4 Steps to Learn Hair Color Formulation

steps to learning hair color formulation
As a stylist, you likely already know just how important formulation is to your craft—it’s one thing that can truly make or break your final result. You can do a perfect technical application, but with one wrong formulated gloss you’re left with a mess! The same goes for even a simple root application. You can perfect your technical process, but the success of your final look is really all in the formula you choose.

You probably also know that one of the worst feelings as a stylist is being shown a client’s inspiration photo and having no idea how to bring their vision to life.
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Now more than ever clients have access to a lot of information regarding their hair, and it’s common for people to come into the salon asking lots of questions. For this reason, on top of the necessity to perfect your formulation skills, you need to be well informed and prepared to answer these questions. Although the client may think they know best, they most likely don’t—after all, you’re the expert.

The things clients can tell us about their hair are important, but they should never be deciding what formula or process is performed. The more you know about formulation, the better you’ll be able to explain what works and what doesn’t, as well as feel confident about the formulas you’re creating.

Staying up with education and what’s new will help ease this. Confidence stems from knowledge and the only way to do that is really immerse yourself in trying to understand why or how something works. Below are four key steps you can take to develop your understanding of hair color formulation.

How to Learn Hair Color Formulation in 4 Steps

1. Learn the basics of color theory.

The first step in becoming an expert at color formulation is to develop your knowledge of color theory. Color theory is absolutely the base of understanding formulation. Without proper knowledge of the color wheel, it is nearly impossible to even attempt formulating.

This doesn’t mean you have to remember the color wheel by heart immediately, though. We recommend keeping a color wheel in the back room of your salon for easy reference as you’re mixing color.

2. Break away from swatch books.

While it can be tempting to lean on swatch books as the basis of your color formulation process, it’s important to take a step back. In order to meet your clients’ expectations and develop your confidence in your formulation skills, avoid relying solely on swatch books.

Although swatch books are incredibly helpful for getting an idea of what a particular color looks like, it's shown on white hair. Due to the fact that you’ll rarely ever be working with a completely white canvas, relying on these examples can lead to serious miscalculations. Raw lift and natural color are extremely important to consider before mixing as this greatly impacts your final result.

3. Understand your color line.

Next, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the color line you’ll be using. Every product line is unique in both the way they work and in the base tones and pigments they leverage. For example, some lines will be darker, more opaque or translucent, expose more warmth, etc.

To build your understanding of the color lines you’ll be using on a day-to-day basis, consider grabbing some swatches or a mannequin to really test things out. Additionally, the color company you work with should be able to provide an educator to help you understand the color line itself and the underlying tones. This is a great way to get some further knowledge.

4. Review the chemistry of hair.

Finally, to round out your formulation skills and build your confidence, you should revisit the chemistry and anatomy of hair in order to understand the different components that can impact color.

Having some knowledge about the chemistry and anatomy of hair and the roles that melanin, porosity and hair structure play in formulation will help you accommodate certain situations when choosing a formula. It’s easy to skip over this in hair school but you will soon find out that it's really very important information!

Mastering Formulation

Once you’ve committed to investing in yourself and building your skills, taking the steps above will put you on a path toward success.

Don’t forget that it’s always a good idea to continue educating yourself even after you feel comfortable with the basics. There’s always more to learn. Get involved with online education if you're unable to make it in person. There are so many options available for different skill levels, techniques, and more.

Our final piece of advice when it comes to learning color formulation is to learn from your mistakes! Try to understand why they happened instead of simply being upset that it happened. There’s lots to consider and running away from the issue won't help you actually grow.

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.

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