Q: I'm in my late twenties and have begun to notice the existence of some gray hair.
I started out plucking these offenders, but I'm starting to find more and more. Was my
grandmother right when she said that pulling out gray hair would make three more grow
in its place, because it sure seems that way?
What about using haircolor to cover these grays? Will a haircolor that matches my
natural shade cover the gray or should I go a little darker?
A: First of all, your grandmother was wrong. Plucking a gray hair will do nothing more
than remove that one hair. Gray hair (known as canities) is the absence of pigment in
the hair and is primarily a genetic function and is a common development in the aging
process. It can however, be the result of prolonged illness or stress and worry. In that
sense, if you let a few gray hairs become an obsession you will likely see the number ofthem increase.
Hair color can be an effective way to hide gray hair, but you should always
remember that to cover your gray hair and achieve a natural look, you want to use a
color that is lighter than your hair's natural color level. If you do what you suggest in
your question and use a color darker than your natural color, you're going to end up with
a dark, uniform color that looks completely artificial.
Our hair's natural color looks natural because the color actually varies a little with
each strand. When we cover gray hair, we want to add color that is going to 'dim' the
brightness of the gray or make it appear to be simply a natural "highlight". If your hair
is naturally a dark color, choose a light shade with a similar base color to cover the gray.
Remember, that when you use haircolor in something other than a targeted process
(like highlighting with a cap or foils) you are adding color to all of the hair, and adding
pigment to already pigmented hair will make that hair darker. Therefore, a lighter shade is always better for covering gray.
A good rule of thumb to follow is this: when trying to cover a minimal amount of
gray hair (less than 10% gray) use a color that is at least three levels lighter than your
natural color. You'll also want to note that gray hair is often resistant to color, so you
may want to do a color test to see if it will take. If needed, there are haircolor formulas
specifically designed for gray coverage, and additives available for regular color
formulations to help it penetrate the gray hair.
I am referring to the use of “deposit only” haircolor in the covering of gray hair. Using a haircolor formula that has any lifting
action will result in a lightening of the pigmented hair, in addition to darkening the un-pigmented hair.