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Should I Color Roots First or Last?

BY SALLY MADISON
NATIONAL COLOR TRAINER

ENDS BRASSIER THAN THE ROOTS!!!

Take a look at this picture below:

You can see that our model's hair is brassier at the ends as compared to the root area.

In this case, we would recommend an application of Brilliant Blondexx and 20 Vol to the entire head (as it is all brassy) but starting from the ends first.

That would be the correct way to lift this hair and avoid hot roots.

Ends Brassier Than the Roots

REGROWTH BRASSIER THAN THE ENDS!!!

Now take a look at this picture below:

You can see that the situation is exactly the reverse. Our model has a very brassy regrowth area. But her ends are much lighter.

In this case we need to apply Brilliant Blondexx and 20 Vol to that regrowth area and lift it first.

Then tone the whole head.

Regrowth Brassier than the Ends

SOME GENERAL RULES ABOUT WHETHER TO COLOR ROOTS FIRST OR LAST

(A) COLORING LEVEL ON LEVEL & DARKER

If you are coloring level on level or coloring darker, just start at the roots and extend to the rest of the hair.

(B) COLORING LIGHTER ON BLONDE HAIR

If you are coloring lighter, you need to be aware that hair at the roots will always lift faster than elsewhere because of the heat of the scalp.

This is especially true if you are bleaching.

So if you are trying to go lighter across your whole head and you have long hair, it would be best to do the roots at the end and do the lengths first.

The above is especially true if your client is already a blonde with thin hair. Her roots are going to go light fast and you could end up with "hot roots" if you are not careful!

So once again, in such cases, do the ends first, leaving out the inch nearest to the roots. Return to that part at the end and rinse when the root area achieve their desired color.

(C) COLORING LIGHTER WITH A DARK REGROWTH

But if you have a dark regrowth, and you have lighter ends, then the opposite is true.

In this case you have more to lift at the regrowth area than elsewhere.

So in this case you need to deal with the regrowth first and lift it. You need to make sure that the hair has been lifted to the same level as the ends.

Then you do do the ends.

This is a very common case. Very often the ends have been colored multiple times and they are lighter and maybe even over-processed.

But the root area (the regrowth area) has been lifted less often, less well and is also maybe dark virgin hair.

Case No.1: Extremely Dark Roots, Light Ends.

Color Correction by Elona Taki.

Extremely Dark Regrowth

Bleaching

Here we had a huge, extremely dark regrowth. although the lengths were super white blonde.

Clearly here we need to do the root area first and not even touch the rest to begin with.

This girl's lengths have been lightened so many times that there could be banding issues unless we did it right. There could also be breakage issues because the ends were super light.

We mixed Brilliant Blonde Lightener with 30 Vol. We made it fairly pasty, a little less developer than usual: 1 part lightener to 1.5 parts lightener.

We wanted to deposit a lot of mixture and really saturate and lift this extremely dark regrowth.

We wiped back the bleach mixture during processing to avoid the bleach processing the lightened ends.

After rinsing we saw that the part that was the yellowest was 4 - 6 inches away from the root area.

So when toning, we started applying color on this mid-section area where it was yellow. Then we applied color elsewhere.

We toned with Silver Blonde toner (10B) and Pearl Blonde toner (10V), mixed 50/50. We used 10 Vol developer.

WATCH THE VIDEO HERE:

Press on the image below to watch video of how we got rid of these dark roots!

Coloring Dark Roots First

Case No.2: Root Area Lighter Then the Ends

We used Brilliant Blonde and 20 Vol Developer at the root area to deal with a dark regrowth.

After processing and rinsing the root area was actually lighter than the lengths.

So when we applied Intense Pearl Blonde Toner 100V with 10 Vol, we applied first to the lengths, then to the root area.

In this way we avoided a "hot root" and we got a great result.

Root area Lifted

WATCH THE VIDEO HERE:

IS IT POSSIBLE TO GET "HOT ROOTS" WHEN COLORING DARKER?

Yes unfortunately it is totally possible. Take a look at the picture below:

Hot Roots on Dark Hair

If you look carefully at the root area, you will see that our model's stylist has unfortunately over-processed the root area, with the consequence that it is looking "orange-blonde".

Not so attractive and nothing like the cherry red that she wanted!

The solution here is once again to adjust the development time at the root area, or the developer choice for the root area or both.

In other words, either:

  • Apply at the root area last, as discussed above. Do the lengths first, then do the root area, which you need to watch carefully. Rinse as soon as the root area is looking done.
  • A little more cumbersome but equally valid method would be to adjust the developer strength. So use 20 Vol for the lengths and make a separate mix, using 10 Vol for the root area.
  • Note even here you will end up doing the root area separately from, and most likely after the lengths.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Q: SHOULD I USE THE SAME DEVELOPER STRENGTH ON THE ROOTS AS COMPARED TO THE ENDS? 

When bleaching (especially with Ugly Duckling bleaches) you should in general avoid using anything stronger than 20 Vol on the roots.

Case 1 above was an exception - the girl's hair was really dark and we needed to get it to a super light level 10.

On the lengths, you may need 30 Vol if the hair is very dark. Otherwise 20 Vol is good.

Q: HOW ABOUT WITH TONER? DO I DYE ROOTS FIRST OR ENDS?

Apply the same rules as above.

Very often even after bleaching the root area, it is still warmer or more yellow than the ends.

In that case, after rinsing you are just going to need to apply toner first again to that area, then extend.

The rule is always to start at the area where the hair is the most brassy and most in need of lifting.

Process until the hair is blonde.

Q: MY CLIENT HAS LIGHT ROOTS, DARK ENDS. WHAT SHOULD I DO TO EQUALIZE?

If your client has light roots and dark ends, and you are trying to take her blonde, then you will need to attack the lengths first.

Basically you need to divide the hair mentally into sections and logically deal with the darkest area first.

Very often there may be color build-up from previous applications.

You will need to use a good quality bleach to strip or lift this color until it is the same level as the ends.

Once you have done so, you can apply your color or toner to equalize.

Q: WHICH BLEACH DO YOU RECOMMEND FOR DEALING WITH DARKER ROOTS?

Our recommended bleach for dealing with dark roots is Brilliant Blondexx. It contains Bond Protect so it is gentle.

At the same time it has lift and will get your dark roots up to the level you need.

Q: WHICH TONER IS THE FASTEST AND HAS THE MOST LIFT?

Our fastest and whitest toners is Intense Pearl Blonde Toner.

But as discussed above you shouldn't just apply it to dark roots. You need to pre-lighten the dark roots and equalize, then apply the toner.

About the author

Sally has been a hair colorist and trainer for many years in both the US & Europe. She currently does hair color training for Ugly Duckling. She also helps develop new & awesome products for the brand.

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