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Author: Karen Marie Shelton -
Originally Posted on: June 18th, 2014 at 1:25 am
Last Revised: June 18, 2014
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Curly Haired Julie White as Antoinette in Nurse Jackie (Season 6, Episode 1) – Photo: David M. Russell/SHOWTIME

Dear Karen

Here is my question: I am 34 and recently starting coloring my naturally curly hair because of my ever increasing silver and grays!

I can’t have silver/gray hair at 34!

I love my natural color (medium brown), but the first time I colored it I hated that it looked flat and blah with no shine.  It just didn’t feel like me at all.

Even more upsetting, my natural curls which I love, seemed to loosen and get limpy.  My hair just didn’t work at all with my normal styling regimen. It was frustrating.

Two weeks later I tried to address coloring again.  I went to a beauty school near my house.  The girl there told me I needed highlights to get some depth and less flat color.  She put a ton of foils in my hair which lightened my hair quite a bit.

The result?  Now my once perfect ringlets are kinky, fizzy and drab. My hair feels crunchy and sticky.  When I look at my hair in the mirror it makes me very upset.  Gone are my bouncy ringlets.  Now I have these really weird floppy frizzy curls.

I am frantic at this point.  What should I do?  Should I see a curl expert?  Would a  deep conditioning treatment help? Do I have to decide whether I want beautiful ringlets or yucky gray hair?   In addition to the frizz, fuzz and yucky flat color, I have major roots with gray popping out.  I can’t decide what to do next.  Please help me!


Curly Haired Julie White as Antoinette in Nurse Jackie (Season 6) – Photo: David M. Russell/SHOWTIME

Thank you so much!



Dear Regan,

Coloring naturally curly hair can  be challenging, especially for newbies.  Dealing with gray hair is another challenge all by itself.

Combine those two challenges and you have your work cut out for you.

The current prevailing wisdom with professional hair colorists who are dealing with gray hair is to select a base color very close or slightly lighter to the natural tone of the hair and then adding very subtle highlights and/or low lights for dimension.


Curly Haired Julie White as Antoinette in Nurse Jackie (Season 6) – Photo: David M. Russell/SHOWTIME

Some colorists will color hair in layers with lighter colors near the top and alternating colors at the bottom to create a beautiful flow.

A lot of naturally textured hair has a tendency to look flat or solid when colored with all-over color.

Since naturally curly hair is more fragile and easily damaged it’s likely your hair is currently over-processed from having it colored and then highlighted in a short period of time.

Many curl experts addressing the advance of unwanted silver and/or gray strands might suggest weaving in subtle highlights and low lights to play up texture and movement of ringlets while minimizing the grays.

The strategic placement of very subtle highlights (keyword is subtle) and low lights minimizes the impact to natural texture patterns while avoiding the appearance of unwanted block colors.

Subtle Highlights And Lowlights

While highlights and low lights can add a wonderful dimension to ringlets while hiding gray, if the color used is too harsh, it can leave strands dry and dehydrated which results in frizz, fuzz and wimpy ringlets. When naturally curly hair is dehydrated, it has more of a tendency to droop and lose it’s oomph.

Great Lengths Naturally Curly Red Hair

Great Lengths Naturally Curly Red Hair

When possible, ask your professional colorist to use a more gentle high-lift color which is not as damaging as hard core bleach can be.

I personally love Matrix SoColor for gentle highlights and low lights on naturally textured hair.

Matrix has a whole range of wonderful hues from brunettes which can add beautiful color without the damage some hair color lines cause.

Addressing The Current Chemical Damage

Before taking any additional hair color journeys, for the moment it would be wise to address the current over-processing and damage from previous color treatments.

Either look into salon or at-home deep conditioning treatments which can restore the natural moisture balance to your hair.

While you’re working on getting your hair back in shape, whenever possible avoid the use of hot styling tools (blow dryers, irons, hot rollers) and let your hair air dry.  If you must dry your hair, sit under a hood style dryer set to the lowest possible heat and speeds.

If Roots Are Driving You Crazy


Anna Deavere Smith as Gloria Akalitus and Edie Falco as Jackie Peyton in Nurse Jackie (Season 6) – Photo: David M. Russell/SHOWTIME

If the roots are driving you crazy, ask your professional hair colorist to touch up just the roots with a demi-perm color which closely matches your base color.

A good demi-perm is Redken Shades EQ which is not normally damaging to most hair types and textures.

Temporary Root Touch-Ups

If that doesn’t seem like an option, you can use temporary root touch up products or option for adding some hand painting on just the roots for a tone on tone effect.

After your next full head color treatment, ask your colorist about finishing off the coloring process with a colored clear gloss which will seal in the color along with moisture and will soften the cuticle, making hair shinier and less frizzy.

Choosing Between Beautiful Ringlets And Gray Strands?

Do you have to choose between your beautiful ringlets and going gray?  No.  With a carefully conceived hair color plan, preferably applied by a professional, you can have beautiful texture without obvious grays.

Anna Deavere Smith-10_250h

Anna Deavere Smith as Gloria Akalitus and Edie Falco as Jackie Peyton in Nurse Jackie (Season 6, Episode 603) Photo: Giovanni Rufino/SHOWTIME

Of course the most simple you keep your hair color regime, the easier the maintenance.   Also, after coloring your hair, remember to take very special care of it using hydrating shampoos, conditioners and deep treatments.

You may even wish to experiment with water or conditioner only cleansing or diluted shampoo treatments.  This will extend the life of your hair color and minimize the drying effect of washing.

Protect Colored Hair From UV Rays

It’s also important to protect colored curls from the sun and the drying impact it can have. UV rays can bleach out natural hair color and cause accelerated drying and damage to chemically colored strands.

Protect colored hair when outdoors  with hats or special products promoting sun protection.

Although your hair may seem hopeless at this point, with proper repair and selection of more gentle hair coloring options in the future you can again enjoy those bouncy shiny ringlets while banishing gray.

Best wishes,


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One Response to "Coloring Curly Hair Gray?"
  • Andre August 18, 2014 at 12:49 pm

    so try this regular trims are a must, about every 7-9 weeks.(if your hair is rellay healthy then up the trims to about every 12 weeks, a trim is just a snip off the ends) if its been awhile since you have had a trim then inches may be called for to get to healthy hair. i use vitamin e on fresh washed hair.(its a vitamin that can be purchased where you buy vitamins, cut open capsule, squeeze into hand, rub hands together and apply to hair) dont message into scalp. if you get too much then just rewash it. hair will feel slightly sticky until dry then it will be nice and soft. it tames the frizzies, deep conditions and makes hair grow about three in a month. it takes about a month for the growth part of the e to kick in. the other benefits are instant. dont brush your hair but maybe once a week to message the scalp, i use a wide tooth comb at other times. brushing breaks off hair. i just started biotin vitamins going on four months ago this sat and notice and big growth spurt from that. biotin is cheap and also promotes hair regrowth and growth. i also have the biotin shampoo that i got from a vitamin store online.(puritans or five bucks for a big bottle and a big bottle of E is about 8 bucks. the biotin is about 3 bucks. i now take my fingers and message my scalp about five times a week, along with the brushing thats a good way to do it without damaging your hair. apply two or three capsules of e to dry hair and message into scalp and hair rellay well, put damp towel in microwave for 1 min to get hot, then quickly wrap head, a dry towel can be placed over that to help hold in the heat, leave on for 15 min, shampoo well, makes an excellent hot oil treatment. good luck, AND some people will argue about regular trims, your hair does grow from the roots, yes, but if your hair is not trimmed at the bottom, the it splits, get dry and brittle not to mention thin looking from no trims at all and frizzy. then your hair starts to break off at the bottom and giving you the appearance that it never grows. so to make hair grow as fast as possible and keep it healthy, then trims are an essential part of hair care. look on a ruler and check out less then half an inch and if your salon does not know what that is then take a ruler with you, i have. as of three weeks ago adding beta carotene vitamins to my regimen. i found out that along with the biotin it is very very good in promoting hair growth. they were five bucks for a bottle of 100. got them at walmart. the biotin and e can also be purchased at walmart, and adding all this up is pretty cheap to get great hair. i just wish the shampoo was available in the stores, but not yet.

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