Cover Gray Hair & Natural Looking Result

Long red hair
Photo: Aastock/Shutterstock
Q: I have naturally light red hair, with about 25% gray. My color has also faded over the years. I would like to cover the gray and match my color as closely as possible.
Could you recommend a hair color product that would give me a natural looking result? Many of the colors I have looked at on the shelf have appeared to be too vibrant or dark. I noticed a new product from {brand name deleted} called Natural Match, but did not see anything like my natural color.

A: As a rule, we avoid recommending specific products and brands on Hairfinder, because we want to be as objective as possible. We are not affiliated with any product manufacturer and avoid offering even indirect endorsement of a brand name or product line so as to avoid even an appearance of bias.
However, I can definitely advise you on the best method for achieving a natural-looking gray-coverage for your hair color. All you need to do is visit your local beauty supply store and pick up a hair color formula that is two levels lighter than your natural color. Take a moment to read a previous posting about choosing hair color to cover gray, found here.
You will also need to purchase a developer (most hair colors use hydrogen peroxide developers in strengths of 10-volume to 30-volume or higher) that will be combined with the hair color in equal parts before applying the color to the head.
Because all we intend to do here is cover your gray, you want to use 10-volume peroxide, which will develop (activate) the color without lightening the hair. When you buy hair color kits in a supermarket or drugstore, they come with the hair color and developer packaged together. They often include a separate conditioning agent for use after coloring.
The difference in buying professional products is that you have to buy the components separately. I recommend using a cream developer for better control over the color application. The cream developer makes the mixture less runny and therefore less likely to drip all over you.
By selecting a color that is shades lighter than your natural hair color, you are effectively converting the gray hairs into "highlights", blending them into the hair as a whole. You should also note that because you are using a deposit-only formulation, the hair color is going to darken the natural color slightly in the process. If you used a color that was exactly the same as your natural color the result would look too dark, and the color would be more one-dimensional.
When buying your supplies, be sure to get gloves, a color bottle, and a plastic cap as well as the color chemicals. Don your gloves, mix your hair color and developer in the color bottle, and shake it well to mix the color and developer thoroughly. Apply the color quickly and evenly all over the hair from the scalp to the ends. Once the color is fully applied, cover the hair in a plastic cap and leave it in place for 20 minutes.
Once the 20 minutes are up, remove the cap, and being rinsing the hair, wet the hair and massage it into a lather as you rinse the color out of the hair using warm water. It's generally easier to have a friend assist you in applying hair color since a separate person can see all of your head better than you can.
After the hair color is rinsed from the hair, you can either shampoo the hair, or simply apply a moisturizing conditioner to the hair and rinse the hair again using cool water. The conditioner and cool water rinse help to seal the cuticle layer of the hair and lock in your color.
See also:
How to color hair
How to cover gray hair with color
How do I prevent my red hair from fading too fast?