Help me dye my brown hair brown
April 15, 2018 5:55 PM   Subscribe

I'm trying to cover gray roots using brown hair dye, but I end up with orange-ish roots. How do I prevent this from happening again?

I am using boxed dye from the drug store to cover gray hair. I have done this in the past with no problems. However, the last 2 times, with 2 different brands, I have ended up with roots that are considerably more orange than the rest of my hair. How do I not do this again?

The first time was with L'Oreal Superior Preference "5 Medium Brown". I called the helpline and they advised that I wait 72 hours then use 4A Dark Ash Brown for half the normal processing time. This worked to fix it! The helpline advised that the orange was a result of me piling the hair on top of my head, causing the dye near my warmer scalp to process faster. Sounded weird and I shrugged it off.

Today, I used Garnier Nutrisse Ultra Coverage in "500 Glazed Walnut". I was sure not to pile hair on top of my head. Again, I got orangeish roots! Oranger than last time, even.

Notes: My hair is 2b curls, shoulder length, low porosity. Naturally medium cool brown and I'm using dye to cover gray, especially at the roots. For both dyes, I followed the directions for "resistant grays" that advise leaving the dye on for 5 more minutes. I have color resistant grays, so this seems appropriate. I know how to fix the problem, but please help me figure out how not to do this again!
posted by Pleased_As_Punch to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (14 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Sounds like our hair is similar. I've had much better results using L'Oreal Excellence Creme, in color 4A -- Dark Ash Brown. (Not sure if that was the second one you used, or if that was the Superior 4A.)

For holding it while dyeing, I use an enormous banana clip I got at a drugstore. It holds so much hair that I don't have to clump my hair together too much. So maybe that'll help with the heating issue?
posted by BlahLaLa at 6:25 PM on April 15, 2018

The term for this is "hot roots", if that helps guide your googling.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 6:34 PM on April 15, 2018 [2 favorites]

Sounds like you’re choosing medium-light browns with a golden hue? That might be more than one shade lighter than your colour (maybe the actual dye is lighter than what’s on the box, too). Go for darker shades. Also “cooler” ones with more ash or neutral in them - even if they’re not quite what you’re after at first, they’ll quickly warm up as the colour fades.
posted by cotton dress sock at 6:42 PM on April 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

This happened to me with a similar dye. Warm medium brown dyes are going to look orange or coppery on gray hair because (I think) they're designed to take lighter blonde or brown hair to that darker color, versus covering gray hair. Starting with gray/white vs blonde lightens the end result considerably, even on formulas that promise "gray coverage."

The solution that worked for me was to pick a neutral (not warm) brown in a shade just above soft black. My grays were still lighter than the rest of my hair, but they were a medium-dark neutral brown, not copper-colored. If you've been using neutral browns, go for a cooler shade as others have suggested.
posted by Owlcat at 7:12 PM on April 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

My experience with Garnier is less then great. YMMV. I don't l like their hair color. I would use any other hair color than them.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 8:12 PM on April 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

I had a similar hair experience but I had to go to a hair stylist to get it corrected. There was just no way for me to fix it, and I don't want to tell you that you can with a box color, because you can't. Just go to a hair stylist and get it fixed, dear.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 8:17 PM on April 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

I use non-permanent box dye to color my grays. I apply it to the roots areas that show the most first and then do the rest of my hair and leave it on for a bit longer than directed. I get no strange colors because the non-permanent formulations are different. The added benefit is that the gradual fade leaves no gray/not gray roots line.
posted by quince at 9:43 PM on April 15, 2018

L'Oreal Excellence is far better than Preference for covering gray. I've used it for years and never had a problem with orange roots.
posted by Dolley at 8:36 AM on April 16, 2018

Your issue is that you processed a shade with warm tones for too long - that's why using a shade with a cool base (aka ash) worked the second time. Look for shades with ash base tones next time and you'll be fine.
posted by nerdfish at 8:41 AM on April 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

Another vote for L'Oreal Excellence over Preference - I found it to be much better.
posted by she's not there at 9:51 AM on April 16, 2018

Thinking back to when I have successfully dyed my roots, I was picking "deep" or "dark" brown shades and not medium brown shades. Next time I will stick with darker brown and look for something marked "cool" or "ash."
posted by Pleased_As_Punch at 11:17 AM on April 16, 2018

I always choose L'Oreal over Garnier, and Excellence over Preference.

Here's some helpful info on how to read dye labels, to help you find ash/cool/neutral shades.
posted by assenav at 11:29 AM on April 16, 2018

The problem with box dye is pretty much what you express: it works great for a while, until it doesn't. Then you live in an overprocessed world of hot roots and increasingly darker ends.

While box dye does seem so much easier, it's really infinitely better to try going to a beauty supply store like Sally and have the salespeople there work with your hair needs. You will save a boatload of money, and once you know what to use you can order it online since everybody hates talking to salespeople. They also have lower peroxide mixes that aren't damaging to hair.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 1:27 PM on April 19, 2018

All boxed dyes contain some level of developer. Developer contains peroxide. 10 developer is 3% hydrogen peroxide. 20 developer is 6%. 30 developer is 9%. Most box dyes only use 10 or 20 developer.

Peroxide opens the hair cuticle so that the "dye" portion of the hair color actually enters the hair strand. Peroxide also destroys melanin in the hair strand which slowly lightens it. That destruction process is ugly and leaves nasty orange hues until you've damaged it so much that you achieve white hair. Heat can also open up the cuticle. L'Oreal speculated that your roots were opened up too much (warmth from the scalp plus warmth from hair piled on top), and so received extra gold tones from the hair dye plus whatever orange your grey hair still has. They claim your roots were overprocessed therefore a golden color.

In my experience hot roots are actually underprocessed! Your roots are the newest, healthiest part of your hair. That also means they are the most resistant to coloring. A box dye using 10 or 20 developer will not be as strong on the roots. The heat on the roots is really negligible at this point.

So why did using the 4A Ash Brown correct it?

1) It was a second dye process which further damaged and weakened the root area to accept color more readily.
2) There is a big jump in darkness from the level 5 to the level 4, which is pretty much guaranteed to mask extra warmth in the hair.
3) The green and blue tones in an Ash color basically worked as a toner to neutralize the red and yellow tones on your roots. It's an oversimplification of how hair dye works, but it's sort of like paint, where you can use the opposite of a color on the color wheel to neutralize the vibrancy of that color.

The only way you are going to get consistent results from box dye is to use a darker ash color than you want and to do it twice.

If you're okay with some trial and error and learning a new skill, I would go experiment with unboxed hair dye. Get some 30 developer, get some hair color, read the instructions, and go for it. You can probably get it in one go with 30 or 40 developer and the right color.

There might even be some YouTube videos on dying resistant gray hair. As far as acquiring product, Sally's Beauty is really the only place to go without a hair stylist's license.
posted by ticktickatick at 11:10 PM on April 30, 2018

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