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Highlights or Full Color to Cover Gray?

Should you use highlights or full color to cover gray? This post covers the pros and cons of each for hiding gray roots and enhancing your natural tones.

highlights or full color to cover gray

Should You Blend Gray Hair with Highlights or Full Color?

When many women first start coloring their hair they don’t know whether to go for highlights or full color to cover gray. There are so many different professional hair coloring services, it gets very confusing when it comes to deciding on the color technique to choose.

Two of the most popular color services in the salon are overall color and highlights. Both can be good options for livening up your locks, adding interest to your style or covering gray hair. You might even want to do both. Here are a few pointers on how to decide what is right for your hair and individual style:

highlights or full color to cover gray

Choosing Full Color to Cover Gray

If you have dark hair, gray strands can be more noticeable against your natural hair color. Highlights may not be enough to hide stubborn grays in hair that’s either very dark, or over 30% gray. In this case you should opt for full color.

Using full color to cover grey hair, can however have more of a dramatic overall effect than highlights. If you want to use full color but don’t want a harsh look there are certain dyes that can appear more subtle.

Choosing a semi-permanent color that matches your natural shade can help to blend gray hair whilst keeping a more natural look. Semi-permanent dyes soften after a couple of washes and don’t have the harsh effect that some permanent dyes can have.

You could also try a demi-permanent color. Demi-permanent dyes are free from ammonia, and contain color deposits only. They help to open the hair cuticle and ensure the color lasts for longer. They are good options for enhancing natural color and blending gray.

Choose overall color if:

  • You have a funky textured style and you want to add some depth.
  • Your hair is extremely short.
  • You have more than 30% gray.
  • You have really dark skin and brows.
  • You look better in warm, vibrant colors such as red.
  • Your cut is already trendy enough and you don’t want to overdo it.

Choosing Highlights to Cover Gray

Highlights can be a great option if you want something a bit more subtle. If you choose a base color close to your natural shade, highlights can help to blend away silver strands and gray regrowth without the hair looking noticeably dyed.

Choose a color that blends well with the rest of your hair, for example light brown or red hair works well with blonde highlights. For highlights you want to use permanent dye, rather than semi-permanent hair color. If you have a considerable amount of gray hair you may also wish to choose two different highlight colors to cover it up.

Highlights are a nice option for gray blending if you don’t want a big change, or just want to cover the root area. They work well at hiding silver hairs even in darker colors.

Salon visits are the best option if you want highlights, as they are more difficult to do on your own than full color. An experienced colorist will also be able to help you choose the best hair colors for your skin tone.

Choose highlights if:

  • Your hairstyle is plain with no layers or other points of interest.
  • If you have blonde or light brown hair.
  • If you have a little bit of gray that you would like to blend away.
  • If you can’t commit to getting your roots touched up faithfully.
  • If you look great in cool colors such as blues and greens.
  • If your style needs a little interest around the front and a few chunky highlights would do the trick.
  • If you’re afraid of a big change.

Choosing Both Full Color & Highlights to Cover Gray

It is possible to have both full color and highlights! You might choose this option if your hair is mostly gray but you would like to achieve the effects of highlights. This is a good choice if you want to cover lots of gray but don’t want a one-dimensional tone.

If you choose this option you will need a permanent formula. You will be able to completely remove gray and also get multi dimensional highlights.

This would not be a good choice if you don’t have much gray hair. If you only have a few strands, you should opt for either highlights or full colour. Color treatments can damage your hair, so you don’t want to use more hair dye than necessary.

Do both if:

  • You have a lot of gray but would still like the effect that only highlights can obtain.
  • You want to add red or warmth and still have some chunks of lighter color around the front.
  • You are trying to correct or change another hair coloring application before you get highlights.
  • If your hair has become too light due to over processing and sun damage or was lightened too much during your last color process.

Final Thoughts

There are many other reasons why people choose the hair coloring services that they do, and those reasons can be as varied as the people themselves. So, if you have a color idea, do not be afraid to talk to your stylist about it. By working together, you and your stylist can find the perfect color combination to give you your best look yet.


FAQs on Highlighting and Coloring Hair

Can gray hair be highlighted?

Yes. If you have some gray hair but most of your original color you can just highlight the gray strands. Alternatively you can have low lights depending on what style you prefer. Celebrities like Meryl Streep and Judi Dench have styled their hair like this.

How do you cover gray roots with highlighted hair?

Always highlight one shade lighter than your natural color so your roots will be less obvious. Cover the gray with a different color to accentuate the highlights. Comb the dye through with a medium tooth comb.

Which is more damaging highlights or color?

In most salons single color is cheaper than highlights and single color can be more gentle on your hair. The bleach used in highlights can cause damage.

What is the difference between highlights and color?

With highlights only a few strands or streaks of hair are colored. Hair coloring however is the process of dyeing the entire head of hair.

Highlights or Full Color to Cover Gray

Thank you for reading my post about whether you should get highlights or full color to cover gray. For the best results speak to your hair dresser. It might not be necessary to color of your entire head of hair. Your hair stylist will be able to help you pick the right shade for you and advise on whether you should pick highlights or low lights.