In this post, we’ll answer the reader who recently asked: “Why won’t my grey hair dye?”
The thing is, there are two ways to deal with the onset of greying hair.
If you’re a braver soul, you’ll embrace your new white hair, welcoming it with open arms and maybe getting a chic new haircut to match your salt-and-pepper look of mature glamour.
If you’re not as ready to give up the radiant hair color that gives you a youthful glow, you might be the type to find ways to cover it up.
You’ll look for coloring methods to darken your hair again and make it look more alive with the shade you’ve worn all your life – or maybe even try something completely new!
But masking your grey tresses with hair dye doesn’t always go as planned.
Many women deal with issues of their grey hair becoming resistant to color after a proper dye session.
What a waste of high-quality dye!
Let’s dive into some of the reasons why your grey hair might not be holding color all too well.
And as a bonus, a couple of tips for coloring those stubborn locks.
Why Hair Turns Grey
To truly comprehend why grey hair has a hard time holding color, you first need a basic understanding of what happens to your hair as you get older, and why it turns grey in the first place.
There are many reasons why your hair could turn grey.
Some people believe worrying and stressing out too much hastens the process of whitening your hair.
Others think an unhealthy diet and vices like smoking are to blame for it.
But the most probable cause of greying hair is aging.
As you age, your hair goes through many changes in composition and texture.
A lot of it has to do with losing its natural pigment, also known as your hair color.
Every hair follicle on your head has pigment cells that create melanin, the chemical compound that gives your locks their color.
But as you get older, melanin breaks down and fades.
The pigment cells that produce them also slow down and become less active until they eventually die out.
When this happens, your hair will become clear and see-through since there isn’t any melanin to give it color anymore.
To the naked eye, your hair strand will look grey or white.
And after some years’ time, your entire head of hair will be completely white.
Hair bleaches itself
Another interesting reason why hair turns grey is that it bleaches itself as you age.
Hair creates small amounts of hydrogen peroxide – yes, the same hydrogen peroxide you use to bleach your hair.
As you get older, the enzymes that break down this peroxide die out too, leaving your hair follicles with a build-up of peroxide that lightens your hair gradually.
It’s not stripping enough to get rid of your color all at once, but it definitely plays a role in turning all your hair completely grey or white.
Hair tends to be drier in older people as well.
The more mature you get, the less active your oil glands will be all around your body, including your scalp.
Since there’s less sebum to moisturize your hair naturally, you may end up with rough, dry hair.
Because of the loss of melanin and lack of oil production in the hair follicles, hair that is old and grey changes in texture.
It becomes more porous, leaving it parched and a bit rough and coarse to the touch.
Because of all these, it needs extra moisture and care.
Why Won’t My Grey Hair Dye?
For many people, seeing grey hair strands sprout from the top of their head from the first time, the knee-jerk reaction is along the lines of, “I need to hide this!”
So they’ll go hunting for a high-quality hair dye and try to “rectify” the situation at home.
But it’s important to note that because the composition and texture of grey hair are different from the naturally hydrated, colored hair you had in your youth, not all dyes work well with your new locks.
Because there’s no melanin in your grey hair, it absorbs color differently.
No melanin or pigment
Since there’s no melanin or pigment you can change up in your hair, your locks become color-resistant.
There’s nothing to stain, so it’s challenging to get dyes to work.
That’s why some big haircare brands have come out with permanent dye lines made exclusively for coloring grey locks.
Rough and dry texture
Another reason why gray hair resists color absorption is because of its rough and dry texture.
It doesn’t produce the same natural oils that coat and protect it throughout the day, so it’s not as smooth and hydrated as a few years back.
Coarse hair will reject color, especially when it’s porous and has many tiny gaps in the cuticle.
The more pores your hair has, the harder it is to seal the cuticle, so it’s difficult to take on new colors from hair dye.
And believe me – grey hair is insanely porous.
You may notice that it’s even more challenging to color your roots.
This is because your roots used to be the most moisturized and hydrated part of your hair due to their proximity to your oil glands.
But now that there is less moisture in the area, your roots can be pretty dry.
This can be a hassle if you’re planning on dyeing your hair and then touching up your roots whenever there’s new hair growth.
Thick, coarse cuticle
Another reason why it could be challenging to color grey hair is that the older you get, the thicker and more coarse your cuticle becomes.
Your strands will feel like they have a rough outer shell.
This thick protective layer outside your hair makes it even harder for dyes to penetrate the hair shaft.
To get dye to stain super thick hair, you can try to lift the cuticle with more force than an ordinary developer can.
But this is a double-edged sword – the risk here is that your locks can be prone to more damage.
Some stylists extend the usual time it takes for the hair to absorb color when coloring grey hair but use formulas with less harsh chemicals when doing so.
This gives stubborn, color-resistant hair more time to take in color.
As you can see, gray hair has trouble holding color, not because of its new silver or white shade, but the texture and composition changes it undergoes as you age.
What You Can Do To Help Your Gray Hair Hold Color
If you’re one of the lucky ones, a few minor adjustments in your choice of hair dye will work wonders for helping your stubborn grey hair finally hold color.
You may want to try going for a darker color.
If you used to have light blonde hair and can’t seem to get your white hair strands to hold on to that color again, consider going brunette instead.
Darker colors fare better when you try to camouflage your greying locks because of the coverage the deep, rich color provides.
Dyes infused with botanical oils
You could also go for a dye formula infused with nourishing botanical oils, like argan oil, coconut oil, or jojoba oil.
Remember, moisture strengthens your grey hair because it’s so parched.
Replenishing it with the hydration it needs can give it a better chance at holding color.
And when you’re dyeing your hair, you should be more patient, attentive, and thoughtful with your grey locks.
Do everything you can to make it easier for your grey hair to absorb the color without damaging it.
Saturate strands with dye
Make sure you completely saturate your strands with your dye of choice to ensure that every strand has enough of it to absorb.
If you’re dyeing your own hair, use your fingers or a gentle comb to massage the product into your hair to be sure your locks are fully coated with the dye.
And when the dye is setting in your hair, wrap your head in a plastic cover to trap heat inside.
This can give your stubborn hair a hand in allowing the pigment to enter and stain your tresses.
Add about ten or so minutes to the waiting time instructed by your dye’s packaging.
The more time dye has, the higher the chances of it penetrating the hair fiber.
Re-apply dye on your more resistant areas – like near your temples – to ensure this area has a fair shot of holding color.
Reaching your golden years is a fabulous achievement, and you have your greying hair to prove that you’ve made it this far!
It can be difficult to cover up the silver hair because of your strands’ new composition, texture, and lack of melanin.
But if you really want to cover it all up, opt for a permanent dye formulated explicitly for greying locks.
This will give you double the coverage to help color your hair the way you’d like.
If you’re also among the people wondering “why won’t my grey hair dye?”, you might also want to find a dye formula infused with nourishing oils to give your locks a leg up in the hydration department.
Otherwise, embrace your grey hair’s natural beauty.
Look on the bright side; you’ll blend in perfectly with those trendy teenagers sporting grey hair or silver locks on Instagram.
Talk about hip!
Whichever path you choose, know that growing older is a beautiful part of life – and so are those gorgeous grey locks you can flaunt with or without color!