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What Are Hot Roots, and How Do I Avoid Getting Them?

by January 20, 2021

how to avoid hot roots

Image by Madison Reed

Unfortunately, “hot roots” does not actually mean people think your roots or even your hair color look really good. On the contrary, hot roots is a term that professional colorists use when the roots of your hair are noticeably–and unintentionally–warmer than the rest of your hair color. With hot roots, the hair color near your scalp is usually redder, and can appear orange. This can occur with any shade of hair color, from blonde to brown, redheads, even black hair color. Bear in mind that roots are naturally a little darker than the rest of the hair but not warmer, so hot roots appear unnatural...and unwanted.

How Do Hot Roots Happen? How Do I Avoid Getting Hot Roots?

Hot Roots can happen for one of two reasons:

1. When you try to color previously-colored hair a lighter color

It may not feel like it, but your scalp is always a bit warm, so when you are coloring your hair, the heat from your scalp can cause your roots to respond faster to hair color than the mid-lengths and ends. This results in hot roots, when the natural hair closest to the scalp reacts to the light hair color more quickly than the rest of your hair, and your roots lighten while the already-colored hair doesn’t.  Not exactly the look you’re going for.
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How to Avoid Hot Roots: Lightening your hair color yourself can be difficult. If you absolutely want lighter hair color, we recommend only trying to lighten your own hair at home by one or possibly two levels. (Click and find out more about hair levels.) If you want to lighten your hair more than that, you will need to use bleach, and we do not recommend using bleach on your own hair at home. If you want to go lighter, you can always go for highlights. Of course, we are partial to our Light Works® Balayage Highlighting kit for gorgeously subtle, sunkissed highlights.

But if you are looking for all-over color, we recommend choosing a shade of hair color the same level or darker than your existing color-treated hair. And here’s the best pro color tip of them all...if you have previously colored hair, you should really only be coloring your roots (unless you are drastically changing the shade you are using).

The best way to color your hair is using The Perfect Pair: permanent hair color on the roots, and a gloss for the mid-lengths and ends of your hair. Most people who color their hair at home don’t know this, and they color their entire head of hair every time they color. But doing this will eventually make your hair color turn out too dark and dull. So only apply the permanent color to your roots for the correct processing time—usually 35 minutes, or 45 minutes for stubborn gray hair. And apply gloss to the rest of your hair. The result? No hot roots, and your hair color won’t turn out too dark! Win-win!Bundle for the best value: The Perfect Pair. Our salon secret for gorgeous color and shine every time. Shop & Save

2. When you try to lighten natural hair all over, or are using a vivid color for the first time on virgin (uncolored) hair. 

If you are coloring your hair for the first time, you should absolutely color all over, and not just color your roots. But if you are coloring your hair a level or two lighter, or if you are using a vivid shade such as Volterra Amethyst, Rimini Garnet, Matera Marigold, Carrara Crimson, or Savona Scarlet, you need to be careful not to get hot roots. Just remember, the hair closest to the head lightens faster than the rest of your hair due to the heat coming off your scalp, so in some cases an all-over application of one color can cause hot roots. But it’s easy to avoid...

How to Avoid Hot Roots: Don’t worry—you don’t have to be a professional colorist to avoid getting hot roots. We swear it’s easy! Most people start coloring their hair by applying the hair color to the top of their head first, but you actually want to apply the lighter color to the ends first, as the ends require a longer processing time. Then mix fresh hair color and apply to the roots only, gradually massaging the color all over from your roots to ends, leaving it on for the entire processing time. Please remember that you should only apply hair color in this manner if you have never colored your hair before, and are using a lighter shade than your natural hair color, or are using a bright, vivid shade.

How Do I Fix Hot Roots?

If you’re reading this section because you already have hot roots—deep breaths, we can help. How to fix hot roots depends on the starting point of your hair color, and what shade you are trying to achieve. On dark hair, hot roots can be corrected by using a darker shade to balance the color at your roots. If you are blonde and have hot roots, you are most likely not getting the amount of lift you need to get past the warmth that is exposed in the natural stages of lifting. In some cases, using a hair toner may be enough to correct it. However, if you have hot roots that need correcting, call or chat with our Color Crew. They will take a look and recommend the best way to correct it, personalized just for you. Or, if you’re near a Madison Reed Hair Color Bar, stop by for a free hair color consultation. Either way, we are here to help!

Although it’s one of the most common hair coloring problems, hot roots is also one of the easiest problems to avoid when using the tips above. With these tips, your roots may not be “hot,” but they will actually good, and YOU will look hot. 

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