It’s the stuff of hairdresser nightmares: You open your client’s foils to check how they’re processing and there it is—the dreaded orange.
Lightening hair can be one of the most difficult tasks to perform in the salon, but it is one of the most popular. The increase in requests for more artistic lightening techniques and fashion shades like silvers and white, as well as the growing popularity of products that promise to restore health while heavily lightening hair, means it pays to avoid orange.
Here’s how to make sure you steer clear.
Brush Up on Your Color Theory
If you’re looking to improve your lightening skills and avoid those orange tones, one of the most beneficial ways to do so is to brush up on your color theory. Color theory is the foundation of every color service performed in the salon and a firm understanding of it can go a long way. Even if you’ve been doing hair for a while, it never hurts to refresh your foundational knowledge.
Understand Underlying Pigments
The color seen on hair is a result of the melanin within, and the process of lightening the hair removes it. As the melanin is removed, the hair moves through the shade levels, leaving the remaining or underlying pigments behind.
The darker the hair, the more melanin must be removed to reach those lighter shades of blonde. Darker hair, levels six and below, typically results in orange and brassy underlying pigments left behind. Knowing this will help in determining the strength of your developers and what tones will likely be needed to neutralize the color left behind.
Know the Color Wheel
Knowing your color wheel, specifically the colors that fall opposite each other, will help you choose how to proceed with the underlying pigment that is left.
Hair that is lightened with bleach often requires a second step of neutralizing those unwanted tones. Understanding that blue is opposite orange, purple is opposite yellow, and green is opposite red will help you choose the right toner for your client’s hair.
Give a Thorough Consultation
A quality consultation can save you a lot of time and headaches in the long run. Asking your client the right questions will reveal what you’re working with and how to proceed. Some of the most important information that a consultation will provide you with is the hair’s overall health and what previous chemical services have taken place.
If there is old color in the hair, removing it and creating an even color from roots to ends may be difficult and complex. Removing color buildup often results in orange and can take multiple processes to remove completely.
It’s important to know the health and history of the client’s hair in order to help your client make an informed decision about proceeding. Be honest with both yourself and your client. This way, expectations for each appointment are realistic, and your customer is not leaving unhappy with orange hair and wondering where you went wrong.
Perform a Strand Test
If you are ever unsure of how a client’s hair may react to lightening, performing a strand test will give you the information you need before deciding if, and how, you should go ahead with the service. Look for a hidden strand of hair from the back of the head. This will keep the strand from obvious view and give you a more accurate idea of how the hair located in this hard-to-lift area will lighten.
A strand test will tell you whether or not you will be able to lift the hair to a light enough level. The orange tones left in hair are often a result of not processing long enough.
The problem comes from the product being removed too soon when there is a fear of damaging the hair. A test strand can tell you if ultimately you can get the hair to the level you need, if the hair is strong enough to handle the chemical service, and what toning formula should be used to neutralize the underlying pigments.
Educate Your Client
Taking the time to educate your client will help you avoid lightening mishaps that result in orange and other unwanted tones. Discussing briefly why orange happens during lightening will reassure your client that you are knowledgeable about color—and help you explain why the process can be complex and may not result in the level of blonde he or she is expecting in one visit.
Don’t be afraid to tell clients if their expectation is not achievable the first time around. They will appreciate your honesty.
Educating clients on how to care for their hair ensures the canvas you are working on stays healthy between visits. Improving hair health with professional products protects their investment and gives you as the stylist more options to continue safely lightening their hair in the future.