The Best Hair Color for Gray Hair, According to the Pros

First, consider highlights or lowlights

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best hair color for gray hair universal
Getty Images: Olha Romaniuk, Ada Summer

We’ve come out of the shadows with covering our grays. From secretive TV ads in the 1950s to model Paulina Porizkova posting shower videos with the out-loud-and-proud gray hair statement, “For those of you who feel inclined to tell me what color hair I ought to be sporting to look younger- please know this is not my priority. I’m happy with where I am at- my hair is now a mix of brown and gray and some fake blonde bits to tie it all together. I love the freedom of not having to hide my grays- and THAT feeling is my priority.” So, in the spirit of today’s choose-your-own-adventure hair color experience, we hit up some top stylists to ask them about the best hair color for gray hair, from highlights to full coverage and everything in between. We’ve got product recommendations, hair care tips and ways to maximize your hair’s health and appearance—as well as 20+ of the best hair colors for gray hair—whether you’re going to a salon or coloring at home.

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Meet the Experts

  • Guy Tang is a Los Angeles-based celebrity hair stylist that runs hair, beauty, fitness and lifestyle YouTube and Instagram channels with millions of followers. He is also the creator of #myidentity, a line of hair color and care products for salon and home use.
  • Sophie Gutterman is a California native, international stylist and image consultant with more than 10 years’ experience. With work featured in Italian Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and the Hollywood Reporter, Gutterman has a clientele that includes Gwyneth Paltrow, Karlie Kloss and Victoria Justice.
  • Bradley Leake is a celebrity hair stylist based in Los Angeles with over 10 years’ of salon experience.  His list of celebrity and influencer clientele includes Chrishell Stause, Hannah Godwin, Ariana Maddix, Stassi Schroeder, Lala Kent, Brittany Cartwright, Kensington Tillo, Claudia Oshry and many more.  Bradley is well-versed in working with all hair types, specializing in sun-kissed hair color, red carpet glam and editorial looks.
  • Shvonne Perkins is master colorist at Madison Reed and specializes in teaching other stylists and consumers about the chemistry and design of color.
  • Mandy B. is a trichologist and hair loss expert who operates the Thairapy Wellness Center. Find her on Instagram and TikTok, where she shares tips on hormones, nutrition and other interventions for hair loss with her more than 330,000 followers
Best hair color for grey hair: woman with long wavy hair
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Are highlights or lowlights better for gray hair?

“Highlights are among the simplest solutions to hiding gray hair, as the gray creates less of a contrast against lighter colors,” says Leake. “Adding highlights can gently blend in the grays, so that instead of fighting to cover them, you’re working with the gray hair.” Tang suggests adding lowlights if you have a lot of grays. “You want to do darker than your natural hair color to give hair dimension and depth,” he says. “Typically, they’re strategically placed to break up the all-over gray or silver color. Lowlights can also be more natural-looking and lower maintenance.”

best-hair-color-for-grey-hair: applying color to hair in a salon
Helen King/Getty Images

What type of hair color covers gray hair the best?

It’s all about what works for your hair texture and type, according to Mandy B. “There really isn't one specific hair color line that is better than others based solely on formulation. The key is to find a stylist who can properly determine the correct formulation for your hair type and texture,” she says. “Some only need a 10-volume developer for great gray coverage and others might need a 20- or 30-volume developer for extremely stubborn or coarse gray hair.” It you’re applying color at home, hair educator Shvonne Perkins says to make sure you’re using the right formula. “Many people don’t realize that not all hair color is meant to cover gray, so if gray is a concern for you, you’ll want to make sure that the package specifically calls out gray coverage. Many fashion and vivid shades are not designed for gray, for example,” she says. And regardless of whether you color your hair at a salon or at home, stylist Sophie Gutterman says to opt for permanent rather than semi-permanent color to fully cover grays.

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How often should I dye my hair to cover grays?

Stylists agree that this is a personal preference, determined by weighing a triangle of concerns: a) money/time you have b) how quickly your hair grows and c) how high a tolerance you have for seeing regrowth. Aas Perkins says. “Most women touch up their color every four to six weeks to keep up with growth, but for some who see gray popping up really quickly, it can be as often as every two weeks,” she says. To minimize overprocessing and damaging your strands, trichologist Mandy B. recommends not coloring your hair more than once every three weeks. “If needed, I recommend using root cover sprays like L'oréal Magic Root Rescue to mask the appearance of grays between appointments,” she says.

best hair color for grey hair: Washing hair closeup
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How do you care for colored gray hair?

A little extra TLC for gray hair goes a long way, since its strength and texture may be different from the rest of hair or the hair that you had prior to going gray. “Gray hair is often drier and more brittle. It’s extra important with any color-treated hair, but especially for grays, to keep the hair hydrated and the ends strong,” says Leake, who recommends The Kerastase Elixir Ultime Hair Oil as a moisturizing serum and heat protectant, and Kerastase Blond Absolu 2% Pure Hyaluronic Acid Serum as an instant hydrator. Tang formulated his #MyHero products for extra moisturizing and suggests the shampoo, conditioner and nourishing crème to guard against fading. In addition to color-safe shampoo and conditioner, Gutterman recommends using a hair mask regularly. (She likes the Zotos All About Curls treatment.) Additionally, using a hair gloss (such as Madison Reed Crema) can help refresh color and take out any unwanted yellow tones in gray hair.

best hair color for gray hair brown
Ada Summer Getty Images

Is it better to go lighter or darker to cover gray hair?

“On natural hair that hasn’t been color treated, permanent color can typically lighten it one to two levels from your starting point. So if your natural hair is dark brunette, your choices in permanent color are limited to medium to dark brunettes—a box of blonde permanent hair color won’t do the trick,” says Perkins. “Another thing to keep in mind is that warm golden shades often cover grays more fully than cooler ash tones. This is because gray hair isn’t actually pigmented, so the warmth and depth helps fill in the missing pigment, which makes the hair appear more fully covered.” Tang says going lighter is the safer option, since lighter shades, such as highlights or an overall lighter color, can better camouflage gray hair. “Lighter tones tend to blend better with gray hair, making the regrowth less noticeable,” he says, “and they provide a softer, more natural look, especially as the gray hair grows out.”

What is the best low maintenance color for gray hair?

Gutterman swears by the All About Curls color line: “Considering most gray hair has a texture to it that’s wiry and almost unmanageable, using this line can provide coverage, while also acting as a treatment.” If you’re a natural blonde, Leake says “sandy blonde with some lighter highlights is a nice low-maintenance option for going gray. To keep the hair looking bright and non-brassy, he suggests using Kerastase Blond Absolu Bain Ultra-Violet for neutralizing yellow undertones, while boosting color with each shampoo.

Note: Madison Reed also has a special line of color with shades ranging from blonde to dark brunette (they’re labeled “NNN” or “NNA” in their description), as well as Root Perfection Touch-Up, a line of 10-minute root applications for when you don’t have time to get to the salon. And finally, Tang puts his clients in #myidentity honey or caramel blonde tones since they include conditioning keratin and argan seed oil, so the color actually improves hair and the lighter shades blend more seamlessly with any incoming grays.

dana dickey

Senior Editor

Dana Dickey is a PureWow Senior Editor, and during more than a decade in digital media, she has scoped out and tested top products and services across the lifestyle space...

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