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How to Cover Gray Hair - for Men

Updated on February 5, 2017
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Many years spent working "front of house" in the hospitality industry have taught Camlo the importance of perfect grooming.

Whether the hair of your head or face, you can cover grays and get natural-looking results no matter how gray you are or how resistant to dye your hair is.


Deciding Whether to Dye or Go Gray

Being gray doesn't necessarily mean you're getting old. Many people notice their first grays while still in their late teens or early 20s. But—no matter how youthful your physique or how smooth and firm your skin—gray hair will make you appear older.

When deciding whether to dye or let yourself go gray, consider the image you want to convey and whether you can live up to it. As a gray man, you'll be expected to behave and dress in a mature manner which you may not be ready for.

If this is the case, banishing gray hair of the head and face has never been easier or more discreet. You can do it in the privacy of your bathroom once a month in about 15 minutes. In fact, it's better to do it at home if you want natural-looking results, since hairdressers often use excessively rich colors that never look real.

Blending Out Gray Hair

First gray hairs can be blended out with a semi-permanent coloring product like Just For Men.

It's very easy to use: mix according to the enclosed instructions, apply to the hair, leave for five minutes, and rinse.

Unless your hair is sprinkled throughout with gray, there's no need to dye the whole head, nor to use the entire package. Just mix a portion of the two supplied components to a ratio of 1-to-1 and apply to graying areas only.

If dyeing the whole head, it's important that the back and sides are slightly darker than the top if you want natural-looking results. To achieve this, apply first to the back, then the sides, and then the top. The reason for this is that the longer the dye is left to develop, the darker the hair becomes.

Choosing the Right Color

Semi-permanent products like Just for Men cannot lighten hair, but they can darken it. If you're unsure between two shades, choose the lightest. Your aim should be to blend out grays without altering the color of the rest of the hair—a shade too dark would darken the whole head.

Another reason for choosing a shade not quite as dark as your original color is because skin tone pales as hair turns gray. This is why highly saturated colors look harsh and unnatural on people who would normally be gray.

For Dark Haired Men

The best color to choose if you're dark is medium ash brown, which allows you to retain your dark looks without appearing artificial—ash tones lack red pigment, making them less intense and more natural-looking.

If your original hair color was black, dark brown or black-brown usually gives best results.

For Redheaded Men

If you're a redhead, red coloring products rarely look natural. Depending on the depth of your original color, warm browns and blondes work best.

Be careful with reddish browns, since these nearly always leave an overly saturated, "obviously dyed" effect. This will also be the case if you choose a shade too dark.

For Blonde Men

If you are blonde, use a color as close to your own as possible. Should your hair start to develop a yellow tinge, choose an ash shade to counteract it.

As a gray man, you'll be expected to behave in a mature manner.
As a gray man, you'll be expected to behave in a mature manner. | Source

Dyeing Facial Hair

Just for Men has also developed a semi-permanent dye for strong, bristly facial hair. This comes with a small tinting brush for easy application.

Which Color?

Unless your beard color is noticeably different, choose the same color as for the hair on your head, and apply once every two to four weeks as necessary.

How to Apply Dye to the Beard

If you wear a full beard, you'll get an even color by applying the dye first where the hair is at its strongest and coarsest. For most men, this is the chin followed by the sideburns, then the mustache and cheeks, and lastly the neck.

Can You Dye Your Eyebrows?

The instructions advise against it for reasons of safety, but you can also use beard dye for graying eyebrows. Alternatively, there are special lash and brow dyes available at drugstores in either brown or black.

What If Your Hair Turns Out Too Dark?

Should you choose a shade too dark, you can try fading it with a clarifying shampoo, but it will only work if applied immediately after dyeing. In case you don't have a clarifying shampoo, mix baking soda and a mild shampoo to a ratio of 1-to-1 for a similar effect.

This won't work, however, if you've used a permanent dye.

Permanent Dyes

Just for Men and similar products are only effective if you have 20 percent gray or less. You'll notice you need a different kind of product when your hair color starts to fade and turn "muddy" merely days after application.

Permanent Hair Dye for Men

Although marketed exclusively for women, permanent dyes available at drugstores are for men too, and work well even on completely gray or white hair. But, because they are marketed for women, colors tend to be too exotic and fashion inspired for the needs of most men.

Therefore, select a shade that resembles a natural hair color, with a simple name like "light brown," "medium brown," "dark blonde," "medium blonde" etc.

Which Products Work Best?

You need a product formulated for 100 percent gray and white coverage.

Offering a color range suitable for anyone who wants natural-looking results, Poly Color by Schwarzkopf is probably the most reliable European drugstore brand. But if you're looking for an ash tone, you may need to visit a beauty supplier, which you can do online.

In the United States look for L'oreal's Excellence Creme Hair Color or Excellence Age Perfect. If uncertain, seek the advice of a beauty supplier—most have a contact form on their website for this purpose.

Don't be misled: you'll find dyes marketed for men that call themselves "permanent," but if you read the product description carefully, you're likely to discover that they're actually semi-permanent.

When choosing a light or blonde shade, avoid "high-lift" products. These lighten hair and may cause it to turn red.

How to Use Permanent Dye

Permanent dyes are applied in the same way as semi-permanent dyes formulated specifically for men (described above), but take longer to develop. For the hair of the head, leave on for as long as instructed (usually 20 to 30 minutes). For beard hair, rinse after about 10 or 15 minutes to prevent the color becoming too dark or intense.

You may find that permanent dyes make facial hair seem unnaturally dark, especially brown shades. If so, use a medium or dark blonde shade instead. If you're unsure of exactly which shade to choose, go for medium ash blonde.

For Hair that Is Resistant to Dye

Strong, coarse hair is difficult to dye and has to be softened or pre-treated in order that the color "takes."

Pre-treat with 20 volume cream developer, which is available from beauty suppliers and online stores.

Just brush the substance over your hair, leave for 10 minutes, then rinse and towel dry before dyeing. You don't need to pre-treat the whole head or beard if only certain areas are a problem: e.g., temples, sideburns, chin.

Removing Hair Dye From Your Skin

To prevent dye staining your skin, wear plastic or latex gloves and apply petroleum jelly to the hairline. Otherwise, stains are easily removed with aftershave or rubbing alcohol and a cotton ball.

To minimize staining of the scalp or facial skin (and possible irritations), don't wash your hair or face directly before dyeing.

Although marketed exclusively for women, permanent dyes are for men too.
Although marketed exclusively for women, permanent dyes are for men too. | Source

Progressive Dyes for Gradual Gray Coverage

If you've let yourself go completely gray, you might not want to return to a darker color overnight.

For a discreet, gradual change, and very natural-looking results, use a progressive dye like Grecian Formula or Touch of Gray, the latter of which is also available for facial hair.

Applied in the same way as a hair tonic, progressive dyes allow you to control how quickly you return to a darker color and how much gray you cover. Another advantage is that they contain no peroxide or ammonia, which means there's no risk of damage to hair or scalp.

On the other hand, they do contain lead acetate in the United States, which may pose a health risk. In Europe and Canada this substance is banned for use in cosmetics.

Progressive dyes are generally available in light brown, medium brown, dark brown, black, and jet black.

© 2010 Camlo De Ville


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