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Everything You Need to Know About Offering Hair and Beard Coloring as a Barber



There are a variety of reasons that clients may come to you to get their hair colored. Some men may just need a quick root touch-up, and some might want to take some years off by covering their grey hair with something as close as possible to their natural color. Others might want a whole new color and a whole new look.

Through your barbering curriculum, you’ll have learned how to properly mix and apply hair dyes, including specialty products specifically designed for use on facial hair. Adding hair-coloring services to the suite of services you offer is a sure way to build your barbering practice and develop a reputation for serving the unique needs of older gentlemen whose hair has begun to reveal their age.

How to Properly Color a Gentleman’s Hair

You’ll usually begin a hair color service with a wash and shampoo. Next, you’ll detangle the hair with your fingers to prep it for coloring.

The color that you apply to the hair can bleed, causing it to stain the skin around the hairline and ears. To avoid this discoloration, take a little Vaseline and dab it around the hairline and ears, as well as the neckline, lips and cheeks if coloring a beard and mustache. You’ll also want to wear gloves to avoid staining your hands with the dye.

You’ll use a mixing bowl to mix the hair color with the developer, which will activate the color. Then you can use a special brush designed for applying color to the hair and beard.

You won’t usually need to section off men’s hair in order to dye it, if they’re wearing a short style. However, if they have longer hair, you’ll want to section off the top layer and start dying the lower layers section by section first.

If you’re only refreshing roots that have grown out and are showing grey or another color, you’ll just need to apply the hair color to the roots.

Now it’s time to wait. The dye will need to sit on the hair in order to properly develop, though processing time may vary depending on the color. If you’re trying to cover grey hair, it’s often a good idea to let the dye process longer.

Once the dye has had time to process, you’ll be able to rinse and shampoo the hair to get rid of the excess dye. You can use a towel to wipe the Vaseline off your client’s hairline and any excess dye that accumulated there. Now you’ll blow dry the hair to reveal the new color.

If the color isn’t as dark as your client wishes, you might apply the dye again to darken the color. If it’s too dark, hair dye remover can help strip the color down. However, remind your client that the color will start to fade after several weeks.

Permanent dye fades at around four to six weeks, and by four to six weeks the roots will begin growing out, exposing the natural color.

The Science of Hair Coloring

The element of the hair that’s responsible for its natural color is the melanin (or the absence of melanin, in the case of greying hair.) The melanin is held in the cuticle of the hair—the outer layer of the hair shaft.

In order to change the color of the hair, you’ll need to open the cuticle. The ammonia in the dye you’ll use is responsible for opening the cuticles of the hair shaft, which allows the color to enter and interact with your hair’s natural pigment.

Because hair dye interacts with your natural pigment, the same hair dye can cause very different colors on people with different colored hair.

The developer is made up of hydrogen peroxide, which will allow the color to oxidize, or lift color from your hair’s natural pigment. The lighter the color you are trying to achieve, the more hydrogen peroxide you’ll need. So if you’re trying to take naturally black hair to a warmer brown, you’ll need a higher concentration of hydrogen peroxide to make it happen.

Semi-permanent and permanent colors react differently with the hair cuticle— semi permanent hair color is made of much smaller color molecules that are easy to wash out of the hair. Permanent hair color, on the other hand, is made up of molecules that expand in the cortex of the hair, so that they’re not washed out by shampoo.

You can use bleach to lighten the hair color if it’s too dark from the dye, but bleach effects both the dye and the melanin in your hair. Hair dye remover, on the other hand, breaks down the oxidized bonds in the dye’s molecules rather than breaking down the hair’s natural melanin.

Recommending the Right Hair Color for Your Clients

As a general rule, fair skin needs to stay away from deep browns and black colors.

Medium and olive skin should avoid reddish colors.

Dark skin needs to avoid going more than just a few shades lighter than its natural color.

Although your recommendations are an important part of the communication between you and your client, remember that “the customer is always right” applies in barbering, too. Even if your client decides to forgo your recommendations to pursue their own personal style, it’s best to meet your client’s expectations over your own personal preference.

Hair can become dry and brittle if it’s treated too often with dyes. If your client is experiencing dry, brittle hair, they may be dying their hair too often.

It’s important that your clients care for their hair with quality shampoos and conditioners that are meant for color treated hair. Leave-in conditioner can also help repair some of the damage caused by dyes.

Advanced Training in Hair Coloring for Barbers

Through your standard barbering curriculum, you’ll have learned about the process of coloring hair—how the dye works and interacts with the hair, how to achieve the best results, and how to care for dyed hair.

However, if you’d like to learn advanced methods of hair coloring, you might consider taking advanced courses or workshops intended for licensed barbers and hairstylists. There are a variety of coloring courses offered through barbering academies and beauty schools throughout the country.

These classes will allow you to study the following topics:

  • The growth, composition, and structure of hair
  • Theory and application of color services
  • Performing color corrections
  • Multi-cultural coloring
  • Double processing color
  • Advanced highlighting and lowlighting

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