Prev Next

Hair to Dye For

By Amalah

Hi Amalah –
I need help with home haircolor. I cannot justify paying someone to do it for me. Don’t have that cash, don’t have that time. I used to color my own hair obsessively, my hair was blonde, and big, and well, I lived in Texas then. And I had lots of time for such maintenance. But then I got married, and had babies, and high maintenance activities went out the window. Bah. Would rather sleep.
So. Now, I am getting gray hairs. Lots of them, like big swatches of them, its not just onesies-twosies anymore. In the summer I used to be able to get away with using that John Frieda Blonde shampoo and calling them highlights, but that’s not working so well anymore. I am kind of starting to look like that one model in the JJill catalogue with the long silvery-gray hair, and while she totally rocks that Santa Fe turqoise and silver hippie mama look, I do not. But I do not want to go back to having to do something regularly to cover up the roots. I don’t have time. Besides, the full on home hair color kits usually make the grays turn to frosted blonde, not what I’m looking for.
In 2007, shouldn’t there be a hair color product which you can rinse in during your shower that covers the gray? And lastly, why is there Just For Men, which only takes FIVE MINUTES as they say in the ads, and yet women’s home color products take a full 25 minutes? This is not fair.
I’m not looking for a full hair-makeover, I have accepted my hair after all these years for what it is, I stopped fighting it years ago. My natural haircolor is kind of a mousy light brown. It is straight, limp and normally lives in a ponytail. I just want a little sass. I am really looking for some kind of a shampoo/rinse where my own hair color comes through, only brighter. And with less (read: none) gray.

I’m just going to break it to you now: nope. What you want? It does not exist.
I’ve used a ton of the color-enhancing shampoos, and I’ve never thought any of them worked that well. And no, none of them will cover gray. Gray hair has no color to enhance, and the only way to cover it is with the loving, burny embrace of chemicals.
(Be wary of natural dyes like henna, by the way. They can sometimes turn gray hair orange.)
You don’t have to use the full-on permanent color, but you at least need to use a semi-permanent dye. I’m sure if you Google around you’ll find some not-available-in-stores formula that claims to cover gray in the shower, but I’m not buying it.
As for Just For Men and Grecian Formula and the like: there are a lot of reasons why there isn’t a five-minute equivalent for women, including hair length to texture (the mens’ haircolor kits work best on short, coarse hair like beards, and I don’t think there are many women with head hair that’s anything like a man’s facial stubble, yanno?), and also that we women tend to be a little more exacting when it comes to our hair color. We won’t be happy with salt-and-pepper, color that washes out quickly and/or leaves a splotch on the back of our friend’s couch. We want our hair to stay healthy and we want natural-looking highlights and basically we are all a bunch of pretty pretty little princesses.
clairol.jpgNo, I am kidding. But seriously. It’s 25 minutes. You really don’t have 25 minutes to spend on yourself? I know dying your hair isn’t the height of pampering relaxation, but MY LANDS. If that’s considered high maintenance, you can just slap my ass and call me J.Lo.
What if you got one of those little foot spas and soaked your feet while the dye sets? What if you picked up an InTouch or Us Weekly when you buy the hair color? Plop the kids in front of a cartoon, tell your husband he’s officially on diaper duty, lock the bathroom door and just…do this for yourself. You’ll feel better. You’ll look younger and thus feel younger. Fight the Frump!
(NOT that gray hair = frump, by any means. My mom just tossed out her L’Oreal Preference and has embraced her gray hair, and I think she looks AMAZING. I’m really addressing your ambivalence towards spending a little time on yourself here.)
I’m not even going to TRY to convince you to get your hair done at the salon, even though single-process color at a mid-scale salon isn’t nearly as expensive or time-consuming as highlights…and will solve the ashy-blonde color-choice problem.
(Okay, maybe I’ll try a little bit. You can’t blame me for that. It’s kind of my thing.)
Look: I don’t love getting my hair done. It’s expensive and takes half the damn day. I FEEL YOU. I tend to put it off for a long time. I’ve hacked my own split ends off with kitchen shears and sometimes I’ve wistfully looked at the at-home highlight kits, wishing they didn’t suck. (Because I’ve tried them. They suck.) I’m currently in dire need of some color but am trying to go one more month so I can buy some barstools for my kitchen this month.
But once I get to my appointment, once I remember how nice my stylist is to talk to and how much reading I can get done and how good I look by the time I walk out, it’s all so worth it.
Especially since I know it’ll be at least another six months before I have to go again. That’s also a nice feeling.

About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

icon icon
chat bubble icon


newest oldest most voted
Notify of

This may seem like a dumb question, but then this is really THE place for all those dumb beauty-related questions, right?
If you have, say, mousy-brown hair and use blond haircolor to cover those grays, will you get blond highlights with your regular color? Or, will you get some weird third color? Cause, ya know, I loved those highlights my stylist did before I moved across the country. And, I’m not lovin’ the gray grow-ins. And, I certainly don’t like my mousy-brown color enough to add MORE of it to my head.
Any advice?

Anne Glamore

I color my hair a lot (I get bored) and I really like the Loreal color in the red box– it has 2 steps where you do the 25 minute smelly base color, then you mix up a highlighting goo and paint it on for about 15 minutes. I grew up blonde, but now my hair is dishwater brown, and I use the color Brioche, although I read that the most popular color is something like Almond Roca (!?) My only caveat is that this brings out the red in my hair, even though it’s supposed to be “light golden… Read more »


I *love* coloring my hair (Garnier #42). The only good thing about my 50%-ish white hair (thanks to my children yeesh) is that the burgundy turns purple on those strands. Not only do I think it rocks, I get lots of compliments–even from my 12 yr old’s friends 😉
I like to read magazines, do a facial, and play soduku while I’m waiting to rinse. And THEN I feel oh so pretty after!


Last year when I started working 60+ hrs/week the idea of spending most of my Saturday morning in a chair at the salon was enough to lead me to a nervous breakdown. After trying every single hair color kit on the market I finally settled on Natural Match by Loreal. It’s the closest thing to salon rich color out there. Everyone assumes I still go to the salon to get it done. Never one for following directions, I now apply it in the shower (on dry hair) take my time shaving my legs and scraping the dead skin of my… Read more »