14 Things You Wished Your Hairstylist Told You Before Colouring your Hair

Published on Aug 16, 2015

Do you find yourself envious of colleagues or friends who have vibrant hair colours, and wish you could colour your hair that perfect shade that screams you? With each new year or special occasion, we find ourselves looking for our own way to physically express a look that is uniquely us. But before you make the big commitment to colour your hair with permanent dye (especially for those with virgin, undamaged hair), find out what you really need to consider before booking a colour appointment. We answer the most commonly asked questions about hair colouring to help you ensure you're happy with the results and protect your hair in the process!

1. Before I decide on a colour, what should I consider?


Research current colour trends and celebrity-inspired looks and bring a few pictures to your stylist as a starting point. Most importantly, think about maintenance! Depending on the colour change, it can require more upkeep. You have to consider how often you are willing to colour your hair, and how much you are willing to spend. Is the change so dramatic that frequent salon visits are required to keep your hair colour vibrant? If so, make sure you are budgeting for it.

Juno from Artica Hair Studio shares that the hair colour should also fit your work and overall lifestyle; does your company allow such vibrant colours? Do you have any outfit to match the new colours? Hair and choice of clothing affects your overall look significantly. Therefore, you may want to consider how the new hair colour will impact your overall wardrobe before plunging in! For those who want to try a vibrant colour, keeping it hidden within gives you the option to look professional and chic when you want to!

Ash and Blue (Juno)
Pink Block Colour (Juno)
Block Colour (Bell)

Jesly from Picasso Hair Studio also reminds us that vibrant hair colours or light ash tones often require bleaching. As bleached hair cannot be permed later on due to excessive damage, you would have to keep that in mind before going for vibrant hair colours like those we see below!

3C Hair Colour (Jesly)
3C Hair Colour Dream Romance (Jesly)
3C Hair Colour Fiery Passion (Jeremy)

2. Are hair-colouring chemicals harmful?


Dyeing your hair can weaken it, which is why stylists stress the importance of using conditioning treatments and colour-specific products. Colouring formulas can irritate your scalp if it’s extremely sensitive. About 30 years ago, concern arose that chemicals in the coloring process might increase the risk for certain cancers in those who dye their hair, but most large studies since then have been reassuring. Most hair colours now are also considered safe to use during pregnancy. We wrote a special feature on hair colours safe for pregnancy here a while ago so check it out if you are interested! Whether or not you are pregnant, it is always wise to learn more about the hair chemicals that are used in your hair... particularly if you colour your hair often! Many hair colours contain harmful chemicals such as Ammonia, PPD and Resorcinol. Although effective and produce long lasting colours, these chemicals are often toxicants or possible carcinogens that may cause allergies such as dermatitis. Therefore if you have sensitive skin, you should search for salons that offer hair colours with lower levels of Ammonia, PPD and Resorcinol!

Our favourite so far is Original and Minerals from Australia which has eliminated all three harmful chemicals altogether. They are available at Focus Hairdressing but are unfortunately often short in supply.

O&M Originals & Minerals at Focus Hairdressing

Redken Chromatic Hair Colour (it can be found both in Kenaris Hair Salon and Chez Vous Hair Salon) and L'Oreal INOA are also good alternatives that can be found more readily at your favourite hair salons!

3. Are there any tricks to figuring out how my desired colour will look on me?


Light-skinned, light-eyed women look more natural with lighter shades, while women with darker hair and skin look better in darker shades. If you have a lot of pink in your skin, avoid warmth in a hair colour because it will make you look flushed. Those who have olive skin tones should opt for gold tones, which bring warmth to the face and make skin look less green. If your skin tone is neutral, with no pink or green, you can wear either warm or cool blond shades.

If possible, try on a wig of a similar colour or style that you are interested in – do you feel comfortable or foolish in the colour? Don’t feel obligated to jump in headfirst. If you’re unsure (or if it's your first time colouring your hair), consider making your colour change in small doses. Instead of going for a complete dye, add a few highlights to slowly transition into a new colour.Even if you know what colour you want going into the process, make sure you ask your stylist if a cool or warm shade is more suitable for you. You want an expert opinion!

4. Should I go darker or lighter?


If you’re thinking about going darker, know that it’s a change you’ll need to stick with! There is no easy way to go from light to dark and back to light. It'll take you several visits to the salon to get your dark hair light again. This may also mean more damage for our typically dark Asian hair!

Likewise, if you’re thinking about going lighter, take it slowly. It’s more damaging to your strands, and depending on how dramatic a change you’re making, there’s a good chance you’ll need more than one appointment. The health of your hair will play a huge part in the retention of colour. If you want to go a lot lighter — more than two shades — it will take more than one visit. Unlike celebrities who often make a drastic hair change in one day, it’s not recommended to go from a dark color to a bright blonde in one visit.

Another thing to consider when making a big colour change are your eyebrows. While the dark brow-meets-light hair look is very trendy, you may not like the look on you. If it’s not for you, it’s common to lighten the eyebrows by lifting the colour. Are you ready to do so for your lighter hair?

Once you've decided on the hair colour, be sure to communicate it properly to your hairstylist.

Some stylists mentioned that miscommunication often occur as hairstylists and customers have different definitions of brighter vs darker colours.

Hair Dye Colour Chart Number

In choosing the right hair colour, the stylist has to pick:

1) Depth of Colour: This typically ranges from 0-12

2) Colour Tone: Colour tones refer to actual colour tones like red, blue, yellow, copper, violet and ash colours.

The balance between the two will give the final colour. Take a Level 8 Red as an example. A Level 8 Red Colour actually ends up looking like Copper Red on Asian hair!

So this leads us to our next question...

5. Do I have to bring pictures to the salon?


A picture is worth a thousand words! We all see colour differently. Red, copper, beige and brassiness are all in the eyes of the beholder, so having pictures helps to make sure that you and your stylist are on the same page. If you’re new to colouring, it also helps to do a little research on hair colouring terms and products (i.e. demi-, permanent, lighteners). This will give you a basic understanding of some of the terms your stylist will be using.

Also, the colour chart presented to you by your stylist isn't always that accurate. The colour chart do not always match with the benchmark colours from the manufacturer. This is because the chemical colour often react with the our natural hair colour pigment to produce the eventual colour. Some inexperienced stylists may therefore make the mistake of following the charts blindly. This also explains why some Caucasian customers find it hard to get a stylist who can achieve their intended colours in Singapore and why Asians tend to get better colour results from Asian stylists as well.

It is only through constant experimentation and years of experience can a hairstylist achieve colour tones close to the actual desired colours for customers of all hair types. That is why it is important to go to an experienced stylist and present them with a good picture, particularly if you are intending to achieve challenging hair colours.

You can tell how experienced the stylist is by how comfortable he is with the colour presented in the photos; Some stylists no longer use colour charts as they find that pictures tend to portray and capture customers' desires a lot more accurately than colour charts!

Hair Colour (Xavier)
Artistic Hair Colour (Xavier)

Vibrant Hair Colours 

6. So what exactly are the common hair colouring terms, and what do they mean?


  • Semi vs. Permanent 

Semi-permanent colour — also known as semi-colour or acid colour — contains pigments that coat the outside of the hair shafts and wash out in about five to seven weeks. This also means it doesn’t lighten or cover tough greys. Semi-colours are good if you're wary of a big commitment to colour or if you just want a subtle change. Permanent hair colour, on the other hand, typically contains ammonia to open the hair cuticles, so colour gets deposited inside the shafts. It may also contain peroxide, which bleaches out hair’s natural tones. A permanent dye job can lighten hair, completely change its shade, and fully cover gray, but maintenance is high. It can darken the tone of your current shade and cover a few gray hairs, but it can’t address a full head of white strands. Your roots will be obvious.

⚠ INTERESTING TITBIT from Picasso Hair Studio: Unlike Permanent Hair Color where hair color will fade fastest on dry hair, Semi Permanent Hair Color is more lasting on dry Hair than on Healthy Hair.

  • Single vs. Double

The chosen colour is applied directly onto hair during a single-process hair colour. It can lighten or darken the hair, and it can be a semi-permanent or permanent colour. A double process involves lightening the original hair colour before applying the chosen colour. Because of the chemicals usually involved during a double process, it is also harder on the hair and more high-maintenance.

  • Highlights

There are dozens of ways to highlight hair, including the current trendy balayage technique (hand-painting the hair with highlights), using fingers or a spatula to deposit a lightening cocktail and, of course, foiling, which involves strategic strands of hair painted, then wrapped up into neat little packets and left to lighten. It's important to know what effect you'd like as that helps your stylist determine the highlighting technique to be used.

The worst kind of highlights are those that are evenly dispersed from the front to back. Highlights should complement your facial features, with the heaviest highlights around your face. This is why we only trust skilled stylists with our hair! Of the many salons we've seen, We find that Japanese salons such as Branche Hair Salon and AVENTA Hair Salon are particularly good with natural yet chic type of highlights!

Refined Hair Colour (Kai)
Refined Hair Colour (Ichi)
Refined Colour

Refined Hair Colour from Branche Hair Salon

3D Colour from AVENTA Hair Salon

7. What factors affect how my hair takes colour?


Your hair’s health and its texture determine how your chosen colour will turn out after the process.

Healthy hair holds on to colour best. If you have dry or damaged hair, colours might fade quickly. Finer hair lightens faster and generally requires more gentle (semi-permanent) agents, while coarser hair is more colour-resistant but can handle potent chemicals. A skilled stylist can make adjustments to accommodate your hair type by leaving the colour on longer or washing it out sooner; such judgment calls are harder to make at home.

The chemicals needed to perform complicated hair colour changes can also severely damage hair and scalp alike if not used correctly. Another reason why we choose to visit a good salon with professional stylists when we want a colour update!

Some medications and other drugs may also affect hair’s receptivity to dye. The most common culprits could be thyroid medications, chemotherapy, and some types of hormonal medications. Always alert your stylist if you have such concerns.

Finally, your hair history makes a difference! Jesly from Picasso Hair Studio reminds us that it is important to notify the stylist if you have done Henna Hair Colour or Herbal Hair Colour before. In many cases, Henna or herbal colours coat the hair shaft, making it difficult for chemical hair colours to penetrate, causing the hair colour to have a greenish tone... definitely not something you would want to risk!

8. To cover my growing grey hair, should I choose only dark brown or black hair colours?


Stylists reassure us that that is definitely not the case! In fact, they might recommend lighter hair colours as lighter hair colours will have less contrast with the newly grown grey hair, making it less obvious! Just because your hair has turned white doesn't mean that the hair cannot be coloured. In fact, full coverage can be done even for grey hair up to Level 9 depth of hair colour! Therefore, don't let your grey hair restrict your colour choices!

9. How should I prepare my hair for colouring?


If your hair is damaged, pre-treating your hair is a great idea. The best way to keep your hair in good shape is to make sure it’s as healthy as possible before you go under the dye. Do a few deep-conditioning treatments at home the week before you colour your hair and lay off the hot tools. You can also schedule an appointment for conditioning treatment which will not only get your hair ready for colouring, but will also help get you familiar with the salon environment and give you the opportunity to discuss options with your stylist.

Skip shampooing the day you dye your hair. Allow the natural oils in your hair to protect your scalp from the irritation that can be caused by the ammonia in many dyes. Dirty hair is also easier to separate and portion, ensuring more even colour application.

If you have greasy hair or can't stand the thought of not washing your hair for a day, consider wearing a cap to look fashionable while hiding your dirty hair!

10. Can I cut my hair before colouring, or must I do it after?


This is completely up to the stylist and depends on the level of change you are making. If you're going for a drastic change and getting a short hairdo along with a new colour, cut your hair first.

5. Haircut

11. What if I hate the colour after the process? What can I do?


If you know you’re not happy while you’re still in the salon, say so! A professional stylist can usually remedy the problem with ease. Sometimes, you can take it to another shade with a toner, or maybe add a few highlights or lowlights. If you realise you don’t like the colour after you get home, call the salon and speak to the manager. A reputable salon will invite you back to fix it. In fact, we expect all Beauty Undercover Trusted Hair Salons to provide a complimentary hair colour if the outcome of the hair colour did not come out as previously agreed!

Whatever you do, don’t try to correct the colour yourself. You run the risk of making matters worse, since the product you use may react with the chemicals already in your hair. Of course, it is also important to be realistic. If you requested for a drastic colour change and end up hating it, you may need to give the salon time (possibly weeks) to gradually adjust your hair colour back to a shade that you're satisfied with.

12. How do I maintain the colour after I leave the salon?


According to Picasso Hair Studio, hair color fades due to oxidation from Oxygen, Sun and humidity. It therefore matters what shampoo and conditioner you use after you've coloured or highlighted your hair! Use a specialised colour shampoo and conditioner with sunscreen / anti-humidity protection or just an anti-fade ingredient to protect the colour and prevent oxidation. Shampoos and conditioners formulated for specific colours— even those from grocery-aisle brands — are a better choice than sulfate-heavy products.

Platinum blonde and red hair however require even more maintenance; Platinum blonde is not only damaging, and you'll have to be prepared to touch up your roots all the time! Red isn’t nearly as damaging, but it takes a lot more work to keep the colour looking fresh.

Often, hair gets a little damaged when applying colour, even if you're going back to your natural shade. Both permanent and semi-permanent dyes contain hydrogen peroxide, which chemically changes the colour of your hair pigment. Apply an at-home hair mask at least once a week to moisturise dry hair and restore shine.

Treatments also help repair damaged hair and fortify strands so they resist further breakage. I have personally tried Brazilian Blowout and various hair treatments from 99 Percent Hair Studio and I must say they do wonders even for highly damaged hair!

Brazilian Blowout

(Left) Hair after washing out the dye.

(Right) Hair after the Brazilian Blowout

So if you are a hair colour addict like me, don't give up hope even if your hair gets really damaged like mine did!

13. How do I keep my hair colour from fading?


Our trick: Don’t shampoo for at least a day after colouring. After that, wash only every two to three days. Stick to shampoos and conditioners made for colour-treated hair as these products are designed to keep the hair shafts closed, keeping colour in.

If your scalp gets greasy on days you don’t shampoo, scrub and rinse your scalp with plain water, then condition and rinse only the hair ends. Or try a dry shampoo, which absorbs scalp oils without the need for water.

Both Jesly from Picasso Hair Studio and Juno from Artica Hair Studio reminds us NOT to use scalp shampoos and deep cleansing shampoos as they wash out the colour very quickly!

Shield your hair from the sun with a hat or a colour-protecting styling product. Salt water and chlorine can also fade your hair colour, so create a barrier by wetting hair with fresh water, then applying conditioner. When hair is wet, it can’t absorb the chlorine or the salt water and will fade less. Keep hair healthy by minimising the damage of heat styling with a frequent conditioning treatment. Be wary of volumising products, which can open the hair’s cuticles, releasing the colour inside and causing fading. Ultimately, you can slow down the fading process, but you can't stop it completely. Be prepared to return to the salon for touch-ups.

14. How long should I wait before I colour my hair again?


It’s generally suggested to wait at least four weeks between colouring hair. That’s the minimum interval if you care about your hair but it would actually be better to wait somewhere around six or seven weeks if you’re really scared of doing any damage. For people with stronger hair, however, five weeks should be enough.

So what colour are you going to go with this season? Leave a comment below and share your colour inspiration with us!

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