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The Definitive Guide to Covering Grey Hair


How to Achieve Flawless Grey Hair Coverage & Blonding

Perfectly Covered Grey Hair

In this tutorial, we'll show you how to succeed with your grey coverage, no matter what color you are aiming for and how much grey hair you need to deal with. Let's go step by step.

First, Check How Much Grey Hair You Need to Cover.

Making an assessment of how much grey hair your client has is the first step.

Check at the regrowth area because that is where you can see the grey hair the best.

Grey Hair Percentage Charts

Use the images below to help you decide how much grey hair your client has:

Grey hair - 20%

Grey Hair - 20%

Grey hair - 40%

Grey hair - 40%

Grey hair - 70%

Grey Hair - 70%

Now, determine your client's natural hair color level.

Your client's natural hair color level is what the non-white, non-colored hair looks like.

If your client has previously colored her hair, look at the regrowth area to help you decide.

Use this chart to help you decide:

Hair Color Levels

Now, choose your target color

In principle, any color is achievable.

We would suggest that you choose at least 2 level above your client's natural hair color level. 

The reason is twofold.

First, the lighter you go, the easier it gets to cover grey.

In that respect blondes do have more fun. We will get to that later when we discuss going full-on blonde to blend away grey hair.

The second reason is that the overall result is actually more natural looking and younger when you take your client's hair lighter.

For grey hair coverage, we generally recommend that you aim to color slightly lighter than the natural hair color level of your client. 

So let's say that your client's natural hair color is 5 (Brown)

In this case we would suggest you go for a color starting in level 6 (Dark Blonde) or 7 (Blonde).

Now, choose your reflect

Once again, in principle, any reflect is achievable.

Go to the Ugly Duckling shade chart here in order to choose the color most suitable for your client.

The second and the third digits will give you the reflect.

So, in the example below, the level is 6 - dark blonde.

The .31 means that the primary reflect is gold and the second reflect is ash.

Ugly Duckling Hair Color

Adding in Base to improve Grey Hair Coverage

Adding in base is one of the very important things a stylist does in order to get the perfect balance between great grey hair coverage and a beautiful color result.

It's a professional judgement call, and if done right, it will end up giving much better color results than if the client had gone for regular box color.

And far better grey hair coverage. So it's really where a stylist comes into her own.

So here's what you should do:

If your client has 25% grey hair or more, regardless of the reflect that you choose, you need  to "add in some base".

Adding in base means adding some portion of the base color, or natural color together with your chosen color.

The base you choose should be the same level as the target color - the color that you are aiming for.

Adding in this base will give you a better chance of getting flawless grey hair coverage.

So for example, let's say that your client has level 7 blonde hair with 50% grey hair.

Let's say that you are aiming for level 9 and your client wants to go ash blonde. 

That would make her target color, or chosen color 9.1, or 9A.

But you need to add in some base. So you need to mix in some 9N in with the 9A.

Should I use regular base or extra coverage base?

You can use either the regular base (anything ending in N) or an extra coverage base (anything ending in NN).

In general, the extra coverage bases are only for women with very thick, dark hair which is very resistant to grey hair coverage.

Asian hair,  African hair and Hispanic hair in particular.

The downside to using extra coverage as base is that the color reflect will tend to get dulled down.

So that is why in most cases using the regular base is better.

How much base should you add in?

Here are the rules for adding in base.

  • If the amount of grey hair is less than 25%, no base is needed. Just go with your target color.
  • Above that, whatever the percentage of grey hair, use the same percentage of base.

So to use the example of the client looking to go 9A:

  • If she has 50% grey hair, you would need to make a mix of half a tube of  9.1 and half a tube of  9N.
  • If she has 75% grey hair, you would need to make a mix of 1/4 a tube of 9.1 and 3/4 tube of 9N
  • If she has 100% grey hair, you would need to use only 9N: so, no 9.1

What Volume Developer should I use when doing grey hair coverage?

Use 20 Vol developer for most grey hair coverage situations. 20 Vol developer will give you the optimum opening of the hair cuticle and will allow you to get a good mixture of color vibrancy and coverage.

Use 30 Vol developer only if you are trying to lift the hair using High Lift color (see below) and blend away grey at the same time.

You should only do this when the natural hair is already quite light - level 7 blonde and above.

In all other cases, when you need to lift and cover, you will need to use bleach first then color.

And in such cases, Ugly Duckling bleaches are powerful enough for 20 Vol developer to work very well most of the time.

Use a 1+1 mix ratio. So, for example if you are using a whole tube of color, with Ugly Duckling tubes, you would be adding 3.5 oz of developer into your 3.5 oz of color.

Use a kitchen scale to weigh out your products in order to get the best results - although it is true to say that experienced stylists do it by sight also.

Ugly Duckling products have a lot of tolerance built in, so it is not a big deal if there is a little too much or a too little of developer.

Use gloves as you can see in the picture below.

Mixing in developer

How Should I Mix the color and apply when covering grey hair

Once you have got your products in the mixing bowl, mix using a plastic whisk until you have a really smooth, creamy mix.

For grey hair coverage, it is best to start at the regrowth area, where you see the most grey hair.

Remember to saturate the hair really really well with product. That is the key for getting great grey hair coverage and a really rich color result.

Once you have applied there, extend on to the lengths. 

Apply the first time with a brush, segmenting carefully so that every part of the hair comes into contact with the product.

Once you have applied everywhere, do a second application (make a small amount of fresh mix if necessary) and this time rub in with fingers using gloves.

By doing this you will help get better coverage and also better color vibrancy.

Leave in for 30 minutes. You can leave in for an extra 10 minutes (that is to say, 40 minutes) in cases where the hair is very thick and resistant to grey hair coverage.

Going Blonde To Cover Grey At the Same Time - Using Lightener

We talked earlier about going lighter in order to cover grey hair better.

Many women take the arrival of grey hair as an opportunity to go lighter. Some in fact choose to go blonde.

As we said before, going blonde makes grey hair that much easier to cover, as blonde hair and white hair are quite close to each other in aspect.

If the natural hair is quite dark (level 6 and below) you will need to use bleach first and lift the whole hair.

Then cover.

And if your client has already gone blonde, but her dark regrowth is showing, the regrowth needs to be taken blonde first before you do anything else.

For dark roots or for full head bleaching, we would suggest that you use Brilliant Blondexx with Bond Protect.

It is gentle enough to be applied on the root area, and yet it has powerful lift and will allow you to lift with only 20 Vol developer in most cases.

Make a mix of 1 part Brilliant Blondexx to 2 parts 20 Vol developer, then add to all the parts that need lifting.

For taking the hair white blonde once the roots are bleached, use an Ugly Duckling toner like Pearl Blonde Toner 10V or Silver Blonde Toner 10B.

If the hair has more than 40 or 50% white hair, you should also mix in some base (as we saw earlier).

This will help re-pigment the white hairs and give you better grey hair coverage.

We would suggest you use 10N or 9N as base color. Mix in half base, half toner and you should be good.

Brilliant Blondexx


Hair by Elona Taki.

Going Blonde To Cover Grey At the Same Time - Using High Lift Color

When the natural base is level 7 and above, and when the hair is quite fine and takes color easily, you can get away with using high lift color instead of using bleach.

Use Ugly Duckling's 100.11 with 30 Vol in that case.

It is a deep ash based high lift, and you can use it on the roots. Then extend onto the lengths to refresh them.


About the author

Sally has been a hair colorist and trainer for many years in both the US & Europe. She currently does hair color training for Ugly Duckling. She also helps develop new & awesome products for the brand.



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