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Balayage Gray Coverage Mistakes: Avoiding the Warm Band

Salt grey coverage before and after

When a client comes to you seeking gray coverage balayage, the reason is usually pretty obvious: They want their hair to look young and vibrant, but also natural. Done correctly, balayage—with its freehand painting style—creates exactly this result. But done incorrectly, gray coverage can lead to a number of mistakes.

One of the most common of these mistakes is the development of a warm band between different sections of the hair. Because of how hair grows out, this band will often develop along the root line during a gray coverage service, but it’s also possible to develop anywhere else along the shaft.

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If you’ve ever completed a balayage service that resulted in a warm band, then you know that your client probably wasn’t thrilled with the result. But what causes a warm band to form, and how can you prevent this from happening in the future

We answer these, and other questions, below!

What causes the warm band to develop?

Salt warm band balayage

Generally speaking, a warm band will be the result any time that a stylist paints over a client who had been previously colored with permanent hair color. If the balayage section crosses over that previously colored area, then it will create warmth in the lift, resulting in a warm band. This is one of the reasons that balayage in general can result in brassy hair.

In gray coverage, the warm band is typically the result of one of two scenarios:

1. The Stylist Paints on Top of the Root Coverage Application

Imagine this: A client has an appointment for a balayage service. When she arrives, you realize that her roots have grown in, and are gray. Before moving forward with the balayage, you first decide to complete a root touchup to cover over that gray, and you use a permanent color. You then proceed with the balayage session.

Then, when painting, your application crosses over into the newly-dyed roots. After processing, the result will always be warmth.

2. The Stylist Paints on Top of Previously Colored Hair

In this scenario, a client comes in with no obvious signs of coloring, and no gray along her roots. You proceed to apply lightener as you typically would. After processing, you are met with a warm band in sections of the hair that had previously been colored (by either your client herself, or a different stylist in the past) to cover grays.

How to Avoid the Warm Band

Below are a few tips that can help you avoid creating a gray band during your balayage and gray coverage.

1. Conduct a thorough hair consultation.

Before you conduct any hair service, you should get in the habit of conducting a complete and thorough hair consultation. This consultation is an invaluable tool in your kit as a stylist: It will inform the treatment that you ultimately pursue with your client, establish reasonable expectations with your clients, and outline a timeline to get you to those results.

A hair consultation can specifically help you avoid a warm band by asking about prior treatments, including whether or not they have recently had their hair dyed with permanent color. Understanding this will help you craft a plan of action that will reach your guest’s goals without inadvertently creating unwanted warmth.

2. Leave a large enough transition section.

When applying a root color along with a balayage application be sure to leave a inch section of transition between the finish of your root application to the start of your balayage transition. This will ensure you will not be lifting or mixing into any of that permanent color.

3. Practice control when painting.

It’s also critically important that you practice control when you are painting. It’s essential that you are taking clean sections for your balayage, and, as mentioned above, that you’re allowing for enough space for transition when applying your lightener. 

While this can be a concern for stylists of all experience levels, it’s most often an issue with beginners who haven’t yet mastered their application techniques. The good news? Practice makes perfect!

4. Look for the signs of previous color.

Given enough time working with hair, you will eventually start to notice certain signs that hair has been previously colored, which will be an incredibly helpful skill to have in case your guest forgets to mention a past treatment. It happens sometimes!

One obvious sign, for example, would be if you were working with a canvas and you noticed that it was monochromatic: Every strand of hair was the exact same color, without that natural variation that you typically expect to find in virgin or untreated hair. If you ever notice this, you should ask your guest about it before moving forward with the service. 

Some other signs you can also look for include:

  • Lines of demarcation
  • A difference from the natural base color to the color in the mid-shaft
  • Signs of previous color during sectioning, especially if you section the hair in back from right to left

Salt grey coverage signs of previous color

It’s About Communication

As with a lot of the issues that stylists can run into when performing balayage or other transformational services, a warm band during a gray coverage service can typically be avoided by establishing a clear and open line of communication with your guest. Understanding their goals and hair history will help you craft exactly the treatment they need to get their hair where they want to it be.

Want to learn more about the different gray coverage techniques you can leverage for your clients? Consider signing up for one of our online tutorials, such as Gray Blending with Balayage, Gray Blending with Foilyage, or Gray Coverage & Balayage

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