Resistant Gray: Friend Or Foe?
Resistant Gray Hair:
Friend Or Foe?
Karen Marie Shelton - Copyright - All Rights Reserved
Revised Date:  05/09/11

Introduction

Kathy Bates

Cher and the late Elizabeth Taylor went platinum while Hillary Clinton and Diane Sawyer added sizzling shades of gold.  Barbara Walters continues to prove that brains and many shades of blonde are a stunning mix.

What do all these celebrities have in common?  They are transforming their encroaching gray strands with fabulous shades of gold, honey and platinum.  Going blonde has become one of the hottest trends for befriending those pesky grays.

Of course Kathy Bates who stars in the fabulous NBC drama "Harry's Law" embraces her natural gray and looks stunning. 

Should you flaunt your gray or hide it with a hot new shade?  A consumer poll at HairBoutique.com recently asked visitors whether they would cover their gray or not. While 43% said they would flaunt it, 52% said they would definitely hide it and 5% had no opinion. 

Master hair colorist Henry Amador of Fort Lauderdale Florida, reports “the hair industry is seeing a lot of baby boomers who are currently putting their focus on dealing with their stubborn gray hair."

Hide Your Gray Of Flaunt It?

He noted "This gray banishing trend includes men as well as women”.

Although many consumers want to hide their gray, it's not always as easy as it seems.  While going for a lighter shade of pale like Cher or Elizabeth is definitely a hot option, Henry warns “gray hair can be very tricky to deal with because gray hair grows in with the rest of the hair in a different texture”. 

He explained, “because it basically has no pigment, gray hair has a very coarse texture which is tough.  Consequently it is difficult to apply color to gray hair which is not pre-treated”.

Most Common Complaints About Coloring Gray Hair

Kathy Bates

One of the most common complaints about coloring gray hair is that the color does not take well or doesn’t last more than a few days.  As Henry explained, “part of the trick to coloring gray hair is to pre-soften those tough wiry gray hairs”. 

The way he recommends you pre-soften stubborn gray hair “is to apply a 20% peroxide to pop open the hair cuticle and soften the hair so that it will easily accept any color that is applied. 

Henry applies the peroxide, combs it through the hair, leaves it on for 5-10 minutes, depending on the client, and then rinses it off. Then he applies the desired color”.  

Should everyone pre-soften their gray hair?  Although every person’s gray hair is different, Henry noted, “if someone is 50% gray they will definitely need to pre-soften their hair.”  If they don’t, he warned, “any color that is applied will not cover well because of the texture of the gray hair”. 

Options For Dealing With Resistant Gray

Dealing with resistant gray presents a number of options including: 

  • Complete gray coverage
  • Partial gray coverage
  • Adopting a completely new color
  • Maintaining existing color

Kathy Bates

Henry notes “while you can color the gray completely, you can also just cover the gray and not color the complete head”.  

Many colorists employ a wide range of creative approaches for dealing with gray. New York Haircolorist Barbara Lhotan “likes to create a series of multi-dimensional highlights and lowlights that provides soft contrasts and offers roots that blend naturally as they grow into the mix”. 

Barbara also “likes to custom design gray coverage to work with the lifestyle, budget and needs of her clients.” 

Best Gray Banishing Plans

Whether you decide to go with a new hue or maintain your natural color sans the gray, there are many options for dealing with gray.  Before you decide your best gray banishing plan discuss the following factors with your colorist:

1.  Initial color costs and maintenance
2.  Long term care requirements
3.  Your individual lifestyle requirements
4.  Climate and environment impact

Morphing into a new shade might sound exotic until you factor in the regular maintenance costs, daily upkeep and the time commitments. 

Can your budget cover monthly touch-ups?  Will you be required to purchase special color maintenance shampoo and conditioners that maintain your new color? Even more importantly, is your home climate known for accelerating color fading?  These are all important issues to address before you take action.

Should You Tackle Your Resistant Gray At Home?

Kristen Bell

Home hair coloring may appear to be a lot less expensive than a trip to the salon.  However, if you have a color disaster, the color correction costs and stress can wipe out all of your do-it-yourself savings for an extended period of time.

When you prefer a home remedy, Henry suggests, “you should select products and shades that tend to be very gentle, very nice and very temporary”.

Although he likes the temporary shades from Clairol, Henry recommends focusing on “finding a good general color that allows you to “try on” a hair color without permanent changes.”  If you like the temporary results you get at home, you can go to your colorist and have more permanent color applied with no harm done to your hair”.

Whenever possible, solicit the advice of your trusted stylist or colorist before you undertake any permanent gray coloring. Clairol currently offers consumers the Loving Care and Lasting Color brands which works to “blend away gray” without impacting your natural color.  Both products are considered a temporary product that works best for people with up to 50% gray.

If your hair is more than 50% gray you'll probably require a superior permanent hair color product like Clairol’s Revitalique, which promises 100% coverage even on the most resistant grays.

Kathy Bates

Note:  Revitalique has been discontinued but is still available in select locations.

L’Oreal and other home hair color manufacturers offer other product options.  Whatever color product you select, always read the labels carefully or call the toll free help line to make sure you have a product that will work with gray tresses.

What should you do if you want to go to a bleached blonde hue like the stars?  Henry warns, “you should be leery about bleaching your hair at home”. 

He suggested “you leave bleaching and heavy chemicals to the hair specialists. If not used properly, bleach can burn the scalp or cause all sorts of other potential problems”. 

Summary

Whether you decide to flaunt your gray or hide it with a hot new shade is totally up to you and your vision for the image you wish to present.  Some celebrities like Kathy Bates are proudly flaunting their grays, but others are going blonde instead.  Only you can make the final decision to go gray or not.

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Original Publication Date: 5/30/2002 - Revised Publication Date: 05/09/11

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