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How do I Become a Hair Color Specialist?

By Jan Hill
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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To become a hair color specialist, you typically must complete basic cosmetology training or an apprenticeship and pass the appropriate licensing exam. Hair color specialists who take advanced training in hair color formulations and application techniques are usually in high demand. Cosmetology training typically includes instruction in hair color chemistry and theory. Students also receive practical experience in client consultation as well as color formulation and application. An individual often chooses to become a hair color specialist once they begin working as a licensed cosmetologist.

While cosmetologists learn the basics of hair color in school, most will typically say that they learned the bulk of professional hair coloring on the job. Skill as a colorist usually comes through trial and error and by seeking the advice of more experienced colorists. Many who specialize in hair color periodically choose to take advanced courses in new hair color products and techniques. These courses may be offered through hair color manufacturers and beauty supply wholesale businesses.

Knowledge of hair color chemistry helps hair color specialists more accurately predict the way a certain hair color formula will react with the natural color and condition of a client's hair. They have a working knowledge of the types of hair color available, including permanent, semi-permanent, and temporary. Hair color specialists are also skilled in performing special application techniques, such as highlighting with foil or applying more than one color for special effects. Additional skills include applying highlights, lowlights and color correction. They may also cover up gray hair or work with tricky hair shades such as red.

Someone who chooses to become a hair color specialist typically has a high volume of color clients. Most color clients come in for color retouch appointments every four to six weeks, since hair grows at the rate of one-half inch (about 1.27 cm) per month. As a result, a hair color specialist often has regular clientele who she sees at least once a month.

Hair color specialists typically earn between $42,000 and $46000 US Dollars. The skill is a growing service performed by cosmetologists, and hair color specialists may enjoy creative potential and even get to try out more shocking colors or color combinations on certain clients. A hair stylist who wants to become a hair color specialist may be able to build business through word-of-mouth advertising that clients can provide. Applying for jobs at salons in need of this service may also help.

Practical Adult Insights is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By anon295735 — On Oct 08, 2012

@bmuse: Yes, you have to have your license first, then you have to pass a hair color test that is written and you also have to perform the task, proving you know how to do it.

By bmuse — On May 28, 2011

I am new to the United States and would like to start work in this profession. Can someone tell me if I must first acquire a cosmetology license before becoming a hair color specialist?

By Othilia — On May 26, 2011

I had no idea that hair colorists could make that much money. It makes sense, considering the average *good* hair dyeing treatments cost between $65-$90.

I would imagine a colorist in a major metropolis, like New York, would earn more than the one I go to here in Olatha, Kansas.

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