The 6 Best Hair Colors To Cover Gray For Brunettes — & An Expert’s Tips For Choosing One

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by Andrea Hannah and Danielle Calma
Originally Published: 
Best hair colors to cover gray for brunettes
Yanawut Suntornkij / Shutterstock

Going gray is chic as hell, but it’s also optional. If you’re looking for the best hair colors to cover gray for brunettes, you’ll likely find that gray hair is harder to cover — especially when opting for darker or richer shades — because color can’t penetrate gray hair as easily. There is no single ingredient to look for in a hair color that will ensure better gray coverage — while the best way to cover stubborn grays is to leave the color on longer, leaving the dye on for too long can cause damage. With that in mind, some dyes aim to minimize damage and nourish your hair. As you shop, don’t forget to consider your personal preferences and whether you’re looking for a permanent, semi-permanent, or temporary solution and a touch-up or full-head refresh.

The Expert

Emaly Baum is a New York City-based celebrity hair colorist and has worked with stars like Scarlett Johansson, Margaret Qualley, and Hunter Schafer. She is also the founder of the Beauty Supply Salon, a hair salon that offers cuts, colors, and other hair services in New York City.

Semi-Permanent Vs. Permanent Hair Dyes For At-Home Use

When considering semi-permanent dyes versus permanent ones, celebrity hair colorist Emaly Baum wrote in an email to Bustle: “It’s definitely important to know which strength of hair color is best for you.” According to Baum, “If you’re looking to just add some shine to your hair or to change the tone, I’d recommend a semi-permanent dye.” She explains, “This is usually a more low-stakes option,” especially since it “washes out over time.” Semi-permanent dyes are one way to blend gray hair but they might not offer the best coverage for grays — Baum suggests, “If you’re looking for opaque coverage, permanent is the way to go.”

Temporary Hair Color To Cover Grays

While Baum isn’t always keen on recommending at-home hair color, she does suggest a temporary option: “If a client isn’t able to make it to the salon and they have an event, I’ll always recommend Christophe Robin’s gel colorant.” Baum describes it as “a great product to use if you need to camouflage your grays.” And as a bonus, “It comes in a few different brunette color variations and isn’t permanent.”

Alternatively, you can also consider minimizing damage by choosing a temporary root touch-up product. This will give you a targeted approach, which may be less daunting to tackle at home and save you from repeatedly dying your full head of hair — some temporary options can easily wash out in the shower if you aren’t keen on the overall effect.

Expert Tips For Using An At-Home Hair Dye

When selecting your ideal shade of brunette, Baum warns: “What’s on the box isn’t always what you’re gonna get. There are many factors that come into play when your colorist is mixing up your formula. Unfortunately, at-home hair color doesn’t take those factors into consideration.” In general, though, she recommends you “go lighter than you think.” She also suggests recruiting someone to assist you with the task. Baum explains, “Having a friend help you apply your at-home hair color ensures you have an even color throughout.”

Another thing Baum mentions is that “at-home hair colors often have a million ingredients in them.” For this reason, she recommends a patch test to see if you have any allergic reactions to the ingredients. You should also proceed with caution if you get your hair colored at the salon, as at-home hair color “often doesn’t mix well with professional hair color and can cause intense chemical reactions,” according to Baum. Plus, if you want to eventually transition back to salon color, she writes, “it can be a lengthy and expensive process.”

Shop The Best Hair Colors To Cover Gray For Brunettes

  1. This Wildly Popular Permanent Hair Dye With 23,000+ Ratings: L’Oreal Paris Excellence Creme Permanent Hair Color
  2. This Permanent Touch-Up Kit For Covering Gray Roots: L’Oreal Paris Magic Root Rescue Coloring Kit
  3. The Semi-Permanent Hair Dye That’s Formulated To Cover Grays: Clairol Professional Beautiful Collection: Advanced Gray Solution
  4. The Expert-Recommended Temporary Hair Color Gel: Christophe Robin Temporary Color Gel
  5. This Easy-To-Use Root Touch-Up Powder For Temporary Coverage: Style Edit Root Touch Up
  6. This Quick & Temporary Root Spray With 53,000+ Ratings: L’Oreal Paris Magic Root Cover Up

At the end of the day, you have to pick an at-home hair dye that works best for you. Check out these great dyes, starting with permanent solutions and moving to more temporary options, to find your perfect match.


This Wildly Popular Permanent Hair Dye With 23,000+ Ratings

One fan-favorite permanent solution is this cream hair dye that comes in over a dozen different brunette shades. The dying system works to seal, replenish, and condition your hair after treatment, so not only will your color look vibrant for weeks, but your hair will still feel buttery soft. This is one of the most popular at-home hair dye options for brunettes out there, with over 23,000 reviewers weighing in and a 4.6-star overall rating.

One reviewer wrote: “From the start, I could feel how rich and luxurious this hair color is! There was more than enough product, it smells great, it completely covered the gray and my hair felt like it had been done in a salon!”

Type: Permanent | Available colors: 19

Also available on: Rite Aid, $10, Walmart, $9, and Bed Bath & Beyond, $8


This Permanent Touch-Up Kit For Covering Gray Roots

Not only is this root-dying kit ridiculously easy to use, but it’s also permanent so you don’t have to worry about it quickly washing out. This kit comes with a low-ammonia color gel, a pointed-tip applicator bottle, and an application brush. After mixing the color, just apply the tip of the bottle directly to your hairline, then smooth the dye over your roots with the brush and let it sit for 10 minutes before rinsing. That’s it! This kit makes it as easy as possible to cover grays, and for less than the $10, it’s a total steal. Over 6,000 reviewers agree that this kit is the best of the best. Best yet, this comes in a range of brunette shades so you can find the best one for your hair color.

One reviewer wrote: “During busy times, I don’t always get to the hairdresser to get color, so this works great in between. It is easy to use, you just brush it on your part and visible gray spots, wait 10 minutes and wash it out. It lasts a very long time. It is just one slender tube so if you have other than short hair buy two.”

Type: Permanent | Available colors: 17

Also available on: Walmart, $7, and Ulta Beauty, $8


The Semi-Permanent Hair Dye That’s Formulated To Cover Grays

If you aren’t comfortable committing to a permanent hair dye, consider a semi-permanent option that’s specifically made for masking stubborn grays. Clairol’s semi-permanent hair dye is up to the task, and it’s easy to use, too. Simply apply it to your full head of clean, towel-dried hair and wait 25 minutes for it to work. It’ll wash out after 12 shampoos and comes in nine different shades ranging from black to light golden chestnut.

One reviewer wrote: “I’m so hyped that I discovered this. It’s perfect. It’s semi-permanent, so don't expect it to penetrate the shaft like a permanent dye would. Rather, it will coat the hair so that, for example, my grays now appear tinted faintly brown or red––just enough to blend in with my medium/dark brown hair, while the rest of my hair takes on a lovely reddish tint and incredible shine. (I met friends at the park after my first use, and they couldn’t stop commenting on how great my shine was.) Most semi-permanent colors just aren’t strong enough to do anything for grays, but this absolutely does its job. And you get the ease of semi-permanent color.”

Type: Semi-Permanent | Available colors: 9

Also available on: Sally Beauty, $11


The Expert-Recommended Temporary Hair Color Gel

Chistophe Robin’s hair color gel comes with the approval of Emaly Baum as a temporary solution for covering visible grays. You can apply it all over the hair or use the included applicator brush to get coverage where you need it. In 40 minutes, your locks will take on the selected shade. It’s available in four colors on Amazon, including two brunette shades: Light Chestnut and Dark Chestnut.

One reviewer wrote: “If you are looking for temporary non-toxic hair dye to cover grays, this is perfection. I'm not 100% gray but i definitely need to go to the salon every month. This is so amazing because it is inexpensive, safe, and it really works. Of course it doesnt completely eliminate grays but it really covered mine i would say around 98%. I still see them but they are much more subtle and look blended with my hair. This stuff is almost like a gloss. I'm so happy i bought it. I would just advise you keep the gloves on in the shower so you dont stain your fingers.”

Type: Temporary | Available colors: 3 (Light Chestnut, Dark Chestnut, and Dark Blonde)

Also available on: Walmart, $28, and Sephora, $35


This Quick & Temporary Root Spray With 53,000+ Ratings

With over 53,000 Amazon ratings, reviewers have confirmed that this Magic Root Cover Up temporarily covers grays. For one, there’s no ammonia or peroxide in this formula, and it’s so lightweight that it barely feels like you’re spraying anything on your hair at all. It’s also smudge-free and doesn’t stick (major bonus), so your hair will feel just as if you didn’t apply anything. Plus, it takes less than a minute to spray into your hair and get going with your day.

One reviewer wrote: “I love this stuff. Covers my grays and acts as a hair spray. Not sticky but does hold well. Don’t use too much or your hair won’t flow. Does decrease shine but makes me feel better about all the grays.”

Type: Temporary | Available colors: 10

Also available on: Walmart, $10, Bed Bath & Beyond, $11, and Ulta Beauty, $11


An Easy-To-Use Touch-Up Powder For Temporary Root Coverage

For a temporary fix, this binding powder is basically a miracle worker. For one, there are no parabens, peroxide, or mineral oils in this powder, so you don’t have to worry about accidentally damaging your hair. It’s also so easy to use. Just dip the included sponge applicator into the powder and dust over your roots until you achieve the desired color effect. The binding agents lock color into place all day until you wash and rinse it out at night. It comes in three brunette shades (light, medium, and dark brown), plus reds, blondes, and black.

One reviewer wrote: “Over the years, I have tried every product on the market, including the spray version of Style Edit, and this is the only thing that has ever worked to cover my resistant gray roots between salon appointments. Everything else I have used over the years would seem to glide on my hair, but not really stick, and would not truly cover the gray. [...] This stuff, by contrast, is like magic. It is thick enough to really cling to your hair and cover the roots. Also I expected it to be gone by the next morning and to have to reapply it every day, but to my happy surprise it stayed in place until my next shampoo. Until I shampooed my hair, I had actually forgotten about my gray roots!”

Type: Temporary | Available colors: 10

Also available on: Walmart, $30

The Expert:

Emaly Baum, New York City-based celebrity hair colorist and founder of Beauty Supply Salon

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