One of our main goals as hairstylists is to make our clients happy. But more often than not, there is a huge disparity between what the client wants and what is realistic, especially when it comes to blonding. Because of the internet, many clients would come to a salon with a photo from Pinterest or Instagram in hand, thinking that they can get the same gorgeous blonde hair when they walk out of the salon.
As professionals, we want to do everything within our power to make sure they don’t go running to the next salon. After all, our business relies on them. But how can we provide them what they want without compromising the health of their hair and our reputation?
We’ve spoken to three Holistic Hair Stylists on how they handle such situations, and the techniques they use to create healthy, beautiful blondes.
Balayage & Blonding Tips
Tip #1: Be honest with your client.
How many times have you encountered a Level 2 client wanting to be a blonde but does not want to go through the brassy stage? Majority of clients are unaware of the stages of blonding, so as the professional it is ultimately our responsibility to educate them.
“I have this conversation all the time. Regardless if it’s virgin hair or previously colored hair, you cannot go from brown to blonde without passing through the fiery gates of red, orange, and yellow,” says Jolie Faulkner, owner and stylist at Ever Green Salon and Barbering Company. “Part of our obligation as a professional is to help manage clients’ expectations versus the reality of their particular situation.”
“Is it possible? Yes. Would I recommend it? No,” according to Meredith Blake, senior hairstylist at Abloom Salon. The Internet and social media have made it more difficult for hairstylists to say no to a client. “In this day and age, hairstylists are pushed to make “magical changes” in a makeover format to please clients’ ever-changing minds and the Internet’s pressure to be the best. Clients have access to a portal (social media) in which they are sold on the idea that they can be blonde or get a fantasy color within one session.”
So what can you do when you encounter such clients? Leah Michael Taylor, owner and stylist at Smoke + Mirrors Handcrafted Hair, recommends being blunt and realistic with your clients. “You have to be honest with your client as soon as they sit in their chair. They need to know all of the possibilities that can arise on this journey, explaining that it is a “color correction.” With that being said, the stylist has to address each step as they come. Once the hair reaches its max for that session, make sure to formulate the proper toner to avoid those ugly tones that will most definitely arise.”
Meredith follows a four-step consultation process to decide whether she should go for something drastic or create something subtler, and determine the sessions needed to get them to their goal:
- Determine Goals and Discuss Lifestyle. Find out if they are using ‘clean’ products at home, even professional but unclean products can leave residue and chemicals in the hair that can interrupt the lightening process.
- Discuss process and home care. Are they committed to coming in monthly for toners and treatments?
- Price accordingly. A drastic change means 5-8 hours of work, subtle means 2-4 hours of work. The price difference might steer your client into the healthier direction.
- Finally, ALWAYS WORK WITH INTEGRITY.
Tip #2: Use a non-toxic lightener.
The lightener you use plays a huge part in preserving the health and integrity of your client’s hair. Is it full of toxic chemicals that can further damage hair? Avoiding lighteners that contain ammonia can save you from having to do additional treatments after lifting the hair. Ammonia is an aggressive chemical that blasts open the cuticle, damaging it.
“My favorite lightener for heavy lift painting is Hbleach,” shares Meredith. “Hbleach has a creamy consistency, its full of nourishing ingredients, and it doesn’t smell harsh the way every other lightener does.”
Oway Hbleach is the first ammonia-free cream lightener that uses the nourishing properties of Kukui Butter and pure essential oils from Lavender, Perilla and Dates to keep the hair hydrated and protected while processing. These ingredients also give it a creamy, controllable consistency that makes it ideal for any lightening technique, adds Jolie. “The consistency allows me to go from open air balayage to foils with just changing the ratio and strength of developer to lightener. I can create any look without damaging the hair.
“However, it’s also important to remember that because it’s ammonia-free, it may take more time for hair to lift to the desired level.” Slow and steady wins the race, according to Leah.
Tip #3: Choose a technique that gives a blended, effortless look.
Balayage is a blonding and hairpainting technique that has become incredibly popular in recent years due to the natural effect it gives. Later on, balayage has evolved to describe that highly sought-after lived-in look – which can be achieved in different ways.
Leah calls hers Effortless Lived-In Color. “My goal is to create effortless color for the client that ages well. Knowing what the client is willing to put into their hair is so important. Each time they come back, there needs to be another consultation to see where they are and customize to their needs every time. Sometimes that means painting and sometimes a couple foils and a toner are the only thing needed.”
For Jolie, it’s all about creating dimensional color in an efficient manner. Called 3X3X3, “it refers to the foil count around the hairline, part line, and area of the back-parietal ridge. The numbers are interchangeable but it’s just what I use to describe the technique. Once you have the 3X3X3 foils in place, the rest is left to creative freedom and different techniques for the interior of the hair are encouraged. This guarantees a blended and finished look no matter what.”
On the other hand, Meredith’s application technique, Balanced Balayage, is gaining a passionate following on social media. “Balanced Balayage has been 5 years in the making. Through constant practice, re-inventing and diving into it unforgivingly I have developed something that feels unique for me, for clients and for the stylists that I teach. What I’ve developed is unique to the holistic hairdresser, because it’s derived from the idea that natural beauty is the only beauty. Balanced Balayage is a technique that is purely open-air painting: a brush, a non-toxic lightener and your hands. No Foil, No Plastic Wrap. It’s a minimal approach with maximum result. The result being hair that looks how it was naturally meant to look. Almost every client that receives this type of paint says, ‘Wow, now THIS feels like ME.’
“And isn’t that our job? Not to change people too much, but just enough to help them feel like themselves again. A part of themselves that feels true, effortless and beautiful.”
We couldn’t agree more.
Tip #4. Tension is everything.
This brings us to one common mistake hairstylists new to blonding and balayage often make: Not using enough tension.
“You want to have strong pressure from the hand holding the hair, and light pressure from the hand applying.” This will give you a flat surface to paint on and avoid causing splotches, explains Jolie.
Meredith agrees. “You have to grasp each section thoroughly, apply a hair oil to each section to create a smooth surface to paint, then have at it! I brace each client for the “pull” and I let the section go in a gentle manner in order to not jerk the client around. I always promise my clients a good head and neck massage after a balayage!” 😉
However as easy as that sounds, handpainting is not for everyone, shares Leah. “If you feel more confident starting out with foils and know you can bust it out with confidence, do it! There are many foiling techniques, too. Also, social media and Youtube are great tools to see what other people are successfully doing out there.”
Tip # 5: Discuss home care.
Unfortunately, many clients do not realize the amount of care and upkeep going blonde entails, until their hair starts to go brassy or roots start to show.
“Home care is just as important as the in-salon service… To help fade, clients have to use a sulfate-free shampoo, hands down. Balayage clients may only be getting their color touched up a couple times a year now, but they may need to schedule a toner with their next haircut to bring that tone back to life. You can also customize a shampoo and conditioner of their choice (i.e. Oway Hmelt Mask) and need by adding the Oway Hmelt Pure Pigments. No matter what, lightened ends need more love and it may also be important to suggest an in-salon conditioning treatment like the Oway Rebuilding Treatment several times a year.”
Apart from staying on top of the toners and treatments, Meredith gives emphasis on the significance of picking a salon and stylist clients can TRUST. “If the stylist’s main goal isn’t to keep/make your hair healthy then run! Also, stay away from heat! Try wet styling, and low heat styles.”
Most importantly, Jolie reminds stylists that clients must be told BEFORE the service what care it will take to maintain their hair. “They must use approved shampoo and conditioners, heat protection when styling, an organic purple shampoo when applicable, toning and refreshing appointments in between. Hair has a lower maintenance look to it these days so clients are going longer between appointments. I encourage them to come in between to clarify and tone. Clarifying is just as important as toning. Blonde hair has less pigment, so environmental and product build up is more visible. I also suggest a shower filter that can keep any mineral build up from causing brassiness.
I always say having blonde hair is like having a dry clean only piece of clothing. It takes extra care to look as good as it did the day you bought it.”
Check out Jolie, Leah and Meredith’s favorite work using Hbleach!
Shadow root at the bowl with Oway Hcolor 7.0 Natural Blonde + Oway Hcolor 7.1 Ash Blonde with Oway Htone 9 Volume Cream Developer and dilute the formula with Oway Hmilk No Stress Conditioning Treatment as I worked down and through zone 2 into zone 3.
Rinse ends around face after 7min but process everything else the full 20 minutes.
This client is a natural level 2-3. I did a full head of ‘teased highlights. In-between the foil I balayaged, letting her lift nearly to a 9.
At the bowl I rinsed, conditioned, then wet balayaged her for even more natural dimension. Rinsed then applied a combination of ‘toners’
Toner: Base – Oway Hcolor 90.11 Intense Ash Super Bleaching Blonde + a pinch of Oway Hcolor 8.1 Ash Light Blonde + a pinch of Oway Hcolor 0.1 Ash Booster and Oway Hcolor 0.7 Purple Booster
Mid-Shaft melting to Ends – Oway Hcolor 90.11 Intense Ash Super Bleaching Blonde + Oway Hcolor 11.17 Frosted Platinum
Comb all through with a Wide Tooth Comb, let process until it looks scary purple 😉