With some gentle care and the correct products, your dye job will take you from one appointment to the next.

By Rebecca Norris
April 06, 2021
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If you've been dyeing your hair for years, you've likely learned a thing or two about color maintenance—namely, how often to schedule touch-ups and the types of at-home products that extend the look of your color. While these tips will serve just about any dye job, extra maintenance is required when it comes to covering gray hair. The reason? Gray hair is often coarser, which makes it more resistant to deposited color. With that in mind, keep reading to discover how to care for dyed-over gray hair, according to the experts.

woman using applicator to dye hair hrey
Credit: RunPhoto / Getty Images

First, determine which dye type is right for you.

If you're looking for 100-percent opaque coverage—as opposed to a softer balayage style—Maxine Salon colorist Nicole Tabloff advises using a permanent hair color. "With permanent color, you can make your natural hair lighter or darker—or keep it the same color," she explains, noting that the main downside is that when your roots grow in, you will have a sharp line of demarcation, which is a more obvious sign of roots. If you're concerned about a severe line, go for demi-permanent dye. "Demi-permanent color is ideal for those who want to minimize their gray, but don't mind seeing a little," she explains. "You can go darker or stay at the same level. Although most products say they cover up to 50-percent of gray hair, it can be more, depending on your texture and the addition of heat. It is a great first step before trying a more permanent color." Another reason why this starter formula is worthwhile? It's more gentle than permanent offerings. Since gray hair is already quite coarse (and, therefore, not as sensitive), you won't have to worry about moisture loss or texture damage.

Maintenance starts at the roots.

Since our hair grows from the roots, this will be the first place to show new signs of gray. To keep your color looking fresh and glossy, Hitomi Ikeda, the master colorist at Rob Peetoom Salon Williamsburg in New York City, recommends touching up your roots every six to eight weeks following the initial dye job. The quicker your hair grows, the sooner you'll need to book an appointment—but a root touch-up shouldn't happen sooner than four weeks after your last appointment. "Quicker root touch ups can cause unintentional color banding no matter how precisely color is applied," explains celebrity colorist and Redken brand ambassador, Matt Rez. "This means the new color going onto the roots may touch old color that's been deposited onto previously-dyed roots. There will be a dense color band with oversaturated color."

Opt for a root concealer.

Many root concealing products exist and, unlike in-salon dye jobs, they are semi-permanent and can typically be washed out with shampoo (though, it may take a few rinses). For the best color payoff, Tabloff recommends skipping drugstore offerings and opting for Oribe's Airbrush Root Touch Up Spray ($34, dermstore.com) for your part or larger areas of root growth. Color Wow's Root Cover Up ($24.50, ulta.com) is best for hairlines or a few stubborn gray strands here and there.

Bolster your product arsenal to keep your hair strong and your color vibrant.

Gray hair may be strong and coarse, but it can become fragile and damaged if it is unsafely processed. Because of this, it's important to pump your strands full of hydration; turn to high-quality products, including shampoos, conditioners, and masks. For the best results, Tabloff recommends starting your gray hair maintenance in the salon. "Ask your colorist to include a bond rebuilder like Olaplex in your hair color," she says. "This will not only help prevent further damage, it will also help repair the disulfide bonds that give your hair its structure, strength, and stability." Once you get home, Tabloff says to follow up with the Olaplex No. 3 Hair Perfector ($28, sephora.com), "which will continue to work to rebuild and protect your hair after your color service," she explains.

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