When it comes to changing hair colour, we all know social media can factor into a client’s decision. From seeing their favourite celebrity to a stunning before-and-after transformation, inspiration that sparks a colour change can come from many different directions and outlets. While the possibilities for hair shades are truly infinite, let’s face it: Not every option works for everyone. The colour a client sees looking great on someone may look that way because it’s flattering on that person. “The three most important things to consider during a colour consultation are skin tone, eye colour and maintenance,” says Jenna Engel, an educator for Joico and owner of Plush Salon & Spa in Medicine Hat, Alta.
“You need to choose a shade to complement your guest’s skin tone rather than have it contrast, which could bring out the harshest elements in both the skin and the hair.”
To begin, you’ll want to determine whether your client has a warm, cool or neutral skin tone. If you’re having trouble with this, you can look at the veins in their arm to see if they have a greener (warm) or bluer (cool) tint or both (neutral), which is a trick used by makeup artists. You can also have a conversation about the common colours in their wardrobe and/or the tone of jewelry (gold or silver) they prefer wearing to figure out which shades they gravitate toward.
Another way to discover their most flattering tones is to use your swatch book. “I always teach my apprentices to hold the colour swatches up against the clients’ skin,” says Engel. “You will instantly see which colours look better against the skin tone and your client will love to see it, too.”
“I usually grab my colour book and pull the client’s hair back and put some pieces on her forehead,” adds Geneviève Grenier, owner of Azur Salon & Spa in Thetford Mines, Que., and an Oligo Professionnel creative team member. “I put some strong colours on their face to see how it reacts with their eyes. It’s really impressive how you can see the colour of your client change with their skin tone, especially when you have daylight coming through your salon. In that moment, clients will also notice a difference on how their face looks compared to the colour, and it will help you decide on the direction to go in.”
For “cool” clients with blue undertones, it’s all about neutralizing red or pink hues in their skin while embracing icy, cold tones.
“If a client has a cool skin tone, ash/cool tones will look best. Cool undertones suit champagne, violet and silver blondes.” — Jenna Engel, owner of Plush Salon & Spa and Joico educator, Medicine Hat, Alta.
“Very light, cooler blondes can look darker because of ashy or iridescent undertones. Just remember that iridescent tones may not suit older women because they can enhance any dark spots or circles under the eyes.” — Matt Waldron, hairstylist and colourist at Orbite and L’Oréal Professionnel colour ambassador, Montreal
“If they are naturally a level seven or eight, you want to make sure that when you’re lifting to get to that blonde, you’re not leaving them at that level. If they have cool skin, you don’t want to give them something that’s too warm. You’ll lift to a certain point and tone down or up, depending. Something more like a platinum or silvery blonde that’s better for a cooler skin tone.” — Krysten- Ashley Garrod, hairstylist at Studio Fontana and Goldwell national guest artist, Toronto
“A cooler chestnut or mushroom brown is a great option for cooler skin tones.” — Jenna Engel, owner of Plush Salon & Spa and Joico educator, Medicine Hat, Alta.
“Very light, cooler blondes can look darker because of ashy or iridescent undertones. Iridescent tones don’t typically suit older women because of dark spots or circles under their eyes.” –— Matt Waldron, hairstylist and colourist at Orbite and L’Oréal Professionnel colour ambassador, Montreal
“Cool shades can be beautiful on a client, but any redness and irritation of the skin can look more obvious if the palette is too similar to their skin tone. If someone is very pale, I’m cautious about choosing a colour that’s too cool for their skin because it can make them look drained.” — Quinn Enright, technical advisor for Schwarzkopf Professional, Edmonton, Alta.
IF A CLIENT IS SHOWING YOU PHOTOS—OF CELEBRITIES OR FROM SOCIAL MEDIA—TRY FINDING SIMILAR PHOTOS OF PEOPLE WITH A SIMILAR SKIN TONE AS YOUR CLIENT TO HELP THEM ENVISION WHAT THE COLOUR WILL LOOK LIKE ON THEM.
For clients with a warmer skin tone, your palette will want to complement their golden or yellow undertones while not making them look (or feel) too warm or brassy.
“Warm and gold undertones are best suited to caramel and honey blondes. It’s best to stay away from any ash tones as they can make the skin look very washed out.” – Jenna Engel, owner of Plush Salon & Spa and Joico educator, Medicine Hat, Alta.
“If the client has a lot of warmth in their skin, I try to control the look of warmth and not enhance it. I avoid colours that are too similar to the skin tone because their features get lost and it can wash them out, especially for blondes. I love working with lots of dimension and playing with pinks, nudes, beiges and ginger blondes for warmer complexions. — Quinn Enright, technical advisor for Schwarzkopf Professional, Edmonton, Alta.
“Ashy tones on warm skin can make a person look 10 years older because it does nothing for their skin tone. You’ll want to go with something that’s a bit warmer to neutralize those unwanted tones; something that’s more of a honey or copper is going to make them look glowing, tanned and radiant. Small things like that can make a huge difference.” — Matt Waldron, hairstylist and colourist at Orbite and L’Oréal Professionnel colour ambassador, Montreal
“For warmer skin, you’ll want to stay within warmer tones to help the skin pop and glow. A champagne or golden blonde is a better choice, but really, it’s whatever makes them pop.” — Krysten-Ashley Garrod, hairstylist at Studio Fontana and Goldwell national guest artist, Toronto
“Work in warmer colours with different shades in the hair so it won’t look too warm or brassy. Use different shades so the light will reflect differently and create something really rich rather than appear too warm without any dimension.” — Geneviève Grenier, owner of Azur Salon & Spa and Oligo creative team member, Thetford Mines, Que.
Did You Know?
The more porous the hair, the more it will reject warmth. It’s one of the reasons why golden and honey blondes can be more difficult to achieve, so adding dimension can help you maintain the overall look and feel of a warmer tone.
“Olive skin tones look great with a bronde colour, so mixing a chocolate brown with honey highlights would be a great option.” – Jenna Engel, owner of Plush Salon & Spa and Joico educator, Medicine Hat, Alta.
“There’s a huge smoky hair trend going on right now, which I just think is a trendy term for neutralized brunettes. For someone with an olive or deeper warm skin tone, who wants to go for more of an ashy brown but doesn’t have a skin tone to suit that, we can use the base colour around her face with something not as ashy, and work some balayage in with the ends that’s more neutralizing. That way she gets her ‘coolness’ but with more warmth around her face that will complement her complexion much better.” — Matt Waldron, hairstylist and colourist at Orbite and L’Oréal Professionnel colour ambassador, Montreal
“It’s all about dimension. If it’s too monochromatic, it can look very dull. I like creating combinations when I’m working with brunettes because it will create more life in the colour. You don’t want their skin and hair colour to look the same.” — Quinn Enright, technical advisor for Schwarzkopf Professional, Edmonton, Alta.
“For someone who’s a typical level six brunette that might still want some pop, but don’t necessarily want a highlight or a lowlight, I love adding a few lowlights throughout at the same level, using Elumen to create a ton of shine. They almost feel like they got a highlight, even though it’s just shine.” — Krysten-Ashley Garrod, hairstylist at Studio Fontana and Goldwell national guest artist, Toronto
For clients with both warm and cool undertones, the options are seemingly endless as you can choose to go with either shade (or a combination of the two).
“Icy, iridescent or ashy blondes that are on the warmer side can complement a paler, more neutral skin tone. But if you put something that’s too iridescent on someone with a paler cool to neutral skin tone, they’ll look like a ghost. You’ll want something that’s neutralizing the skin tone to balance things out.” — Matt Waldron, hairstylist and colourist at Orbite and L’Oréal Professionnel colour ambassador, Montreal
“Neutral tones can wear almost anything. The biggest thing to discuss during the consultation is the maintenance. For anyone with level five or darker regrowth, a platinum blonde may look amazing with their skin tone, but the maintenance might not be something they’re willing to keep up with.” — Krysten- Ashley Garrod, hairstylist at Studio Fontana and Goldwell national guest artist, Toronto
“Neutral complexions are beautiful with warm and cool combinations. My favourite is champagne cinnamon or muted cashew, because they’re a combination of warm and cool, which is nice for neutral skin tones since they can wear both. When you combine both you get really beautiful tones.” — Quinn Enright, technical advisor for Schwarzkopf Professional, Edmonton, Alta.
“Light, fair or pale skin best complement strawberry or platinum blonde tones. Honey blonde can be in the neutral to warmer tones, but we have so many shades that are available or that we can mix [and customize].” — Jenna Engel, owner of Plush Salon & Spa and Joico educator, Medicine Hat, Alta.
“I FEEL LIKE ANYONE CAN BE A BLONDE, BRUNETTE OR REDHEAD, BUT THERE ARE CERTAIN COLOURS THAT WILL MAKE PEOPLE GLOW AND SHINE WHEN THEY WALK INTO A ROOM, SO THEY’RE WEARING THE HAIR VERSUS THE HAIR WEARING THEM.” — KRYSTEN-ASHLEY GARROD, HAIRSTYLIST AT STUDIO FONTANA AND GOLDWELL NATIONAL GUEST ARTIST, TORONTO
“Neutral undertones can typically rock any hair colour, however, chestnut brown looks especially rich and vibrant against these tones.” — Jenna Engel, owner of Plush Salon & Spa and Joico educator, Medicine Hat, Alta.
“A money piece is something a lot of people are still asking for. You can juxtapose a warmer option to give the skin tone more light, but I suggest working in an ashier tone as a brunette to cool things down so the client doesn’t feel too warm. Playing around with different tones and working with warm and cool together will satisfy the client and make her skin tone pop more.” — Matt Waldron, hairstylist and colourist at Orbite and L’Oréal Professionnel colour ambassador, Montreal
“I’m a really big fan of blending colours and having a seamless blend from root to end, whether you’re going from darker to lighter or a matte finish to something shinier. It creates more dimension or pop around the face.” — Krysten-Ashley Garrod, hairstylist at Studio Fontana and Goldwell national guest artist, Toronto
“Combining warm and cool is huge in our industry because that’s what gives that modern, muted look. I love using Schwarzkopf Professional’s TBH colour because the palette has a lot of combinations of warm and cool together; the warm shades are never brassy and cool shades are never dark and muddy. It respects the hair’s natural identity, so it keeps the natural highs and lows so it looks like it’s curated for the client.” — Quinn Enright, technical advisor for Schwarzkopf Professional, Edmonton, Alta.
Schwarzkopf Professional Colour Blender
For a more seamless blending experience, Schwarzkopf Professional’s Colour Blender is an innovative new tool that allows you to blend multiple colours with saturation from roots to ends, without creating any dreaded demarcation lines. Created by the brand’s global colour ambassador, Lesley Jennison, the angled sponge is similar to those used in makeup for contouring, but features a convenient handle for a mess- free application.
While some hairstylists may find red hair to be more complicated, it’s about identifying the differences in tones and finding the one to enhance your client’s complexion.
“Paler skin with green or yellow hues can suit reds really well. Sometimes it’s not about going the opposite of their skin tone but about complementing it with a similar colour. Redheads are an exception.” — Matt Waldron, hairstylist and colourist at Orbite and L’Oréal Professionnel colour ambassador, Montreal
“For cool reds, there’s mahogany, burgundy or purple-red, but if you have more of an olive skin tone, it may not look as appealing. There are more golden and orange reds, so it’s about finding the right shade of red that will complement your client’s skin tone.” — Geneviève Grenier, owner of Azur Salon & Spa and Oligo creative team member, Thetford Mines, Que.
“Natural redheads follow the same rules. If they have cool undertones, cooler reds/coppers/blondes look best. If they have warmer undertones, golden tones would be best.” – Jenna Engel, owner of Plush Salon & Spa and Joico educator, Medicine Hat, Alta.
To bring your client’s colour alive, experimenting with techniques can help you find new and exciting ways to customize their shade. After all, creating a more bespoke service can help foster client loyalty, and that will keep them coming back to you time and time again. Waldron recommends the French Balayage approach, which is a professional two-step technique from L’Oréal Professionnel for lightening and glossing hair, creating more natural-looking results that cannot be replicated at home.
For lightening, hair is hand-painted and personalized to the client’s hair type and a nourishing gloss tailored to the client’s colour is then applied, which helps neutralize warmth and adds a high-gloss shine.
“French balayage is something I specialize in and do on most of my clients,” says Waldron. “It’s the art of freehand painting hair rather than foil highlights and can be an open- air or closed, finished with a gloss to tone the hair. Once a client gets a balayage, she’ll have a hard time going back to foils because the grow- out is much more natural looking.”
“Even if your client is coming in for a root touch-up, if you want to add a bit of sunshine to her hair, you can paint her roots, add a few face- framing pieces or layers to create multidimensional colour and then gloss it,” Waldron adds. “It will take five or 10 minutes longer, upsell and increase the bill, and the client feels like they have something more personalized for them that they can’t do themselves at home. Even if it’s only two or three little extra pieces, that’s the essence of us being able to give them more than what they can get on their own.”
TO HELP HAIR POP WITHOUT IT LOOKING TOO MONOCHROMATIC AGAINST THEIR SKIN TONE, CONSIDER GOING TWO LEVELS LIGHTER OR DARKER SO IT DOESN’T WASH THEM OUT.