Becoming a beauty professional often means that you never see color quite the same way again. While your local barista may describe your coffee as “dark”, “light” or “medium”, you will probably see it in more of a level 6-4 range with gold undertones.
Knowledge is a beautiful thing.
Unfortunately, the highly specific, technical language that enables colorists to do what they do so well, isn’t always easily translated to clients. Most laypeople have no idea what a “level” of hair color is or that the word “ash” has anything at all to do with hair.
Even if a client does have some understanding of these terms and concepts, it’s likely that they have no idea which ones apply to them. This can make things a bit complicated when trying to communicate ideas and expected results.
While it’s not entirely reasonable—or necessary—to provide a full education to each client on the fundamentals of hair color theory, it can be useful to have some translations “on hand”, as a way to respond to a future blank stares when you mention “mushroom” while talking about highlights. This can help cut down on miscommunication and keep your color business strong.
Demystifying hair color levels
Clients typically think of hair color in very rigid terms. Hair is either “dark” or “light” and falls into a color category such as brown, blonde, red, or black. Of course, there is a lot more to an individual’s hair color that that, which is why beauty pros have the terminology that they do. Explaining the concept of levels is a great way to introduce your clients to the nuances of hair color.
You may want to consider using a clients’ natural shade as a starting point for your explanation. Oftentimes this can help them to visualize how going up or down a level or two will impact their look. As much as you probably LOVE talking shop and sharing your color knowledge, at the end of the day, all a client really wants to know is how a shade will look on them.
The warm and cool spectrum
When a client pictures a “warm” color it’s likely they are going to think red or blonde. It is difficult for someone who does not see the full spectrum of hair color side by side on a regular basis to understand how large a role undertones play in an overall color scheme. Knowing this on an individual level can help clients choose a desired color result that is a better fit for them. This can help clarify expectations and cut down on shock or disappointment if an end result doesn’t look exactly like the Instagram photo it was inspired by.
Again, the best place to start here is with whatever undertones your client naturally has. You can walk them through the “white test” by holding up a piece of printer paper or having a pure white cape or towel handy. Another fun way to help clients understand undertones is to have some gold and silver jewelry on hand for them to try on. One or the other will look better depending on whether they have warm or cool undertones. If you happen to carry jewelry in your salon, this is also a great way to bring that up and make a sale!
Decoding the inspiration photo
Typically, a color client finds an image on social media of a color that they like on someone else and brings it in for reference, expecting you to recreate the exact shade. Of course, we know that the color in the photo was likely custom blended for that individual wearer and the formula for your client will be not at all what was used to achieve the color in the photo.
By explaining some of the individual characteristics of hair color (like level and warmth, etc.) you can help your client understand what customized variation of the color in the photo would work best for them. Again, this helps to set expectations before you unveil the final result. This way your client won’t expect to see Blake Lively staring back at them from the mirror but will instead appreciate a head of gorgeous honey-blonde highlights of their own.
A full-on hair color education isn’t really necessary for having productive consultations with clients. However, a little sharing of your wealth of color knowledge can go a long way when it comes to managing expectations around desired results.