Guide to Coloring Gray Hair

Gray hair is a blend of pigmented and un-pigmented (white) hair. For successful gray coverage and accurate tonal results, first determine 3 facts about your client’s hair.

  • Natural hair color Level
  • Contributing Pigment
  • Percentage of gray

Then choose a Target Shade and formulate to achieve the result.

Determine Natural Hair Color Level

Natural Level is the lightness or darkness of naturally pigmented hair color, regardless of tone. All hair falls into Levels 1 (dark) to 10 (light). To determine client’s Natural Level:

  • Section-off area at back of head, close to scalp.
  • Compare Natural Level swatches to client’s natural hair color.
    • Expert Tip: If client falls between 2 Levels, choose the darker Level.
Contributing Pigment Chart

Identify Contributing Pigment

Contributing Pigment is the amount of natural warmth found within each Natural Level. Once a client’s Natural Level is identified, refer to the corresponding swatch on Contributing Pigment chart (above).

Formulate to ENHANCE or NEUTRALIZE this warmth, depending on your desired outcome.

Percentage of Gray Chart

Percentage of Gray Chart

Determine Percentage of Gray

How much gray does the client have? Base your color formulations on 1 of these 3 gray percentages (examples of white hair on a Natural Level 5):

  • 25%
  • 50%
  • 75%

Choose the Target Shade

For best gray coverage, choose a Target Shade based on client’s Natural hair color Level and percentage of gray. Choose a shade 1-2 Levels lighter or darker than Natural Level.

For rich tonal results, choose a shade that enhances or neutralizes/cools the hair’s Contributing Pigment (natural warmth).


Gray Coverage Solutions

If you’re having problems with gray coverage, try these expert solutions.

POSSIBLE CAUSE: Color was not on the hair long enough to completely process.
IMMEDIATE SOLUTION: Reapply fresh formula to complete processing.
PREVENTION: Processing time of 45 minutes is recommended for full color development of permanent color on gray hair.

POSSIBLE CAUSE: Incorrect volume of developer was used.
IMMEDIATE SOLUTION: Mix fresh formula with correct volume of developer and reapply.
PREVENTION: Use the recommended volume of developer. Generally, 20-volume developer is required for complete gray coverage.

POSSIBLE CAUSE: Incorrect selection of hair color. Color selected was too light.
IMMEDIATE SOLUTION: Select a hair color slightly deeper in color and reapply. Check frequently; less processing may be required for this second application.
PREVENTION: Add a deeper color to the original formula or select a different color.

POSSIBLE CAUSE: Color selected was too ash/cool for the percent of white in the hair.
IMMEDIATE SOLUTION: Remix formula, adding up to 1 oz. of a gold-based color I the same Level . Reapply. Less processing time may be required. Strand test until desired results are achieved.
PREVENTION: Add a warm tone to original formula or select a different, warmer color.

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