Dye Gray Hair With Coffee? Does It Work and Should You Try It?

Certified Senior Advisor (CSA)®
Assistive Technology Professional
Updated:

Covering up those pesky white strands can boost self-confidence for people bothered by them. There are so many dye products on the market but some prefer the natural home-based hair remedies. One of those remedies is coffee.

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No matter your age, it’s natural to want to look your best. And for some, that means covering up any signs of aging – this includes the appearance of gray hair.

Coffee has been used as a natural dye for hair for years and is said to be an effective way to cover up gray strands.

But does it really work? And is it worth the hassle?

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at using coffee to dye gray hair, including the pros and cons, and my analysis about whether it really works or not.

Coffee: The Explanation Behind This Natural Dyeing Remedy

The caffeine in coffee is said to be the active ingredient that helps dye gray hair. Caffeine is a natural pigment enhancer, which means it helps to open up the hair shaft and allow for better absorption of color. This is why coffee is often used as a natural remedy for darkening hair – not just gray hair.

Additionally, coffee contains other beneficial ingredients, such as antioxidants and vitamins B-complex. These nutrients can help to strengthen hair and add shine. So, not only does coffee dye gray hair effectively, but it also nourishes the hair shafts – making your overall color more even and vibrant.

When used to dye gray hair, coffee can help to temporarily cover up the white strands while also imparting a subtle brown tinge. The results will not be as drastic as using a commercial hair dye product – your hair will get a shade or two darker overall. But, for some, this may be a desirable outcome. And unlike store-bought dyes, coffee is relatively affordable and easy to obtain.

How to Dye Gray Hair With Coffee

Before you can begin dyeing your gray hair with coffee, there are a few things to consider. First, what type of caffeine is in the coffee? Caffeine comes in various forms – natural or synthetic – and some types may not work as well on hair.

For optimal results when using coffee for dying gray hair, it’s recommended to use 100% pure, organic coffee. You can either make your own coffee or purchase it from a health food store.

Step 1: Brew Up Some Fresh, Double Strength Coffee

When using coffee to dye gray hair, make sure that you always use freshly brewed coffee, as opposed to coffee that has been sitting in a pot or French press for hours. Old coffee may not work as well on hair.

You also want to brew the coffee stronger than you would drink it – some suggest making it Double strength. This will increase the amount of coloring agent in the coffee increasing your chance of success.

Step 2: Mix Your Dye Solution

Once you have the right type of coffee and it has cooled, it’s time to mix up the dye. To do this, simply combine one cup of hot coffee with two tablespoons of baking soda. The baking soda will help lighten the coffee, which means it will work better on gray hair. You may also want to add a small amount of shampoo or conditioner, as this will help the mixture go on easier.

Step 3: Wash and Dry Your Hair

Before applying the mixture to your hair, make sure that your hair is clean and dry. This is because coffee is a natural dye and can be absorbed by the hair. If your hair is dirty, wet, or oily, it may not take to the coffee as much. You can see my list of the best shampoos and conditioners for gray hair here.

Step 4: Apply the Coffee Dye To Your Hair

Finally, apply the coffee mixture to your gray strands, working it in from root to tip. Because the color may not absorb right away, you’ll want to wait at least 30 minutes before rinsing out the dye with water. Hold off on shampooing as long as possible to let the dye set in.

While this method can certainly help to cover up gray hair, it’s important to be aware that the color will not last forever. In fact, you’ll need to reapply this mixture every few weeks to maintain the desired color.

Some alternative methods of using coffee to cover up gray include:

  • Soaking your hair in coffee for 30 minutes according to WikiHow.
  • LeafTV suggests adding strong coffee to a spray bottle and spraying directly on hair.
  • Healthline offers a method that uses conditioner and coffee grounds.

Warnings and Risks When Using Coffee Hair Dye

Below are some additional tips to help ensure your success:

If your hair gets excessively wet afterwards (in a heavy rain), some of the coffee dye may leach out of your hair onto your clothing.

Be sure to wear an old t-shirt or cloth around your shoulders when applying this mixture; it will stain clothes, and it’ll be difficult to remove.

If you have long hair, you may want to section it off into smaller parts to make the application process easier. Use clips to hold the sections in place.

If you have light hair, consider using a darker roast of coffee to get better results.

You can also use this method to cover up gray roots – simply apply the coffee mixture to your scalp and allow it to set for a few minutes before rinsing.

Don’t forget to condition your hair after using this dye – it will help to keep the color looking fresh and your hair feeling soft.

Pros and Cons of Using Coffee to Dye Gray Hair

Although coffee is a natural dye with relatively few side effects, it comes both with advantages and disadvantages. Let’s take a closer look at each:

Pros:

  • Inexpensive and easy to obtain
  • Convenient and easy to use
  • Leaves hair feeling soft and healthy, not dry or brittle
  • Gives a subtle brown tinge
  • Temporarily covers up gray hair
  • Relatively safe to use

Cons:

  • Results may not be as drastic as store-bought dyes especially for people with really dark hair
  • Not recommended for light hair tones
  • Can stain clothes and skin
  • May require multiple, frequent applications to achieve desired results

Does Dyeing Your Hair With Coffee Really Cover Up Gray?

I was unable to find any research or demonstrations showing that this did, indeed, work for most people. Many of the sites claiming that it definitely works (like Death Wish Coffee) are promoting coffee and, even then, that site offers several exceptions. A few others (More.com and this YouTube Video) flatly say that it didn’t work for them.

So, does dying you gray hair with coffee really work? After reading about this for (too many) hours, it seems that this method will work if your natural hair color is within several shades of the color of coffee and you have some small amount of gray creeping in. But, if you lie outside that range, you are probably wasting your time.

Coffee does seem to work as a general hair dye though if you are looking to darken the overall shade of your hair a shade or two.

Wrapping Up

Overall, coffee is a safe and affordable way to cover up gray hair temporarily. It’s easy to use and leaves your hair feeling healthy and soft. Dyeing hair without harsh chemicals requires very minimal effort when using coffee as a natural dye.

However, keep in mind that the results may not be as drastic as store-bought dyes, and you’ll need to reapply it frequently to maintain the desired color. Also, be sure to wear old clothes when applying this mixture, as it can stain easily!

Certified Senior Advisor (CSA)®
Assistive Technology Professional

Scott Grant has spent more than 20 years serving seniors and the elderly in the home medical equipment industry. He has worked as a manufacturer's rep for the top medical equipment companies and a custom wheelchair specialist at a durable medical equipment (DME) provider in WV. He is father to 4 beautiful daughters and has three terrific grandkids. When not promoting better living for older adults, he enjoys outdoor activities including hiking and kayaking and early morning runs.

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