Hair dye options for men

Q. How do I dye my hair now that it’s going salt & pepper? Of course, those around me will know, but I still don’t want it looking overly obvious and want it to look good.  Would adding a beard make it work better, and/or distract from the change?

A. Much of the answer depends upon who you are – age, hair color, other coloring, kind of hair, and for that last part, how well you grow a beard and look in one.  Whether you want and can afford to pay someone to do the work (once or ongoing) is also a factor. All of that said, there are definitely products that can be used at home, that are not difficult to use, and that do a good job.

There are good reasons to have your hair colored by a professional colorist, at least the first time. They know how it should look and how to make sure it does. No surprises. Keep in mind, when considering whether to have your hair colored professionally, that this is a job for a good hair salon, not a barber. No need to concern yourself about this; well-dressed businessmen and professionals have been going to hair salons for years for both a good haircut and hair coloring. If you commit to having a pro color your hair on an ongoing basis, you must realize this is an expensive decision and can be time-consuming.

Your idea about growing a beard (or a mustache) makes a lot of sense. People who see you know that something is different, but they think it’s the beard, not that your hair is colored. This is very much like women who choose a new and different haircut so others only notice the style and not the color.

Here is my most important advice regarding dyeing:

  • The first few times, go a little lighter than your original hair color, not the same color as your hair. Once you have colored it, you can always go darker. But if you make it too dark, you have to wait until it all grows out to start over and get a natural look.
  • Don’t cover all the gray hair. You want the color to blend so the white isn’t so white and the change is subtle, not drastic.
  • Dyes are incredibly hard to get out of your hair, and will dry a shade or two darker than you expect. If your hair is usually dark brown, the first time you color it, choose a light brown color to balance between your gray and brown hairs. Too-dark looks artificial.
  • Hair and beard should generally look the same.
  • Never dye your hair shortly before a big occasion. If you have an important social event (say, your child’s wedding) or a business interview coming up, don’t dye your hair. If it’s preparation for a reunion, you won’t be the only one doing it, and they will be wondering if you do!

There certainly are reasons for a man to color his hair: It is a fine way to shave years off of his age, and it can help improve his self-confidence.

On the other hand, not only is the process not all that easy to do on your own, but not everyone agrees it’s a great idea. Many people – especially women – find salt-and-pepper hair very attractive on a man.

If you do want to color your hair yourself, go with one of the well-thought-of brands: Perhaps the simplest product of all to use is not a dye at all, John Frieda “Hair Glaze” is hard to find, but available on Amazon. Another is Just for Men “Control GX” Gray Reducing Shampoo.

Dyes include: Clairol Natural Instincts Men’s Hair Color, Just for Men “Touch of Gray,” “AutoStop Comb-In Hair Color,” and “Original Formula Men’s Hair Color,” and Redken 5 Minute Hair Color. They all come in a variety of colors, are affordable, and can look natural. But they require focus; follow this advice:

  • Choose a product specifically “for gray hair.” Go to the website to help choose the color.
  • It’s important to do the skin-allergy patch test 48 hours before you first use color.
  • When you color your hair, allow plenty of time. Be sure to have all the right equipment, including plastic gloves. Wear an old T-shirt and cover the sink with an old towel. Right after you color, rinse the shower thoroughly; as soon as it drips, it will stain.
  • Get a standard body lotion (or Vaseline) and rub it along your hairline to prevent dye from bleeding onto your skin.
  • Apply color on dry, not newly-shampooed, hair.
  • Combing the color through the hair instead of applying all over with a brush allows some gray to shine through for a more natural look and helps prevent the “shoe-polish” effect.
  • Don’t leave the color on longer than recommended.
  • Maintain with a “shampoo for color-treated hair” to help the color last.
  • If you read the directions on the box and still have questions, call the 800 number. Those message people I called to review were knowledgeable and could be very helpful.

Still, if you’re older, maybe you should have a few gray hairs.

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