How to Cover Gray Hair on a Budget

gray hair

We’ll all go gray eventually, but how you handle it is up to you. I have friends who rocked a full head of white highlights in their 30s and others who never wavered from their “natural” color seven decades in.

Regardless of where you fall on the silver-fox spectrum, managing gray doesn’t have to mean a new expensive salon habit. Here are our recommendations for the most effective at-home products, whether you choose to embrace your evolving hair color or fight it to the last follicle.

It’s Up to You

It’s Up to You

We’ll all go gray eventually, but how you handle it is up to you. I have friends who rocked a full head of white highlights in their 30s and others who never wavered from their “natural” color seven decades in.

Regardless of where you fall on the silver-fox spectrum, managing gray doesn’t have to mean a new expensive salon habit. Here are our recommendations for the most effective at-home products, whether you choose to embrace your evolving hair color or fight it to the last follicle.

Prevention

Prevention

• If you feel like the grays are kicking in too early, take a look at your diet. Research shows that a lack of vitamin B12 can speed up a change in hair color, particularly if you are a vegetarian or vegan. Ask your doctor to check your B-vitamin levels.

• Put down the tweezers. Plucking may work for one or two errant grays, but anything more and you may risk creating bald spots — especially if your aim isn’t great. To add insult to injury, the grays simply grow back.

Go Semipermanent

Go Semipermanent

Permanent color is the only way to banish gray for good, but it locks you into a cycle (color, visible roots, touch-up, repeat). Try semipermanent color, which gradually washes out in six to 12 washes, leaving you happily rootless for at least a few weeks.

Try: Madison Reed ($25) delivers ammonia-free color in a pretty purple kit straight to your door. Goldwell Colorance ($12) is an easy-to-apply foam that works in minutes.

Temporary Sticks and Wands

Temporary Sticks and Wands

From hair “lipstick” to hair “mascara,” there’s an array of temporary cover-up options that are ideal for banishing bits of gray at the roots or along the hairline. A good formula won’t streak in the rain, is a cinch to whip through questionable spots before an important event, and stays put until you shampoo.

Try: Oscar Blandi Pronto Colore Root Touch Up Pen ($23) is pricey, but absolutely worth it if you want something that blends seamlessly, stays put in any weather condition, and won’t rub off on your pillowcase.

Powders and Sprays

Powders and Sprays

If you need to cover a larger area, consider pigmented powders that can be sprayed on like a dry shampoo or applied with a brush like blush. While you get the fastest and most simple coverage with these products (and they also make thinning hair look fuller!), they’re the most temporary: Keep your hair dry and wash the color out at the end of the day to prevent a mess.

Try: Jonathan Product Awake Color Root Touch Up ($10.79 and up) comes in a handy built-in brush for precise application that also fills in any thinning spots.

Condition, Condition, Condition

Condition, Condition, Condition

Whether you’re covering them up or letting them shine, you’ll notice that gray hairs tend to be coarser and more wiry than pigmented hair. Keep everything under control with a rich conditioner. And use it often.

Try: Wella Enrich Moisturizing Conditioner for Coarse Hair ($15) softens and detangles wiry hair with hydrolyzed silk protein.

Add Sparkle to Silver

Add Sparkle to Silver

Of course, you can simply own those silver locks. Though that too requires some maintenance. An occasional dose of color counteracts the brassiness that frequently comes with gray. Swap out your regular shampoo once a week for a tinted version to give your natural color a punch.

Try: Pantene Pro-V Silver Expressions Daily Color Enhancing Shampoo ($4.79) is a violet-hued cleanser that banishes yellow while leaving hair sleek and shiny.

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