Gray Hair Still Visible

Coloring gray hair
Q: I was coloring my mom’s hair for her a couple of days ago (she has a good amount of gray and wanted to hide it) but even though we left the color on her hair for 10 minutes longer than the package said, the gray is still visible.
It’s a little darker, but it’s not gone, and the hair that wasn’t gray is darker than it used to be. Why didn’t the color take to the gray hair when it took so easily on the rest of the hair that wasn’t gray?

A: When a hair goes gray, often the cuticle layer will contract and make the hair more moisture resistant, which means that chemical services like haircolor services can be harder to perform. For this reason, many companies that make haircolor have developed special formulas for use on gray hair.
But if you want a specific color that isn’t made specifically for gray hair use, you can get additive products like “Gray Magic” which you add to the haircolor mixture that allows the haircolor to penetrate the hair shaft and deposit the color more easily. This means better coverage of gray hair.
And if you can’t find “Gray Magic” or a similar additive product (ask your local beauty supply store) you can do what is called a “Pre-softening treatment”, where you apply 10-volume peroxide developer cream to the hair and leave it on for 15 minutes before performing the color service.
The “pre-softening” swells the cuticle of the gray hair and makes the color penetrate in to the hair shaft more readily. Rinse the peroxide developer from the hair and gently blow dry the hair. After this step, you can apply your haircolor as normal and you should get much better color results.
Just be careful if you try to recolor your mom’s hair again too soon, since you want to make sure you don’t make the non-gray hair too much darker in the process. Try a shade of haircolor that is a few levels lighter than the base color of the hair so you can tone down the gray without darkening the non-gray hair overmuch.
Photo: Vladislav Gajic/Shutterstock
See also:
Why and how hair goes gray
Color resistant gray hair
How to cover gray hair with hair color
Can medications make hair not take color?