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While going gray is on the long list of luxuries afforded to men (you handsome silver fox, you), a lot of gents might not be ready to fully embrace their sultry salt and pepper hair just yet — and that’s totally fine.
The natural progression of graying is inevitable, though, so if you’re looking to touch up your strains of silver, you’ll have to get acquainted with some DIY hair dyeing unless you’re willing to shell out the money for a professional dye job every few weeks or so. The good news is that it can be done! Even by you, an at-home hair-dyeing virgin.
We spoke with a few experts about the best products and practices to get you started, all of which will come in very handy as you consider pouring a semi-permanent pigmented substance all over your head.
Your hair dye options
When you think about dyeing your hair at home, your mind likely goes straight to those drugstore box dyes. But there are actually DTC hair color services that’ll expertly customize and mix your hair dye for you, so you get the most natural-looking color possible without all the stress of frantically trying to match your shade in a CVS.
Colorsmith, for example, offers a completely personalized at-home hair color experience with options for gray coverage. After taking an online color quiz, you’ll receive an order with your custom color, easy-to-follow instructions, coloring tools (including two pairs of non-latex gloves, an application brush, shampoo and conditioner packets, plus a stain guard and stain remover) and access to colorists who can help on a whim if you have any questions during your dye process. It’s a convenient (and probably the best) option for first-timers and those who aren’t too confident in their coloring skills.
Choosing the right color
Choosing the best color for your hair can be tricky, explains Monica Davis, a professional hairstylist and founder of MyStraightener. “If you want to know what color is the best, there is no right answer to the question because hair dyes can behave really badly if the color is chosen improperly. For example, if you want a lighter color, you should be really careful to prevent your hair from going orange. With dark colors, there’s always a chance to receive a greenish or blueish effect. That’s why it’s recommended to visit experienced colorists if you want a 100% match of the result to your expectations,” she says.
But if you’re feeling confident, you can also just consult your eyebrows. “Look for the color that matches the color of your eyebrows. In most cases, these are the same colors. If you still have strands of your own color, try to find a matching dye,” she adds.
The best hair dyes to look for
While looking for a dye, Ghanima Abdullah, a cosmetologist and hair expert at The Right Hairstyles, recommends choosing a temporary or semi-permanent dye at your first go at it. “That way, just in case it isn’t what you want, it will wash out soon. There are sprays and hair waxes that you just brush in that last for a day or two only. It’s a great way to get your feet wet. Just make sure you purchase something that is labeled for covering gray hair, as grays are stubborn!” says Abdullah.
Beyond Colorsmith, our experts recommend dyes from True Sons and Just For Men or Manic Panic’s Flash Lightning Hair Bleach Kit if you’re looking to lighten your hair color. The latter two are easily found at most drugstores.
For a solution that’s more low maintenance, our Abdullah says L’Oreal’s Magic Root Coverup works well to cover up gray hair and can be used on the entire head, not solely the roots. “It keeps your hair from showing those little grays until the next wash.”
All hair dye kits come with instructions, which should be read in advance. “Depending on the composition of the dye you choose, you may need to wash your hair before dyeing or avoid washing them for 1-3 days before the procedure. Manufacturers always state that in the instructions,” explains Davis.
To ensure you don’t get gunk all over your face, apply Vaseline or another barrier cream to the skin surrounding your hair adds Lina Buk, a beauty expert and founder of Nail Art Gear. Additionally, be sure your hair and beard are free of any product so they don’t get in the way of coloring. “And for people with sensitive skin, waiting a day or two after shampooing hair before coloring can help reduce the risk of irritation. We also recommend reading the ingredients and safety precautions ahead of time,” says Strand.
Hair color is best applied after you’ve gotten a fresh cut. This way, you don’t waste any color since your hair is healthiest after you’ve cut it. “We also recommend doing a deep condition a day before you color your hair to give your hair the moisture it needs to coat your hair follicles. The healthier and more moisturized your hair, the better your color result,” Strand adds.
The aftercare and upkeep
“Dyeing is quite stressful for any hair type and dyed hair can’t last forever,” says Davis who offers a list of tips to extend your hair color and minimize the negative effects of dyeing:
- Wash your hair less often
- Use a color-safe shampoo and conditioner designed to protect colored hair
- Use heat-protecting sprays or lotions during hot seasons
- Use hair masks at least three times a month (Kiehl’s offers a nice deep moisturizing one)
- Don’t use a hairdryer if possible. If you must, use the cold air preset.
As for how often you should touch up, that depends. “Typically, we recommend applying hair color every 2-4 weeks for men. However, this frequency may vary based on multiple factors, such as how long your color results last, the vibrancy of your color, your specific hair length, and whether you have permanent or semi-permanent hair color,” explains Strand. “In general, semi-permanent hair color will fade gradually, and permanent hair color will begin to fade with a visible line with regrowth. Sun exposure, chlorine, too-frequent washing, or using a shampoo that isn’t safe for color can all cause hair color to fade prematurely. So ask your colorist for tips on how to maintain your color.”
Common mistakes to avoid
“Going too dark is the most common mistake,” says Abdullah who adds if you do opt for a spray dye, prepare to use a light hand while applying. You can always go back and apply more, but if you use too much it might look fake. “Dyeing the beard that same color is a worse mistake. You’ll head into work looking like Inspector Clouseau. Pick a shade that’s a little lighter than your natural hair. This way, it will look much more natural.”
“The most common mistake men make when dyeing their hair is not reading the instructions,” Davis adds. “Manufacturers of high-quality products do their best to deliver clear step-by-step tutorials to DIYers, so it’s highly important to read them. The timings for different dyes can vary, so don’t be surprised when you receive the wrong effect when you apply the new dye by the rules you applied to your old dye.”
Oftentimes, men will wash their hair too soon. “Most men dye their hair and then think they’re good to go, but this is simply not the case. Leave your hair dye on for 30-45 minutes before rinsing,” explains Buk. Also, moisturize. “After rinsing, the best way to prevent your hair from damage is to apply a moisturizing [hair] mask and leave it on for 10-15 minutes.”
Lastly, if your hair is longer than a couple of inches, you might make the common mistake of applying the color all over every time. “Your ends would eventually become the darkest part of your hair and it won’t look even or natural,” explains Strand. “Instead, it is best to apply the color to the root (regrowth) area to prevent the ends from going darker.”
The Best At-Home Dyeing Kits
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