Overtone Hair Color for Gray Hair (Before & After Pictures)

October 19, 2021

At the beginning stages of growing out your hair gray, things can get *hairy* real quick and most of us are left trying to figure out the best way to ease the grow-out pain. Is Overtone, the popular color-depositing shampoo and conditioner, a good solution? We’re diving in, TOG style, to the ingredients, effectiveness and more (with before & after pics!).

Woman with gray hair looking in the distance

By: Lisa Fennessy

If you’re at the beginning (or in the middle!) of your going gray journey, figuring out what to do with your gray grow-out can be frustrating. We’ve compiled a list of 10 different ways you can grow out your hair, but you can also consider using a color-depositing shampoo or conditioner to help.


Common FAQs about Overtone

One of the most popular color-depositing products is Overtone. Have you heard of it? Most people who have decided to let their hair grow in gray hear about it at some point and then…confusion ensues like: 

  • Does Overtone work for silver hair? 
  • What Overtone products should I use? The shampoo? The conditioner? Both? Something else?
  • What Overtone product would you use to keep the brass at bay for gray hair? 
  • What does purple Overtone look like on grey hair?
  • Does Overtone cover gray hair?
  • Can I put silver Overtone on brown hair?
  • Is Overtone bad for your hair?

Well, today we are diving in TOG style, taking a look at any Overtone ingredient concerns, highlighting more natural alternatives AND sharing Overtone before and after photos for gray hair. The before and after photos were submitted by members of The Gray Book, an incredible Facebook community full of going gray inspo, support, community and solidarity around all things going gray. (Thanks ladies!👋) 

A look at the ingredients in Overtone 

First thing’s first, let’s take a look at the ingredients in Overtone.

Per ush, we connected with Molecular Biologist and Cosmetic Chemist Kate Noonan to help us. Kate says, “Overtone uses the basic dyes like Basic Brown 16 that coat the hair shaft for about 3-7 washes. Unfortunately, dyes like Basic Brown have been flagged for genotoxicity when used in concentrations much lower than those used in commercial formulas.” (NOTED!)

Kate also adds, “Basic Brown 16 also has higher lead content than henna.” 

Use this info to help you make the best decision for you. Me personally? (Hi, it’s me, Lisa👋.) This isn’t something I would choose to use daily BUT I would be 100% okay with using something like this for a short period of time…like to aid a 9-month gray hair grow out for example. 

But wait, did someone mention natural swaps for Overtone? 

Woman with straight long gray hair using overtone

Natural swaps for Overtone

When it comes to natural swaps for Overtone, your objective will determine your swap. Are you trying to cover your grays? Are you trying to blend your grays? Are you trying to brighten your grays? Determining your goal first will help you select a more natural swap below. Here are some options we’ve identified. 

A swap for keeping silver hair bright

If your goal is to keep your gray strands bright, Kate says, “I think that purple shampoo is a better option than Overtone to keep gray hair bright, cool and silver. The Basic dye exposure from Overtone just doesn’t seem worth the health issues.” 

Purple shampoo works as a temporary way to counteract brassy tones in both gray and blonde hair. Purple is opposite yellow on the color wheel so when these colors are overlaid on one another, they cancel each other out. We’ve scoured the planet for the healthiest purple shampoo options (and tested them all) and these are the ones we recommend

A swap for fun colors

Another reason people use Overtone is to dye their hair fun colors like pink and blue. We looked around and Kate agrees there just isn’t a natural swap for this. Overtone is still your best choice here.

A swap for keeping dyed hair color vibrant

Another reason people use Overtone is to keep their dyed hair vibrant in color. Kate suggests, “People who use Overtone to make their fuchsia hair brighter and less faded from their last dye job could probably be more careful in the sun and use hair SPF so they don’t fade their color.” These are our favorite plant-based UV protectants for hair

A swap for conventional hair dye

We’ve talked about the good, the bad and the ugly in regards to “organic” hair dyes. The CliffsNotes being: there are no truly organic hair dyes. BUT! There are some swaps we can recommend. First, check out Hairprint. This is a technology made with 8, food-grade ingredients that restores hair to its natural color. I used it exclusively for 14 months. You can check out my Hairprint before and after pics here

And, Kate says, “I’ve asked around and there IS an ECOCERT certified hair dye brand that has a good formula (clever mix of henna and indigo plant pigments) called Radico. It’s popular at organic salons in California (Radico is based in Torrance, CA) and in Europe. (TOG review coming soon! 💁‍♀️)

RELATED: What does “organic” hair dye really mean? Is it safe? Better than other options? We’ve got the deets.

Download your free going gray lookbook graphic

woman holding gray hair

Should I use Overtone for gray hair? 

Before we get to the before and after photos, I want to clarify the Overtone products we will be talking about. There are a lot of them and it can be confusing, so here it is (as simple as possible). 

When you get to the Overtone site, you can choose what color you want. If you are going for a “fun color” option, choose the color you want (i.e. purple, pink or green hair). Most people who are reading this post have gray hair and want to help soften their gray hair grow out. In this case, choose the “silver” category. Here we see silver hair products in three tones: 

  • Pastel Silver – This is best for people with lighter hair shades who are also going gray.
  • Vibrant Silver – This is best for people with medium hair shades who are also going gray. 
  • Extreme Silver – This is best for people with darker hair shades who are also going gray. 

Then, each tone has a daily conditioner and a coloring conditioner. The coloring conditioner is meant to impact your hair the most. The daily conditioner is meant to be used daily (duh) as upkeep after using the coloring conditioner—aka, it will not deposit pigment as intensely as the coloring conditioner. 

The rest of the Overtone options are just combinations of these two products, so don’t let that confuse you. Let’s see what these three options look like applied with some real-life before and afters. 

RELATED: Not sure Overtone is for you? Try a purple shampoo if you’re looking to reduce brassy tones in gray hair.

Overtone before and after photos for people with gray hair

Overtone Pastel Silver Coloring Conditioner

Heather Flynn says, “Picture on the left (with blonde ends) is my before applying Overtone Pastel Silver to wet hair. Picture on the right (ashy blonde ends) is after rinsing Overtone out (I left it sit for about an hour 🤔) and air drying. I find applying Overtone to wet hair gives a more subtle toning than applying to dry hair, which gives a more intense tone. Application to dry hair also requires more product and with my long hair I could use an entire jar. Since I have to have it shipped to Canada, I try to stretch out my jar, so application to wet hair allows me to get more applications.”

TAKEAWAY: You can apply Overtone to wet hair for a more subtle effect. 

Lisa Gresham says, “I’ve used Overtone’s Pastel Silver Coloring Conditioner for a few years now. I started by trying out different colors over my ‘blorange’ highlights. It was a great way to have fun with my hair while it was growing out as opposed to just suffering through the horrible brassy highlights! But as it started growing out and I cut more off, I decided to start using the Pastel Silver Coloring Conditioner to cover the small amount of leftover highlighted hair. This is a good way for me to get used to being gray-ish.” 

Lisa adds, “My hair is so fried from all the bleaching, but the Overtone adds so much moisture and makes it less frizzy! It makes my hair look less like hay and more like hair! Plus, I have SUPER SENSITIVE skin and Overtone has a wonderful peppermint scent (no chemical smell at all) and has never irritated my skin or scalp. I do wear gloves when applying because it will stain your hands. And, the coloring conditioner definitely works best on dry hair if you really want to get big color saturation. Then I use the daily conditioner whenever I do my daily washing.” 

TAKEAWAY: Overtone’s Pastel Silver Coloring Conditioner will give you the most subtle effect out of all three silver options.

Overtone’s Vibrant Silver Coloring Conditioner

Toni Berrie found success using Overtone’s Vibrant Silver Coloring Conditioner. She says “My goal was to tame the brassy parts, but I’m loving the steely gray look! It’s also really soft and smooth.” 

To get this look, Toni applied Overtone’s Vibrant Silver Coloring Conditioner to dry hair. She only applied it to the brassy parts of her hair and around her face and then blended it up towards the top. Then she covered her hair with a shower cap and left it for an hour before rinsing. This look washed out after about 2-3 weeks. 

TAKEAWAY: You can use Overtone to soften the demarcation line during your gray hair grow-out. Try applying it to just the affected parts of hair.

Kim Morgan used Vibrant Silver Overtone to successfully mute brassy tones. She says, “I tried Overtone Vibrant Silver this weekend and I’m so glad I tried it. I hated the orange in my hair and I didn’t want to spend more money blending it. Overtone is the perfect solution to keep me going forward with the process”  

Kim adds, “It was super easy to use. I applied it to dry hair and left it on for 15 minutes, then I rinsed it out and followed washing and conditioning as usual.”

TAKEAWAY: You can use Overtone to mute unwanted brassy tones during your gray hair grow-out.

Julie Grant tried Overtone Vibrant Silver Coloring Conditioner to help blend her gray hair grow-out. She says, “I needed something to help me through rough patches and make me feel better about my hair on special occasions. I’m 5 months in and the brassy orange in my bangs is driving me bananas. My son’s 2nd birthday is coming up and I want to be in photos and not thinking about my hair.” 

After she used Overtone she says, “My hair is slightly darker and my silvers are unchanged 👍. The brassy bronze-y mess is neutralized and my hair smells amazing (like spearmint). I was hoping to have more of an ashy tone to my dyed hair but am happy with the neutral vs. warm tones. I might leave it in longer next time, as I left it in for 15 minutes as per instructions. Not a huge difference but definitely a win.”

TAKEAWAY: Overtone may darken your hair a bit.

Heather also tried Overtone Vibrant Silver and it produced a more dramatic effect. 

TAKEAWAY: Try Overtone Vibrant Silver (as opposed to Pastel Silver) for a more dramatic effect.

Overtone Extreme Silver Coloring Conditioner

Gerise Bruzgulis says, “I used Overtone the most around the 6-9 month mark because I just couldn’t stand how brassy my hair had become. I was always a rich, chocolate espresso brown, and between the grow out and the brass I just didn’t feel like me. I needed help! 

Overtone Extreme Silver was an absolute dream for me. Easy. Effective. Gentle. Gradually washed out. It didn’t change the color of the new growth, but fixed all that orange. Now that I’m a year and a half in, I only use it once in a while. But I still love it now as much as I did then.

I would most definitely recommend Overtone to a friend. For someone who washes their hair frequently, it may not be a great value. But for me only washing once a week, it was economical and a no brainer.”

TAKEAWAY: If you have darker hair, consider using the Extreme Silver Overtone option.

Overtone Purple Coloring Conditioner

woman with purple overtone

Larisa Sch says, “I tried Purple Overtone for the first time..this is after several washes. Take away—don’t hold for an hour…right after it was too purple and intense and didn’t look as good.” 

Just to clarify, this is actually the Purple Overtone, meant to color hair purple, not to be confused with Overtone’s Silver options. Larisa added, “This dark purple color lasted for at least another 2.5 weeks.” 

TAKEAWAY: Don’t get Overtone’s purple options and silver options confused. If you’re trying to minimize brassiness, go with the silver options. Purple Overtone will actually dye your hair purple (unlike purple shampoo, which just neutralizes warm, brassy tones).

Are you going gray? Have you tried Overtone? What did you think?

Download your free going gray lookbook graphic

TOG Team Note: This article contains affiliate links. TOG uses affiliate links as a source for revenue to fund operations of the business and to be less dependent on branded content. TOG stands behind all product recommendations. Still have questions about these links or our process? Feel free to email us.

By Lisa Fennessy

Lisa is the founder of This Organic Girl. Passionate about clean beauty, organic eats and nontoxic lifestyle, Lisa writes to create awareness. Conscious consumerism and informed decisions will impact the marketplace, our health and THE WORLD!

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