The 5 Best At-Home Hair Dyes For Combating Grays

Christophe Robin’s Temporary Color Gel is one of our favorites; read on for the rest.

Someone with brown hair and highlights in their hair with hair clip accessories
Photo: Christian Vierig/Getty Images

Whether you're trying to cover a few stray gray hairs or change your hair color entirely, regular trips to a colorist can be costly and time-consuming. That's why home hair coloring has become increasingly popular. The products available to cover your grays are better than ever, but the abundance of options can make finding the right product a bit of a challenge.

That's why we turned to Janet Zeitoun, celebrity hairstylist and founder of SOTAH hair care products, to share her favorite color kits for combating grays and some of her best at-home hair dyeing tips. "There are a few things that make a good home hair dye," says Zeitoun. "Firstly, a company that is accessible for any questions or concerns that might arise when using your dye at home. Additionally, a color kit should always come with instructions on how to perform a patch test to avoid an allergic reaction, and have all the essential tools to assist with application, such as gloves, a tint brush, a tint bottle, activators, and a skin barrier cream."

To find the best hair color kits to cover grays at home, look for options that are easy to use and provide long-lasting color. You'll also want to consider the ingredients and whether the color is permanent, semi-permanent, or temporary. In order to find the best products, we consulted haircare expert Janet Zeitoun for their favorite products for covering gray hair. We also considered the ease of use and color performance of each option. One of our favorites is Christophe Robin's Temporary Color Gel. This naturally formulated gel is free of oxidants and ammonia, easy to use, and safe for all hair types.

Here are the best tips and hair dyes for gray hair.

Step 1: Protect, Protect, Protect

First, remember to protect your workspace, your hairline, your scalp, and your clothing.

"Protecting the space where you will be dyeing your hair is essential, cover all areas that dye could possibly get to, accidents happen," says Zeitoun.

A popular home coloring faux pas is a dyed hairline. If you haven't experienced it, you've probably seen someone with it. To avoid this embarrassing outcome, Zeitoun says it's important to apply a barrier cream before you color your hair. "If your box color doesn't supply you with a skin barrier cream, use something as simple as Vaseline or coconut oil."

Step 2: Part and Apply

The key to successfully dyeing gray hair is making sure the hair is fully saturated in dye. To help this process, Zeitoun recommends dividing the hair into four sections. "Within your four sections, use quarter-inch partings when applying your color, this will allow every strand to receive complete saturation of the color," she says.

Start applying your color where you have the most resistant gray hair first. "Resistant gray hair needs the full processing time required to take the color well," says Zeitoun. Once you have finished applying the dye, cross-check to see that you have covered all the gray strands but do not reapply the color. "If you keep overlapping the color, it will make your hair darker and can cause a dark ring around your hair that a professional will need to correct. Color correction can be expensive, so try and avoid this."

Step 3: Wait on It

On some occasions you might find that your gray hairs aren't dyeing, this is because gray hair produces little oil and tends to have a rougher surface that sometimes rejects dye, especially around the roots.

"Coloring your hair will take the necessary time suggested. Have a timer on hand to monitor the time, no cutting corners. Rinsing off your color too early can result in a translucent hue on your roots, uneven coverage, or no coverage at all," says Zeitoun. "Another way to tackle resistant hair is by applying the color developer to the gray areas and allowing it to set for five to eight mins before applying the color. Doing this step will help to swell and lift up the hair cuticle so that it can easily absorb the pigment when you start the color process."

What to Know About After Care

After dyeing your hair, Zeitoun recommends not washing it for three days to add longevity to the color. "After three days, use a non-sulfate shampoo to seal the color into the strands and keep it vibrant," she explains.

To maintain a healthy scalp and hair, gray hair should not be colored more than every four weeks. Dyeing too often can cause your hair to become brittle, dull, and damage your hairline.

How to Maintain Your Color

Once you have dyed your hair, it's important to maintain your color. Gray hair often fades from the midsection of the hair to the ends, giving a dry, dull appearance. "Many home coloring companies offer color glosses. These pigment enhancers bring your color alive and help maintain an even tone."

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Christophe Robin Temporary Color Gel

A box of Christophe Robin Temporary Color Gel
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For a gentle, temporary hair gel that immediately covers grays, and blends with your natural hair color, Christophe Robin's Temporary Hair Gel is one of our favorites. Made with 92% natural ingredients and pure pigments, this formula is recommended for all hair types. Because the color is not permanent, it will naturally fade in five to seven shampoos and is a great introduction to home hair color.

"It can be used on multi-textures, virgin textures, and chemically-treated hair," says Zeitoun. Available in golden blonde, dark blonde, light chestnut, and dark chestnut, "the shades lean more to the darker tones," according to Zeitoun. " If you fancy dark rich shades, this brand is perfect."

The gel is easy to use, and the package includes an applicator brush, gloves, and detailed instructions. The product is non-irritating and contains no ammonia, oxidants, parabens, sulfates, or phthalates.

To shop: $35; sephora.com

Dark and Lovely Fade Resist

Dark & Lovely 376 Red Hot Rhythm hair dye product box
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If you have textured hair with different curl patterns that might be resistant to color, Dark and Lovely has something for you. A trusted choice for women of color, this permanent non-drip hair color provides 100% gray coverage. "This brand is a proven choice for home use and has been around for many years," says Zeitoun. "They offer an array of shades along with a non-ammonia color gloss. They also incorporate a lot of conditioning within their color formulas, which is extremely beneficial for coily, chemically treated, or extremely textured hair."

To shop: $5; target.com

Esalon Custom Hair Color

Bottles of eSalon Custom Hair Color products
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Looking for a color that's almost identical to your natural color? This made-to-order hair color is individually crafted by a colorist, allowing you to achieve your ultimate color goal. "This brand has a wonderful support system for any existing concerns, especially when you have never done anything like this before, extra help to see you through is comforting," says Zeitoun. "Their coverage for gray is 100%."

To shop: $33; esalon.com

Madison Reed Permanent Hair Color

A kit of Madison Reed Permanent Hair Color
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This two-step system comes with permanent color for maximum gray coverage at your roots (where you need it most) and a semi‑permanent gloss for the mid‑lengths and ends of your hair to gently tone, add dimension and refresh your color. "This brand is a trustworthy go-to and is great for multi-texture and virgin hair. Their kits come with everything you need to cover your grays."

To shop: $30; ulta.com

Schwarzkopf Keratin Color Permanent Hair Color Cream

A box of Schwarzkopf Keratin Color Permanent Hair Color Cream

This treatment color features anti-breakage technology that helps to repair the inner hair structure and coat the hair surface, revealing strong, healthy-looking hair. "I like this brand for sensitive, damaged, or chemically treated hair. It is also great for darker hues, black, and brunettes."

To shop: $13; target.com

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