Gray Hair Coming Back Fast

Hair with gray roots
Hair with gray roots - Photo: Shutterstock
Q: Hi. I'm 46. I like my hair red... well, auburn. My natural color is brown. Right now, I use [brand name omitted]. My problem is that I colored my hair around Thanksgiving, and I see gray already. Why does my gray come back so fast? It's upsetting. I got a perm about a month ago now, but I've always had this problem with coloring. Is my hair growing that fast? Please help. Thank you.
A: Well, the problem you mention isn't uncommon. A person's hair grows an average of one-half of an inch per month. So, after two weeks you will see approximately one-quarter of an inch of new growth.
Since you do state that you have gray hair present in your natural color, you will be able to see some of the natural color already, especially if your hair is styled in such a way as to make the scalp area visible. For example, if your front hairline is showing or your hair is parted and lies relatively flat. With darker, richer hair colors (of which yours is one) the gray will stand out especially well.
If you are seeing the gray as more than just new growth - if you are seeing full strands of gray, for instance - then the problem sounds like another issue common with attempts to color gray hair. You see, gray hair tends to be more resistant to penetration by chemical services and hair color. Sometimes, as the hair loses its pigmentation, the cuticle layer becomes more compact, preventing penetration of hair colors or perming solutions.
The perm you received should help to soften the hair and open the cuticle, but the gray hair's cuticle will still be more compact than your hair that still has color. So, if you colored after your perm, the color will not penetrate as deeply into the gray hair as it does into the non-gray hair.
Please understand that an "open" cuticle is not something you want. Open cuticle layers are an indication of hair damage and can leave the hair dry and brittle because the open cuticle layer allows moisture in the hair to escape. Most good chemical services include steps or ingredients to help re-close the cuticle and keep the hair as healthy as possible.
As I understand your problem, you have a few options open to you. You obviously can't change the rate at which your hair grows, nor would you want to. However, you can try styling your hair in such as way as to minimize the amount of new growth that is visible. Criss-crossed partings are good for camouflaging new growth, and styles that include bangs are an excellent way to keep the front hairline hidden.
There are also new products available to treat new growth and blend away the gray hair that becomes visible between hair color procedures. The makers of the brand you use have a root touch-up product that should work well for you. For more information on the product and how to choose the right color for your touch-up, see their website.
See also:
Color resistant gray hair
Guidelines for covering gray hair
Should I color first, or have my hair permed first?