With box hair color we often see a situation we refer to as “banding”. Especially on darker hair when the box color user is using a lighter shade than their natural color. Look closely at the chart and photos in this section.

banding chart



Banding is most commonly caused from color overlapping when someone is using home hair color and attempting to go lighter. Another situation that can cause this is if hair has experienced multiple color processes without the same technique or formula. This is sometimes seen in clients who visit multiple salons. We recommend establishing a relationship with a stylist for consistent color results and preferably in a Salon with the resources to maintain your color. We have a saying, “for consistent color results be consistent.” If a colorist develops a color plan for you, stay with that colorist for three visits, by then you will know if it’s a good fit. The colorist probably knows what they are talking about and they know it will need specialized attention and time to get realistic, SAFE results.

Be Patient

As stylists, we want to create beautiful hair and we become uncomfortable when asked to aggressively bleach the hair in the name of blonde. We have no problem doing it but we will do it on our terms because we will never lighten in a way that will destroy your hair. A good colorist knows lightening is done over time. Though sometimes initial results are not as dramatic as you want, we improve the hair and lay down foundation work. Just like building a house, good color relies on a foundation. If you ever want to stop box color, you’re going to have to start in a salon anyways. With continued regular visits any desired look can be achieved, so be patient and use the products they recommend. Sometimes I see the need to have a “real talk” about the complexities of corrective color. I want to provide good customer service, but I often need to be frank with this topic. I want to help people understand because there is a lot of misinformation online. If you have naturally dark hair and ESPECIALLY if have used box color- going light blonde is a process that cannot be done in one day. FACT. You cannot just get “summer highlights” after multiple box color applications at home, not realistic. I chose to use the photos of a corrective color below as examples in this post. The color correction was done one of our colorist’s and it was done very well.


Fixing Hot Roots From Box Color

before and after

Here is a situation we see often from box color. Hair processes more quickly at the root because it is the warm area of the head. Salons use a term for a common color foul usually due to colorist inexperience, “hot roots”. This occurs when the newest hair at the root lightens too quickly because of body heat and the virgin (no exposure to previous color) hair at the top has an unnatural rust orange look.  The resistant cold area (no body heat) hair in the middle doesn’t lift as fast and this causes the middle “muddy” colored bands of darker inconsistent color. This banding eliminates the natural flow of hair color depth at the root to contrasting lighter hair. Basically, the dark to light natural look that has been on trend for years. Therefore, techniques like balayage are used for popular looks like sombre and ombre. Even with all over platinum blonde we suggest color depth at the root with a technique called shadow root so hair color flows more naturally. Notice in the middle part of the hair in the picture above and you can easily see the darker band in the middle. We know prior to starting color this “muddy” band will not lighten as quickly as the top or bottom, which causes hair to lift unevenly. Colorists inwardly cringe when they see this. Explaining why it won’t’ lift when other parts of hair are lighter can be yet another corrective challenge.  Here is an image of a client who had previous home color. We finally achieved light blonde on appointment number 3. Though her color is good, if you look closely in the middle you can see where the color is still slightly different. The power of dark color and banding.

Correcting Banding

We must use a very strong bleach in just that middle area with additives like Olaplex or F18 to protect hair. Then deepen the root with separate color to correct the hot roots. We must also use a separate gentler bleach on the ends with a medium strength bleach at the top for a gradual color flow. All of that is before any tone work is done at the shampoo bowl.  Then complete the service with the necessary deep conditioning treatments to close the cuticle for this type of advanced color work. How many bowls of product, color and lightener is that? * bowls is the average low side. It’s becoming more common, yet a very tricky color situation. The band must be the area of focus with corrective color. This is the part of the hair where strong blonde tones should start being bright, but we can only tone to whatever level this area lightens to. Think about that. That means all the hair cannot be lighter than this VERY resistant area, which rarely lightens more than three levels in one session. Using a toner doesn’t make us less of a colorist because it’s always necessary for corrective color work. The lighter “hot root” area the client had achieved at home lead her to believe her hair is lighter than it is, but the band has to be corrected before future color sessions can be done. When toning hot orange and yellow tones we must use purples and blues which reflect darker to the human eye. Explaining this law of color when correcting s time consuming. There is no way to lift layers of artificial color AND lift the natural color underneath (and still have hair) unless it does over time. This type of work is not possible in a single three-hour visit.

The Color Level Facts:

I always tell staff there is no way to skirt the topic of cultural background when talking color. If you know the natural limitations before you start, you can formulate and prepare for a better result. We love people and stylists are natural people pleasers. If they know it will take a lot of expensive work to achieve what they want because of biological facts, but the guest doesn’t understand that- it can tricky to explain for some. Communication has never been hard for me so I just usually say it in a real way. It is what it is. I’ve always wanted beautiful tan skin, but my pasty white skin is also why I can be platinum with low effort.

The natural color scale goes from 1-10 and was determined by the natural colors that exist in human hair so cultural origin comes into play. Color level 1 is the beautiful blue-black color on East Indian or Japanese hair. Level 10 is a natural Swedish blonde which doesn’t really exist anymore except in the actual Netherlands. Technically platinum isn’t even a color because its colorless! Platinum hair has been stripped of color by bleach to give it that snowy look, thus preserving the health of hair is tricky. We refer to it as 11 or 12 which isn’t even on the natural color scale. Anglo is the term I use to refer to hair that culturally has the least amount of melanin in the hair. The darker the nationality, the darker the skin and usually the hair. The difference in a Caucasian or Anglo (from term Anglo Saxon) is skin pigment is lighter, which tells us natural pigment in hair is less dense. This makes it easier to lighten, even for brunettes. Only natural blondes (level 6 or higher) or maybe medium level Anglo brunette (over time) can achieve platinum easily. However, as a natural born North American blonde becomes rarer, this gets more difficult for us as colorists. As a color becomes rarer, the more these light blonde shades are requested. A natural level 6 or higher makes up less than 20% of the current population. Think about that, that makes blonde work unique. Therefore, what we do is very specialized and why we have consultation scripts. Our color consults are a collection of questions based upon years of experiences and factual color data. Expect the first visit to last around 5 hours. Keeping expectations low for initial visits is good. The more we see you, the more we can do. My advice for clients who want beautiful hair is budget salon visits in part of your annual budget. If you want beautiful blonde, make it part of your monthly budget.

Consistency is key for everything, especially good hair!