9 best root cover-ups to see you through to your next hair appointment
Save money and time with the help of a clever concealer
No time for a salon visit but those pesky roots are getting longer by the day? Don’t panic, there are plenty of at-home colour treatments to see you through to your next appointment. From crayons and sprays to powder palettes and dry shampoos, there’s a root cover-up to suit everyone.
They’re quick and easy to apply and some you can slip in your handbag for on-the-go touch-ups. Simply pull the hair taut and apply the spray, powder, gel or crayon from the roots as far as the colour is needed.
Sprays can be spritzed onto tissue first and then dabbed on if you’re cautious about the result (or until you feel more confident about the amount required and the force of the nozzle). Powders can be a bit more precise and are good for highlighted hair, while gels often need a wipe to clear away any excess – it’s a good idea to apply gel a little at a time to build it up.
Jeanette Burrows, Aveda colour expert and colour director at Eden Hair Skin & Health, advises: “Always wash hair before any salon colour treatment if you use at-home root cover-ups. The colourist will need a clear vision of the colour base they’re working on and may not notice home coloured roots – tone contamination may affect your salon colour result.”
She also recommends using a detoxifying shampoo, especially on certain hair types: “Curly or pre-tinted hair is more porous and will absorb more of the root cover-up pigment. To remove this staining, do a double cleanse with a detox shampoo before your colour appointment.”
We put a range of formulas to the test to reveal the cover-ups that work.
You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent.
Josh Wood blending brush: £15, Josh Wood
Delivering non-permanent but instant colour, these root gels last up to three shampoos, so are less effort than those that wash out on the first shampoo. You can apply to dry or damp hair and then blow-dry to set it. We found the red in this range was one of the best and most natural on the market. But a word of warning: the coloured gel that appears in the brush can come out a little enthusiastically, so have some tissue or a bowl of water ready to wipe off any excess, especially if your hair is fine – thicker hair will probably be able to absorb it more easily.
Apply just a little at a time, as it’s easier to build up colour than remove it. The five shades available are darker blonde, lighter brown, darker brown, red and black. The browns and blonde actually blend brilliantly into lots of hair shades and seem to cover a good spectrum of browns, mousy browns, blondes and highlighted hair. They also have a colour matching tool online to help you choose the correct one for your roots.
Rita Hazan root concealer touch-up stick temple & brow edition: £20, Selfridges
Those irritating fast-growing hairs around the hairline and even eyebrows starting to lose their pigment are no match for this wonder stick from New York A-list hair stylist Rita Hazan. We found the creamy formula deposited colour easily and stays on the hair for longer than some other stick products. It comes with its own brush – similar to a mascara wand – to comb through any excess product and reduce the chance of smudging. It’s also water resistant, comes in three shades (dark brown/black, light brown and dark blonde) and is free from sodium chloride, sulphate, parabens and ammonia.
Color Wow root cover up: £28.50, Space NK
If you like a controlled root touch-up, then go for Color Wow. Water resistant and designed to cover the hair without looking sticky, oily or dry, these palettes cover grey brilliantly. The double-ended brush has a wider, looser end for covering larger sections of hair and a shorter, narrow brush for applying colour to smaller, more defined sections such as highlights or lowlights. It’s available in a comprehensive seven shades including all the usual light and dark blondes and browns, but also a red, black and platinum blonde.
Charles Worthington instant root conceal: £6.66, Boots
Available in five shades, this handbag-friendly spray gives great coverage and can be used to re-touch any time. Word of warning: don’t spray when standing on pale carpets and wear a towel to protect your clothes, as it can drop colour where you don’t want it to, despite the precision nozzle. It’s quick and easy to do – simply spritz on dry hair. Go easy around the hair line as you don’t want the tell-tale stained forehead. Wipe quickly off the skin and don’t retouch the hair until it’s dry.
Bumble and Bumble colour stick: £23, Look Fantastic
We found this colour stick had a very effective deep pigment for instant colour pay-off and a really easy to apply, velvety texture that worked as well on fine and coarse hair. There are no parabens, phthalates, mineral oils or formaldehyde in Bumble products and it’s a completely cruelty-free brand. This stick comes in five shades – blonde, dark blonde, brown, red and black.
Josh Wood tinted dry shampoo: £10, Josh Wood
We love multitasking beauty that saves us time and energy, and we found this tinted dry shampoo refreshes tresses, adds volume and covers grey in one hit. Only available in darker brown, lighter brown and lighter blonde, but this seemingly limited colour range does cover more hair shades than we expected.
Charles Worthington instant root concealer powder: £9.99, Boots
The innovative brush applicator with this root concealer powder dispenses a thin layer of colour to unwanted grey or dark roots precisely and directly. It’s easy to blend, has buildable colour and delivers a really natural finish in four shades: light blonde, dark blonde, brown and dark brown. It’s one of the easiest to use, which makes it perfect for novice home colourists.
John Frieda root blur colour blending concealer: £8.06, Amazon
This offering from John Frieda is available in five duo colourway palettes – platinum to soft gold, honey to caramel, amber to maple, chestnut to espresso, dark espresso to black (basically light blonde, dark blonde, light brown, dark brown and dark brown/black). It’s a palette-style concealer with a stiff, but small-angled brush for application. We found it great for precision colouring on highlights, but it does take a while to cover extensive re-growth, so a spray might be easier if you have a lot of root area to cover. It’s a mineral pressed powder, lasts till the next shampoo and we found it light and weightless.
Rita Hazan root concealer touch-up spray: £20, Selfridges
For water-resistant temporary touch-ups that will last till the next shampoo, we found this award-winning spray covers larger areas of grey or root re-growth easily and quickly. It’s ammonia and peroxide-free too and comes in five shades – blonde/golden blonde, dark blonde, light brown, dark brown/black and red/auburn.
The verdict: Root cover-ups
Our winner is the blending brush gels from Josh Wood that last longer than most – up to three shampoos – are available in five colours (which cover a comprehensive range of hair shades) and are easy and quick to apply.
We also liked Charles Worthington's root spray as a handbag-friendly option for covering larger areas of root re-growth, while Color Wow is perfect for controlled application on more defined sections of hair, including highlights.
IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.