We’ve come to the final installment of our Ten Commandments of Hair Color series! I hope that by now, you have a great understanding of the the chemistry and makeup of hair and feel comfortable owning your color choices whether you do at home hair color or visit a salon. You should feel empowered to understand every step of the process and that is the goal of this entire series! Today, we finish our series with perhaps the most important aspects of hair color theory and knowledge. We’ll end this series with the importance of a patch test and how those should take place and also, how to treat your hair color afterwards and maintain the vibrancy and dimension that hair color provides. Alright, let’s get started!
9. Always do a patch test before using a new color line or coloring for the first time.
Hair color is not always for everyone. I’ve seen allergies, reactions and just general sensitivities, but none of them are pretty or fun to deal with and treat. In beauty school, all new hairdressers learn that a “patch test” is required for every new customer they service. However, it doesn’t often happen because most women who receive hair color in a salon have had a color service previously and don’t have any known problems or issues. So most hairdressers will assume that they are in the clear to move forward with any color services. Also, a patch test needs to be applied and watched for 24-28 hours. Because this requires the client coming in for the patch test and then coming back in at a later date after seeing the results, a lot of women choose to opt out and follow a more convenient route, albeit a riskier one.
A patch test is taking a small amount of color, applying it to the forearm and watching and recording results to gauge any reactions. If the patch test leaves a little bit of redness, but had no itching or burning, the client has a mild sensitivity but not an allergy and you can proceed with a color application. However, if the patch test has produced any itching, burning, inflammation or even sickness or fever, you should consult a doctor immediately and forego any hair color applications in the meantime.
Unfortunately, it is a bit unrealistic to do a patch test on every client that books a color service in the salon. Because highlighting and balayaging doesn’t require putting color directly onto the scalp, I almost never do a patch test for clients who request these services. However, if I have someone who’s never had color before and we are applying right onto the scalp, I do require a patch test. And at the very least, for any color customer, I always inform them of all this information and require their acknowledgment that they understand the risks of applying hair color before a service. As a consumer, it’s crucially important to know your risks and your rights, so I really wanted to share with you how a patch test should occur and when it should always take place. Part of owning your hair color knowledge is understanding the risks involved, so always take extra precautions if necessary!
Furthermore, if you choose to do your own hair color at home, always do a patch test beforehand. Every single time. Even when I was in high school using box color, I would place a small amount of color on my wrist and watch it for a day before actually using it. The reason why this is so important is because box colors have much harsher ingredients in them that can cause serious reactions. Secondly, an allergy can pop up at any moment without any warning. Even if you’ve been coloring your hair for twenty years on scalp, you could throw the exact same box color you’ve used onto your scalp and experience a major allergic reaction. Because this can happen, especially if you color at home, please be safe with your process and always do a patch test first!
10. Maintain your hair color by following these key tips.
Now, you have your Jennifer Aniston highlights and your chic blowout as you step out of the salon. You’re ready to take on the world one fabulous step at a time, right? Hold on, hold on. There’s way more to color than washing it out and having it look flawless. The maintenance is almost just as important as who you choose to actually do your color.
The very first thing you must do to keep vibrant and dimensional color is to invest in a great shampoo. Grocery store brands will strip your color and leave your strands looking dull and damaged. You can check out my recap here to find out exactly why. For colored or highlighted hair (and really any hair that needs help with moisture and health), you must use a sulfate free shampoo. Sulfates won’t strip any of that gorgeous color you just paid for and they will also deposit moisture and protein into the hair to add to your hair’s health. Ask your hairdresser what brands she recommends (or take my recommendation here) and make this aspect of your hair color maintenance mandatory. I always tell my clients there’s no point in spending hundreds on a fabulous color if it only lasts a few weeks because you don’t maintain it in between salon sessions!
Another thing you can do that will make a huge different in how your color looks is protect it from heat, the sun and any elements that can dry and dull it out. When styling your hair in the morning, if you use any kind of heat tools, always use a heat protectant cream or spray to protect each strand. The line that I love and use in my salon, Kevin.Murphy has made the three most popular products that I use on most clients all heat protecting. I also use one of those three products on my hair every morning before I even think about touching a curling iron to it. A lot of products that boast heat protection also usually protect from UV rays and the damage of the sun. Just like with skincare and how we all wear sunscreen in our BB Creams and moisturizers now, the same needs to be true with hair. Especially here in Denver where we have such high altitude and such penetrating UV rays! The sun can fade your color quicker than almost anything and since it’s actively doing that every day that you step outside, it’s important to make sure the product you use can provide a shield so that your color stays bright and beautiful!
The last thing I would suggest seems like a silly thing, but it makes a huge difference. I suggested this tip when I wrote about frizz on HelloGiggles, but it also works when it comes to hair color. It’s a commonly known fact by hairdressers that warm water or air opens up the cuticle and cool water or air closes it down. This is why you’ll notice hairdressers trying to keep your head and hair warm while color is processing; it’s so that the color really penetrates the cuticle as much as possible. So when you wash out your hair in the shower with your conditioner, use as cool of water as you can stand. If you need to, get out of the shower and immediately rinse your hair with cool water under the bathroom sink if you can’t stand some coolness in the shower. This is so crucial because it will ensure that your cuticle is completely locked down and shut before you start to manipulate the hair or step outside, making it very difficult for that pigment to leave the hair strand. And again, when you are finished styling your hair, go over the hair with a cool shot from your blowdryer. This will lock in your style and your color by shutting down the cuticle again.
So that concludes our series on The Ten Commandments of Hair Color! I hope you learned so much and enjoyed empowering yourself with all the facts you need to know to about getting the perfect color. I don’t know about you, but I’ve always needed to know why things work the way they do and I’ve always had a desire to completely and fully understand the elements of things I take part in to be comfortable jumping into it. Trust me, my beauty institute educators were really sick of hearing, “but why?” from me by the time I graduated. Now, however, they are proud to see where I’ve taken that pursuit of knowledge in my career and I’ve been so eager to pass all of that along to you and your friends!
Please feel free to bookmark this page for future reference, print it out (on recycled paper, of course!) if you need to use it to consult your hairdresser, or just share it with your friends! I think we all could be so empowered to know these “commandments” by the next time we grab a box color or step into a salon. And if you have any questions or concerns at all, contact me by email, via Twitter or shoot me a message on Facebook. I’d be more than happy to help! And of course, if you are in the Denver area and need a colorist consult, you can book that with me by clicking here!