10 Questions with Caitlin Dugan (@coloredbycaitlin)

Caitlin Dugan

In anticipation of our upcoming Master Classes, we are running a series of interviews with our guest educators so that you can learn more about them and walk away with tips that you can use to improve your salon business.

This week, we sit down with Caitlin Dugan (@coloredbycaitlin), who gives us a look at her career and offers great foiling tips for stylists!

1. What inspired you to pursue a career behind the chair? Did you have a different career before pursuing hair? If so, what finally helped you take the leap?

I was about to graduate high school and I was completely unsure of what I wanted to do. I thought the ‘right thing’ to do would be to go to college, even though I really didn’t like school and was a straight C student! I applied to one college (basically just to say that I did) and was rejected—no surprise!

I always loved makeup and skincare, so I decided esthetics (skin care) would be a great career path for me. I toured at the Paul Mitchell School in North Haven, CT, and totally fell in love with the culture, the vibe, everything.

Two weeks into the esthetics program, I realized it was 100% not for me. Not only did I hate giving and receiving facials, but the environment just felt all wrong. I would watch the students in the cosmetology program rocking out to music all day while they talked, laughed, and learned on their mannequins. Even though I had no clue how to do hair, I knew I could learn. I just had a gut feeling to switch programs. I totally fell into my niche, and the rest is history!

2. What advice do you wish you had when you were first starting out?

I have to say that I was so fortunate to receive such great guidance at my salon, as well as support from family and friends when I first started out.

I was trained very well by my first boss (right out of school) in advanced techniques. She was an amazing mentor during the time I worked for her. Not only did I learn how to do hair, but I learned how to be a professional in this industry and how to communicate with people. I studied and absorbed her habits like a sponge because I really admired her.

With that being said, I would 100% recommend that anyone just starting out in this career find that mentor. Someone who wants you to succeed, learn, and also treats you fairly!

3. What’s one mistake that you see new stylists make all the time?

The most common mistakes I see are:

  • Stylists just settling in unhappy environments
  • Not getting proper color theory before working behind the chair

I think new stylists should find a happy home and jump on any educational opportunity they can get their hands on to advance the basic knowledge they’ve learned in school. It’s a domino effect. The more they learn, the more comfortable they are behind the chair, and the more successful they will be.

Also be willing to practice, practice, practice! Do a ton of free hair on family and friends to learn as much as possible.

4. If you could change one thing about your career’s trajectory, what would it be?

I love this question. I chose to begin renting a chair at age 20, when I only had 1.5 years under my belt, in a commission salon. I really have no idea why I did this.

Most people aren’t concerned about money at age 20, but I was genuinely concerned about how much I was working for the pay I was receiving, and I went into panic mode about my future.

I figured there was no better time, since I was living at home, what did I have to lose, why not try? I did end up building a nice clientele, but what I really lost was learning any kind of business sense. I had no idea what I was doing when it came to accounting, marketing, placing inventory orders, and the nitty gritty of owning a business, and I definitely had no business doing all of that at age 20.

Another point in my career was when I decided to open a salon. I don’t regret it whatsoever—those 5 years were wonderful and taught me a lot of lessons to help me grow. But I went into it for all the wrong reasons.

My friend and I were running out of places to work in town, nothing ever felt right, and we figured if we created our own environment we would be happy. The problem with that was I literally did not want the extra responsibility that went along with it, and we financially couldn’t afford someone else to handle the business aspects for us.

So while it’s definitely important that any career move you make leaves you happy and fulfilled, it's best not to rush anything.

5. What (if any) role does social media play in your business? Has the way that you use social media changed at all in the past few years?

I recently relocated 45 minutes away from the town I had worked in for 10 years. The move caused me to lose at least 50 percent of my client base. However, I have gained that back and more at my new location thanks to the power of social media.

Social media has helped me grow my career and open up so many doors for opportunities within this industry, but has also helped me to become a better stylist. I am inspired every single day by the work I see on instagram. I am using it now as a tool to motivate myself and hopefully to inspire and teach others.

6. Did you ever doubt or question whether or not you were cut out (no pun intended) for this business?

Yes, many times, with every salon move. Especially right before we decided to open our salon. I truly believe that even though it wasn’t 100 percent for the right reasons, it definitely helped to turn my outlook around. At that point, I learned you can do anything you put your mind to.

7. How can stylists adjust their foilyage placements to create more pops of brightness for their clients?

I’d recommend three strategies for stylists trying to get more pop out of their foilyage placements:

  • Utilize the natural regrowth as depth
  • Don’t over-highlight when you have a nice, natural area of depth
  • Group the foils closer together towards the face, and continue to create a little more separation as you work towards the apex/back of the head

Together, these strategies will give you so much more brightness where you and your clients want it to be.

8. When does it make sense to do this, and when might it make more sense to go with less contrast?

It would make sense to try and add extra contrast if a client wanted a face frame pop while keeping lots of dimension.

If a client wanted a more blended or natural look, you would want to leave less space between each foil and perhaps not group the foils together (depending on the hair type).

If a client wanted a more saturated look you would want to keep foils closer together throughout and put as many in as possible.

9. What are your top three foiling techniques, and when do you use each?

Babylights, for a nice pop around the face frame and a beautiful hairline blend.

Teasy lights, for maximum lift and control with placement.

Traditional weave, for maximum lift and brightness right up to the base (with a root tap for softness) for clients who don’t prefer a lived in color.

10. Do you have any tips to help stylists impart more depth to their guests’ foilyage treatments? Can you speak to the role of hair’s natural grow out in imparting depth?

The key is to not over-foil, but to be sure you are doing enough based on the hair type, keeping in mind that the thicker the hair, the more it will need to pop and stand out without getting lost. The finer and thinner the hair, the more you have to be mindful that you are leaving enough behind for depth.

By visualizing where you want to see light and depth and customizing where you place your highlights, the hair’s natural grow out could create a really beautiful lowlight.

Want more tips about balayage? Check out Not Yo' Basic Balayage Bundle!

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