How to get the perfect hair color consultation  .  The primary responsibility for a great consultation falls squarely on the shoulders of your colorist, but you can help by providing a solid "hair history" and visual references.


The color consultation should be free.  This is a marketing cost and the time spent in a consultation is a small price to pay for a long term customer.  Additionally, your colorist should tell you both the initial cost and the ongoing maintenance costs for what you want.

Clear Communication – Photographs Help

Pictures of what you want lower the chances of miscommunication.  Two people's vision of “strawberry blonde” may contain vastly different amounts of red.  If you aren't sure of what you want, bring a few photographs of what you don't want, they can be almost as helpful.  Phones and tablets are great for this, or go old school with scissors.

Hair History – Make a List

It's important that your colorist have the most complete history possible, because things you don't think about can affect the outcome.  Make a list of everything you can think of that's been done to your hair in the past few years and take it with you so you don't forget something important.

The more information you can provide the better.  Highlights added a year ago in long hair will still be in the hair and will affect how the color deposits.  Things like previous color brands, straighteners or perms, products used, hormonal issues and treatments, medicines and more can affect how your hair reacts to color.  Things you wouldn't normally think about can affect the outcome too, like spray tanning around the hairline.  Your colorist should be asking lots of questions and you can help them out by being prepared.  It may surprise you, but one thing your colorist doesn't need is your previous formula.

The Guilt Free Zone – What's Behind you Doesn't Matter  

Clients can be reluctant to divulge things they've done to their own hair.  Box color, henna and home solutions like lemon juice or olive oil are things your colorist needs to know.  It's your hair and you have the right to do what you want to it, so don't leave things out because your colorist might look down their nose at it.  Hair history is like Italian race car driving - “What's behind you doesn't matter”, but telling your colorist about it does.

Your colorist shouldn't belittle the work of other professionals who worked on your hair or make you feel bad about your choices.  While it's helpful to know what color brands and products were used, your colorist shouldn't ask who did your hair last unless they love it.

A Plan of Action – “Really Pretty” isn't a Plan

By the end of your consultation, your colorist should be able to present you with a clear plan of what you can expect and the steps to achieve it.  “It's going to be really pretty” isn't a plan.  Depending on what you want and what you currently have, getting to your desired result may not be possible in one visit and your colorist should be blatantly honest about what you can expect.  For major changes, your hair goals may not be possible in several visits and the colorist should be clear about the steps involved along the way.

Lifestyle and Budget 

Your colorist needs to know how much effort and expense you are willing to invest in maintaining the look you want.  Are you willing to come in every three weeks for a refresh?  Every six to eight weeks?  Twice a year?  This information will inform the techniques your colorist uses and may result in an honest discussion about what you want versus how much you're willing to come into the salon.  If the two don't jive, your colorist should be ready with options.

When the Consultation Doesn't Go Well

If you're not completely comfortable with the consultation don't move forward with the appointment. There are polite ways to do this and while your colorist may be a bit disappointed, every colorist we know would prefer to have no client as opposed to an unhappy client.

Variations in Consultation Styles

In some salons a second colorist may be brought in to consult for what amounts to a second opinion.  Don't view this as a weakness on the first colorist's part - you and your hair may be a better fit for another colorist.  If your colorist tells you that the two tone flaming red you want is really better suited to another colorist who is the shiznit of all things two tone flaming red, you'll be the better for it.  In other salons, a very experienced colorist may consult and formulate your color, then leave application to a less experienced colorist who will take over during future visits.  This isn't necessarily a bad thing either, because you may get the experience of the master and the prices of the apprentice.

In Summary:

  • Provide as much information as possible, including photos

  • Know the plan and upkeep requirements

  • Be confident with the consultation before proceeding

  • Be Ready to Bail Politely

Kris Williams is the owner of Keith Kristofer Salon and Spa in Austin, Texas, and a Master Colorist for both Goldwell and Wella color brands.