The 3 Best Ways To Cover Your Gray Hair, According To Celebrity Colorist Rita Hazan

Dyeing my hair is not something I took lightly or did on a whim. I loved my silky texture and chocolate-y shade, and I feared coloring my hair would alter both…for the worse. So, I let my dark mane get tinged with tinsel until it made me feel insecure (there were too many silver strands to count). Earlier this year, I took control of my hair fate by visiting the godmother of color, Rita Hazan. She is the owner of her eponymous hair care line and high-end salon in NYC. Plus, Hazan has dyed the famous heads of Katy Perry, Beyoncé, and Jennifer Lopez, making her a trusted source.

Hazan’s solution was the use of a vegetable-based dye just on my slivers of silver, leaving the rest of my strands untouched by chemicals. It worked brilliantly, and I went back for a touch-up after a few months. If you’re also concerned about grays and want to know your options (yes, there are choices!), then read on. Here, Hazan breaks down all of the different ways to cover grays from root-concealing sprays to full-on color.

Root Concealers: Makeup For Your Hair

For those who are pregnant, on a budget, or just seeking a more natural option, try a root-concealing spray, powder, or pencil (Hazan’s doubles as a brow product!). The most-popular is the hairspray option, and according to Hazan, you can use it no matter if you have a sprinkle of silver or a full head of grays. Either spot treat your small areas of gray by “striping” the spray across specific sections, or mist it everywhere, like you would a traditional hairspray.

The temporary color will wrap around your hair, masking it until you shampoo it out. “The resin gives it staying power,” Hazan explains of her beloved Root Concealer Touch-Up Spray ($24). “You don’t want it to wash out of your hair [on-the-go]. You don’t want to get caught in the rain or be working out and have black [color] dripping all over your hair.” Her formula is created so it will last throughout everything from SoulCycleTM to multiple nights of sleep — all without getting on your pillow. The formula doesn’t come out until it’s met with the cleansing agents found in shampoo. Think of it like waterproof mascara that won’t smear off unless you use actual makeup remover.

“There really are not a lot of ingredients in it,” adds Hazan. “It has natural pigments, some titanium oxide, color, a resin to adhere to the hair, and a propellant to make a it a spray.” She also notes that her formula, which is available in five universal shades, was made to blend into all hair hues. “It does not matter if it is warm or cool or the tone, it will match,” she says.

Try the pencils and powders if you need to cover a few hairs or a small section, since it’s a more detailed way to conceal grays. The plus is that these are portable options that won’t take up much real estate in our travel or gym bag.

While these very temporary methods are cheaper than dye and less of a commitment, it also means you’ll have to continuously use them to see results. If you identify as having a lazy beauty routine, then you might want to consider more permanent solutions.

Vegetable-Based Hair Color

The next level of color — and what I personally do — is a vegetable-based dye. This semi or demi permanent option is like gloss that conceals grays, making them blend into the rest of your hair. Like the category above, it can be done on a smattering of grays or your whole head. If you spot-treat silvers, like I do, then you can avoid putting it on the rest of your natural mane.

“For me, when it comes to color: less is more,” Hazan shares. “When I say vegetable, I mean it’s semi- or demi-permanent. Some versions are more opaque and others are more translucent. I like to use translucent color because I like hair to look multidimensional. It gives it more of a highlighted, golden look without being highlighted. It makes hair shimmery.”

One of the top appeals is that this form of dye lasts three to six months, depending on how often you wash your hair and how fast it grows. And it all washes out uniformly, so you’ll never see that telltale hair color line grow in. Basically: you won’t have to maintain your “roots.”

The one caveat: you can only color hair a deeper shade or match your original color, but you can’t ever make your mane lighter. “Because it doesn’t lift, you can only go darker,” Hazan confirms. “It’s like a stain on your hair.”

The other holdback is that it works better on fine textures. “If you have very coarse, kinky gray, [it might not work],” Hazan says. “My own gray, for instance, is very resistant. It won’t cover 100 percent but it will camouflage.”

Stocksy United / Aleksandra Jankovic.

Traditional True Hair Dye

If you haven’t figured it out by now through process of elimination, true hair dye is the only option that covers any texture (even the gnarliest of grays) and gives you the option to be a chameleon. You can go from blonde to blue, brunette to red, etc. That said, this option will change your texture, add chemicals to your hair, cost the most, and need upkeep. Hazan says it lasts four to eight weeks, maximum — depending on how fast your hair grows. So be ready to commit! (And also, to see results.)

“If you are using a permanent hair color, it alters your natural hair color,” she explains. “It’s a chemical reaction, so you do get a distinct line of growth, of demarcation. When it grows out after three to four weeks, you’ll have a line in your hair [indicating] where the new hair is growing to where the colored hair has grown out. You have a visible change in your hair that you have to maintain, as opposed to it washing out.”

Hazan is a fan of highlights, since it’s a compromise. You can color hard-to-conceal grays, but it’s less maintenance than dyeing your whole head. “This is a way to cover a few hairs and blend them into hair,” she notes, sharing that you will likely need to redo it every three to five months.

“You can always start with vegetable dye,” she shares. “If it’s not working and you’re going back every month, then it’s time for permanent color.”

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