Dyeing a beard salt and pepper can look fantastic for one main reason; it looks natural. The problem with dyeing hair in general is that the outcome can look obvious, especially when done incorrectly. But with salt and pepper, it’s hard to go wrong.
What it refers to is having a mix of gray hairs together with hair that’s your natural color. This is usually done by men with a gray beard by dyeing some beard hairs but not all of them.
The gray hairs are “salt”, and the dark hairs are “pepper”.
Less commonly, men who don’t have any grays at all may want to rock the salt and pepper look. Perhaps they think it looks more distinguished, or refined. They can do this by temporarily adding gray highlights to their beards.
I’m going to teach you both methods. One method, for two different men, to achieve the same glorious outcome.
If you’re interested, you can take a look at my most recommended beard trimming and grooming products of the year. It’s all laid out in this article.
How To Dye A Beard Salt And Pepper
This method does require the purchase of a well-established dyeing product. It’s the most effective and quickest way to achieve the look.
What you’ll need
- Just For Men: Touch Of Gray Mustache & Beard: This is a semi-permanent dye that lasts for 6 weeks. It’s relatively gentle for an artificial dye and doesn’t contain ammonia. Crucially, it doesn’t dye all of the gray hair; only some of them. There’s no product mixing necessary and it comes with a small brush for easy application. It comes in a variety of shades; click here to check them out on Amazon.
- Vaseline: Rubbing some good ole’ fashioned petroleum jelly around the borders of your beard and mustache should reduce leaking or smearing of the dye onto your skin.
- Face wipes: Or just cotton balls soaked in water. This is to quickly wipe up any dye that does get onto your face and neck and prevent skin staining.
- Beard shampoo such as this one on Amazon. This is to wash the excess dye off once you’ve given it enough time to set. Try and avoid using hair shampoo on your beard.
1. Perform a patch test
As always, before you apply any new product on your beard (or anywhere else for that matter), do a patch test.
It’ll let you know if you may be intolerant or even allergic to the dye before you put it on your beard.
To do a patch test, simply apply a small amount of the beard dye onto your elbow 48 hours before you hope to dye your beard. The elbow is a fairly easy-to-hide area if you do have a reaction, but you could choose somewhere else if you prefer.
Review the area after 24 – 48 hours. Ask yourself whether there’s any rash or irritation. If there is, there’s a good chance you’ve had a reaction to one of the chemicals in the dye.
Doing the patch test may have saved you from an embarrassing rash on your face.
But if the area looks fine (as it most likely will), proceed.
2. Don’t wash your beard
I’ve written a whole article on why you shouldn’t wash your beard before dyeing it, but here’s a summary.
When I say “don’t wash your beard”, I mean “don’t wash your beard with shampoo for at least 48 hours”. There’s no problem with rinsing it out with water even up to the point at which you dye it.
But avoid using beard shampoo for 48 hours before you dye it. This will ensure you don’t strip the facial skin under the beard of too much natural sebum oil before the dyeing process.
Having a healthy layer of natural sebum on your face and beard is important for the dyeing process for two main reasons:
- The sebum will help to retain the dye, enabling better absorption plus more effective and longer-lasting results.
- The sebum will act as a barrier, protecting the facial skin from coming into excessive direct contact with the dye. This reduces irritation, as odd as it may sound.
3. Apply some Vaseline to prevent skin staining
Put a strip of petroleum jelly (Vaseline) adjacent to the beard borders (neckline and cheek line).
A heavy moisturizing cream would also do.
As I said, this should reduce the amount of dye that accidentally seeps onto your face and neck. However, it isn’t a fool-proof method, so do have face wipes or wet cotton balls to hand to wipe up any mess as it happens.
The longer you wait to wipe it up, the harder it will be to remove. Dye-stained skin is a pain to correct if left for too long.
4. Prepare the beard dye
This doesn’t take long. The Touch Of Gray Beard Dye (Amazon Link) packaging comes with a single tube of dye, an applicator brush, and a dipping tray.
- Squeeze a third of the dye into the dipping tray. You can always add more if necessary; it depends on your beard length.
- Dip the applicator brush into the dye in the dipping tray.
You’re ready for your first application.
5. Apply the dye onto the beard
It’s a pretty straightforward process. Importantly, even though you want to dye your beard salt and pepper, it doesn’t mean that you apply the dye onto some of the beard but not all of it.
Apply the dye onto all of your beard. It won’t dye all of the hairs, only a scattering of them.
This is due to the way they’ve designed the applicator brush and the nature of the dye itself.
It’s what achieves that nice, natural look.
So, gently brush it into your beard, working it into the roots. Be careful not to apply too much pressure to minimize staining of the underlying skin. Don’t miss any of the beard out.
It helps to start with the hardest-to-dye areas which are usually the thickest parts of the beard.
Once you’ve applied the dye, wait for 10 minutes. Although the instructions may say 5 minutes, men often find that a good 10 minutes leads to better results.
This is something you could experiment with, but I wouldn’t leave it on for longer than 10 minutes.
Doing so may lead to unnaturally dark-looking dyed hair.
6. Wash the dye out
Try to be strict with timing. Set a timer to 10 minutes and rinse the dye out. Use lukewarm water and beard shampoo to thoroughly wash it out.
You should be able to see excess dye washing out into the sink or shower drain.
7. Scrub it
Grab a towel you don’t mind getting stained. Soak it in lukewarm water and scrub your beard well.
What this does is physically remove any excess dye your beard shampoo may not have been able to remove. Its main purpose is actually to remove dye from the facial skin underneath the beard.
The dye that stains the skin outside of the beard is easier to see and remove. But the skin underneath the beard is the most likely to stain.
Stained skin underneath the beard makes the beard look darker than it actually is, leading to unnatural-looking results.
Once you’ve done this, dry it off with a dry towel and have a look.
8. Review the results
You should be left with a scattering of gray hairs among a sea of darker, dyed hair. Salt and pepper.
It’s sleek, it’s natural, it’s stylish. The results should last for 6 weeks, but you’ll most likely notice the effect starting to fade as the gray hair grows back in.
If you want to maintain the look, it’s best to repeat the process every 4 to 6 weeks or so. No more than that, however.
As a quick side note, if you have leftover dye in the dipping tray, you cannot use it.
Once the product is exposed to the air, it oxidizes and won’t work. You’ll notice it changing color in the dipping tray, before your very eyes.
How To Dye A Beard Salt And Pepper By Adding Gray Highlights
A brief tutorial on a simpler process. What if you had naturally dark hair, with no grays, but wanted a splattering of gray hair. This is usually for younger men who may want a more distinguished, mature look.
Whatever the reason, it doesn’t matter. It’s quite easy to do – all you need is some gray women’s eyeshadow. Yes, you heard me right.
Apply some onto your beard for a surprisingly realistic salt and pepper style.
I love that it’s easy-to-washout and temporary. Don’t like it? Just wash it out.
I usually recommend Maybelline Color Tattoo. Click here to take a look at it on Amazon.
It’s distinct enough to be very noticeable, but not striking enough to be obvious or fake.
- Dab a small amount of the eyeshadow onto your index finger.
- Apply it to tufts of beard hair, twizzling them in between your thumb and index finger. You can apply it to just the ends, or from root-to-tip.
- Do this to tufts of beard hair you’d like looking grayer. Try to evenly distribute the gray across your beard so that it looks more natural.
- Experiment. Try it out a few times to find a look or style you like.
Frequently Asked Questions
Any Good Natural Ways To Dye A Beard Salt And Pepper?
Unfortunately, there aren’t any effective, truly natural ways to achieve this look. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of ways to dye a beard naturally.
For example, sage, lemon, coffee, chamomile, etc. But the effects are generally mild and short-lived.
To achieve a noticeable salt and pepper beard, I’d go with the methods I’ve outlined above. Although they contain chemicals, at least they’re ammonia-free.
Is This All Safe?
Yes, the methods I’ve taught you are safe. However, as with any grooming product, there is always a small risk of an allergy or intolerance to it.
That’s why I put so much emphasis on doing a patch test before applying anything new on to your beard.
Over time, if used excessively, an artificial dye can start to damage the integrity of the beard hair. That’s why I’d limit its application to once every 4 – 6 weeks.
This should be enough to maintain the salt and pepper beard if you wish to.
Overall, it shouldn’t cause you much trouble.
What If The Dye Stains My Skin?
This is a common question. Unfortunately, it’s a pretty common occurrence. As I mentioned above, applying a strip of Vaseline immediately next to the neckline and cheek line should prevent dye leaking onto the face and neck.
Other steps you could take to prevent it include wearing disposable latex gloves.
But if you do happen to get it onto your skin, wipe it up immediately. Initially, cotton balls soaked in soapy water or face wipes will do. If you notice staining that lasts longer, it may take some more effort to remove.
I’ve written a whole article on what you can do to remove beard dye from skin. But in short, there are ingredients or products that can be used.
These generally include simple household items like dishwasher soap, toothpaste, baking soda, nail polish remover, and so on.
There you have it. Simple methods of achieving a solid salt and pepper look. With the variety of beard grooming products available on the market today, it’s hard not to achieve whatever look you want to.
This style is distinguished, sophisticated, and natural. It’s becoming increasingly popular, particularly among middle-aged men.
Test it out and see for yourself. There’s a chance it may be perfect for you. Hopefully, this article has given you the know-how on what you need and how to use those things. Add a dash of experimentation and you’ll be fine.