The bad news is that your crowning glory is now a snowy peak. The good news is...so what? Gray hairs can show up anytime from your early twenties on. A little tinsel on the roof is just extra glitz, not a reason to reach for the rocking chair. Whether you were born with flaming locks or are starting a brand new fire, you're in luck. Coloring gray hair red is a snap, even if you can't afford expensive salon color.
Choose the right shade. If you're in your twenties to thirties and naturally red, match your hair color or stay within a shade or two. If you want to cover gray that's crowding out your natural blond, brunette or black, stay within a shade of your natural color. Ladies of a certain age should avoid straying too far into burgundy. According to certified colorist and salon owner Dianne Lang, trading in a very light or dark red shade for a softer auburn flatters vintage skin.
Mix the dye in with the activator according to the directions on the box. That's right, you need to pick a permanent color to dye gray hair red, because rinses and tints just won't cut it. Gray hair is coarser than pigmented hair, and it doesn't hold the color as well. Since red hair dye fades faster than other colors, you need to get the longest-lasting color you can find.
Cut holes for your head and arms in a plastic trash bag, or you may opt to cover your clothes with a smock. Red hair color stains like crazy, and it looks like dried blood.
Put on the included gloves to protect your hands; apply the hair color. Don't freak out if the strands of gray look way lighter when you apply the color, or even when your hair dries. They'll blend in more as the color oxidizes; at worst, you'll have the kind of subtle highlights salonistas pay a fortune for. Wrap your head in cling wrap, to let your natural warmth help set the color.
Leave the color on for about five minutes less than the directions suggest. Letting it sit longer won't cover the gray any better, and it can make your fabulous color come out flat. Hair dye doesn't have a built-in timer. It'll keep reacting with--and drying out--your hair for as long as it's on your head. Gray hair is already dry, so timing is everything!
Rinse out the color with warm water; let your hair air dry, if you can. Gray hair is more fragile even under its rockin' new coat, so treat it gently. Avoid washing your hair for at least three days after coloring it, to keep it from fading as long as you can.
Use color-protecting shampoo and conditioner, to keep your flaming locks crackling hot. Re-apply fresh color every four to six weeks, and the only glitter in your hair will be its healthy shine.
Always buy an extra box of color, so you're never caught in a root emergency. Covering gray to match can be a challenge, so sticking with the same brand and color is best.
Never try to save mixed color for later, because the bottle may burst if it's left capped and partly full.