Hair Colourist

Job Description (What the job involves)

The main duties for you as a colourist will obviously be applying colour using a number of techniques such as:

Full head permanent and semi permanent tints - These are all over colours that are applied directly to the head. An allergy patch test is ALWAYS necessary before applying colour directly to the head.

Foil or easy meche high lights or low lights - The hair is weaved to an appropriate thickness dependent on the result you want to achieve and the colour is painted onto the foil or meche. No patch test is required as the colour should never touch the scalp during this process.

Dip Dyes - The colour is applied directly to the hair usually just through the ends but sometimes through the mid-lengths as well but this is dependent on the result you want. No patch test is required as the colour doesn't go anywhere near the scalp.

Wedges  -  You would usually just be applying one or two of these as they are to add a flash of colour.  The procedure involves taking a triangular section of hair and applying colour using foil. No patch test is need as it isn't applied to the scalp.

Flood lights -  Weaved sections that are applied over the top of a full head tint, they are usually just through the parting or hairline to give a soft subtle highlight that creates a less noticeable re-growth and is also great for blending those grey hairs!

Burnt in colour - This is when small sections of the hair are painted with a vibrant colour and then gently dried directly into the hair using straighteners. Although this sounds like a simple process, you HAVE to know what your doing or you could burn the hair which would be disastrous! – no patch test required as colour does not touch the scalp.

And so the list goes on…

But more importantly as a colourist you will be advising clients on which colours would compliment their skin tone, which would best be avoided against their natural colouring and advising before you carry out suitable techniques dependent on what you are trying to achieve.

You will also find that you have to correct an awful lot of colour disasters that have usually happened at home when the client has tried to colour their own hair. This can be a complex task depending on what they have done and can involve stripping the hair or bleach bathing (also known as peroxide washing).

Hours and Working Environment

This position usually comes with long hours that include working late evenings and nearly always weekends especially Saturdays and quite often in larger more central salons you will be expected to work occasional Sundays too. In most town salons you can expect to work in a loud bustling environment which can be extremely tiring but a great fun sociable atmosphere to be in!

Upsides and Downsides

The Pro's of being a colourist -

  • Great fun atmosphere to work in.
  • Great earning potential particularly if you are self employed.
  • Rewarding job as you are making clients look and more importantly, feel so much better.
  • A very sociable job

The Con's of being a colourist –

  • Long hours.
  • Can be very stressful with time keeping during busier times.
  • Can be challenging as it's a highly technical job.
  • Almost always working weekends and often bank holidays too.

Skills and Personal Qualities

You need to be an outgoing, energetic and artistic person with an in depth and varied experience within the hairdressing industry. In addition a profound knowledge of the colour wheel is vital.

Entry Requirements

Most salons would ask that you have at least 5 years experience in all round hairdressing and a minimum of an NVQ level 2 before you would be advanced enough to apply for a position like this.

Opportunities and Progression

This is an advanced position which can be very highly paid within what is a booming industry at the moment!

With so many new colour techniques popping up all the time you really have to keep up to date with it all. The perfect way to do this is by doing branded colour courses with large companies like Wella and L'Oreal. As matter of course some larger salons will send their colourists on this kind of course regularly to keep them up to-date with everything. You can gain a lot of knowledge from these courses and also meet lots of other colourists to share ideas and tips with!

By keeping up to date with new techniques you can progress to colour competitions to win not only a great reputation within your profession but also there are some great prizes to be won and if you're good enough there can be travelling involved with expenses paid too!

You can also get into fashion colouring for photo shoots or teaching colouring techniques can be a very rewarding and well paid progression from being a salon colourist too.

It's down to you to take your career as far as you want it to go.

Industry Outlook

Hair colourists are noticing that certain branded purple and blue hair dyes are fading far more quickly than previously has been the case. This is down to certain ingredients which were key to prolonging the color effect being taken out after new regulations banned their use within the UK.

It is feared that these banned ingredients had carcinogenic properties and so for working colourists and their clients this is a good thing but something really needs to be done to get them working like they always have and allow us to keep all those lovely vibrant colours alive!

Even the best of branded permanent and semi permanent colours have their usage problems with results not always coming out as promised. But the problems can differ by brand. For example one well known (but for now unnamed) manufacturer's products do not give even coverage without a base colour being added whereas others will cover perfectly without a natural colour being added - as they should!

This can be perplexing and unnerving for Colourists learning their trade but for Colourists with vast experience in using a wide range of brands  throughout the years they learn to overcome these issues; for example by mixing different legal product concoctions to achieve what the colour was supposed to be in the first place.

The hope is that for an industry where the demand for hair colouring is booming, the scientists working for hair colour manufacturers can uncover new affordable, safe ingredients that can enhance the performance of all current and future hair dye products.

© Louise Backler


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Potential Salary and Benefits

You can expect to earn quite a high wage as a colourist, the skys your limit especially if you are self employed, good at your job and willing to put those long hours in!

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