The Ultimate Guide To Covering Your Roots Between Salon Appointments

Photographed by Jens Ingvarsson.
As you well know, we love discussing the latest and greatest in hair color here at R29. But all our guidance and inspiration would be useless if it weren't balanced with the tips and tricks necessary to take care of your color at home. From keeping your blonde hair looking salon-perfect to knowing how to grow out your color when you're over it, we're here to help you. And today, we're gonna talk about roots. (Cue sad-trombone sound.)

Fret not! You can easily disguise roots, no matter the type. It just takes the right product and a little know-how. With the help of a slew of experts giving us pointers along the way, we've put together a handy guide to all the different ways you can cover your roots between color appointments. From no-messing-around permanent hair color to gels that you can get rid of in a single wash, you'll find the right option for you ahead.
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Permanent Color Kits
Permanent color kits are not for the at-home-color novice. Typically, a kit contains everything you need for a (relatively) flawless application: mixing bowl, brush, and a formula that is thick enough to stay where you put it.

Best For: Covering gray roots on darker shades of hair. Blonde hair is tough to match, so steer clear unless you're experienced.

What You Need To Know: It's important to select a product that includes an actual paintbrush; any kind of comb or bottle will be much more difficult to place. Don't try and cover all your roots — that's when things can get risky. Instead, focus on the sections that you can see, like the hairline and part, and recruit a friend to help you with the back of your crown. Before you begin, test a small section of hidden roots to be sure that the color is desirable and your scalp doesn't have an adverse reaction.

When rinsing out the color, it's important to remember that it can tint any lighter pieces of hair it comes in contact with, even if it's for a second. If you have lighter ends, highlights, or any kind of dimension built into your color, be sure to rinse and then shampoo out all the color with cold water. (Not room-temp, not cool — we mean cold!) This will help the color from transferring.

Try: Celeb colorist Justin Anderson turned us on to dpHUE's root kit. He helped formulate it with his clients in mind, and recommends they use it when they can't get in to see him. Or, in a pinch, make a drugstore stop and pick up Clairol's OG formula — it comes with an actual brush and is available in a whopping 22 shades.
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Color-Depositing Shampoo & Conditioners
Color-depositing shampoo, conditioners, and masks are just what they sound like: You use these in the shower to give your hair a jolt of color. They're typically free of ammonia, peroxide, or bleach, which give permanent color its power. Instead, they're full of pigments that will latch on, bond, stain — however you want to say it — to temporarily color the hair. While not typically designated as root-covering products, they can do more than just refresh your overall hair color.

Best For: Light roots coming in against dark or vibrantly colored locks, like rainbow hues or reds, on a natural blonde or light brunette. They can also be used on gray hair, though don't expect miracles, as grays tend to be coarser than the rest of your strands, making them harder to penetrate and disguise.

Blonde? Be wary. Any product that promises to lighten your dark roots to a shade of blonde in the shower could end up stripping away the toner on the rest of your hair in the process, so check with your colorist first.

What You Need To Know:
Don't expect to step out of the shower looking like you just hit the salon. Instead, expect a soft wash of color that will diffuse roots and lessen the severity of the line of demarcation on your 'do. However, for their ease of use and (basically) risk-free results, they're a great option.

You can apply these in the shower to freshly washed roots and hair, or apply a thick layer to dry roots and let it sit before jumping in the shower to finish. (Obviously, you'll have to skip shampoo that day.) The best part? Since these formulas lack the damaging ingredients in regular hair dyes, you can use them as much as you want.

Try: L.A. colorist Christopher Pierce recommends Davines' formulas for those in the red family, or try the brand-new formulation from TouchBack, which offers dark and medium-brown options.
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Pressed Powders
They may look like eyeshadows, but mineral-based pressed-powder root cover-ups are specifically designed to be used on the hair. For example, Color Wow's formula (the leader on the market) was created by bonding color pigments to a negatively charged powder formula that sticks to the hair like a magnet.

Best For: Gray and blonde roots coming in against dark or red locks. The formula can also work on bottle blondes with light-brown or ashy-blonde tones, but don't expect it to completely cover super-dark roots — it's powder, not dye.

What You Need To Know: A pressed-powder formula is pretty much foolproof and sticks to hair until it's rinsed out. In the interest of saving product and time, wait until your hair is completely styled to apply it. Then simply use a small, stiff brush to cover your roots with small strokes. The color is buildable and will resist falling out when brushed, but it can dissipate if you're skipping days between shampooing, so keep the compact in your makeup bag for touch-ups.

Try: Our pick is Color Wow, a formula given the seal of approval by celeb hair colorist Denis De Souza. (You can check out demonstrations here.) However, celeb colorist Negin Zand says you can also look to your makeup bag for a similar result in a pinch: "Find an eyeshadow that matches closest to the color of the hair, and to paint on with a brush," she suggests.
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Color Sprays
The idea of spraying your hair with aerosol color may conjure up images of the crusty Halloween locks from your childhood, but trust us, these formulas are different. They dry without looking fake, and won't rinse out or transfer onto your clothes.

Best For: Gray coverage on any hair color, although it's best to test the blonde shade before committing, as your tone may not match the blonde hues offered by most brands. (Sorry — blondes are just plain tough to match.)

What You Need To Know:
Just like with the pressed powder from the previous slide, wait until you've styled your hair to break out the color spray. Test it on your hand before going for it, so you can gauge the pressure, then lightly mist it over roots from three or four inches away. Most formulas take a few minutes to dry, so don't touch your hair for at least five minutes after application.

Try: When asked for their go-to root cover-up product, many stylists recommend Rita Hazan's formula — and for good reason: "It's fast, has nice coverage, and good color options," Anderson says. Another favorite is Oribe's formula, which comes in a small, makeup-bag-friendly size — and is a top pick from Zand.
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Tinted Dry Shampoo
Think of tinted styling powders as the happy place between pressed mineral powders and spray colors. The aerosol formulas come out of the bottle dry, stick to the hair immediately, and leave a powdery finish. However, they're not as dense as color sprays or as precise as pressed powders.

Best For: Lightly diffusing light or gray roots on darker shades of hair, especially on fine hair. These aren't as pigment-heavy as the other formulas on this list (the con), but they're also the fastest and easiest to use (the pro!). Plus, they're great for those who want additional benefits: The majority of these tinted sprays give hair texture, soak up oil, and amp up the volume at the roots.

What You Need To Know: Tinted styling products were developed as alternatives for dark hair, which tends to show the telltale white splotches of traditional dry shampoo. But their added bonus is that the pigment lightly disguises roots. Simply spray into the root area, as you normally would with your favorite non-tinted formula.

Try: Sachajuan's Dark Volume spray is a favorite of Zand's, as it gives remarkable fullness and density to the roots. But it only comes in one shade, which is suited for brunettes. Bumble and bumble's formula comes in additional colors and is a stylist cult favorite, or try Batiste for a drugstore-priced option.
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Color Gel
Think of a root-covering gel as a nail polish for your hair: It's painted on, then sets to provide a layer of color that can easily be removed. The pigments won't stain hair, and since you have to set the formulas, they're basically budge-proof until your next shampoo.

Best For: Thick and coarse hair that doesn't hold product well, as it can last longer than powder. However, the product can weigh down fine hair, so opt for a volumizing powder if you have thin locks.

These are also great for covering roots when you desire a shiny finish, since the gel gives hair a bit of sheen and works well with shine sprays. (As opposed to the powders we've mentioned, which all have a dry finish.)

What You Need To Know:
Perhaps the most time-consuming on this list, this formula dispenses the product with a brush, which is traditionally filled with a gel-like formula. Downside: You have to blowdry to set it. For the best results, apply to dry roots and dry until the gel is no longer wet.

Try: Celeb hairstylist Ashley Streicher introduced us to Kazumi's formula; she uses it on all of her clients. "It covers grays while still making hair look healthy and natural," she tells us.
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