Help me cover my grey roots! (personal grooming filter)
September 13, 2009 11:49 PM   Subscribe

Please give me techniques and tips for covering my grey roots, before I bankrupt myself or otherwise make myself crazy.

I wear my hair in a short bob, pushed off my face -- sort of like Katie Holmes in this photo. My hair is naturally near-black, ash rather than red-based, and about 10 years ago it started greying at the temples and crown of my head. The grey isn't streaky or "interesting" -- it doesn't look good, and although there's not a lot of it, it's silver and contrasts strongly against my natural colour, making it super-visible. So, for 10 years I've been colouring it.

I used to do it myself, and destroyed lots of towels and countertops and grout before switching to getting it done professionally. But I'm a perfectionist fusspot, and I find myself now getting full colour done every five weeks, which is just way too expensive and time-consuming.

Is there a technique/product I can use to neatly cover the roots ---just at my temples, and where my hair parts--- between sanely-scheduled appointments?

* I've tried mascara-like temporary colour, but it flakes onto my skin and clothes. I've also tried spray powder, with the same messy results. (The powder is particularly nightmarish when it rains, gah.)

* I find colour-in-a-box (like Loreal) messy to apply, and also wasteful. It's a lot of product to throw away, when I only need a little bit.

* Ideally I would like to use raw ingredients rather than boxed kits, and would mix only what I need, and apply it using a small mascara-like (or eyebrow-brush-like) applicator. I don't think I necessarily need permanent colour: temporary or semi-permanent should I think do just fine. I'm in a major US city, so I should have easy access to the right materials, whatever they are.

Has anyone had any success doing something like this, and if so, can you tell me what you do?

Thanks in advance. I have spent way too much time experimenting: I would like to get this figured out.
posted by Susan PG to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (12 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Clairol makes touch up kits for roots here, so I'm sure they're available elsewhere in the world. The brush that comes with the kit is the same type which hairdressers use for streaks and foils.

If you only want to touch up the roots of your hair, you don't need to mix up all of the bottles in your hair dye kit. Just mix up the amount you need in the same proportions the directions give for doing the allergy test (seems to be 1:1 for most hair dyes). Almost all hair dyes come with specific instructions for covering regrowth, so you should have no problems working out the right amount of time to leave the product on.
posted by Lolie at 12:09 AM on September 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

It sounds like you're looking for a fairly mess-free hair color. Loreal's Supreme Preference is a cream and is MUCH easier to apply. It's permanent, but very easy to work with. I have a ton of thick, frizzy hair and the only stuff I could use, without dying my entire bathroom the same color, is Loreal's SP.

When my hair was only slightly grey, I used Herbal Essences semi-permanent color. Sorry, but it's been so long I can't remember if it was thin or not.

Probably the best tip for you is not to mix the whole entire thing, but instead to use the amounts (or double them) for the skin allergy test. This way you won't have so much to work with. An additional benefit is that it'll last a bit longer, hence money saving, provided you don't cut the tip of the applicator.

Good luck!
posted by magnoliasouth at 12:28 AM on September 14, 2009

yea, for doing roots I just mix a small amount of the dye in a glass bowl, apply it with a paintbrush and save the rest for later. works just fine and a box of dye lasts a long time
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 12:36 AM on September 14, 2009

Find a box permanent haircolor as close to your shade as possible and instead of mixing one to one, mix one half part developer to one part color. This method concentrates the pigment and reduces lift, you will see less warmth as it fades. Use a teaspoon for measuring.
Put your hair up in a pony tail pull a little down at a time applying color just to the grey with gloved fingers or a Q tip. Better to be a shade too light than too dark, zero in on your color from the shade above, for example, cool medium brown before cool dark or darkest brown.
posted by hortense at 12:56 AM on September 14, 2009 [2 favorites]

You may like Roux Fanci-full Rinse, a liquid semi-permanent colour that comes in a nozzle bottle. You squeeze it along your hairline and then rub into the hair.

- It takes maybe two minutes to put on. No mixing, no gloves, no bathroom mess.
- It doesn't flake.
- It's cheap! I think I paid about $8 Australian for my bottle.

- It washes out, so you need to re-apply after each shampoo.
- It's a tint more than a dye. Your roots won't go inky black with it; they'll just tone better with the rest of your hair so the casual observer won't notice them. If you're wanting a full-on, just-left-the-hairdresser colour, this isn't the product.

My mother's been using Fanci-full for over thirty years to cover her grey in between hairdresser visits. I've also used it myself. I wouldn't say it's perfect, but I find it handy to keep a bottle around for when my roots are looking shimmery.
posted by Georgina at 1:53 AM on September 14, 2009

I'm an home dyer but quite a few of my friends get the professional all-over dye every three or six months but pop in to get a root touch-up every three or four weeks at the salon. It is much cheaper and faster to only get the roots done according to them.

I also just mix a little of a permanent hair colour box kit at a time in a bowl and apply with a tint brush. When I get a new box I mark on the bottle the half-way point and the quarter points to give myself a rough guide when pouring (but I usually don't even use a quarter box at a time).

I just dyed my hair black again with white streaks and I am using manic panic semi-permanent to paint the streaks and my growing roots once a week or so with the tint brush.
posted by saucysault at 3:36 AM on September 14, 2009

If you want to try dying at home again, your shopping list at the beauty supply store will be:

-1 bottle black hair dye that matches your natural color

-1 bottle developer, you should pick a low volume developer (the bottles will have numbers on them, ex: 20, 40...) The high numbers are for mixing with bleach, depending on how dark the hair is. Drug store dyes are generally packaged with Volume 20 developer, and that's what I'd recommend.

-1 box gloves

-1 plastic mixing bowl (you can also just use a cereal bowl you don't mind staining and never eating out of again, but DO NOT USE A METAL BOWL)

-1 tint brush

Everyone pretty much went over the process already (mix 1 part developer to 1 part dye, brush on with tint brush, wait 20 minutes, rinse) but I figured a shopping list in one place might help.


-1 thrift store or old t-shirt

-1 black towel, for drying your hair post-rinse

-1 roll paper towels

-1 bottle bathroom cleaner with bleach

I find if you wipe up any spills quickly most dyes will not stain most countertops. If it does stain, don't freak out; let the bleach cleaner sit there for a long time and, in my case at least, it always comes out. With a tint brush and small amounts of dye, there should be much less drippage than with a full head of dye applied with a bottle.

This entire list should cost you less than one trip to the salon, your developer will last forever, and one bottle of dye might last three touch-ups.
posted by Juliet Banana at 3:59 AM on September 14, 2009

If you do use a bleach cleaner on your countertops as Juliet Banana suggests, check that it won't harm your countertop.
posted by runningwithscissors at 6:05 AM on September 14, 2009

Do you have a good relationship with your hairdresser? If so, tell her you would like to do touch ups at home, and ask her what dye she uses - then buy that from a beauty supply store (or maybe even from her). Then when you come in for a full re-dye there won't be a chance for an uneven color transfer.

Like what a lot of people said above, you don't need to mix the full bottle. Almost all dyes are half developer, half color. Just do what you need and apply with a tint brush or paintbrush.

Please don't use a semi/demi-permanent dye. It could lead to an unpleasant coloring situation when you go back to your salon. That stuff can be harder to get out of your hair than permanent dye, especially if you accidentally get a red-based black rather than a blue-based black.
posted by elsietheeel at 7:59 AM on September 14, 2009

The product may be called, "Just For Men", but it sounds like it's exactly what you need - a dye that targets and covers up a few greys.

There's even a version intended for beards, which uses a small brush to paint a little right where the grey is.
posted by Citrus at 8:08 AM on September 14, 2009

How anti-mess are you? A natural, mix-as-much-as-you-need alternative is Lush's Noir Henna. I like the smell -- it's something like hay or grass and doesn't last more than a day or so. You'll want to do a test strand, of course, and will probably have to leave it on a while to cover white hair. It covers most of my gray, and what I like is that when it does fade out, it fades rather than turning orange or looking like hell. It just seems better for my hair.

But it is a mess to apply, and takes a little longer.
posted by theredpen at 9:38 AM on September 14, 2009

I've never used Lush's products, but if you're considering using henna in general, you're going to want to research the interaction between chemically dyed hair and henna.
posted by Juliet Banana at 9:52 AM on September 14, 2009

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