HAIR COLOR Colorista Chronicles: Gray Coverage for the Home Colorist

by Better Natured

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Don’t let grays get you down. With these professional tips from Better Natured™ Ambassador and Celebrity Stylist Marcus Francis you will be gray-free and back to your ‘real self' in no time!

Gray hair is basically inevitable. But if you choose to cover your grays it does not mean signing up for a lifetime of frequent and costly salon maintenance. With advances in hair color technology, at-home color has never before been easier, more effective or gentler for your tresses.

Particularly now, since the introduction of Better Natured™ Liqui-Crème Hair Color, which was developed using ingredients that range from 87%-92% naturally-derived*. The creamy formula is gentle on both hair and scalp, yet it does not compromise on performance. You can expect professional-level results, impeccable gray coverage and deep hydration, to boot.

How to Color Gray Hair At Home

While covering grays is fairly straightforward it does present some challenges for the at-home colorist.  For one, gray hair is notoriously color resistant. And two, achieving full, even coverage in those hard to reach spots at the crown and the back of the head can be tricky for the non-contortionists among us.

Luckily, we have expert Marcus Francis on hand to break it all down. In this two-part series, he delivers the definitive guide to banishing grays from the safety and comfort of Salon Chez You. Part One details how to identify your own base color – or level – in order to help you choose your ideal shade. Part Two covers all the tips and tricks of the trade necessary to ensure a thorough application and a flawless, grays-be-gone result.

Part I -How To Choose It:

1. Go Permanent

If you are more than 30% gray and looking for full coverage that lasts up to 8 weeks, permanent hair color like Better Natured™ Liqui-Crème Hair Color is a great option. A demi-permanent color will wash out more quickly, and the pigment is not strong enough to penetrate grays and fully alter the color. According to Francis, because gray hair is 100% absent of pigment you need more concentrated color because “like an empty glass, you’re filling it up from zero.”

2. Find Your Level & Tone

In order to choose the right shade of hair color, you need to determine your level and tone. Your level describes how light or dark your natural ‘virgin’ hair color is, serving as “the baseline shade you are working from,” explains Francis. Tone describes the finish of the hue – its warmth (golden, copper) or coolness (ash, champagne).

For the best gray coverage, Francis recommends choosing a Natural/Neutral (N) tone. “Neutral tones have more pigment and deliver a more natural result because they are balanced between warm and cool,” he says. Another tip to remember: the more gray hairs you have, the lighter your shade will appear so consider the end result you are going for when you choose your color. 

Part II - How To Use It:

3. Prep Makes Perfect

Hair color can be messy so take a few minutes to prepare your workstation so the color lands on your head and not on your floors and counters. Fancy bathroom rugs? Move them out. Porous stone countertops? Cover them with an old towel or newspaper. And, Francis points out, “choose a spot that is well-ventilated and has good light.”

In terms of supplies, think like a chef and have your mise-en-place all set up and ready. Here’s what you need close at hand: Instructions! Plastic bowl and brush or bottle. Hair color and developer. Gloves. Vaseline or Barrier Cream. Hair clips. Rat tail comb for sectioning. Wet wipes or paper towels. Salon cape or old shirt – one that you don’t have to put on over your head is best. Old towels. Hand mirror or phone to help you see the back of your head.

“The process can be a bit overwhelming your first time,” Francis says, “so make your own at-home-color kit with old towels and a shirt you don’t mind sacrificing for the cause.”

4. Shield Your Skin

Wearing gloves prevents hair dye from staining your nails and hands. But what about the delicate skin around your forehead and ears? For that, hair colorists recommend creating a wall with some kind of thick cream like Vaseline, moisturizer or even lip balm.  Better Natured™ hair color kits come with a Barrier Cream – problem solved! (Just make sure to keep it on your skin and off your hair itself.)

5. Start at the Front

It makes sense. Start in the place where grays are most visible.  Once you’ve saturated the hairline and any baby hairs, Francis suggests making a part straight down the middle of the head and then working on one side first in small sections that move from the part down toward the ear. “This method keeps you organized,” he says, “and it’s easier to feel where the color should go in the back because you’re following a line.”

Keep a hand mirror or your phone’s selfie camera nearby so you can double check that you’re getting pigment everywhere it’s needed in the back. If you have a friend who can help you with these hard to reach areas, so much the better. Otherwise Francis says, “you have to get creative and MacGyver the situation.”

6. Double Check Your Work

Because gray hairs can be downright stubborn, “you really need to saturate them with pigment,” our color expert emphasizes. Dab more color on the hairline and your part first, pushing the color in with the brush to make sure you’re getting every hair. Then search for any spots where coverage looks light and use up the remainder of the color in the bowl. For the best outcome, it’s better to over-apply than end up with an uneven result.  “Trust me,” Francis says, “if your hair is dark and you’ve missed a spot, small patches of gray are all you will see!”

7. Watch the Clock

Now is not the time to rush things. Make sure you follow the instructions for the full processing time. According to Francis, you need “at least 30 minutes for gray coverage.” Rinsing too soon can create an uneven result with varying levels of coverage. The rule of thumb is to set a timer after you’ve completed the full color application. If you’re unsure whether the pigment has really done its job, take a peek. Using a comb, push a small section of color away from the root to determine how the processing is proceeding. 

8. Clean & Condition Carefully

Before revealing your perfectly covered roots, you need to shower with care. “Train yourself NOT to stand under the shower head,” Francis cautions. “Face away from the flow and lean back so the product stays out of your eyes.” Rinse thoroughly with warm water – until it runs clear - and try not to shake your hair too much. You want the dye flowing down the drain, not splashing onto the walls!

Be sure to have color-safe shampoo and conditioner ready to protect and nurture your new masterpiece.  Better Natured™ Color Care Shampoo and Conditioner packettes are included in your Better Natured hair color order. The gentle formulas feature naturally-derived*, good-for-you ingredients that won’t fade your shade!  Don’t be surprised if your tresses feel extra-silky already. In fact, 90% of women who tried it describe their hair feeling “dramatically conditioned.”**

As for the gray coverage itself? “The results are natural looking and professional,” Francis says. “I love that I can achieve 360-degree gray coverage with a product that leaves the hair feeling luxuriously soft and radiating healthy-looking shine.”  

*Better Natured™ Liqui-Creme Hair Color shades range between 87% - 92% naturally-derived depending on the shade. We use the Global ISO Standard 16128 which defines naturally-derived as a plant or mineral derived material and water which is found in nature and has undergone limited processing. 

**Salon panel test 2019.

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