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Can Shades EQ cover GREY?

Welcome back to my blog! As an experienced hair colorist, I often get asked if Shades EQ hair color can be used to cover grey hair. In this comprehensive guide, I’ll explain everything you need to know about using Shades EQ for gray coverage.

What is Shades EQ?

Shades EQ is a professional semi-permanent hair color made by Redken. It deposits color onto the hair strands without lifting or depositing color into the underlying pigment. This makes it gentler than permanent hair color.

Shades EQ is available in a wide range of intermixable shades. It can create subtle highlights, glossy toners, or all-over color. The results last 4-6 weeks before fading gradually.

Can Shades EQ Cover Grey Hair?

Yes, Shades EQ can be used to cover gray hair! However, it works a bit differently than permanent color.

Permanent hair color uses ammonia and peroxide to open the cuticle and alter the natural pigment in the hair. This allows it to create drastic color changes and provide lasting gray coverage.

Shades EQ is a demi-permanent color that coats the outside of the hair strands. It can’t lighten hair or remove natural pigment. But it can still provide gray blending by depositing a tone that neutralizes and blends with the gray.

Pros of Using Shades EQ for Gray Coverage

There are several benefits to using Shades EQ instead of permanent color for gray coverage:

  • Gentler on hair – won’t cause damage like permanent color can
  • Subtle, natural-looking results
  • Less maintenance since it fades gradually
  • More versatility – can tone, highlight, gloss etc.
  • No need to re-touch roots as frequently

Cons of Using Shades EQ for Gray Coverage

The drawbacks of using Shades EQ for grays include:

  • Limited lightening ability – works best on hair that is already close to your target shade
  • Doesn’t last as long as permanent color
  • Root regrowth will be more obvious
  • Results can appear slightly muted on resistant gray hair

Best Candidates for Shades EQ Gray Coverage

Shades EQ tends to work best for covering grays on clients who:

  • Have less than 50% gray hair
  • Want a subtle, low maintenance color
  • Have hair that is already light enough to achieve their ideal shade
  • Prefer a gentle, conditioning hair color

It may not be the best choice for clients with more than 50% resistant gray hair who want maximum coverage and longevity.

Mixing Shades EQ for Gray Coverage

To optimize Shades EQ for gray coverage, knowledgeable mixing is key. Here are some tips:

  • Use a shade that is lighter and warmer than the natural hair color as the base. This helps cancel out gray tones.
  • Add a touch of high lifting brightener if the hair needs slight lightening.
  • Add a violet-based tone (eg. 5V, 6V) to counteract yellowing of gray hair.
  • Use Creative Shade EQ shades to adjust intensity and hue.
  • Mix a gloss treatment into the formula for added conditioning and vibrancy.

Application Techniques for Maximum Gray Coverage

In addition to proper formulation, application techniques impact results with Shades EQ gray coverage:

  • Always pre-lighten hair that needs substantial lifting. Shades EQ can only lighten hair a maximum of 1-2 levels.
  • Shampoo well and towel dry hair before applying color.
  • Section hair cleanly and neatly to ensure thorough application.
  • Fully saturate grays by directly painting formula onto resistant areas.
  • Process for maximum suggested processing time.
  • Rinse hair thoroughly until water runs clear to avoid uneven results.

Maintenance Schedule for Shades EQ Gray Coverage

One downside to Shades EQ for grays is that it doesn’t last as long as permanent color. Here are some tips for maintenance:

  • Plan to recolor every 4-6 weeks to refresh faded areas.
  • Use a weekly glossing or toning treatment to help extend vibrancy between full coloring services.
  • Use a root concealer or root touch-up 2-3 weeks after coloring to blend regrowth.
  • Switch to permanent color once gray coverage becomes too difficult to maintain.

Shades EQ Results on Different Percentages of Gray Hair

How well Shades EQ covers grays largely depends on how much gray hair is present. Here is an overview of typical results:

Percentage of Gray Hair Shades EQ Gray Coverage Results
10-25% gray Excellent coverage – grays blend seamlessly into overall color.
25-50% gray Good coverage – some resistant grays may remain visible.
50-75% gray Moderate coverage – gray blending but some warm tones may come through.
75-100% gray Limited coverage – main goal is muting and toning down gray.

How to Use Shades EQ Gloss for Gray Coverage

For clients who want subtle, low-maintenance toning of grays between full coloring services, a Shades EQ gloss can help. Here’s how to use a gloss for gray coverage:

  • Choose a gloss shade that compliments your overall target color and tones down gray.
  • Mix gloss with equal parts 3Volume developer to deposit color.
  • Apply directly onto damp, freshly shampooed hair.
  • Leave on for 5-15 minutes depending on desired intensity.
  • Rinse thoroughly and follow with recommended aftercare.
  • Repeat weekly between regular coloring services.

Shades EQ Ammonia-Free Gray Coverage

Clients concerned about harsh chemicals like ammonia will be happy to know there is an ammonia-free way to use Shades EQ for gray coverage. Here’s how:

  • Substitute the Sensitive Scalp developer for ammonia developer.
  • Mix and apply shades as normal.
  • Expect softer, more muted gray coverage results.
  • Process for longer time of up to 30 minutes.
  • Use enhancing products like Contrast or EQ Gloss for extra vibrancy.

While the coverage won’t be as complete, it provides a gentler option for those concerned about hair damage or scalp sensitivity.

Shades EQ Gray Coverage Before and After Photos

Seeing is believing when it comes to Shades EQ’s gray coverage capabilities. Here are some before and after photos of clients who successfully covered their gray with Shades EQ:

Client with gray hair before Client with colored hair after
Client with half gray hair before Client with subtle gray coverage after
Client with salt and pepper hair before Client with blended gray coverage after

How to Do a Strand Test for Shades EQ Gray Coverage

It’s always smart to do a strand test before applying any new hair color directly to the head. Follow these steps for strand testing Shades EQ:

  1. Mix up your desired Shades EQ formula as usual.
  2. Select clean, dry strands in an inconspicuous area like underneath the nape.
  3. Separate strands and fully saturate with formula using a brush.
  4. Cover strands with plastic wrap and allow to process for full time.
  5. Rinse strands and dry.
  6. Examine results and adjust formula if needed.
  7. Proceed to full application if satisfied.

Strand testing shows you exactly how the color will deposit on your actual hair so you can perfect the formula before applying to the entire head.

How to Correct Shades EQ Gray Coverage If It Comes Out Too Dark

Gray coverage with Shades EQ can sometimes accidentally come out darker than intended. Here are some tips for correcting it:

  • Wash with clarifying shampoo 2-3 times to fade and remove excess tone.
  • Use an anti-residue shampoo weekly to continue lifting shade.
  • Apply a lighter, ash-based Shades EQ toner to counteract warmth.
  • Use vitamin C hair treatment to help lighten and neutralize undertones.
  • If needed, perform a color remover treatment to strip color further.
  • Avoid permanent dye until darker shade fades sufficiently.

With some fading and toning, you can gradually adjust the results to your desired level without having to re-color entirely.

How to Correct Shades EQ Gray Coverage If It Comes Out Too Warm

If Shades EQ makes grays turn too yellow, orange or brassy, you can take these corrective steps:

  • Use a violet-based toner like Clear to neutralize yellow tones.
  • Opt for ash or platinum shades in your next application to prevent warmth.
  • Rinse with blue-toning shampoo or conditioner to reduce brassiness.
  • Look for tones ending in V (violet) or A (ash) which counteract warmth.
  • Avoid gold, copper and red EQ shades which can intensify warmth.
  • Perform a soap cap or vitamin C treatment to remove unwanted warmth.


I hope this guide provided you with all the insight you need into using Shades EQ for gray coverage! While it has some limitations, Shades EQ can be an excellent semi-permanent option for blending away grays with a gentle, conditioning formula.

With the right technique and maintenance schedule, the results of Shades EQ on gray hair can be gorgeous, multidimensional and soft. Just be sure to adjust your expectations and application based on how much gray hair is present.

Let me know if you have any other questions! I’m always happy to help both hair color newbies and experts get the most beautiful results from Shades EQ.