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11 Things Your Hair Colorist Wishes You Knew

Here's exactly how to get the results you want during your next salon trip.
Photo: Imaxtree

Photo: Imaxtree

If you've ever left a hair-color appointment on the brink of tears [*awkwardly raises hand*], you're definitely not alone. Often that can be the result of difficulty communicating properly with your colorist or a lack of trust, because all too often, we forget that the experts do, indeed, know best (remember that time you tried to convince yours to transform your hair a full three shades in one day?). 

In an effort to perform a bit of client-colorist relationship counseling, we turned to three hair-coloring experts to find out the things they truly wished their clients knew. Read on to find out exactly what shampoos to use and how to describe the color of your dreams so the only tears you walk out of the salon with ever again are the happy kind.

Good color takes time.

"The number-one thing I wish clients knew was how long processes take," says Meri Kate O'Connor, a colorist at Eva Scrivo. "I have a lot of clients who will come in with a photo of a Kardashian with blonde hair and think that it can be done in two hours. You can't just go from dark brown [hair] to light blonde in a two-hour session — it takes time. Having realistic expectations is a must, so no one is let down."

Bring photos. 

"I think it's important to have as many photos as possible," encourages O'Connor. "The [better] you can show what you want, the easier it is to understand what to deliver." Rather than telling your colorist that you want 'honey highlights,' do your research and find an example of your ideal hue. "It's better to see a photo to be sure you're getting the right color," she says. 

But, be prepared to talk specifics about that photo.

"From a colorist's perspective, a picture is worth a thousand words," says Aura Friedman, a colorist at the Sally Hershberger | Tim Rogers Salon. "But that being said, clients should also be ready to express what they love about the hair in the photo. The same head of hair can look totally different in different lighting, so be specific about what part of the photo you want to see your hair looking like."

Stay away from unfamiliar lingo.

"Use terms that you understand — not salon lingo that you've heard, but don't fully understand," says celebrity colorist Rita Hazan, who has her own eponymous salon in New York City. Avoiding buzzy, open-to-interpretation descriptors like "babylights" and "flash lifts" will make sure there's no miscommunication between you and your colorist. "Every salon uses their own lingo and have their own techniques, so if you think your hair is brassy, just say it's orange, or too light, or too dark," she adds.

Consultations are key — especially with dramatic color transformations.

"I really like to be able to touch my client's hair and make sure what they want is actually doable," explains Friedman. "I get a lot of people who want to go platinum, but they need to understand that everyone starts out with something different. If an expert evaluates your hair and tells you it's not doable, they're doing it for your benefit, not theirs."

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Limit your shampoo use.

O'Connor says one of the easiest ways to preserve hair color is to limit shampoo use to three to four times a week, max. "My favorite at-home shampoo and conditioner is from R+Co, since their products are formulated without sulfates and parabens — which helps keep color [intact] longer," she explains. "Sunset Blvd is perfect for blondes wanting to keep their hair bright and Gemstone is ideal for keeping any shade shiny."

And when you do shampoo, make sure you also throw on a mask.

"Since you're ideally not shampooing your hair that often, you should use a mask every time you shower," says Friedman. She's a fan of Shu Uemura's Silk Bloom Masque, which is loaded with super-moisturizing essential oils. 

Explore shampoo alternatives.

Friedman suggests color-treated clients opt for cleansing creams (also known as "cleansing milks" and "cleanditioners"). "They don't have any sulfates and they're much more moisturizing than any kind of shampoo."  Friedman's go-to is Christophe Robin's Antioxidant Cleansing Milk, which is infused with protective plant oils and blueberries. 

Beware of heat tools, sun and salt water.

"Excessive heat-tool use can oxidize hair and turn your pretty, cool blonde a little more yellow than you wanted," warns O'Connor. The bottom line: Always, always use a heat protector, as well as a few other, less-discussed lines of defense. "Sun and salt water protection is super important as well, since your hair can react just like your skin," she explains.

Don't underestimate the power of a hair oil.

"An oil protects the hair from heat styling, but it also protects the hair from the elements," Friedman explains. She does caution, however, that yellow oils should be avoided. "When your hair is, for instance, platinum blonde, the last thing you want is for your hair to turn yellow — and if the oil is yellow, you're going to make your hair yellow," she says. Friedman recommends using Shu Uemura's Essence Absolute.

Remember that colorists are doing their job.

"Doing hair is a form of art, so when your colorist is creating a look for you, they're very focused," says Hazan. If your colorist is working silently, know that they're focused — not ignoring you, so try not to take it personally. "As soon as they are in the right place they will speak and hold conversations with you."

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