matte color focuses the bulk of your grays at the ends, not the roots, so you can go gray the fashionable way.
Two-Toned Slate Brunette
Can’t get enough of this chalky slate gray? Ask your stylist to use Matrix SoColor Cult in Marble Grey on two-thirds of your dark base for a unique two-toned effect.
Interested in getting professional gray coverage? Head to Hair.com to shop all the products you’ll need to maintain your gray makeover at home.