How to color resistant grey hair effectively and correctly

Covering grey is the main reason many women and men colour their hair. Because grey hair lacks melanin, dye does not as easily adhere to the hair. Grey hair also tends to be coarse, making it more difficult for dye to fully penetrate the hair shaft. When hair begins to turn grey, besides the occasional stray grey hair, the temples and forehead areas tend to turn grey first. To cover grey hair effectively, make the correct choices for colour and method of application.

Choose a shade of permanent or demi-permanent hair colour. Permanent hair colouring uses ammonia to remove pigment and condition the hair shaft so dye penetrates the shaft, colouring it permanently. Permanent hair colour does not wash off, like semi-permanent hair colouring. Instead, it grows out. Demi-permanent hair colouring uses an alkaline agent other than ammonia to condition the hair shaft to accept dye. Demi-permanent hair dyes do not remove pigment, so they do not lighten hair.

Use a colour within two shades of your natural colour. By selecting a colour that is close to your own natural shade, grey hair will blend in with the rest of your hair, even if it does not fully accept the dye. Demi-permanent colour is especially effective for this purpose, as it allows the hair's natural variation in colour to persist. Permanent colour makes all the hair the very same colour, leaving it without natural-looking variation.

Avoid ash-tone colours. Grey hair already has an ash tone. Use a warm colour, such as gold or red to effectively colour grey hair.

Mix hair colour according to instructions. Wear protective gloves. Apply hair dye to areas of grey first. Wait 15 to 20 minutes to give the grey hair additional time to absorb the dye. Apply colour to the rest of the hair. Apply at the roots first and work out toward the ends. The ends of the hair are more porous and absorb dye more readily than the roots. Begin timing after the colouring application is complete. Leave dye on hair the specified length of time.

Wrap cling film or a plastic cap around your hair while the colour works for improved grey coverage. Heat increases absorption of dye by grey hair. Avoid a draft.

Wash hair according to instructions that come with your hair dye. Avoid hot water and dandruff shampoos, as they can cause the colour to fade.


Repeat hair colouring application every 6 to 8 weeks to keep hair colour looking fresh. Use permanent hair colour to lighten hair.


Consult with your doctor or pharmacist if you take medications, as hair colouring ingredients may interact with certain medications.

Things You'll Need

  • Permanent or demi-permanent hair colour
  • Plastic gloves
  • Applicator bottle
  • Cling film (optional)
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About the Author

For Judy Kilpatrick, gardening is the best mental health therapy of all. Combining her interests in both of these fields, Kilpatrick is a professional flower grower and a practicing, licensed mental health therapist. A graduate of East Carolina University, Kilpatrick writes for national and regional publications.