They satisfy some of the most demanding clients around, so trust their advice when it comes to getting the color you want.

By Marci Robin
Updated Mar 19, 2020 @ 9:00 am
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Credit: Beyonce, Rita Hazan’s client. Photo by Getty Images.

As anyone who has gone from blonde to brunette (or vice versa) can attest, hair colorists possess a lot of power. It’s hard to pull off an overall look if your signature shade has gone brassy. Colorists are essentially the beauty industry’s version of impressionist painters who spend years mastering brushstrokes and an intricate balance of tones so that your locks are tinged to your liking. And since individual flourishes make each colorist unique, it’s important that you do your homework before your first appointment. Here, four in-demand Hollywood colorists explain how you can find the pro who is right for you and what to ask for once you do.

BE YOUR OWN SEARCH ENGINE

If you’re on the hunt for a new colorist, don’t be shy about approaching someone whose hair catches your eye. “Everyone loves a compliment, so if you pass by a stranger with beautiful hair color, walk up to her and ask her who does it,” says Rita Hazan, who works with Beyoncé and Jessica Simpson. Or, if real-life people-watching doesn’t yield any leads, “check out the Instagram feeds of a few cool salons in your area to see which photos you gravitate toward,” suggests Lorri Goddard, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley’s and Reese Witherspoon’s colorist. When you spot a look you like, check to see if the colorist is tagged or mentioned in the caption, then go to that pro’s feed to browse more of his or her work. “You’ll get a sense pretty quickly of whether this person has the vibe and aesthetic you like,” says Goddard.

Credit: Chrissy Teigen, Tracey Cunningham’s client. Reese Witherspoon, Lorri Goddard's client. Jennifer Lopez, Rita Hazan's client. Photos by Getty Images.

After you’ve homed in on someone whose work intrigues you, contact the salon to find out what they charge. “If it’s beyond your budget, ask the receptionist if there’s a junior colorist who’s been trained by that expert and does similar color work,” says Goddard. But no matter how major the pro may be, don’t dive right in with a full-color service. “Always, always schedule a consultation first to be sure you both have the same vision and goals for your hair, including how often you’re willing to come into the salon to maintain your color and what the cost commitment will be,” says Tracey Cunningham, who counts Zoey Deutch and Jennifer Lopez as her clients. “It’s so important to see first how you get along with each other. If you don’t feel like you’re speaking the same language, you may want to keep searching for someone else.”

EXPRESS YOURSELF

When you have that initial sit-down, pay attention to how attentive the colorist is. “The person should ask you lots of questions about your lifestyle and your hair-color history and how you like to style your hair,” says colorist Naomi Knights, who has worked with Scarlett Johansson, Amber Valletta, and Florence Pugh. “Be wary of anyone who wants to skip getting to know you.” And during your chat, don’t skimp on the details. “Tell the person about any hair color you’ve had in the past year — even temporary wash-out formulas — along with any allergies you have and the types of color tones you like and, more important, which ones you don’t like,” says Goddard.

The pros agree that it’s often easier for clients to explain what they don’t want as opposed to what they do want, which is why bringing photos also helps. “Pictures allow the colorist to see exactly what you’re envisioning, so you can discuss how to make the look come to life,” says Cunningham. “They are also more effective than words at ensuring you and your colorist are on the same page with your goals.” And while celebrity references are great, personal pictures are just as welcome. “Bring photos of yourself from a time when you loved your color, even if that’s from when you were a toddler,” says Goddard.

Credit: Dakota Johnson and Zoey Deutch, Tracey Cunningham’s clients. Florence Pugh, Naomi Knights's client. Photos by Getty Images.

KEEP YOUR SHADE FRESH

Once you have your luminous new hue, ask your colorist for advice on how to maintain it — and really follow it. “I never let a client leave without getting a post-color glossing treatment, especially if she’s heading to an event,” says Cunningham. The quick process immediately follows your dye job, “and it works wonders to perfect the tones and make the hair really shiny,” she says. You can also pop into the salon and repeat the service anytime you feel like your hue has become faded or brassy. “A gloss treatment can refresh the look of highlights or correct any unevenness in your shade,” says Cunningham. Ultimately, your colorist wants to build a lasting relationship with you and help evolve your look so you never feel stuck in a rut — and so you can be that head turner on the street who always gets asked, “Excuse me, but who does your color?”

LORRI GODDARD’S PICK

Dyeing hair roughs up the cuticles, so she recommends this nourishing duo, which calms frizz on color-treated strands.

Virtue Labs Smooth Shampoo and Conditioner

$38 - $40

RITA HAZAN’S PICK

She created this shine-boosting foam that goes on after shampooing to enhance brightness and luminosity on all hair colors.

Rita Hazan True Color Ultimate Shine Gloss

TRACEY CUNNINGHAM’S PICK

Hot tools contribute to color fading, so she instructs her clients to use this leave-in lotion that protects against heat up to 450 degrees.

Redken Extreme Play Safe

NAOMI KNIGHTS’S PICK

She relies on this five-minute deep treatment to restore bleached hair with moisture and help prevent color-related damage.

Davines Naturaltech Nourishing Vegetarian Miracle Mask

For more stories like this, pick up the April issue of InStyle, available on newsstands, on Amazon, and for digital download March 20.