10 Steps to Perfect Hair Color

Formulating and executing perfect hair color can be tricky business, but only if you don't take the proper steps! Follow these basic rules to achieve beautiful results every time.

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Be on the Level

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The first step to formulating perfect hair color is to determine the natural level of your client's hair. Level 1 is the darkest and 10 is the lightest (level 12 high-lift blonde is not included in natural levels). Once you know the natural level you can then move on to determine what the desired level will be.

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Underlying Pigment - Use It or Lose It?

Let's say your client is a natural level 6 and their desired color is a level 9 ash. The underlying pigment of a level 6 is red-orange, so, in this case, you will have to 'loose' the red-orange pigment. If your client wants a desired color that is warm, then you could 'use' the underlying pigment in your favor.

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Texture, Porosity and Density

The last step before formulation is to determine your client's texture, porosity, and density. If your client has a lot of thick, corse hair, then you will need to mix the appropriate amount of color.

-Note that corse hair can be more difficult to penetrate and in some cases a higher volume of developer is required to open the cuticle.

Next, you will determine the porosity of the hair. If the client has very porous hair that will grab color in an instant, then you will have to formulate accordingly. For example, shorter processing times and/or using a level lighter than the desired outcome. 

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However you choose to apply your client's color — balayage, all-over, highlights or a gloss, the most important step in application is organization.

Mix enough color, but not too much (all of that wasted color adds up in dollars!) and make sure that once you start applying the color you have everything you need.

Your client should be draped, and a color barrier (conditioner or any type of styling cream) should be applied to the hairline and ears. Once you've applied your color, make sure to double check that the hairline is completely saturated, as this is the area that gets missed most often.

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Rinse On, Rinse Off

Once you have shampooed the color out, you can determine if you will need to break the base or do a gloss. If you're using a semi or demi-permanent color, you can wet the hair down a bit and run the color through the ends for a few minutes to freshen them up.

Tip - If your client can tolerate it, try rinsing color out with luke-warm or cool water. Hot water opens up the cuticle and allows the color to fall out, while cool water seals the cuticle and the color in it.

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Toning and Glossing

If you are applying a toner or gloss, shampoo the hair but do not apply conditioner. Towel dry the hair until it is damp, not wet.

Back to our client with the natural level 6 hair who wants to be a level 9 ash

- Once you've lightened the hair, you'll most likely be left with color that is warmer than desired. To counteract warmth in the hair, you will need to apply a green or blue based color. You can also check your color wheel to determine the best base for your toner or gloss.

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Clean Up!

Make sure to check your client's hairline for any leftover color. Nothing is worse than a beautiful hair color with big telltale color blotches on the face or neck.

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Cut and Style

If you will be cutting your client's hair, always color the hair first. This way you won't have to bother with shampooing the hair twice.

While you are styling your client's hair, this is a perfect time to educate them about taking care of their color at home.

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After Care Products

Using after care products at home can be the difference between color that lasts a few weeks to a few months.

Clients can purchase color safe shampoo and conditioner or a shampoo that deposits a bit of color each time they wash. Also warn your clients about the sun and chlorine as they can be big factors in altering their hair color.

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Write Down That Formula!

Make your life a whole lot easier by recording your client's formulas in a client book. It takes two seconds, and when your client comes back asking for that perfect hair color you did last time, you'll know exactly what they're talking about!