Pro Tips for Coloring Gray Hair for Men

Staying natural is key to looking good

Mature man with gray hair
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So you're going a little gray. George Clooney makes the most of it. So does John Slattery and Anderson Cooper. But if you're wanting to cover it up, coloring gray and keeping it looking good between cuts can be a challenge. Men typically wear their hair short, less than three inches long on average.

After about a month, those roots start to show and, especially if you wear your hair short, you're likely to end up with gray sides and a dark top after a haircut. Not a good look. But these days men wanting to cover gray have some solid options.

Color Product Choices

There are several kinds of color that are marketed for coloring gray. The best choice to keep you looking natural and allowing you to stop at any time and just let the gray show is semi-permanent color. It lasts about 20 shampoos, but this can vary depending on your hair and the amount of gray you have. It washes out and doesn't leave gray roots, so if you decide you've made a mistake, it is easy to back out of the deal.

Grecian Formula is a form of progressive color. It contains lead acetate, which gets darker when it is exposed to the air. Your hair gradually gets darker the more you use it, and you stop whenever you achieve the look you want.

Direct dyes coat the hair with color and are easy and quick to use. But they usually wash out after six to 10 shampoos. 

Permanent color is the harshest solution. It contains both peroxide and ammonia, which is harder on your hair. It lasts the longest but instead of washing out, gray roots will start to show. And you cannot change the color or bail out of the whole business without letting it all grow out. 

Diving in at Home

Creating natural-looking color at home can be tricky, and many experts advise against it. But with a little know-how, you might achieve great results. If you can't go to a salon and have your gray professionally covered, there are some fairly good supermarket brands on the market. You'll want to choose a semi-permanent color that will fade after a few weeks of regular washes. Clairol Natural Instincts for Men and Just for Men work well. This will prevent you from having to touch up the roots on a regular basis.

When choosing a color, go a shade lighter than your natural color. Remember, you don't want a new color, you just want to get rid of the gray you have and look totally natural. You should simply tone down the gray, not totally obliterate it. Choosing a color one shade lighter will help achieve this goal. If you choose a color darker than your natural hair color, the results will be highly noticeable, and that's not the subtle look you're after.

Tips for Doing It Yourself

Read and follow the instructions exactly. If the product says to leave it on for 20 minutes, leave it on for 20 minutes. And, yeah, you really need to do that "patch test" thing. When coloring, you can help avoid staining the skin by rubbing a bit of Vaseline around the hairline to prevent the skin from soaking up the color. If you do get some staining, rubbing the skin gently with a bit of Sea Breeze toner should do the trick.

Going to a Salon

If you really want to reduce your gray, the best option would be to seek the talents of a professional hairstylist. The best bet is a semi-permanent color very close to your natural color. The colorist at the salon will pick the best shade to make your hair look the most natural. These days, there are several quick and fairly inexpensive options available to men in the salon. The service only takes 10 to 15 minutes and is relatively affordable. A good choice is Redken for Men Color Camo. American Crew's Precision Blend is another excellent quick color service that will blend away gray and still look natural. Both options last about six weeks and fade without brassiness.

Keeping the Gray

For most men, working with your natural hair and graciously accepting the gray is usually the best option. So if you aren't into this whole coloring thing, go for it. Let your hair gray naturally. A well-executed haircut and fit, healthy body will do more to keep you looking young than covering the gray; think Anderson Cooper.