Colour analysts help their clients step on the rolling carpet of the right change.
Those first steps can be rocky.
We did it and we know you can too.
Anna Lazarska and I had a conversation this week about helping a client leave blonde behind. Anna is the 12 Blueprints colour analyst in Poland, writing a series of posts about her own hair colour voyage. The first post is here on Facebook. True words,
Some of my clients are off by just a tone, i.e. Dark Winter vs Dark Autumn or True Summer vs Soft Summer. But even so little a step away makes such a difference for them, that they find it hard to look at their own reflection in the mirror and unlearn – unlearn that yellowish skin, enlarged pores and shiny nose are their normal.
I wondered where it might be coming from. And I realized it is all over the place – we are bombarded with ads persuading us to buy products which give us “sun kissed skin”. Magazines keep telling us we should warm our looks up to look more friendly and approachable. And of course all us will look amazing if we use bronzer to replicate J.Lo’s golden glow.
Well, I hope it changes one day. Trends come and go. Let’s see what they have for us next year. :)
As colour analysts, we get into Fix It mode when the solution may be coming too fast. People often want (and need) to look around inside a problem, not be handed an instant fix.
- Know why your client came to see you. If Ellen wanted a general wardrobe update after a life change, then focus on that. People come to things easily when they’re ready, like colour analysis in general. They may see your point about the hair colour but if it’s too soon, they internalize it too deeply and may overwrite it with the present and familiar story. Mention it and then shelve it. Trust that Ellen is working on it behind the scenes.
2. If she’d like to know more, begin with a conversation rather than a hair colour. Frame questions that allow Ellen to tell her story, rather than a yes/no structure.
How does she see the current colour? As a benefit, an impediment, a confusion?
How was it chosen?
Has it been successful within the value system of where and how she lives?
3. Explain in technical terms how the current colour doesn’t work. The cleanest way to offer honesty is without emotional clutter. It just is. Work in comparisons so she sees the possibilities as well as the problems. Chubby cheeks and skin that doesn’t clean or clear can simply become a choice that she is free to un-make.
4. Bring her attention to specifics that she can see without looking right at the hair, such as eyebrow colour, for example. One way to address a problem that’s close to home is through another problem that isn’t so reactive. The beauty of PCA is that there is always another approach and a better choice.
5. If she’s asking about hair, she wants to know. Thinking in pictures is meaningful for people. Being brought face to face with the gap enables us to picture it. When Ellen saw the the harmony of her new cosmetic wardrobe next to the previous one on the same sheet of paper, she didn’t have to imagine the gap; she got it better than words could have described.
Allow it to be a little uncomfortable for a little while or she may be too strongly pulled back towards the previous colour to make a long-term switch, especially when many other changes are being made at the same time.
When the PCA concludes, she has two elastics round her waist, one pulling her backwards and one stretching forwards. Ellen needs her own inertia to snap the elastic pulling her backwards.
To create the hair colour gap, begin the final drape viewing with the headscarf in place and then take it off halfway through the same draping session. The comparison has to fairly immediate. If the scarf is off only for the Luxury drape viewing or when she’s wearing makeup, it won’t be apples to apples.
I do this step with Luxury drapes because they simulate the colours and combinations she will wear. Colours together give harmony a stronger voice, a reason for being. She can picture herself in outfits and see that the hair colour is outside the harmony.
Offer a better choice in an atmosphere of encouragement. Ellen is not alone as she embarks on this project. The other voices in her life can’t picture her another way and they may agitate when she rocks their boat, but as the analyst, your voice is steady and sure.
6. Is the current style beneficial to Ellen’s appearance (meaning, how much change will she allow regarding hair and how much identity is wrapped up in the hairstyle vs colour)?
Often, dissatisfaction with hair has more to do with style that needs an upgrade, or other aspects of appearance entirely. I prefer to see style upgrades for hair before colour change or it’s the same ol’ hair in a different colour. The style might be fine, just a question to consider.
7. Ellen wants to get into more detail about hair colour. Continue with information gathering and look on the other side of the door. What you, the analyst, needs to know is what she is willing to do.
How easily could she live with another version of herself? And how soon?
What range of blonde would be acceptable? Consider all sorts of blondes, taupe, bronde, cinnamon, russet.
How much darker would be ok?
Would the root colour be ok?
If the new hair colour momentum is coming from you, maybe backing up a step and changing the style is a better choice for now. She can change the colour by trimming a lot of dye out. She is practicing thinking about change. Meanwhile, her logical mind reassures her that nothing has really happened.
She is picturing herself with different hair colour before doing it. Rehearsal is a constructive beginning for change.
8. Start with increments of change. Whether you’re in Warrior 3 or driving down the highway, you instinctively make small corrections to maintain balance. We all think we can do 180s but the reality is that we can’t adjust that fast. We end up chasing one problem with another one, to fix something that we got right the first time.
Examples of small changes and staying in control of the process:
A Bright Winter who stays blonde but cools the colour.
A Light Season who replaces the bleached look with more colour pigment.
A Dark Autumn who switches from blonde highlights to auburn over three salon trips.
A Soft Season who allows more natural colour to come through over a few months.
9. “My natural colour is drab….”
Compared to what?
A woman used to chemical dye may find her natural colour faded by comparison. A moment of mindfulness about what we choose to compare ourselves to may be good.
Compared to how it looked next to dominating apparel and black?
20 years of dye?
Chemical and computer-generated colour can be so much brighter than Nature-made colour. By brighter, I mean more intense, or more concentrated pigment, different from lighter, darker, or warmer, which sometimes look like brighter.
It’s not really Wear the Colours that You Are (my tagline). It’s, Wear the Colours in Harmony with The Colours that You Are, but that seems a mouthful. Humans are more neutral than objects, maybe because we all have all 3 primary colours seen together at the same time, and we’re made of different pigments than objects.
As a recent client left her colour consultation, with new makeup and hair pulled up, she mentioned that it had been awhile since a car honked its horn, and “I guess a few gray hairs aren’t so bad.” I guess they’re not.
10. Ellen is learning to see herself holistically, rather than one feature in isolation from the rest. We are the whole picture.
For appearance to truly work, hair colour has to be in context with the whole look. Chemical hair often steps in front of the person and has a life of its own, like hair wearing a woman. Like too shiny jewelry, we’re duller next to it.
Hair is just one thing in a united appearance, and it can wait while other things are adjusted, which will alter the perception of the hair. We can attach an urgency to appearance focus points that doesn’t really exist. We will get to the mall before it closes and we will buy that purse. The need is really not immediate and hair colour is just one part of the picture.
11. I have said that to date, I’ve never seen a Dark Season be most flattered by blonde. I stand by that still.
However, there may be situations where it can be a placeholder during a colour transition, especially to silver. For mature women, dark chemical colour may be too dark or opaque.
The theoretical relationships between Seasons may or may not help. Like the staircases at Hogwart’s, they can make endless connections. Soft Summer’s dark ash brown may work or look flat if the eyes contain a lot of green or gold. Ellen will partner with her colourist and colour analyst to make the right choices.
12. As the colour analyst, ask to see hair colour images from the 18-30 years of age window, even better if there are other people in the picture. Ellen can recognize and relate to herself in this place, evoke a memory, and find a starting point that her logical mind approves. This can also feel like a turning back of the clock, of rejuvenation, of renewal in a place that has been known and safe.
13. Show Ellen 5 pictures and explain the pros and cons. Her mind can become more fluid with possibilities than given one example that becomes a too-rigid goal. The reality is that her result won’t be any single picture, it will be an adaptation of several. Place her face among the example images, which serves as a real-world reset button alongside all the Photoshopped pictures.
14. Chemical hair colour can be gorgeous and practical. In the same way that the beautiful Luxury fabrics are not turtlenecks, neither is hair colour always best as a whole head of hair. Both are part of an ecosystem, an entire wardrobe or appearance, in which the parts speak to each other with colour’s voice.
I find the most modern and believable hair colour preserves a lot of natural colour. Especially as we mature, the less forced the look, the better. A balayage effect that starts near the temple is often great for longer hair. Easier upkeep, edgier look, and the face becomes more slender, replacing the wide flat look when the face and hair blend into one another (more pronounced in some Seasons and people than others). To Ellen and the viewer, she is still blonde.
I look forward to the time that will be spent with the new analysts from many countries who will join us in the coming weeks, and excited for the clients with whom they will share that other, better way.
You will help people in so many more ways than good lipstick.
Welcome to Canada. Remember to bring a sweater.