Why Won’t My Gray Hair Dye? (How To Fix)

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Dyeing your hair at home shouldn’t be a struggle. But what happens when gray hair won’t dye? In this article, we reveal a few simple tricks and tips that you can apply to ensure you get the best dye job for your gray hair at home. 

Why Won’t My Gray Hair Dye

Written By Summer Wise

In short, the reason why your gray hair won’t dye is because gray hair has a dry, coarser texture. Dry hair can cause issues such as patchiness and faded color. Use shade or two lighter or darker, so that your roots become less visible.

Why is Gray Hair More Resistant to Hair Dye?

When dying your hair, it is certainly possible to get a salon quality look at home but issues can occur.

To get a real look at how and why gray hair issues can arise we must take a quick peek through the microscope.

Aging and the growth of grays can affect the overall structure of the hair. Each strand of hair is composed of three parts: the cuticle, cortex, and medulla.

In simpler terms, they make up each piece of hair with the medulla at the core, coated by the cortex and then protected by the cuticle. The cortex is the part of the hair that holds its natural color, in the form of melanin.

Melanin is the substance that gives hair its color. When hair begins to grow in gray over time, it is due to a lack of melanin in the cells. 

As this production of melanin slows, so does the natural sebum or oil produced by your hair.

This results in the common issue of dry, textured gray hair.

Although everyone can experience their hair not taking color, the dryness, in particular, is the main reason why it’s so hard to color gray hair.

This is because dry hair can lead to issues such as patchiness, unevenness, or faded color. All of these things combined may then in fact be while your gray hair won’t dye.

Also Read: How To Dilute Hair Dye Without Conditioner (Easy Guide)

How To Color Gray Hair Successfully

Although it can be harder to dye gray hair, taking the following steps will give you the best chance of dyeing your hair successfully:

Wash Your Hair

You should make sure your hair is clean but not styled.

Having oils, creams or dry shampoo in your hair will cause interruptions in the coloring process and may jeopardize your dye job by making it uneven or faded.

Timing Is Important

Gray hair won’t dye very well if there’s a lot of build-up or grease in your hair. Try to wash it no sooner than 12-24 hours before you want to color it.

This amount of time allows the hair to remain clean, while the oils from the scalp help protect the skin there from irritation by the dye.

Care For Your Gray Hair When Sleeping

Take care of your hair even while you rest by considering a silk or satin pillowcase to prevent cotton from stealing moisture from your locks.

This will help keep hair soft and healthy while you toss and turn in bed, meaning you get real beauty sleep.

Be Gentle When Brushing

Avoid aggressive brushing as it can damage hair and cause frizz.

A gentle touch and routine trimming of hair every six months or so will help prevent split ends, while retouching colour when necessary.

Should I Dye My Hair Back to My Original Color?

While gray hair is perfectly natural, and can be the perfect asset for some people, others want to remain a blonde, brunette or redhead.

This is where the magic of hair dye comes in, but should you choose your natural hair color?

When we color gray hair, it simulates the color melanin gives to hair throughout our lives.

Unfortunately, when roots grow, they will appear as the natural gray of your head once again.

Therefore, it is important to select a color that is blendable with new growth in between color applications. This will often be similar to the color your hair was earlier in life.

Also, make sure you use the right volume developer if mixing your own hair dye.

The shade of your dye should always be considered, as it will determine whether the color looks natural.

Industry leader Garnier claims that you should “avoid a drastic change from your original natural shade; choose colors that are only a shade or two lighter or darker, so that when your roots grow through they will be less visible.”

Also Read: How To Remove Permanent Hair Dye With Olive Oil

Should I go Darker or Lighter?

gray hair wont dye

It is important to consider the shade and color you decide upon, as this will make both maintenance and dyeing easier.

A slightly darker shade will be more effective at covering grey hairs and blending them into the colored hair underneath.

This means the color will stay longer without noticeable fading.

In comparison, a lighter shade may blend better with new growth.

However, a dye that lightens the hair will not be as effective for gray hair. This is because the pigments will highlight the gray hairs rather than conceal them.

Which Type Of Dye Is Best For Gray Hair?

The pigment in permanent hair dye is longer lasting and more likely to stay bright over gray hair, whereas a semi-permanent dye is more useful as a blend of color over natural grays.

Those who prefer a gentle change to their silver that will fade out should go for a semi-permanent color.

If you want to color dry gray hair a vibrant or dark color, you should use permanent dye to ensure the look holds within the hair.

And remember, don’t be tempted to leave in the hair dye for longer than recommended on the box. This won’t make any difference if your hair already has a hard time taking color. In fact, it may just give you a sore scalp or cause irritation.

Also Read: The Best Heat Protectants For Gray Hair

How To  Prepare Hair For Color

You have probably heard the phrase “Fail to prepare, prepare to fail” and it applies to dyeing your hair too.

This is especially true with the extra care that gray hair can require due to its dryness and light color.

Taking a few extra minutes to prepare for these potential hiccups will help you get the result you desire the first time.

Preparing gray hair for coloring will also help to ensure the application is as good as it can be, with less chance of the common issues gray hair can bring when coloring.

By using the following steps for preparation and care, both semi and fully permanent dye should be able to give your hair a new lease on life with no problem.

A few items needed for applying hair dye to gray hair include:

  • A Patch Test
  • Clips for sectioning
  • A Bowl, brush and gloves

Doing A Patch Test

You should always patch test color on your hair before a full application.

A patch test is applying a small amount of the dye to a tiny piece of hair, often hidden from view.

This patch testing can help prevent allergic reactions by alerting you early to any adverse effects and allows you to see the end result of the dye before you take the plunge.

It may turn out that the results differ greatly from the color promised by the product when applied to your locks.

Section Your Hair

A sure-fire way to cause a mess is to attempt to dye hair without sectioning it.

Brush out all your hair until it is free of knots or tangles and use a brush or your fingers to split the hair into different sections.

Divide the top and bottom, and along each side of your head. Secure each section with a clip and then begin dyeing section by section.

This method allows for controlled application of the hair dye and will reduce the chance of missing color on parts of the hair.

Use a Bowl

Arm yourself with the best tools for the job too. A small, inexpensive color applicator brush like this one from Amazon, helps to get the color into every inch of your locks. The rough texture of the bristles also helps the dye penetrate the hair strands at the same time.

Alongside this, put the dye into a small plastic bowl rather than the messy bottle that most dyes come in.

These two steps allow for less mess, precise application, and lead towards a lasting, rich color over your gray hair.

Also Read: Will Hair Dye Kill Lice? All Your Questions Answered!

Do I Need To Do Anything Different After Dyeing My Gray Hair?

According to Good Housekeeping, hot water is the enemy of lasting color: “Hot water lifts the outer cuticle layer, which is one of the most common reasons that color fades.”

As mentioned earlier, cuticles are the protective layer of your hair strands, with plates that form the protective structure around the shaft of the hair.

When you wash your hair in hot water, the cuticles open and allow the hot water into the cortex, making coloured hair fade much faster.

By rinsing hair with cold water at the end of a wash, the cuticles remain closed and protective, keeping your hair healthy and shiny.

Disclaimer: This site is not intended to provide professional or medical advice. All of the content on LovedByCurls.com is for informational purposes only. All advice should be followed at your own discretion. Ingredients may change at any time so always check the product label before using. Check our full disclaimer policy here.

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Dee is the founder of Loved By Curls and in-house Curly Girl expert. She loves natural haircare and has tried and tested her share of CGM products. She's always happy to recommend you her favorites.