With the beginning of a new season upon us, it’s no surprise that many people may be seeking a colour change. Add to that the fact that it’s been months since some of your clients have returned to the salon, and chances are a colour correction will be needed to get their hair back on track. While consultations have always been important, they’re now more vital. “I think 15 minutes of my time is nothing compared to what it does for me, in terms of booking, and when it comes to ensuring that I can actually proceed with a service,” says Rodica Hristu, owner of ProHair Group in Toronto and an international artistic team member for Goldwell. “I need that consultation as much as the client does to make sure I have a better understanding of the hair’s condition and what the possibilities are.”
While a consultation can help you get a better understanding of your client’s hair, it’s also an opportunity to manage their expectations. Alex Chabot, owner of Montreal-based Nzo Salon, says while it’s not uncommon for clients to have unrealistic expectations (thanks a lot, Instagram!), it’s your job as the professional to put things into perspective. “They need to know how many months it can take, how many appointments, how much per appointment, et cetera,” he says. “If you start with this conversation, the client may change their mind because it’s not in their budget or they wouldn’t be happy with the result because it wouldn’t be what they expected.”
To remove excess colour, Chabot likes to use Matrix SoColor Cult’s Colour Eraser, which is gentle and can be done in one application before lightening the hair.
1 Box Colour
For clients using box colour, especially during the last few months, removing excess colour buildup and creating a clean canvas can be a significant amount of work. The key to addressing this is to thoroughly analyze the hair, which goes far beyond what meets the eye.
Tried and Tested
Even the most experienced professionals won’t rely solely on what their client tells them about their hair. While you might think you can diagnose many hair problems on your own, it’s important to be sure about what’s in their hair so you can be confident in your course of action. “With any box colour client, I always do a strand test,” says Armineh Damanpak, a Contessa-winning hairstylist at Moods Hair Salon in Vancouver and an educator for Joico. “Because of the metals in some box colour, it can automatically react with any lightener and that’s when you can get the smoking of the foils. A strand test is number one for me because it alleviates so much pressure.”
“With scheduling and trying to get the client in, coloured and finished in time, I don’t think hairstylists are doing strand tests enough,” Hristu adds. “It’s like doing an X-ray to see what’s inside the hair. If the results are promising, you can plan the rest of the colour correction. If it’s not looking good, you can easily colour [the strand] back and prepare the hair for another appointment six months down the road.”
QUICK TRICK: “If you’re short on time, Chabot suggests doing a freehand balayage to help give the client a quick, noticeable result. “For a brunette that wants to be lighter, I would do a freehand balayage while the regrowth is on her scalp, just to get rid of the excess colour and darkness so she feels like she’s a bit lighter. Sometimes clients will immediately love the result because it’s lighter, but it’s a good start and you have a cleaner palette to work with.”
Damanpak says a common mistake that many hairstylists make is to automatically assume that lightening hair is the answer, when that’s not always the case. “People tend to think colour correction is a huge job, and that they have to go in and lighten the hair as much as possible to have a clean canvas to start on,” she says. “But sometimes that can make it so much harder. You can often keep the integrity of the hair intact by just changing your formulas and using different shades to counteract bands or deposits. You don’t need to over-process hair to create a blank canvas.
“Go slow and make sure you have a beautiful colour at the end of each stage so that the client can walk out of the salon with a smile on their face, whether or not you achieved the target.”
—Rodica Hristu, a Toronto-based salon owner and international artistic team member for Goldwell
Whether a client is going from dark to light or vice versa, banding can be a huge issue. While it’s most noticeable on lightened hair, it’s important to address no matter what colour your client’s hair is. “A lot of people have issues with banding and being able to tackle it using the right formulas and products” says Damanpak. “Even if you can’t see the banding, once you go in with your lightener you’re exposing that. For me, it’s actually easier to tackle with lighter hair because you can push the yellow tones to a lighter level. With darker hair, you need to lift a lot more and use stronger products.”
As for techniques, Chabot says he likes to foil the hair because of the natural heat that’s conducted in the hair. “You don’t need to close [the foils or papers], just put a sheet in between each slice of hair. It’s going to retain heat and you’ll have more of an even result from the regrowth to the ends,” he says. “Start with the darker pieces at the mid-shaft, since most of the buildup will be in the middle of the hair. The regrowth area will lift easily because there’s more of the client’s natural colour and the ends are more porous so they will lift easier. Applying to the mid-shaft first makes sure there’s enough processing time and the result will be even.”
For clients with damaged or porous hair, learning that the colour result they want might not be possible can be devastating. Since colour can damage the hair—no matter how careful you are—it’s important to make sure you’re addressing your client’s porosity accordingly. “Porous hair will always absorb the coolest tones first and you can end up with a patchy result,” says Hristu. “Stylists can be over-controlling when trying to lift hair and sometimes want to achieve one result with one formula—regardless of how many colours or levels of porosity there are—in an effort to save time. But you can’t expect one formula to get you one even result—you have to address each strand, patch and section.” “Before colouring hair, you really want to even out the porosity as much as possible, so it makes it a lot easier to deposit colour without getting groups of cool tones or pockets where colour is completely rejected,” adds Damanpak. She suggests using Joico’s Defy Damage system, which includes ProSeries 1, a bond-protecting, colour optimizer spray that’s applied to hair prior to the colour service to help protect it while evening out porosity.
QUICK TRICK: For hair that’s very damaged, Damanpak says she will sometimes lighten it at the sink while it’s wet. “It’s more lubricated so it already has a barrier and is not going to deposit as much as it would on dry hair. Plus, the lightener won’t be as strong since it will [dilute] the strength and in turn, be less damaging.”
Type vs. Texture
When working with different hair types and textures, remember that both features have a huge impact on what can be achieved during a colour correction. “The actual porosity, type and texture of hair can make it quite hard to transition to a different colour,” says Chabot.
For clients with porous hair, Hristu suggests using a bond builder with Goldwell’s Elumen hair colour, which helps acidify the hair (balancing out its natural pH) to transform it so it’s back to (almost) virgin hair.
“For example, with very curly or thick hair, colour can have the tendency to damage more, while fine hair can lift easier and have better elasticity and porosity long-term because of its smaller fibre. That means the amount of colour and excess buildup is less, and most of the time it washes out fast so it’s easier to remove colour and apply something different.” When it comes to working with ethnic textures, Damanpak says there can be significant differences. “With stronger Asian hair, I have more leeway with it and can push it a little bit more. While Middle Eastern hair seems like it would be really strong, it actually gets damaged quite a bit quicker than you would imagine. These are some of the things I’ve noticed, but it really depends on the person,” she says. “It’s about understanding your client’s texture and knowing how it will react or behave before you do anything.”
“I always try to incorporate the client’s texture into the colour,” says Hristu. “Everybody wants the same look but not everybody can wear it; helping the client understand that someone with very curly hair can’t have the smooth balayage we’re seeing on social media is important. There are looks that are going to look good on her textured hair and will suit her much better.”
“It’s a business opportunity that more hairstylists should embrace rather than be scared of, because if you achieve what your client wants and provide a beautiful, healthy result, they will be a loyal customer for years.”
—Alex Chabot, a Montreal-based salon owner and educator for Matrix