Cover Gray Hairs

Worried woman after discovering gray hairs
Photo: 2shrimps/Shutterstock
Q: I am a 30-year-old mother of two who nearly had a heart attack a few months ago when I noticed a few gray hairs. I made up my mind then and there that I was going to dye them away, but I have very, very dark brown hair. And I have heard before that the best way to cover grays is to go 2 to 3 shades lighter than your current color. However, I've always loved my dark brown, and I've never really liked the lighter shades of brown in the medium range, you know, like chestnut, mocha, etc. I'd do black to cover the gray. But I was told that's not possible.
I know I only have less than 5% gray, but I am determined to hide them at my age and hopefully without the chocolate kind of browns. I do like some dark shades of reddish brown I've seen. They look nice. Besides my dark brown and some of the darker reddish brown colors I've seen, the only other shade I've always loved and thought was gorgeous was like a really deep, dark shade of red. But I don't know if a red like that can do the job of covering the gray hair, or how red dyes react to gray hair.
Please help! I don't know what to do. All the colors I like are dark, and my hair is dark to begin with. If you could tell me which of my ideas are more realistic, it would save me from making a big color mistake.

A: Well, when covering gray hair that makes up less than 10% of your total number of hairs, it is generally recommended that you use a color that is 2-3 shades lighter than your natural color. However, this is referring to deposit-only hair color and will not change the color of your already pigmented hair. The objective is to simply darken or "mute" the grays so that they appear more like natural highlights than grays.
The reason for using a hair color that is lighter than your hair's natural color is that using a shade that's the same as your natural color you will likely create a "flat" color result. With deposit-only color the color applied is added to the pigment that is already present, this means that choosing a shade that matches your current color will result in even darker hair color results. We use lighter shades to create a more natural looking result from the gray hairs.
You might consider the darker, reddish browns if you prefer them. They present an option in your situation, but be aware that you need to make sure to avoid a color that is too "purely red" since the gray has no pigmentation and you can end up with overly red or pink strands in your hair.
One thing you should be sure to look for is hair color formulas that are designed to cover grays. These are generally formulated with the right shades and colors to blend away the gray without leaving you with brassy strands.
See also:
How to color hair
Cover gray hair with hair color
How can I cover my gray hair and get a natural looking result?