David Stanko Tackles Hair Color Challenges

by Maggie Mulhern | August 21, 2018
David Stanko
David Stanko

Hair color legend David Stanko (@thedavidstanko) has helped develop, test and launch global brands, create formulation guides, work in top NYC salons, and create breathtaking color designs on models for major advertising campaigns. The author of Formula BossTM Volumes I, II and III is now the Vice President, Technical Design and Education, Madison Reed, evaluating all of the company’s products and training the in-house colorists.

In his decades as a color specialist, Stanko has dealt with every concern presented to the artist on the floor. Here he shares his solutions to his top four challenges:


Hot Roots happen to nice people.  To avoid hot roots in the first place, stay within 1-2 levels lighter than the natural hair color. Deviating from this rule of thumb  will always lead to disappointment.  The heat from the scalp is a contributing factor in this unusual brightening effect, seen most often with copper, gold and natural shades, respectively. To correct hot roots, select a color that is the same level of the shade that caused the problem, but make two key revisions. Drop down to 10-volume developer and select a Natural or Ash-based color to neutralize unwanted warmth.


Banding comes from changing hair color formulas or brands, but sometimes we get a new client who comes in with banding already in place.  To recognize it, take a section of hair and hold it straight up from the head. Do you  see the roots and then a light band, and then a darker band?  Is there is an inconsistency or lack of uniformity from roots to ends? That’s banding.  To banish lighter banding, apply color to the roots first, wait 15 minutes and then push the root color into the lighter band, allowing the color to deposit without going too dark.  If banding is too dark, try this: Apply your touch-up color, then  immediately mix and apply a level 10 Natural shade mixed with 20 volume directly on top of the dark banding.  This can often soften the dark banding and make the color more uniform.


The way to avoid dark ends is not to create them in the first place. Porous hair wants to absorb color, and typically it does not need full timing, particularly on the ends.  If you are from the school of thought of pulling permanent color through the ends to refresh them only do so the last 10 minutes of processing. Alternately, use a demi-permanent color and when possible, process for the full amount of recommended time or dilute the demi-color with a “Clear” to avoid over-depositing on porous ends.


Oil, cream, powder or clay-based lighteners will all lighten the hair, but the devil’s in the details. I prefer an oil lightener for on-the-scalp double-process work. Cream and clay-based lighteners are my choice for freehand balayage. A powder lightener is my go-to for foiling work.

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