The Best Permanent Root Touch-Ups For Gray Hair

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If you’re not into the grays that inevitably tend to pop up between salon visits, an at-home root touch-up kit can help you out. But if you're not sure where to start, Elite Daily asked Ashley Leann, a colorist at New York City's Jenna Perry Hair Studio, to break down the basics. The best permanent root touch-ups for gray hair are easy to use at home and give you maximum coverage with just a single application. "The difference between permanent dye for roots and semi/demi dyes is the level of developer that gets mixed in," Leann explains, noting that permanent dyes work inside the hair shaft to change the color, whereas semi-permanent dyes just deposit color. "Permanent dyes are better for 100% coverage, but require more maintenance," says Leann. "If you are 50 to 100% gray, you will need permanent dye."

The Expert

Ashley Leann is a New York City-based colorist with more than 10 years of experience. She trained under Jenna Perry for three years before joining her at her salon, Jenna Perry Hair Studio. Leann specializes in seamless highlights and color transformations, and counts celebrities like Iris Law and Leah McSweeney among her clients.

The Supplies To Have

Some at-home root touch-up kits will come with all the supplies you need. But Leann shares that having a mixing bowl (to hold the dye) and a small brush (to paint the dye onto your roots) on hand will also make things easier. To prevent the color from staining your skin, Leann suggests applying Vaseline around your hairline before getting started, and using witch hazel to remove any stains when you're done.

How To Touch Up Your Roots At Home

Before you get started, Leann says to choose your color based on the level and tone that best matches what you're looking for. "A level is how dark or light your hair is, one being darkest black to 10 being lightest blonde," Leann explains. "Usually with box color, it's leveled and then followed by tone," she says of determining shades, which might, for example, be listed as "4G" to describe a dark golden brown.

It's important to thoroughly read the instructions specific to your root touch-up kit before you begin, but Leann has a few other general tips to make the at-home process easier:

  • "Part your hair into four sections, and start in the front.”
  • "Take your time, and try and feel where you are putting the color instead of using the mirror to do all the work.”
  • "It’s important to time how long you are leaving the color on your head.”
  • "Be consistent about the timing for future root touch-ups. Timing and formula are everything, so stick with the same brand and keep a timer close by."

When in doubt, visit a colorist. In addition to using professional dyes that can be custom mixed to best suit your color, salon dyes tend to be gentler on your hair and skin.

Shop The Best Permanent Root Touch-Ups For Gray Hair

In a hurry? Here are the best permanent root touch-ups for gray hair:

  1. Best Drugstore Permanent Root Touch-Up: Revlon Permanent Root Erase
  2. Runner Up: L'Oréal Paris Magic Root Rescue 10 Minute Root Hair Coloring Kit
  3. Best Permanent Root Touch-Up For Blondes: Wella Color Charm Permanent Gel
  4. Best Cruelty-Free Permanent Root Touch-Up: Madison Reed Radiant Hair Color Kit
  5. Best At-Home Kit For Root Touch-Up: Moonmini Hair Dye Color Brush And Bowl Set

1. Best Permanent Root Touch-Up From A Drugstore Brand

"I always say go with the old school brands because they have been around a while for a reason," Leann says. Revlon's Permanent Root Erase kit has more than 7,000 five-star ratings on Amazon, and is beloved for how quick and easy it is to use. Revlon designed this product specifically for dyeing the roots of your hair (as opposed to providing all-over color), so it comes with a mini applicator brush that’s ideal for the hairline. The bottle dispenses both the color and the developer at the same time to eliminate the need for measuring, and the cap can serve as your mixing bowl. The multi-use kit also comes with enough color (and sets of gloves!) to last you three applications.

Relevant Review: "I have colored my gray hair growth for the last 15 years, and I have tried dozens of coloring hair treatments. This one has been by far the best one I have used. It covers gray growth, it doesn't stain, it doesn't stink, it doesn't drip down your face, and application is pretty simple and fast."

Available Shades: 9

What It Comes With: Developer, Colorant, Brush Applicator, Gloves

2. Runner Up

For another user-friendly drugstore option, there's this L'Oréal Paris Magic Root Rescue 10 Minute Root Coloring Kit. With more than 6,000 five-star ratings on Amazon, the kit was created to cover unwanted root regrowth in as little as 10 minutes. You'll receive two boxes of the product, and each one comes with its own complete kit for mixing up your color and precisely applying (and brushing) it along your roots.

Relevant Review: "I have dark brown hair and some strands of pure white hairs at my crown. Most of the time when I color my hair, I'm left disappointed because my white hairs are stubborn. Well, this product solved two issues: First, it actually colored my white hairs, and second, I'm not wasting an entire bottle of hair dye because this product provides just the right amount I need. The application is very targeted and not messy at all. The dark brown matched my natural hair color very well, which is important since I'm just using it on a few areas of my head so I need it to blend in seamlessly — and it does! Also, I appreciate that the solution doesn't have a strong odor."

Available Shades: 16

What It Comes With: Developer Bottle, Color Gel, Precision Tip Applicator, Brush Tip Applicator, Gloves

3. Best Permanent Root Touch-Up For Blondes

If you consider yourself a DIY color pro, Wella’s Color Charm Permanent Gel is a salon-quality dye you can mix up at home. The 25 shades you'll find here are meant for blondes, which means you have even more options to choose from, whether you're looking for a platinum, honey, or golden blonde color. Rather than being a liquid dye, Wella used its own Gelfuse Technology to create a creamy formula that's easy to apply, yet just as effective when it comes to coverage. It's important to note that you'll need to buy all of your supplies separately for this one, including the Wella Cream Developer that's necessary for mixing your color.

Relevant Review: "Finally, I found a color true to its color claim! I have sandy brown thick 4 b/c hair, with gray strands. This color mixed with V 20 clear developer created locks of honey-blond I so desired. Every gray strand is colored beautifully! I highly recommend the clear developer if you are using an application bottle. A satisfied customer.”

Available Shades: 25

What It Comes With: Color Gel

4. Best Cruelty-Free Permanent Root Touch-Up

If you're typically sensitive to hair dyes, or just particular when it comes to ingredients, Madison Reed Radiant Hair Color Kit is free from ammonia and PPD (two ingredients typically found in at-home dyes that can potentially cause allergic reactions). As it covers unwanted grays, the permanent dye in this kit helps to condition your hair and leave it looking glossy thanks to ingredients like argan oil, hydrolyzed keratin, and ginseng extract. You'll get a mix of essential and ancillary tools in this kit, and Madison Reed also has a YouTube channel with dozens of videos showing you how to best use the color. Plus, this is the only cruelty-free option on the list.

Relevant Review: "The kit has everything you need for an at-home coloring experience, and it comes in a nice box with easy instructions. […] I chose a color that was a tiny bit darker than my usual brown, but I have a lot of gray so that was the main concern. […] When the timer went off, I jumped in the shower, rinsed my hair until the water ran clear, and then used the shampoo and conditioner that came in the kit. My hair color is perfect, and my hair feels soft and even seems like it has a bit more volume. No sign of a gray strand anywhere. The best thing about this was that there was absolutely no smell to the colorant."

Available Shades: 25

What It Comes With: Color Activator, Cream Color, Barrier Cream, Cleansing Wipe, Protective Cap, Gloves, Shampoo, Conditioner

5. You May Also Like: Best At-Home Kit For Root Touch-Ups

Whether your at-home dye doesn't come with any tools, or you want to have a few extra on hand, this DIY coloring set provides you with all of the essentials you need for less than $10. The four-piece set includes a mixing bowl and two different size brushes for root and all-over color application. It also includes a comb, which Leann says can be helpful to use immediately after applying the color for a more even result. "Using a wide-tooth comb to brush [the hair] back helps with heavy lines of demarcation," she explains.

Relevant Review: "Colored my hair for the first time mixing my own color and using brushes. There were great! Sturdy and cleaned nicely. I was concerned about the bowl, hoping it had the oz measurements, and it did."

What It Comes With: Mixing Bowl, Large Brush, Small Brush, Comb Brush


Ashley Leann, colorist at Jenna Perry Hair Studio in New York City