Because there are an infinite number of scenarios you might encounter behind the chair, it’s critical that you develop your skills and foundational knowledge of formulation and color theory so that you can be prepared for whatever your clients throw at you.
When attempting certain tones, accommodating both for the lift and natural is really going to play a key role. Of course, each situation varies with porosity and undertones, but let’s take a look at some examples of possible scenarios with formulating.
Hair Color Formulation Scenarios
So much about formulation is about practice. Clients come to you with certain goals in mind, and their hair is starting out from their own unique starting point. You need to use this information to craft a plan of attack that will take you from where you are to where you want to be. The following scenarios are intended to help you practice your analytical skills and guide you to potential solutions if you find yourself in a similar situation.
Just a note: All of these formulations are formulated with Redken Shades EQ.
1. The Scenario: A natural brunette arrives with too cool of a tone for her olive complexion. This client is looking to warm things up without being brassy. The key is to lift to a level higher than your intended target in order to get through the brassiness, and then replace the warmth within your gloss
The Solution: Let’s say the raw lift is level 9 yellow. The gloss might look something like 1 oz 9NB, ½ oz 9G, ½ oz 8WG, ½ oz 9V
2. The Scenario: The client arrives at a natural level 6 and wants a true bronde tone—not too warm and not too cool. The ideal result will be something reflective and neutral.
The Solution: With a raw lift of level 9 yellow, a possible gloss choice might be 1 oz 9NW, ½ oz 9NB, ½ oz 9V
3. The Scenario: A natural level 4 arrives with no previous color and wants to add dimension with balayage. Knowing the lift will be super warm, it's best to choose a gloss that helps neutralize but also isn’t completely ash as you need reflection for darker brunettes.
The Solution: Assuming your lift is around a level 7orange/gold, a great option might be 1 oz 6ABN, ½ oz 7V, ½ oz 7NW.
4. The Scenario: A natural level 5 arrives at the salon and would like more of a rosey violet finish.
The Solution: Assuming you are able to lift her to a level 8 yellow/gold, a great gloss for this would be ½ oz 7M, ½ oz 6RB, ½ 9RB, ½ 7P.
5. The Scenario: A client arrives with previous lifted ends at a natural level 7 wanting more reflection and shine. She has minimal damage and is looking for something natural, but bright.
The Solution: This gloss should include a fair amount of warmth on a level 10 lift, so a possible formula might be 1oz 10VG, ½ oz 9RB, ½ oz 9V.
6. The Scenario: A client arrives with a natural level 5 and unwanted brassiness.
The Solution: After lifting to at least a level 8 gold, the chosen gloss might be 1oz 7V, ½ oz 7VB, ½ oz 7N to neutralize the unwanted warmth.
7. The Scenario: The client arrives with less than 50% gray around the hairline and wants to blend for a more natural look and grow out. The natural base color is a level 6.
The Solution: After the balayage service is performed, the color melt might be 1oz 4NB, 1oz 5N.
8. The Scenario: A natural brunette with previous root color (level 5) would like to add dimension to her hair. Balayage is decided as the best option for a natural looking result. Assuming this client is okay with a lot of warmth, it's best to enhance that warmth while also calming some of the brassiness down.
The Solution: The chosen gloss for a raw lift of 7 gold/orange might be ¾ oz 7CB, 1oz 7V, ¼ oz 7N.
9. The Scenario: A natural level 6 arrives with previous highlights at a level 9. The client would like the end result to be more of a copper tone.
The Solution: A double gloss is best for this scenario. The first layer might be: 1oz 8WG, 1oz 8GG. After this has processed for at least 10 minutes, rinse and apply a second gloss, such as: ¾ oz 7CB, ¼ oz 7C , ½ oz 8GG , ½ oz 6AA.
10. The Scenario: A client walks in that has just had their hair done. The current canvas is blonde around level 9 or 10 with a natural base color of level 7. The gloss that was applied by the previous stylist is looking slightly dark and green. A treatment is applied to pull out as much of the gloss as possible leaving a porous level 10.
The Solution: A possible gloss would be: 1 oz 9AA, ½ oz 9V, ½ oz clear. Let this process for 10 minutes, rinse and apply the gloss of your choice for a cooler result, such as 1oz 9NA, ½ oz 9V, ½ oz clear. The previous applied gloss will help “ fill” any areas that originally grabbed dark or green.
Ready for Anything
As you can see—and likely already know from experience—there are endless scenarios that you could face behind the chair. Since there are so many unique situations and potential challenges you might encounter, it’s important that you’re ready for anything.
This doesn’t mean you have to memorize every single formula under the sun, though. Instead, building up your foundational understanding of formulation and color theory will provide you with the building blocks you need to address any situation. As with anything in this industry, don’t be afraid to try new things and make mistakes. Look at each unique situation you find yourself in as an opportunity to learn and grow.
Finally, investing in your education is one of the best ways to continuously improve your skills and bring your confidence to the next level. There will always be something new to learn and taking the time to build your knowledge will empower you to handle any request your clients throw at you!
Have you been struggling with your confidence when it comes to formulation? Building confidence in this area is the key to becoming a better stylist, empowering you to deliver the results that your clients are looking for. Sign up for the new Confidence Behind Formulation course with Christine, where you'll learn the fundamentals of color theory and real, tactical skills that will allow you to formulate with the confidence that you need! You can also sign up for our free Successful Smudging Masterclass by clicking the button below.