How-to: Dramatic Color-Change Consultation (Hint - it's all about Communication)

As a stylist, I aim to maintain the strength and integrity of my client’s locks – and I know that you do, too. Because of this, I often find myself cursing the ‘miracle’ that is the Internet – and here’s why: Drastic changes. More often than not, my client’s have unrealistic expectations relating to how fast these changes should occur – plus what type of investment these changes will require. Why? They see celebrity before-and-after pictures.

But the same-day-miracle is rarely as simple as it seems. Often, these changes require over a dozen hours of time and a significant financial investment. Luckily, with a few simple tips and tricks, you can educate your clients about the time required for real change. Read on to discover how to prepare your clients for a multiple-day service – plus make sure that they’re satisfied with their end-results, today.

How to: Adjust Client Expectations

As a colorist, when one of my clients wants to take their hue from a level 2 to a level 10-beige, I’m thrilled – because I love a challenge. But I also wonder if she really knows what she’s in for. This change isn’t as simple as a finger snap – and it certainly isn’t a single process. There are MANY shades that fall between 2 and 10. I’m always careful about the promises I make, and I take care to be conservative in my estimation of what’s possible in a single day. For reference, the before and after results pictured below took 4 days to achieve (no, this is not my master creation).  


It’s Good to be Direct

  • Today’s change will not happen in two and a half hours. Most transitions take eight to twelve hours – and this one will likely be no different.
  • This is the perfect time to tactfully explain your pricing, because after all, color corrections don’t come cheap – and you shouldn’t short change yourself, and end up working for free. Your time is money. It’s best to make your client aware of the investment beforehand, so there are no surprises at the front desk. 
  • It’s ok to say: “This is an estimate of the time required to create this look, and the corresponding price. We may have to add in additional services (such as deep conditioning treatments), which will add time and dollars to your final bill.
  • It’s great to have pictures for reference. But make your client’s aware of any variations that could prevent their results from looking exactly like that of those pictured. Variables include density of the hair, natural base color, underlying tones in the hair, plus porosity.  
  • Make your client aware: how much of a change will they see today? In this case, it’s great to use the Internet for reference. Pull up pictures of expected results, and make sure that they are ok with the transitional color. 
  • Points of difference: Is your client’s skin-tone lighter or more ruddy than the model in the reference picture? Let your instincts guide you. If you feel the color could use adjustments, let them know this, beforehand.
  •  Sometimes, a big change just isn’t in the cards. If a client’s locks are brittle or breaking, it’s good to be honest. Sure, you could loose the client – but in some cases, that’s preferable to client who’s walking around with your work on her hair, which is barely hanging on.

When making a big change, communication is key. Though being direct can feel uncomfortable, it can save you from an awkward front-desk experience – and a frustrated client. So make sure that you’re giving your guests as much information as possible before a big change – and you can be sure that you’ll both be happy with the finished product.  

If you’re frustrated by the rigors of this kind of consultation, consider investing in a ‘Same Day Multiple Services’ course. Hair Color Magic is in conversation with master-colorist Luis Gonzalez (he’s the inspiration for this post!), and is developing a class for our 2017 calendar. Keep your eye out!

With Love,

Color-Techniques 101, Part II: New Growth, Mid-Lengths and Ends

Let’s face it: Working behind the chair can be challenging. Certainly, we all love this crazy lifestyle – but sometimes, hectic schedules can be limiting – and demand getting back to the basics.

While incorporating new and fun techniques can help to break up the monotony of a jam-packed schedule, it’s important to keep a few basic methods in mind. Read on to get my exclusive tips and tricks, and learn how you can streamline your color application techniques – to get the best results, every time.


Highlighting with foils can be tricky. You can expect to run into challenges: From sliding foils to foils that ‘bleed,’ plus uneven lifting, working with foils can introduce a certain amount of unpredictability. Find out how to combat wayward results, here.

  • Take the fuss out of a next-to-the-scalp application: Take your parting, weave, or slice, and over-direct strands away from you. Slide the foil to the scalp, and bring hair over the top of the foil. Slide your foil over your comb, and apply pressure on the scalp. Then, bring the hair down onto the foil and slide your comb out. The hair will hold the foil in place, allowing you freedom of movement.
  • Sliding foils can be problematic. To keep them from shifting, adjust your subsections to the width of the head. If you place a foil in an area of curvature, you’re likely to end up with an unstable foil. After folding the foil, crease one side with the teeth of a pintail comb (find out which one is my favorite, here), using the palm of your hand for resistance. When used in combination, these simple techniques will anchor the foil, and prevent it from slipping and sliding.
  • Though it my seem counterintuitive, it’s important to know that ‘bleeders’ are not created by applying product close to the scalp; they are created by applying too much product on the foil close to the scalp. To avoid over-application of color, use the tip of your finger to wipe off excess product prior to sealing the foil.
  • To prevent the unsightly results that are a product of uneven lifting, make sure to ‘roll’ the hair with product, as described in Part I of this series.


Described as a backcombing technique, the ‘tipping’ technique provides a soft and diffused finished; it’s most commonly used to create an ombre-like finished product. If not executed with technical precision, this method can leave you with a strong line, or a dip-dye effect. Find out how to create soft transitions, here.

  • Determine where you’d like the color transition to begin, and start with a diagonal parting, here. Alternatively, you can opt for a ‘weave effect,’ using three to five ‘weaves’ per foil.
  • Rough up the hair (slightly) with the teeth of your comb. To find out which comb will work best on your clients’ unique texture, go here. Drop the comb into the hair and press up, once. Press up one inch past where you’d like to see the gradation begin; this will be the one-inch border that will help you to create a soft and seamless blend.
  • Apply your formulation to the hair, staying below the one-inch mark.
  • Using a conditioner or clear-base product (blending formula), apply product to the backcombed hair; this will provide you with an adequate safety net. Next, pick up more of the blending formula, and carefully pull bleach into the one-inch border, making sure to ‘roll’ into the hair (see Part I).

By following these simple techniques, you’ll be guaranteed a line-free application, and a soft, diffused finish.

Quick Tip: If the hair is cut at an angle, or frames the face, be sure to work with and not against the angle. Take a diagonal parting, and walk the hair around to the front to see the horizontal line in the haircut; follow the backcombing steps.

Remember: Just like hair cutting, the elevation at which you hold the hair and backcomb ultimately creates graduation and dimension. Follow these simple tips to create intentional effects.

  • For dimensional ends: Hold hair down to the floor and back comb up.
  • For dimensional midshafts: Hold the hair at a 45-degree angle from where it grows, and back comb up.
  • For dimension close to the scalp: Hold the hair at a 90-degree angle from where it grows, and back comb up.

Shampoo out left-behind color

Leaving hair color (even in trace amounts) on the hair can cause porosity issues – which can lead to premature fading. So read, here, to learn how you can properly remove color from freshly tinted strands – and leave your guest looking and feeling their very best, post service and beyond.

While implementing basic techniques can feel tedious, it’s important to remember to ‘begin at the beginning.’ Taking short cuts can lead to less than stellar results – and less than satisfied clients. So, when you’re crunched for time, and booked back-to-back, rely on these basic techniques to give you beautiful results that you can count on.

Thanks for joining me in this two-part series!



Tips and Tricks: Coloring Coiled or Highly Textured Strands

Tight, coiled or highly textured strands: As a colorist, this hair-type can seem completely confounding – and totally mysterious. But the trick to working with texture (which I came by through significant amounts of trial and error) is to approach it with distinction, plus a touch of intuition. Read on to discover my top-4 tips for mastering textured-hair color application – so you can skip the mishaps and head straight to a flawless color application.

Tip 1: Adjust the formula. It’s important to know that both textured and curly hair absorb more light – and as a result – can appear to be darker. To accommodate this point of difference, you’ll need to adjust your level (or shade) choices. Keep your developer lower than you would with fine, straight or wavy strands, and don’t be afraid to depend on the ammonia lift; it will control the underlying pigment.

Always take the hair’s underlying pigments into consideration when determining your target level. Also, remember that your target level can help you to determine what base tone to use. Aim to use the base tone that will neutralize your client’s natural remaining pigments, plus add the base tone that you want to see. At Hair Color Magic, this is the foundation of our teachings; this method leads to predictable results – and predictability is key to client satisfaction.

When using lightening products such as bleach, make sure to use a lower developer. You’ll get the lift you’re after from the bleach – not from the developer; that’s why these items are referred to as ‘catalysts’ or activators. Ultimately, they’re used to give the bleach (active ingredient: persulfates) the time and energy needed to lift. In general, using 10, 15 or 20 volumes will give you the right amount of lift-time. Lift slowly – and evenly – and you’ll get clean, beautiful results.

Tip 2: Sub-sectioning. When working with straight, wavy or loose curls, it’s simple to keep sections neat and tidy. Similarly, you can keep highly textured or coiled hair in well-ordered sections. Here’s how:

  • Relaxed coils: Sub-section as you normally would straight or wavy hair.
  • Natural texture: Pull each, individual curl straight out from the head and gently tug it; let it lay organically in place. In this way, you can see where to collapse the shape with a deeper shade, and where you’ll want to enhance or expand the shape with a lighter level. Divide accordingly: Collapse and expand. Section accordingly.

I typically work in round, curved subsections. This works with the shape, plus natural, soft texture. Check out Hb Live Episode 50 to see this technique (plus my expanded explanation of sectioning coiled curls) in action!

Tip 3: Application. When working with textured hair, it can be tricky to know where to start our application process. First, apply the base (if applicable). To forgo stress and struggle, I use a bottle application to fully saturate the new growth (or root area). Next, picture where you want the lightest dimension, and clip these pieces away for control. Then, apply color for contrast and/or dimension. Once these have been placed, go back through with your enlightening product (bleach) and place your lightest dimension.

Always apply your high lift (or bleach) last, so that the base color has time to work – and you won’t have to worry about lifting that occurs too rapidly.   

Tip 4: Timing. If I’m using bleach in my application, I watch closely for my target level, and remove color once I’ve reached my goal. Remove bleach thoroughly by shampooing three times. Next, use an equalizing, PH balanced product, which will stop the chemical process. Finish by conditioning the hair with the most hydrating product available; this will help to prepare the hair for toner.

Curly hair can be a mystery – but if you want to expand or sharpen your color skills – it’s important to get familiar with a ton of different textures. Use this simple guide as a baseline – and go here to get familiar with the various types of texture, so you can officially learn the curl.

Also, for tips and tricks on cutting a curly shape, go here – and be sure to check out Mona Baltazar, here on Hb!

Re-Fresh: Brighten Blonde Mid-Lengths and Ends

Calling all colorists: Do you struggle to keep your blonde’s mid-lengths and ends bright, shiny – plus free from brassy tones and fade-out? When we first hair paint, balayage or lighten strands, we’re left with a brilliant and beautiful finish (see how, here). But as time goes by – if we continue to use the same formula – we can begin to see uneven tones, and this can show up as slightly darker or muddier mid-lengths and ends. 

Avoiding this undesirable aesthetic – and extending the life of your blondes – can be simple, and should be addressed every second or third service, depending on the porosity of your clients hair. Here’s how:

Mid-Lengths and Ends: The Re-Fresh Formula

Safely lifting mid-lengths and ends can be fuss-free. Simply use an Enlightening formula, and combine it with a low-level developer, 5 volume or water, and further dilute the solution with a conditioner or universal 0N, an ammonia free clear base.

Remember that the lift is achieved via the bleach, not the activator. Instead, your activator is your timing for how long you want the bleach to work. For example: when shifting the tone at the bowl, bleach with hot water is used.

The conditioner (or universal 0N) will help to blend out and dilute the Enlightening formula, which will provide the perfect amount of shift instead of over-lifting the mid-lengths and ends.

Achieving an even Finish

Use the above formula to refresh dark or muddy mid-lengths and ends, while using your original lifting formula in the areas that you’d like to add dimension. Apply a layer of conditioner (or Universal 0N) and blend through to the ends. Your finished look will be balanced, with brighter mid-lengths and ends, plus dimensional pieces. You can repeat this process every second or third service, depending on how much brightness you are trying to achieve.

Remember that when you’re pricing your services, communication is key. This process will add time to your already-existing blonding service, and clients should be charged accordingly (learn how you can establish a base-line for pricing, here). Speak with management and front-end support staff to create a baseline price for this additional brightening service.


It’s crucial that you adequately remove your Enlightening formula – and for this – I recommend shampooing three times (learn about my system, here). This is because leftover bleach can adversely affect subsequent glossing/toning formulas. I follow with PHinish by Aveda, which is a neutralizing conditioner. Before applying the conditioner, thoroughly towel dry strands. Apply the conditioner, and allow it to rest for up to five minutes. Rinse thoroughly, and apply your favorite deep conditioning treatment, prior to glossing/toning.

Brightening and lightening your client’s mid-lengths and ends can be a snap, using this failsafe formula. And remember: never be afraid to communicate in regards to price increases due add-on services.

How do you lighten, brighten, and extend the life of your blondes?