How Often to Touch up Gray Roots and what Volume Developer to Use

Last Updated on January 9, 2023 by Gaga

Gray Hair is the decorative tinsel you wish you could put on your Christmas tree and get off your head. Instead, these dust-colored strands make sure to shine right in the most obvious places, like your part line and hairline perimeter.

In the early stages, you may have resorted to plucking each newcomer. That was short-lived. It only seemed to drive their growth in droves. This is when you realized these aren’t shreds of demur, pretty tinsel trying to enhance your shine, nay-nay, these are well-organized multipliers ready to take over your entire head’s color palette, one strand at a time.

So, What Can You Do?

a woman with red hair showing her gray roots

For starters, get educated on how to address your spreading grey color using the right color, developer level, and techniques. There are a variety of dying methods that can keep your brunette rich and fresh looking. Or maybe you’re a solid natural blonde and you want to stay that way; Natural redheads are left in a vulnerable place when attempting to keep their rare color from fading out due to grey.

Let’s take a look at your options no matter what color your hair is.

How Often to Recolor/Touch-Up Gray Hair?

Since the rate of hair growth differs from to person, some people need more frequent rout touch-ups than others. When your natural roots become longer than an inch it is hard to ignore them.

If you have a few gray hairs, then the best option would be to use temporary root color products to mask grays between color touch-ups. This way you can reduce the use of chemicals in your hair care. If you have more salt than pepper, it would be best to opt for permanent root coverage.

If your hair grows at the average speed, the amount of time between dye sessions will hinge on the percentage of grey you have in your hair. If you’re 20-40% grey, you’ll be re-dying the grey every 8 weeks. If you’re 50% or more grey, it will be closer to every 6 weeks. And if you’re 70-100% grey it may be closer to every 4 weeks.

DIY Grey Coverage and Developer Level for Brunettes

If it’s just your root growth that needs to be dyed with a single color, you can go to any Sally’s Store or local beauty store and pick up quality permanent dye that matches your natural color. Try to avoid drugstore hair dye. It contains metallic salts, which yield unpredictable results.

There’s the most important piece of advice I want to share with you: always read and perform the color instructions on the packaging exactly. Taking matters into your own hands and changing the amounts of either the dye or the developer can result in unfortunate colors you did not expect. Then correcting the mistake can add up to hundreds of dollars. 

Typically, you’ll mix your color according to the ratio on the packaging. 20 Volume developer is standard for good grey coverage, but again make sure to follow the instructions.

Anything less than a 20-volume developer won’t yield quality results for your grey hair, which is more difficult to penetrate than non-grey hair.

redheared woman showing her gray roots

If you’re around 20% grey (See Pinterest for how to know what percentage grey color you are), you can apply the color near your roots first, let it process for 30 minutes, then drag the color down and cover the rest of the hair if the grey shows up below the roots. Process for another 15 minutes. If it’s only showing at the root, just do that area. 45 minutes is the standard processing time for most grey coverage. 

Grey Hair Coverage and Developer Level for Solid Blondes and Natural Redheads

Color matching gets more specific and intricate for medium blondes and redheads. The levels tend to hover between 6 and 9 (depending on if there are additional highlights), where exact matching can be more difficult. It can be a good idea to get help with color-matching.

Madison Reed Color Bar can be a great tool for people who want to do their own color but need help with the formula.

You’ll start by taking a simple quiz about your hair. It asks what you’re looking to cover, what the texture of your hair is, if there are any additional color goals, whether your hair already has dye on it or not, if you do it yourself and how often, the color of your eyes, skin tone, and what your comfort level is doing this yourself, and how grey you are. It’s a pretty thorough quiz to get you started on the right track.

Based on your quiz results, there is a how-to guide for color application. It targets the roots if there’s grey hair color, but it also addresses the shine level of the rest of the hair if you’re looking to boost shine and the overall health of all your hair with a lovely gloss. 

Grey Hair Coverage with a Colorist

The most surefire way to enjoy your hair dye and the right developer volume is to leave it in the hands of color experts. Hair and the process of covering grey are intricate and very difficult, even if at first glance it seems easy.

Covering grey hair with dye has certain nuances that only education and experience can tackle. In addition to this, each person’s hair is different so there are tricks of the trade a knowledgeable colorist can use if you’re having difficulty covering the grey.

Seeing a colorist also prevents common mistakes like regular overlapping which can cause banding and color buildup. Waiting too long for root touch-up and then doing it on your own can result in color banding. If you apply the color over the gray and it overlaps the darker natural color below it, over time this can create an unwanted color band that’s darker than the rest of your hair. These are difficult to fix and will stay as your hair continues to grow.

Some undertones need to be considered and without expert knowledge on the subject, this can get tricky. For example, if your brunette color has too much ash in it, over time your hair may begin to take on a green hue. This can take time, and a lot of money to correct.

By finding a knowledgeable colorist, you greatly decrease the risk of needing to get a future color correction service. Anyone who has been through this knows the dread. 

Enjoy the beautiful results only an expert colorist can give. They can also add in extra fun details like highlights that complement the overall color you’re trying to achieve. 

a woman with red hair after having root touch-up


About the author

Dragica Mitrovic Gaga
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Gaga is a blogger and founder of the Softer Hair website. She often says that insomnia is to blame for her first blogging attempts. Being the night owl, she hated the morning alarm. She left her office job and returned to what she loved most - writing.


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