— Style —

Tips for Covering Gray Roots

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While my biggest problem is thinning hair, as in I have open runways big enough to land a passenger jet on, our hair color can make us look washed out as we get…. as time goes by.

I will never go gray. That’s just not me. I may be 105 and stepping on boobs that drag the floor, but I won’t go gray. There are women I know, like the fabulous Lauren Ezersky—remember her long running cable show, “Behind the Velvet Ropes”—who are prematurely gray and oh, so chic, but I’m not one of them.


My original hair color was a rich auburn with golden highlights. After eight chemotherapies for breast cancer, my hair grew back black and silver. While it was still short, I tried an Annie Lennox look, but decided it wasn’t flattering. I then let some bozo talk me into going blonde… just for the summer. “It’ll be fun!” Not! Talk about washed out. Even if I wore bright colors, I was a body with no face.

Next I tried a darker base color with blonde highlights. Each time I needed my roots done, the colorist used the highlight color, so my hair got blonder and blonder, and I was back to being monochromatic. One thing to keep in mind when coloring your hair: Single colors are less maintenance, but they usually look like you color your hair because they’re flat and one-dimensional. Highlights can be tricky, but they add nature’s sun-kissed look, so your hair color looks more natural.

Now that I’m in New York City so often, I go to the Rita Hazan Salon, where Rita colors my hair. No wonder she’s long been an Oprah favorite and colorist to the stars! She’s spot on with my color.

I should have asked Rita for a quote here, but other than picking the right base and highlight colors—which is everything—your base color may need to be darker than you think it does. I’m fair-skinned and blue-eyed. While my original auburn hair color would be too harsh on me now, if my current base color was too light brown, with added blonde highlights, I’d still be washed out. Rita uses a dark brown for my base, almost a walnut. Scared me to death the first time I saw her applying it. I had to fight the urge to stop her, instead, reminding myself, “She IS Rita Hazan.”

The other secret to hair color so you don’t look washed out is to do your roots in the base color. If you keep adding highlights to cover your gray roots, your whole head becomes nothing but highlights and, again, you wind-up looking washed out. At some point, when you have more base color than you want, you’ll decide it’s time to start all over, doing all of your hair in the base color and adding new highlights.

Forgive me if I’m telling you something you already know, but until Rita, I was obviously clueless.

Love, Brenda


  • carla birnberg June 19, 2015 at 9:25 am

    My family goes gray young. Somehow I had escaped this until… This year 🙂 I’ve not yet started to cover – – it’s time.

    • Duchesse June 20, 2015 at 7:13 am

      I said i would keep my red hair as long as Vivienne Westwood did, and damned if the woman didn’t stop dyeing and embrace her natural white! I had all the same worries, but grew it out and will never go back to colour. At a certain point (which differs for each woman), she does not look younger with colour, she just look like an older woman with a head full of dye, no matter how expertly done. I had to change my lipstick and buy some hew jewelry, which was fun.

      • 1010 Park Place June 20, 2015 at 1:25 pm

        Even older women with saggy jowls and wrinkles look better with the right hair color. For the most part, Ms. Westwood’s always made a statement with her hair, brows & eye makeup. In some of her grey photos, she’s a bit like Judy Dench. Quite lovely. Then there’s this one. A little more volume, but still chic. Bottom line, there’s somewhere in-between that suits all of us. We just need to find it. Brenda

      • 1010 Park Place June 20, 2015 at 1:26 pm

        Duchesse…. Forgive me! My reply about Vivienne Westwood was to you. xoxox, Brenda

        • Duchesse June 20, 2015 at 4:54 pm

          The photo below is not of Dame Westwood today; it is before her red hair (and now gray) hair eras. Most of us looked pretty good then 😉

    • 1010 Park Place June 20, 2015 at 1:27 pm

      I have girlfriends who look fabulous with gray hair. I got a peek at how I’d look as my hair was growing out after chemo, and I wouldn’t be one of them, so yes… If it’s time to cover, then do it!

  • KatieP June 19, 2015 at 9:33 am

    Women should do whatever makes them feel beautiful, but I LOVE my grey hair — or to be more accurate, my multicoloured brown and silver hair. I have all the benefits of a dark base colour and lighter highlights without having to do (or spend) anything 🙂

    • 1010 Park Place June 20, 2015 at 1:29 pm

      And you’re a fox! No way around that. A sexy, gorgeous fox! You’re one of the lucky ones! I’m not prone to envy, but I have Katie hair envy!

  • Terri Webster Schrandt June 19, 2015 at 2:32 pm

    I like what KatieP wrote. Women need to do whatever feels beautiful. My strawberry blonde hair has few grays (at 55) but I’m just going to let it go gray. I dare it! My vice? Latisse for my lashes.

    • 1010 Park Place June 20, 2015 at 1:30 pm

      Latisse… How do you like it? For awhile, there were a lot of women who used Latisse, but I don’t see it as often, or maybe I don’t get out often enough. LOL!

      • Terri Webster Schrandt June 24, 2015 at 2:30 pm

        Sorry so late in replying, long story!! I love Latisse! so worth it for me.

        • 1010 Park Place June 25, 2015 at 2:46 pm

          Good to know. I don’t know a lot about Latisse, so I’ll look into it further.

  • Kathy @ SMART LIving 365.com June 19, 2015 at 5:33 pm

    I don’t think I’ll ever go gray either. While my original hair color was a sort of dirty brown I’ve actually been pretty fortunate that as the gray came in I can color it with a golden blonde that looks like I do highlights. Dare I admit that I color it myself???? Of course some of you might have guessed that already!

    • 1010 Park Place June 20, 2015 at 1:35 pm

      Ever since I watched a high school girlfriend color her hair, I’m afraid to do it myself. Of course none of us that day in her bathroom had the vaguest idea what we were doing. I just remember her bleached hair felt like overcooked spaghetti and broke off in her/our hands. What hair she was left with looked like Billy Idol…. The rest of us looked like Cher. We were all mortified.

  • cathy June 20, 2015 at 9:42 am

    I am with you sister!!!!! After losing my hair to chemo, then watching it come in (mostly gray!!!), I will NEVER be a chic gray haired woman!!!!!

    • 1010 Park Place June 20, 2015 at 1:43 pm

      Hearing “You have breast cancer” is traumatizing enough, but losing your hair, then having it come back a different color and in some cases, a different texture… It’s like morphing from the butterfly back to the caterpillar. Who is this woman in the mirror? At the end, I wanted to see the woman I used to be. After losing two breasts and every hair on my body, I just wanted to be me, again. While I’ll never be the pre-breast cancer Brenda, my new normal doesn’t include grey hair!

  • Jennifer Connolly June 21, 2015 at 1:31 am

    It is all about the contrast!! Washed out is not my cup of tea. I know my gray time will come but it hasn’t happened yet!! Fun topic.

    • 1010 Park Place June 21, 2015 at 11:56 am

      Is is the contrast, but I’ve learned the base color is really important. You’re a rare bird, you know. A natural blonde!

  • 1010 Park Place June 21, 2015 at 11:55 am

    Hmmm…. Not sure Madonna would be my first choice as a role model. What’s next? Cone bras?

    • Mamavalveeta03 July 13, 2015 at 5:58 pm

      Memories of my grandma’s bras…lol!

  • Susan Macaulay August 14, 2015 at 8:13 pm

    Mine has never been gray.

    It’s always been stunning silver (sometimes with pink and/or purple highlight), and sensational if I do say so myself 😛

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