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Hair Triage: How to Fix Your Client's Past Hair Mistakes

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As stylists, almost nothing brings us more pleasure or satisfaction than knowing that we’ve done our part in helping our clients look and feel beautiful. It’s a big part of what makes this job so rewarding, and why so many of us get into hair in the first place!

Often, our treatments and services revolve around helping our client reach certain aspirations or goals: There’s a certain look that they’ve always wanted to try, or there’s a special event like a wedding that they want to look their best for. Sometimes, though, a treatment isn’t so much about helping our clients achieve a goal as it is about helping them undo past mistakes. 

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Especially now, with the Coronavirus forcing so many salons into lockdown, some people are deciding to take their hair into their own hands with at-home treatments—often to disastrous effects. Just take a look on Facebook, TitTok, or YouTube, and you can see hundreds and thousands of videos detailing these DIY hair treatments gone wrong. It’s absolutely heartbreaking.

While at-home hair treatments have a role to play, they’re not well-suited to work with every hair type or to achieve every goal. Using a boxed dye at home, for example, can lead to overprocessing or damage if someone isn’t careful. Even if you follow the instructions to a T, something as subtle as mineral buildup in your hair from well water can skew the end results, giving you a look that you didn’t intend.

Have you seen an uptick in the number of people asking you to fix their hair mistakes? Below, we offer tips and advice that stylists can use to perform this “hair triage” and get their clients back on track.

Addressing Your Client’s Past Mistakes

If you’re going to successfully fix your client’s hair mistakes, you first need to understand exactly what went wrong. What were they trying to accomplish in the first place? What treatment did they try? And how did the end results differ from what they had expected?

The goal of this discussion isn’t to make your client feel dumb. It’s to help you understand what may have gone wrong so that you can create a gameplan to bring this episode to a close.

When asking about the treatment, also be sure to ask the questions that you would during a regular hair consultation, as these answers could offer some additional insight into why the treatment went wrong. Had your client’s hair been recently processed, leaving it prone to breakage? Had they used permanent dyes in the past which lifted oddly upon being treated a second time, resulting in unwanted warmth?

Clients sometimes leave out important information about previous hair services or at-home coloring because they don’t think it is important or realize that it could lead to future issues or damage. So educating the client on why this is important will hopefully stop them from doing so in the future. 

How to Fix Hair Color Mistakes

1. Analyze the issue and create a gameplan to follow.

It’s important to remember that even when everything is going right, every client is different. Their hair is different, their goals are different. The same holds true when you’re dealing with fixing mistakes: The mistakes, and the cause of those mistakes, are rarely ever 100% identical to other mistakes you may have seen in the past. 

That’s why you want to start all hair triage with a thorough consultation (as mentioned above) so that you can truly understand what’s caused the issue. Only then can you craft a response that you know will be effective for your client.

While you want to be careful not to overgeneralize your treatments, the steps that follow can often help you resolve hair trauma. Still, be sure to tailor these recommendations to the specific situation you find your client in.

2. Fill the hair if needed. 

Sometimes clients who lighten their hair on their own will do so incorrectly, resulting in a lighter end result than they wanted. For example, you may have a brunette client who wants to lighten her hair but remain a brunette...who ends up blonde. In a case like this, you will be correcting from blonde to brunette. 

Often, this will require that you fill in the hair (also called repigmenting) so that the color will hold. If you fail to take this step, the color won’t hold as well, which could lead to lackluster results.

3. Take your time in each step.

Whether you’re correcting a mistake or working on a client with beautiful hair, you need to make sure that you’re devoting the right amount of time and attention to each and every step in the process. This means that you’re formulating correctly for the end goal, you’re applying product appropriately, and you’re processing in a way that won’t damage the hair further. It might even mean finishing with a gloss to return some of that sheen that’s probably been lost. 

4. Finish with a deep conditioner.

When it comes to correcting coloring errors, you need to remember that the hair has been through a lot at this point. The initial trauma of overprocessing, your efforts to resolve them—it all adds up. We recommend finishing with a deep conditioner to restore as much to the hair as possible, leaving it strong and healthy.

Don’t Forget to Educate!

What was the cause of your client’s hair trauma? If you said, “Them trying to do it themself,” you’re only half right. 

The deeper root of the problem is, more often than not, a simple lack of understanding. From hair formulations to color theory to painting technique, clients rarely know everything that goes into a service. By educating them about the process as you work through fixing their hair, you can help give them a deeper appreciation of what you do, reducing the chances that they’ll repeat this mistake moving forward. 

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 Salt Lab 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!

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