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Hair Color > Articles > Deep Thoughts: Successful Tintback Strategies

Deep Thoughts:
Successful Tintback Strategies

The economic know-it-alls say that the recession is over. But in reality, plenty of salon clients are still watching their wallets. One of the most popular strategies for maximizing color investments is to create a shade that’s within a few levels of the client’s natural color in order to minimize high contrast regrowth. That means that many of your high level blondes may be open to revisiting a version of their original, deeper hues. There are plenty of beautiful brunette color strategies, but if you’re re-coloring a blonde client, it’s important to get from light to dark the right way. Here’s how to make sure your brunette transformations are successes, not disappointing messes!

Fill it In
Unless the existing shade is already brassy, the first step to deepening light hair is filling. And that, says Patrick McIvor of McIvor Color Studios and Matrix Artistic Color Director, means adding warmth. When you understand that as hair lightens it reveals warmth—orange, gold, yellow—it makes sense that as you darken it, you must restore those layers of warm tones. Agrees salon owner and color specialist David Velasco, color expert, salon owner and author of the Trade Secrets of Haircolor series of books, lightened hair lacks the necessary warmth to look natural if you simply cover it with your target shade. Even worse, lightened hair is generally porous hair, and porous hair rejects gold tones and grabs ash tones. So even if you try to cover lightened hair with a gold tint, the strands will gobble up the ash elements that manufacturers add to every tint formulation for balance. The result will be a very unattractive grey, green or mauve cast which will also appear mottled and splotchy. 

Remember, though, that it’s also possible to go too red with your fill. “In beauty school in 1985,” says Patrick, “we were taught to fill with a red that was the color of blood. It was so heavily pigmented that it was really hard to cover. When you colored over it you had to use an ash tone and the result wasn’t very soft or natural.”

So, says Patrick, the target for a filling step is one to two levels lighter than your desired result. He suggests, “Ask yourself what color this hair would be if you lightened it with Sun-In. That’s the color you want your filler to be.” Adds David, “If your Level 9 wants to be a Level 4, use a Level 6 filler.”

Essentially, it’s all about the balance. Your fill must restore enough warmth without appearing brassier than the hair would appear naturally. This is how you achieve the most realistic result.

Mix it Up
The steps for transforming a blonde to a brunette generally go like this:
1. Treat. Truly conscientious color pros start off every darkening service with a treatment designed to restore protein. Doing so helps fill the gaps in the “Swiss cheese” condition of overly-processed hair, and means that subsequent applications of color will adhere better and last longer.
2. Fill. Use a demi-permanent formula to fill, says David. Demis further equalize porosity, there’s no lift and they’re gentler on fragile strands. Also, always combine a red and a gold, in proportions related to your target result. So, if your target is red, use equal parts red and gold. If your target is a warm brown, use 75% gold and 25% red.
3. Color. Now you can apply your desired target shade. Again at this stage, Patrick prefers using demis because he feels they offer more control. Your color formula should be gold or neutral toned, he adds. It shouldn’t be necessary to use an ash tone if you have filled the hair properly. “Basically,” he says, “don’t fill it to a Ronald McDonald red and then try to brown it out with ash. You’ll get mud.”
4. Glaze. Sure it’s another step, but you’ve put this much time and energy into the tint-back, so why not seal the deal? A demi-permanent glaze will enhance hue intensity and prolong color retention—valuable benefits for any color service and particularly when hair is overly-porous.

Ultimately, says Patrick, it’s all about balance. “When you fill you put color on top of color. If you layer too much color, or the wrong combination of tones, your result will be too dark. If you don’t fill enough, your foundation will be weak and your result will be hollow or muddy.” When in doubt, do a test strand. It’s worth the wait in order to end up with the very best result.

Tintback Tips
Test Your Demi. Not every demi-permanent works well as a filler, says David. To test your formula, squirt a small amount in a bowl, add a few drops of water for viscosity (no developer) and place it on a piece of white cotton. If it appears grey or ash, skip it. If it looks brown or beige or taupe or tan, it’s a good choice.
2. Be realistic. Never promise a client an ash result when deepening color. If you try, it will look muddy, green or grey, says David. The optimum end result will always be warm. To control the warmth, use a neutral or natural color for your final step. Over time, you can work an ash tone into your regrowth formula, but it should be a gradual process.
3. Have patience. “Remember,” says Patrick, “all of that color didn’t come out at once, so you probably won’t be able to put it all back at once. Let the client know it may take several services to achieve the result she wants.”

A “Nine to Five” Case Study
The goal:
Restore a highlighted Level 9/10 to Level 5/6 medium/light brown
Patrick McIvor’s tip: Leave some light pieces around the face to help ease this client into the transition.
Patrick’s How-To
1. Select highlighted strands throughout the top and face-frame areas, saturate with conditioner and place each section on foil. Fold the foil three-to-four times until each foil is an inch wide and the hair is tightly locked in.
2. Apply filler formula to remaining strands.
3. Rinse, shampoo and condition without removing the foils.
4. Apply target color to a test strand and process.
5. Adjust target color if necessary and apply to filled hair.
6. Shampoo, condition and remove foils.
7. Glaze highlighted sections or all strands, depending on the number of highlights present and the desired results.

David Velasco’s Golden Brown Tintback
Existing level:
9/10, heavily highlighted
Target level: 4
Formula 1: ¾ Level 6 gold + ¼ Level 6 red/gold demi-permanent. Apply roots to ends, process 20 minutes and wipe off excess with a towel.
Formula 2: Level 4 golden brown demi-permanent. Apply directly over filler and process 30 minutes.


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