Q For a 60-year-old, I am happy to have mostly dark hair on top of my head, but less pleased with my beard. My temples are definitely very gray, but the rest is less than 10%. I believe that makes me look young, and coloring it to make it dark would stand out and not be realistic. My question is about coloring my beard. I tried to grow out my beard on a recent week off from work and it was 90% white; can I/should I dye just my beard and how do I do that as it grows?
A There is no reason why a man should stay away from anything that makes him feel good about himself. Some men enjoy the grown-up appearance of a bit of gray at the temples, but that is a matter of taste and preference. Still, your concern about coloring your beard makes a lot of sense. A white beard definitely makes a man look old; just ask Santa Claus.
Think, "What makes me feel confident?" That is what matters most. If a beard with less white will do that; you certainly should give it a try. Coloring your hair can help you redefine yourself. Whether to cover up a few gray strands or to shake things up with a bolder approach, choosing the right product is key to creating your perfect look. However, that's not as simple as just buying some boxed hair coloring from your local drugstore.
Once you decide you want to eliminate, or lessen, the gray in your beard, you have a few options to consider. The main ones are 1.) whether to also color your hair, 2.) whether to choose a permanent dye or a semi-permanent color, 3.) whether to go to a professional or to tackle the job at home, and 4.) what exact color you want.
1. You can certainly color your beard without also coloring your hair.
2. Consider how long you want the color to last, because not all hair dye is permanent.
Permanent color will fade but will never wash out. It's the best method for totally covering all your gray hair, but it is just that, permanent. Mistakes are hard to correct. To really change the color of your hair, you have to get past the outer layer, the cuticle, and manipulate the inner layer. Permanent hair color treatments use ammonia to "relax" the cuticle, then comes peroxide. This double process is best left to the pros. Look for a very good professional.
Semi-permanent color is a much simpler process; it is a good alternate choice for those who don't want to risk being stuck with a huge change or a major mistake. It lasts about six to eight weeks and gradually fades with each shampoo. It is ideal for camouflaging, but not completely covering, gray hair. Because it does not use ammonia or bleach, it's the best choice for at-home-coloring. If you are a stickler who follows directions precisely, doing it yourself could perhaps work for you. If not, a professional will surely produce the most natural, guaranteed results.
Remember, permanent and semi do not apply to hair that you haven't grown yet. Hair usually grows about ½ inch every month, but varies by person. Semi-permanent color leaves a less distinct color line, and allows you to push it a bit longer. Permanent hair color needs retouching every four to six weeks on the new hair growth. But you'll need to touch up your beard more often -- about every 10 or 12 days -- because beards grow really fast.
3. Having your beard colored in a salon can be expensive. Even so, keep in mind that it can be worth it rather than getting a terrible dye job that you'll have to pay even more to fix. And know that caring for colored hair can be a rather high-maintenance lifestyle. Once you've reached your desired color, you will need to get regular touch-ups. You'll also need to use shampoo and conditioner that's specially designed for color-treated hair to make your color last longer.
4. Camouflaging gray is the main reason guys color their hair. They want the most natural, undetectable look they can get. If you don't want to get rid of all the gray completely, use a less-is-more semi-permanent color method. To get back your old color, choose the closest color you can find to your original color (perhaps one or two shades lighter, never darker). Or you might want to progressively blend in the color, to transition out of gray (or white) hair and back into your old color. To avoid an abrupt, noticeable change, you could use a shampoo-in color product that gradually reduces gray with every wash, such as Just For Men Control GX Grey Reducing Beard Wash Shampoo.
A word of caution: don't use just any hair color on your beard. Unless it's specifically designed for use on facial hair, it could irritate the skin and may not work as well on coarse facial hair. A few of the better semi-permanent colors for beards are: Just for Men Mustache & Beard Dye (a 5-minute process), Clairol Natural Instinct Semi-Permanent Color Kit, The Henna Guys Hair and Beard Dye, and Guodefroy Hair Color Tint Kit (available from Amazon).
When all is said and done, the nice thing about coloring your beard is that if you don't like the look, you can just shave it off.
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