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Can a color rinse cover grey hair?

As we get older, it’s common for hair to start turning grey. For some, those first few greys can be dismaying. While some people embrace their natural grey locks, others prefer to cover up greying hair. There are permanent hair dye options to completely color over grey hair. However, if you’re not ready to make an all-over permanent color change, using a color rinse is a temporary option to conceal greys between salon appointments.

What is a color rinse and how does it work on grey hair? Here we’ll explore whether color rinses can effectively cover grey hair and tips for selecting and applying a rinse.

What is a Color Rinse?

A color rinse is a temporary colored conditioning product that deposits color onto the hair shaft without permanently altering the hair. Color rinses coat the hair with a thin layer of translucent color to add tone and shine. They are quick and easy to apply at home between salon visits.

Rinses come in a wide range of colors from natural black and brown to vibrant bold hues like red and purple. There are clear rinses that simply add shine without depositing color. The results of a rinse will depend on your base hair color and the chosen rinse shade.

How Color Rinses Differ from Permanent Hair Dye

Permanent hair dye uses ammonia and peroxide to open the hair cuticle and deposit color that penetrates into the hair shaft. This permanently alters the base color. Permanent dye lasts 4-6 weeks as the hair grows out.

Color rinses do not contain ammonia or bleach. They work by coating the outside of the hair with temporary coloring. The color molecules are too large to penetrate the hair shaft so they simply coat the cuticle. The result is a sheer tint that washes out after several shampoos.

Permanent Hair Dye Color Rinse
Ammonia and peroxide to open cuticle No harsh chemicals
Deposits color into hair shaft Coats color onto hair strand
Long lasting 4-6 weeks Temporary, washes out in days

Can Rinses Cover Grey Hair?

Color rinses can help tone down grey hair, but the results depend on:

– Base hair color
– Percentage of grey hair
– Shade of rinse used

Results on Light Grey Hair

If your hair is naturally light blonde or greyish white, a darker rinse in a brown or black shade will help neutralize those stubborn grays. The darker rinse will act like a sheer veil over the lighter hair.

For example, a blue-based black rinse will counteract yellowy grey hair for an ashier, richer dark tone. It won’t look as flat and unnatural as a permanent black dye.

Results on Darker Hair with Greys

If your natural hair color is dark brown or black, a lighter rinse can help blend away emerging silvery hairs by enhancing your underlying base color.

Using a blue- or purple-tinted rinse in a shade close to your natural color adds dimensionality for a youthful effect. The violet hues help neutralize brassiness as the grey strands reflect light differently than pigmented hair.

Results on More Than 50% Grey Hair

If over half your hair is grey, a rinse alone may not be enough to disguise the grey. Since the color is translucent, it won’t be able to fully override very light grey hair. The grey strands will take on a subtle tint but still look noticeably lighter than your pigmented hair.

In this case, a permanent dye may be better to completely cover all the grey area. If you really want to use a rinse, try a two-step process. First dye your roots the closest matching permanent color. Then use a rinse the same shade as your dyed hair to blend the rest.

Tips for Using a Color Rinse

To get the best results from a color rinse on grey hair, follow these tips:

1. Choose the Right Shade

Pick a rinse hue that closely matches your natural color rather than going drastically lighter or darker. This will look the most natural.

Go two shades darker if you want the rinse to cover grey hair. For lighter hair, ash or platinum rinses offset yellowing. For darker hair, try black with blue or red tones to enhance and add vibrancy to cover grey.

2. Apply Evenly

Apply the rinse smoothly and evenly throughout clean, wet hair. Work in sections and use a wide-tooth comb to distribute the product from roots to ends.

Don’t just spot treat visible grey areas. Covering all the hair will help blend for a seamless result.

3. Leave on the Right Amount of Time

The longer you leave the rinse on, the more intense the color result. Follow the product directions, but generally 5-15 minutes is ideal for subtle color deposit.

Rinse with cool water which will help seal the cuticle and lock in the color. Rinsing with hot water can cause the color to fade faster.

4. Condition Hair Afterward

Always condition after using a color rinse. The coloring agents can dry out hair so it’s important to follow up with hydrating conditioner. Focus conditioner on the ends which are prone to dryness.

5. Repeat Regularly

For best coverage of new grey growth, use your rinse at least once a week or every 2-3 washes. Time between applications depends on your percentage of grey hair. More greys means you may need to rinse more often.

Best Color Rinses for Grey Hair

Here are top-rated rinses for toning down grays:

Clairol Temporary Color Rinse

  • Comes in 14 shades
  • Lasts about 6 shampoos
  • Enhances shine
  • Minimal scent

John Frieda Brilliant Brunette Visibly Deeper Color Deepening Conditioner

  • Infuses dark brunette tones
  • Neutralizes brassiness
  • Contains cocoa to enhance and add vibrancy

Aussie Color Mate Gloss Hair Color

  • Available in 7 shades
  • Includes conditioner
  • No ammonia or peroxide
  • Lasts 4-6 shampoos

L’Oreal Paris Colorista Semi-Permanent Hair Color

  • Comes in 8 funky shades like blue, purple, pink
  • No bleach or peroxide
  • Vibrant color payoff
  • Washes out in 4-6 weeks

Redken Color Extend Brownlights Blue Toning Masque

  • Neutralizes brassiness in lighter hair
  • Blue-violet tint blends away grays
  • Use as weekly conditioning treatment

Matrix Total Results Color Depositing Purple Shampoo

  • Reduces yellow tones
  • Violet tint helps disguise grey growth
  • Use on blonde to white hair
  • Daily use for maximum toning

Are Color Rinses Damaging for Hair?

The major benefit of color rinses compared to permanent dye is that they do not penetrate the hair shaft so they do not cause internal damage to the hair structure. However, there are still a few things to keep in mind:

Can Dry Out Hair Over Time

Frequent use of rinses can cause dryness over time. The coloring agents coat the outside of the hair strands and can wear down the protective cuticle layer causing dehydration.

Combat this by always conditioning after rinsing and focusing on hydrating and strengthening treatments.

May Cause Skin Staining

Rinses can temporarily stain skin, especially around the hairline, ears and neck. Wear gloves during application and rinse skin immediately if product comes in contact.

Can Interact with Permanent Color

If you permanently color your hair, the color rinse could cause an unexpected result. Do a strand test first to check for odd reactions.

The different chemical compounds may interact in unpredictably ways, such as quickly fading color or depositing off-tone hues.


While color rinses cannot fully disguise grey hair in the way permanent dye can, they offer a great temporary coloring option between salon trips. Rinses can tone down and blend away emerging grey hairs for a quick refresh.

When shopping for a rinse, look for:

– A reputable salon brand
– A shade that matches your natural or dyed color
– Formulas designed specifically for covering grey hair

Avoid overuse to prevent drying out hair. Always follow up with a hydrating conditioner. Time applications based on how quickly grey grows in for optimal coverage between permanent root touch ups.

With the right color and application method, rinses can be an easy at-home solution for concealing those pesky greys!