Home hair colour and covering minor grey streaks: doable or foolhardy?
January 2, 2015 11:49 PM   Subscribe

I have some minor grey streaks at the front of my head of dark hair. I don't want to dye the rest of my hair, or even cover all my grey. I just want to colour these particular grey hairs. I bought some L'Oreal Root Rescue (touch up dye). My plan is to mix a small amount of the dye and developer, and paint it on this streak of grey with the little brush. Is this crazy? Will it work? What am I missing here?

I have very dark, almost-black hair that is fairly thick, a bit wavy, and a little coarse (I'm part Asian). I don't have a ton of grey, but I have some, and it's quite noticeable because of the contrast with my natural colour. It's not a nice streak of grey, either; it's patchy and weird and frankly quite aging.

I don't want to dye my whole head. I don't want highlights. I literally would like to take a my-hair-coloured Sharpie and colour in these particular grey hairs. That seems like a bad idea though.

So I figure I want something like Just For Men, only less harsh and matte. Here is where I hit on my root touch up idea. And now I'm the proud owner of my impulse purchase: L'Oreal Root Rescue in a colour slightly lighter than my natural colour (my understanding is it goes on dark). My plan is to mix a small amount of the dye and developer (I don't want to mix it all up and have to throw out the leftovers), and paint it on this streak of grey with the little brush applicator thing, leave it for 10 minutes as per directions, then rinse and shampoo as per directions. Is this crazy? Will it work? What advice do you have for me? I know grey hair doesn't hold colour all that well, but if it just looks like a brown highlight I'm fine with that.

(I never colour my hair, in case that's not completely obvious from this question. I also would rather not pay a bunch of money to do this at a salon if it's as easy as it seems. I imagine sometime soon I'll go for a more serious grey cover job, with highlights maybe. But I'd like to put it off as long as possible.)
posted by hurdy gurdy girl to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (16 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
All I can tell you is to try it. The developer in your drug store bought permanent hair color is 20 Volume - so not burly.

Grey hair does not absorb color like non-grey does. I have no idea if 20 Volume Peroxide is enough to make grey hair "take" color. I know the non-peroxide Demi color I use in between dyeing my dark and grey roots blonde does not make the grey hair "take" color. I know the 40 Volume peroxide professional hair color I use does cover grey hair.

Because you are using 20 Vol developer, I know you can't go wrong and end up a color correction at a salon - you can only fail to cover the grey.

Give it a shot. Be prepared to pay extra at a salon if you are tragically unhappy and want a solid result.

Another option is to use the root treatment on your grey hairs, and then use a professional Demi Color on your whole hair. This is safe and non-damaging.

The product I recommend to even out your overall color is THIS. It goes on dark, and washes out to normal after the first shampoo, so choose your desired effect one shade darker than desired result.

Best of luck! Please update :))
posted by jbenben at 12:45 AM on January 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

Go ahead and mix the whole kit. Those things aren't expensive and you might not get the right % of chemicals if you only do it partway. Mix the whole kit according to directions, use what you need and properly dispose of the rest. It should be fine and I agree with jbenben that an all over rinse would be a good idea. Good luck.
posted by pearlybob at 3:21 AM on January 3, 2015 [5 favorites]

I use either that brand or Clairol Root Touch Up between professional root coloring. I have very, very dark brown hair and use the Dark Brown shade. I would not suggest that you go any lighter than that - it doesn't darken my dark hair, just colors the grays (some of them only to a dark orange-ish color, which might be solved by leaving the dye on for a bit longer).

I agree with pearlybob that you should mix up the whole batch - you won't know if you're getting the ratios right otherwise. And as you likely know, you can't keep its once it's been mixed. But really, it's cheap enough, just buy more when you need it next.
posted by amro at 4:17 AM on January 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

I do not use this specific product, but I do use hair dyes that need to be mixed, and I have pretty much always used only a part of a packaging. I just eyeball the amounts of each of the chemicals carefully, and it's always worked for me. There is really no need to throw more than half of the product out unused!
If you don't care about the money, consider the environment.
posted by Too-Ticky at 4:23 AM on January 3, 2015

You can try it, but it's not as good as a full box of color. The root rescue products are more matte dye than the beefed up customized colorants. You might have better luck going to a beauty supply place and getting both colorant and developer and mixing in small amounts at home. Wella Color Charm is a good one and it's sold at Sally Beauty Supply. You can get the brushes, mixing bowls, etc there.

As a person with gray I'll tell you that it doesn't hold color well and you'll have to keep it up about every 3 weeks. I also use sulfate free shampoo to keep the color from fading.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:53 AM on January 3, 2015 [3 favorites]

What I do for my eyebrows is buy a box of normal hair colour and just mix the amount I need on tinfoil. The box of colour lasts me for months (obviously I'm using much less than you, but my point is is won't go off or lose potency so long as it's left unmixed).

You might want to protect your non-grey hair from the colour with some tinfoil or clingfilm.
posted by tinkletown at 7:09 AM on January 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

If you have access to a Sally Beauty Supply or something like it, you can get buy separate bottles of dye & developer, and then mix them per your own proportion choice. I never liked the results of the boxed reds available, so I did just that and tweaked the red + brown proportions to what I like. Also, as I cut and/or lost :( hair volume, I could change the total amount of dye, with no ill effects. I generally get good help from the staff there, too, so just ask them about the right developer, etc. Good luck!
posted by JulesER at 7:41 AM on January 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

I have used the root touch up solutions a lot. The colour doesn't take into grey hair all that well, I find I have to wait 20 minutes to get an OK hair colour, and it's probably a nice simple way to start out hair colouring & build up your confidence. Your idea should work OK, but don't expect too much in the way of coverage, or expect it to last through a lot of washes. You may want to look at having a piece of aluminium foil to wrap around the streak after colouring so you don't get colour all over your hair while it is developing.

You can do the same thing with a permanent box colour & would most likely get better coverage, just make sure you get the ratios the same as if you mixed up the whole lot so if the bottle of developer is twice the size of the dye you'll want a 2:1 ratio etc. I use an old medicine cup to measure, but careful estimating should work OK too.

Like JulesER suggested you might have better luck at a Sally Beauty Supply store if you have one near you. You can buy the dye & developer separately there. As someone with super coarse all over grey hair I have very good luck with level 20 developer & wouldn't recommend a beginner go any higher than a level 10 or 20 developer. You will most likely want a permanent dye & you simply mix it in a one to one ratio with the developer. They will also sell handy brushes & mixing bowls for mixing up solutions.

One Warning to beaware, do not store hair colouring once you've mixed it or put it in a sealed container, mix colouring fresh just before using.
posted by wwax at 8:28 AM on January 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

Gray hair can hold dark permanent color really well. The darker the color, the longer it sticks. My hair is nearly 100% gray and dark brown through the magic of Redken (5NA, 5NW, 5NG + 20 weight) and I only get my roots colored every 2.5 weeks, except for once a year when my colorist pulls the color through the ends when they start to look a bit faded.

I'm not familiar with what you bought, but if it's not permanent it'll fade pretty fast. The upside is, even faded, it knocks the sparkle off the gray making it less noticeable. It could be a frustrating experience painting a few hairs (and doing it yourself is amazingly messy especially with dark colors - use old towels and be ready to find it everywhere as it develops).

I'd say go for it. I've used roots only store bought stuff when my colorist appointment got pushed to far out and I couldn't stand my roots. It's scary when it's developing because it will look like shoe polish on your head, but it surprisingly lighter when you rinse. Good luck!
posted by cecic at 9:06 AM on January 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

I use Goldwell color and developer, not drugstore, and Killer Strands has good advice.
posted by Ideefixe at 9:21 AM on January 3, 2015

I literally would like to take a my-hair-coloured Sharpie and colour in these particular grey hairs.

As a temporary workaround, you can use mascara - just make sure to label the tube as "HAIR ONLY."
posted by invisible ink at 10:33 AM on January 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

As a temporary workaround, you can use mascara

Or, you could just use an old, cleaned wand to apply the permanent dye.
posted by cotton dress sock at 12:24 PM on January 3, 2015

Response by poster: Thanks everyone! I knew I could count on some good advice from AskMe hair colouring aficionados.

I think I'll try my idea, since it seems the worst that could happen is my grey stays grey. I will either mix up everything and use it all up (the instructions feature multiple warnings against storing mixed dye! BOOM), or measure the ratios carefully when mixing a small amount. I am also filing away the more permanent, allover colour suggestions for a future time when I'll need a stronger option.

When I've done my experiment I'll report back!
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 12:34 PM on January 3, 2015

Black sharpie marker - hold up and colour - works for me :)
posted by treadstone11 at 1:50 PM on January 3, 2015

Response by poster: Okay! Update. I did it, and it worked! I mixed half the amounts (they really don't give you much, wow) in the proper proportions and had plenty to work with. I bet I used a half teaspoon of colour altogether.

It was super easy to paint on with the brush like applicator tip (I didn't put it on the bottle, obviously, just dipped it in the mixture). It was also very neat and tidy, no mess at all. The shade is a good match, just slightly lighter maybe than my natural colour. I didn't cover all my silvers, but enough so that the glare of contrast beside my face is toned down considerably.

It remains to be seen how long this will last, or how it'll look when it fades...but it was easy and inexpensive enough that I don't mind doing it every few weeks.

Thanks for all the advice and encouragement, everyone! I won't mark a best answer just because all your comments were very helpful. P.S. treadstone11--I like your maverick Sharpie-ing style.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 2:53 PM on January 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Updating again, for science! Well no, actually in case anyone else comes across this AskMe and decides to try it themselves.

So I have now done this three times. The 2nd and 3rd times I used regular colour (Garnier Nutrisse Cream in #30--Intense Dark Brown) and I think it looks a little less matte than the root touch up stuff. I'm also leaving it on a little longer--20 minutes instead of 15. I'm still mixing up small amounts, and the full box gives you more and costs about the same on sale. Although the root touch up kit was fine for an initial experiment, I'll go with with the full kits or with beauty supply stuff from now on. I'll be able to get probably 4 or 5 treatments out of this box.

My hair doesn't seem to be damaged at all, and I like the way it looks. It blends subtly and fades unobtrusively, no weird orange or anything like that. I followed Ruthless Bunny's advice and now use just sulfate free shampoo--I think it makes the colour last longer. I did my 2nd treatment after 3 weeks, but this latest one I waited 4 weeks and it was a bit faded/grown out, but looked acceptable till I could redo it.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 2:21 PM on February 20, 2015 [4 favorites]

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