Hair Colouring Tips and Tricks for the Working Technician

The base colours come out a shade darker and the golds are creating ‘root glow’ needing a base added to them to get them to cover properly and not be so translucent. Not only are we having to change all our regular clients’ colours but also having to skin test them all again which is proving to be hard work! The more we use them however they are turning out to be much better and more natural colours.

Where to begin

The first thing to do when colouring anyone’s hair is to make sure the hair is strong enough for whatever process you might be about to do. The best way to do this is by using a good, old-fashioned strand test - for those of you starting out in our industry – a strand test is usually done after shampooing when the hair is wet, you take roughly ten strands of the clients’ hair, wrap them around both of your forefingers and try to gently stretch the hair – if it’s in good condition the hair should stretch quite easily and return to how it was.

If it’s lacking in protein then it will be really stretchy and if you carried on pulling the hair it would break (stop pulling now!). If the hair is lacking in moisture it will be really hard to pull and not at all stretchy – also when the hair is hard it can mean there’s a build-up of either a bad shampoo (there are lots of bad shampoos on the shelves of our chemists and supermarkets but I’m obviously not allowed to name them) or previous use of lots of styling products so it’s a good idea to get as much information from the client as you can before treating their hair. You should be asking in your consultation what shampoo and conditioner they have been using, if they use any styling products and if so how often and what type and brand of products?

This will give you a good idea if the hair is tough and not stretchy whether it is just coated in build up of any of these things or if it is actually desperately crying out for some moisture! If you do find out they have been using a particularly bad shampoo that you know will have caused a barrier on their hair then you need to use a clarifying shampoo to strip this out - washing up liquid is pretty good for this as its very harsh so will get that entire residue out! Also baby shampoo will usually do the trick too as its all rather harsh and good at stripping the hair clean (people are usually under the illusion that baby shampoo is really mild for their hair but we as hairstylists know that as it’s the same ph as your eyes to stop it stinging childrens eyes and it is not at all kind to your hair!)

So now you have a clean base to start with it would be good to do another strand test to see how the condition is feeling now, if its still tough to stretch you will be doing a moisturising treatment – conditioner wont help at this point as all conditioners are cosmetic products and just help to smooth the hair shaft not actually repair the problem! If too stretchy then treat the hair to some protein! Always remember that whatever the type of treatment you use it will always work better if the hair is towel dried (squeeze NEVER rub as you will damage the hair more!) really well before applying it so that the hair is not so full of water it cant absorb anything more!

Now the hair should be in much better condition and your colour – whatever you and your client have discussed and chosen is going to take much more evenly and also hold in their hair and look much fresher for far longer than if the condition was poor.

Test cutting

Taking a test cutting is a good idea when you are trying to achieve a certain colour; you should take a section of hair from just above the ear and back comb it until you only have a small long piece sticking out of the back combed patch. Take a cutting of this piece before combing it back out; cuttings done this way will be invisible and nobody will tell that anything has been taken! I usually do this type of test when I’m trying to achieve a totally different colour or trying to do a number of processes. For example, if the client has old colour in their hair and wants to break that down to have something totally different. Whether it’s a few different reds you want to try to see which will be brightest or a blue and a purple to see which the client prefers it’s quite a good idea to do this to make sure you can achieve the colour you hope for!

Good colouring choices come from good consultations and finding out the history of what this particular client has put their hair through in the past is so important as is to advise them what tones will be best suited to their skin colouring. Most clients need educating about the importance of decent hair products, it’s not a hard sale thing im talking about, I’m by no means a salesperson but if you educate people in this way they will usually want to buy some professional products because they will then know the importance of keeping their hair in good condition. Moreover it will in the long run save them money on colouring their hair because the colour will always last better and fading of bright colours for instance will be far less than if they bought a supermarket shampoo. They will also be more inclined to return to you as a regular because they can’t believe how long their colour stayed this time!

Bleach bath

When a client is having a total colour change, particularly dark to light or you as the stylist are wanting to get old colour out of their hair to get a ‘blank canvas’ to work on the best way is to bleach bath (sometimes known as a peroxide wash). This is made up with equal parts of bleach, peroxide (peroxide strength depends on the client’s hair type and how much lift you want to achieve) and a clarifying shampoo. A lot of hairdressers make the mistake of rubbing the mixture through the hair at the back wash as if it were shampoo, but this often gives an uneven result even if thoroughly applied as the hair is not usually evenly coloured in the first place! I find the best way is to apply it like a tint - in hot cross bun sections.

Then thoroughly apply just to the mid lengths and ends first, not yet touching the root area as the roots are fresher hair and probably don’t have any colour on them. When that has lifted a little you can then go through in your tiny sections again and apply it to the root area – this is also a more comfortable way for the client as it will stay on the scalp for a shorter amount of time so should not cause much discomfort (due to the bleach it can sting/itch slightly but you should ask your client to tell you how it feels and if they are rather sensitive then you can wash off and re-apply with a lower peroxide). By following these simple steps you will have an evenly lifted base making it much easier to get a great colour!

It’s really difficult to actually give colouring tips without knowing who your client is, what their background is and what they want to achieve but it’s of vital importance to start with a good base of healthy hair. Really it’s all about getting to know your salon’s particular brand (as they are all slightly different) and making sure your consultations are the best that they can be!


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