How to Color Gray Hair Using Lowlights

By Krissy Howard

Going gray can be a difficult process for some, both aesthetically and emotionally. Most people reach for the bottle at the first sign of gray strands, while others aim to embrace their natural look, which can be made even easier with a few hair-care treatments. If you're ready to work with your grays, lowlights can provide a great option to help you transition into your new hair color by blending grays in a natural-looking way.

Laughing blond babe
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How to Color Gray Hair Using Lowlights

What are Lowlights?

Simply put, getting lowlights involves a coloring technique that adds darker strands to your hair to reduce the stark contrast between grays and pigmented strands. The results offer more overall depth to your look, helping grays blend with your existing color in a supportive way that makes them work for you, rather than allowing them to weigh down your look. Lowlights provide an effective alternative to covering them up.

Pros and Cons

Lowlights can make a great option for anyone ready to embrace gray locks in a way that appears natural, healthy and stylish. Unlike highlights, which lighten strands of the hair, lowlights tend to resist fading or oxidizing as they rely on deeper tones to help grays blend in. Because lowlights only require certain strands to be treated with harsh chemical dyes, they tend to do less damage than an all-over treatment might. Additionally, lowlights offer the illusion of more movement and vibrancy, unlike the monochromatic results of a full dye job, which can appear flat over time.

The downside of lowlights are few and mostly apply to those who touch up their hair continuously. Over-treating can result in muddy or washed-out looking locks, particularly at or near the ends, where artificial color tends to collect. Regular trims provide a quick fix to this problem, however, and should be done to keep hair healthy and vibrant.

How to Use

Adding lowlights can be done at home on any shade of hair with the right tools and a bit of time and patience. First, choose a hair color not more than two shades darker than your existing (non-gray) color. Part hair down the center and decide which areas you wish to lowlight. Use the end of a comb to separate the small section you wish to cover and place a strip of foil under it. Using an application brush, paint your color onto the hair from root to tip, wrap in foil and repeat as needed. If this is your first time low lighting your own hair, it's best to start small and work your way up, lowlighting only a few sections on each side of the head to start. Allow the dye to sit for about 10 to 15 minutes and rinse clean.

If you're not totally ready to commit to lowlighting, you can play around with natural ingredients to add a temporary stain to strands. Coffee, tea leaves and henna all offer safe and effective options for anyone looking to keep chemical products off her hair.

Because adding lowlights to the hair is a process more involved than just covering the entire head with one uniform color, consulting a professional is always an excellent option, especially for anyone looking to transition to a full head of gray. As with any cut or color procedure, always come prepared with a photo of your desired end result to help avoid any unwanted color catastrophes.