Expert Tips For Dyeing Your Hair Cool-Girl Gray

by Courtney Leiva

Easily one of the hottest color trends of the moment, dyeing your hair gray is definitely a look that’s equal parts daring, and undeniably cutting edge. And with booming popularity online, just one look at the #grannyhair hashtag on social media is sure to serve up some major beauty inspiration instantly.

But unlike those gorgeous Instagram photos, which makes gray hair color seem so effortlessly cool, silver and gray shades take work to achieve and loads ofdedication to maintain. And aside from possibly having to lift and tone your hair to the appropriate gray shade, multiple salon visits (and at-home upkeep) can be time consuming, not to mention costly.

“The most important factor to consider before coloring your hair gray is your hair’s overall condition,” says Lauren E. Hack, expert colorist from LAUREN + VANESSA via email. “If you shampoo everyday or use hot tools on a regular basis, you may not be a good candidate.”

Despite the big upkeep though, don’t let us discourage you from trying this super cool trend out by any means. But before you head off to the salon, here’s some things to consider before trying the trend yourself.

1. Start With Your Skin Tone

Whether you decide to dye your hair blonde, gray, or purple, it’s always best to use your skin tone to find your best hair color shade. And being that there’s a variety of gray shades to choose from, it’s best to determine your skin tone shade first (warm or cool), and then go ahead proceed select your perfect shade of silver.

"The shade of gray you choose should absolutely depend on your skin tone, complexion and the depth of your eye color," explains TIGI US Technical Creative Director Richy Kandasamy in an email. "These are the key factors to consider when choosing the right depth and tone of gray." If you're not quite sure which shade is best for you, ask your colorist to help you out.

But unlike other fantasy colors like pink or blue, gray boasts a universally flatting appeal, especially since we all will become naturally gray at some point. This makes it a lot easier to pull such a shade off.

"Since gray hair will eventually happen to all of us, it ultimately has a universal flattering appeal," says Matrix SOCOLOR Stylist, George Papanikolas over email.

2. Know That The Process Is Time Consuming & Can Be Damaging

Once you’ve determined your best shade of gray, it’s time to start thinking about heading over to the salon, and applying on your color. Just like most dye jobs, it’s important to remember that dyeing your hair gray can be a damaging (hello breakage!) and time-consuming process.

“Coloring your hair gray is a two step process, also known as a double process color,” says expert colorist Lauren E. Hack, via email. “This long and damaging process, can take anywhere from three to eight hours to complete."

If you already dye your hair, the process could be even more complicated. The dyes could overlap, which can lead to a brassy tone. And, of course, darker hair colors will be harder to lift with bleach, so getting that creamy, silver shade will be even more time consuming for a brunette than a blonde.

“The overall process of coloring your hair gray can be very harsh on the hair especially when you're starting with darker hair,” says George Papanikolas. “The hair needs to be completely pre-lightened to the pale blonde first, then the gray gets overlayed."

3. Don't Forget The Toner

If you're going gray, you'll definitely want a toner. This helps prevent unwanted color fade, so your gray will stay fresh and vibrant. But since toners wash out pretty quickly, you’ll definitely find yourself in the salon a lot more, to help maintain the vibrancy of your color.

"When toning, the blue hair color molecule, which is a predominant color in this toner and also the largest molecule of the colors, is the fastest to wash out of the hair,” explains Clairol Color Director James Corbett through email. “This is why this hair color in particular fades out so quickly, as frequent toning is required to keep the hue looking fresh."

4. Book Plenty Frequent Follow-Ups

Being that toner is easy to wash off during shampooing, it’s safe to say that gray color usually doesn’t last long as you’d like it to. So, to boost color and avoid unwanted fade, you’ll definitely want to keep in mind that very regular visits to the salon are inevitable.

“You should always want the color to look shiny and fresh at all times or your strands will appear dull,” says colorist Lauren E. Hack. “You will most likely be at the salon every four to six weeks.”

Plus, your constantly growing roots can be even more than noticeable with gray hair, so booking appointments every three to four weeks might even be necessary for those with darker strands, says Papanikolas.

5. Get Ready For Lots Of At-Home Upkeep Too

Although salon trips are crucial, maintaining your gray color at home is equally important. Being that gray tones tend to fade fast, it's wise to start with a sulfate-free shampoo, which hydrates the hair, and is also safe on your color.

“Be sure to find anti-yellow conditioners and shampoos to help preserve silver tones,” says expert colorist Rick Wellman via email. “The Schwarzkopf Professional BC Bonacure Color Freeze Silver Shampoo neutralizes brassiness, and enhances silver tones on gray and white hair."

Schwarzkopf Professionals BC Bonacure Color Freeze Silver Shampoo, $7, Amazon

Since dyeing your hair gray will almost always involve lots of bleach, you’ll want to also add some nourishing conditioner to your routine to keep your hair full of moisture.

“To keep silver hair looking bright and not brassy, use a conditioner like Redken Blonde Idol Custom-Tone Conditioner Violet for Cool Blondes,” Redken Celebrity Colorist Tracey Cunningham tells me over email. “This is a custom-calibrated blend of formulas, that allows you to dial up each week, to increase the color deposit, which helps tone colored hair.”

Redken Blonde Idol Custom-Tone Violet Conditioner for Cool Blondes, $26, Amazon

6. But Leave The Actual Coloring For The Pros

Although the Internet makes it look super easy, achieving silver color is something best left to professionals, as it's more than challenging to dye your hair such a color without the proper equipment.

“Gray is one of the hardest colors to mimic as it is actually hair with no pigment or melanin,” explains Rick Wellman. “It’s never wise to try this yourself at home.”

And while coloring jobs like these aren’t cheap, this is one process that’s best left to coloring experts, as poorly applied color can easily cause embarrassment, and not to mention another costly trip to the salon.

“I would never advise anyone to go gray on their own at home,” says expert Richy Kandasamy. “It’s typically a better idea to let a trained professional color your hair for health, and safety reasons." But the stunning effect of a perfect gray? Oh so worth it.

Images: Getty Images (1), Giphy (5)