Master colorist Tracey Cunningham at work

Hair Color Master Class:
15 Tips from the Best Colorists We Know

Whether you color your hair at home or in a salon, much of the process—and the best ways to hack it—can seem like a big mystery. The perspective world-class colorists and hairstylists bring to the experience removes some of that mystery, and makes getting perfect, shiny, natural-looking color that much easier: From miracle oils that mitigate bleach-incurred damage and a brilliant grey-hair trick to the weirdest way to get rid of color stains we’ve ever heard of, these tips are game-changing. Hell, they’re life-changing.


| colorist and cofounder of Mèche Salon in LA

“Don’t expect to get fantastic color in less than an hour. It’s not possible.”


| New York hairstylist and colorist and founder of Harry Josh Pro Tools

“If you like your hair dark brown or black, you really only need a single process.”


“Book your hair color appointment in the morning. As the day goes on, late appointments, testy clients, and who knows what else can throw a major wrench in a good mood.”


“There is no color that requires you NOT to abuse (meaning overuse) conditioner.”


| hairstylist and founder of Butterfly Studio Salon in New York

“Don’t use hair-concealer spray before a color treatment. The spray blocks the color from penetrating your greys.”


| colorist and founder of Marie Robinson Salon in New York

“When I’m concerned about hair damage, I use lavender or coconut oil on hair before I bleach it. That fills in porous spots and helps retain elasticity. This is definitely more a salon trick than an at-home one, though.”


“Years ago, when people smoked, we used the ashes to help remove hair dye from people’s skin, especially black or dark brown dye. You’d mix a small amount with water to make a paste, then smooth that onto skin. The you’d remove the residue. It smelled terrible, but it really absorbed the dye.”


“When women go platinum or very blonde, we often use cold milk rinses on the scalp before conditioning. Milk soothes and calms the skin, and it helps eliminate redness.”


| colorist and creative director of dpHue in LA

“Most people don’t realize that the color of your everyday styling products can compromise your hair color. For instance, many popular hair oils (I’m not naming names!) are yellow or orange—I always tell my blonde clients to stay away from these. They can tint your hair and make it look brassy. That’s why I’m such a fan of dpHUE Argan Oil: It has zero pigment and is 100 percent color-safe. Stick to clear products if you want your color to look the way it’s supposed to.”


| colorist, Clairol color director, and founder of James Corbett Studio in New York

“It’s best to apply color to unwashed hair, as the natural oils work to protect the scalp from irritation. However, if you use waxy temporary sprays or hair mascaras (which can prevent color from penetrating hair), I recommend washing your hair the day before coloring and avoiding those products until after you color.”


| LA and New York hairstylist and costar of Queer Eye

“If your hair is in good shape but you want to do something that would take more than six hours of processing to achieve, just say no. Your hair is going to break and eventually fade uglier than anything you’ve ever seen, and you’ll pay thousands and thousands of dollars achieving, dealing with, and growing out your My Little Pony hair color moment. Buy some hair chalk and save the energy.”


| colorist and founder of Christophe Robin Haircare and Christophe Robin Salon in Paris

“Don’t wash your hair before you get your color done; it’s better to come with dirty hair and then wash two to four days after.”


“Don’t get your color done right before leaving on a sunny vacation. The ocean, chlorine, and UV rays will turn it brassy, and you’ll have to do it again. Do it two to three weeks prior, and make sure you protect your hair with oils and a hat.”


| New York hairstylist

“Get your roots done before a haircut, but if you’re highlighting your hair, do it after the cut, so you aren’t cutting all the highlights out.”


| New York hairstylist and cofounder of R + Co hair care

“If you’re going to be a redhead, own it—because you’ll have to go through essentially an entire makeover and wardrobe change.”