Most of the responsibility for a great hair color consultation falls squarely on the shoulders of the colorist, but you can help.

Bring photos for clear communication.  Phones are great or go old school with scissors. If the color you want is drastically different from what you have, mention that to the person scheduling your appointment. Providing the person scheduling with a photo before you show up can help the salon schedule you with the right colorist in the right amount of time.  Without clear communication ahead of the appointment, it’s more likely that you could show up with something your colorist didn’t expect and find out there’s not enough time scheduled.  You colorist may be able to make this situation work by juggling and pulling resources to help, but it’s not a prescription for an ideal service.  When in doubt, over communicate and use photos.  If you’re not sure what you want, bring a few photographs of what you don’t want; they can be helpful too.

Provide the most complete hair history possible.  Make a list of what’s been done to your hair in the past few years and bring it with you.  Things you might not think of can make a difference in how your color turns out.  Highlights added a year ago in long hair will still be in the hair and will affect how the color deposits.  Previous direct dyes, straighteners and perms can affect how color reacts, as can hormonal issues and some medicines.  Things you’ve done to your hair at home can also affect your color service so don’t be reluctant to mention things like over the counter box color, henna, lemon juice or olive oil applied to your hair.  Spray tan around the hair line can also block color from depositing.  Don’t worry about being judged, these are things your colorist needs to know about.

Ask if this is a one visit “look”.  Most color services look great after your first visit, but not all looks are one visit looks.  Depending on the look you’re after, getting to your desired result may not be possible in one visit. If that’s the case, your colorist should let you know this.  If you’re worried that your desired look isn’t achievable in one visit and the colorist doesn’t address it, just ask.  The colorist should explain what can be achieved during your initial visit along with the steps involved in any longer term plan to achieve your hair goals.

Talk about lifestyle and budget issues.  Be prepared to tell your colorist how much effort and expense you’re 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 rule out certain looks. If the look you want doesn’t jive with how often you want to come in to maintain it, your colorist should be ready with options.

Ask about price before starting.  A written price quote during the color consultation is preferable, but many salons don’t do this.  If you can’t get an exact price, get a price range with an upper limit.  The only time you should be satisfied with an “I can’t really tell you until we’re done” explanation is with a complex color correction, but even then you should get an upper limit.  If our colorist couldn’t tell us a maximum price, we’d be worried.  And looking elsewhere.

Don’t be afraid to say “no thank you”.  If you’re not comfortable with the consultation don’t move forward with the appointment. Your colorist may be a bit disappointed, but every colorist we know would prefer to have no client as opposed to an unhappy client.

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