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!