Gray Beard and Sideburns

Bald man with a graying beard and sideburns
Photo: Rock and Wasp/Shutterstock
Q: I am a 45-year-old male. I was using Just for Men beard and sideburn gray cover up. They changed the formula and now I blister when I use it. I have tried Clairol hair color for men, Clairol Natural instincts for Men, and still get redness, swelling, and bad itching.
I am just trying to get rid of the gray on my sideburns. Can you please recommend something, anything? Can I try diluting the mixture of Just for men? Will Grape juice work? Thank you in advance for any help you can offer me.

A: It sounds as though you are sensitive to an ingredient common to these brands of hair color. The problem is that I have no way of knowing what you are sensitive to, and therefore whether there is anything that will resolve your problem.
My best advice is for you to consult a doctor/dermatologist about determining specifically what is causing this reaction in your skin so that you can hopefully find a product that doesn't contain it. A cosmetologist is required to perform patch tests on a client before any chemical service is performed, since a client may develop sensitivity to a product he or she has been using for years. The patch test is a precautionary measure for the client as much as the stylist.
If seeing the doctor is not something you are willing to do, then my other suggestion is to look into temporary or semi-permanent hair colors to cover your gray. These are generally the least harsh and only sit on the outer surface of the hair. Of course, you will need to deal with the problems associated with temporary color if you go that route: potential bleeding of the color when you perspire and the need to reapply after every shampoo.
Semi-permanent color is longer lasting but typically gentler than most permanent hair colors. It will last you from 6-12 shampoos before needing to be reapplied. Whether you opt to try the temporary or semi-permanent colors, you will need to perform a patch test of your own, before applying the products to your face. Simply use a cotton swab to apply a dab of the products used in the color formulas to the inside of your elbow. Leave in place for 10-20 minutes and wipe it away. Watch the area for 24 hours. If there is any sign of redness or irritation, then DO NOT use the product.
As for whether or not grape juice will work, to be honest, the only thing I can guarantee grape juice will do is stain a white shirt and quench a thirst. There are anti-oxidant properties in grape juice which help bolster your health, and grape juice and other dark berry juices have been used for years to add a colored sheen to black/dark hair colors, but grape juice makes an unsatisfactory substance for covering gray hair, unless you want temporarily purple sideburns.
See also:
Gray hair Q&A
Hair color allergies
Is it possible to color a beard or moustache?