Beauty Career Profile: Hair Color Specialist

An eye for how color looks, backed up by the science of how color works!

Hair Color Specialist Career Profile

From subtle changes that enhance natural shades or cover the first hints of grey, to dramatic statements or wild punk streaks, a hair color specialist gives their clients the confidence of great color.

Hair coloring is a complex and skilled job requiring creativity and knowledge, and may offer more creative possibilities than hair cutting. A change in hair color can accentuate the eyes and skin, and transform a cut with texture and volume, as well as make an impact with a bold shade.

A colorist has an extensive knowledge of the technicalities of hair color, depth and tone, and works with a range of techniques including permanent, semi-permanent and highlighting. They discuss with their clients what will suit them, and work with hair stylists to create a cut and color that compliment each other.

This isn’t just choosing a color from a bottle – a hair colorist must take into account a client’s hair type and style and any previous treatments. A good colorist may also need to fix hair color problems, correcting mistakes from a subtle shade mismatch to removing a color. A colorist also has responsibility for client health and safety, carrying out skin tests and ensuring the safe use of products.

hair color specialist

Job Outlook

Maintaining hair color requires repeat visits to a salon, so as you build up a client list, you will generate more bookings as happy customers come back to you to get their roots touched up or for new styles.

The employment outlook for hair colorists in general is good; the salon industry is predicted to grow over the next decade, with hairstylist jobs of all kinds increasing by 14% by 2020. Ogle Schools Career Services offers assistance to students to help with identifying job opportunities and interview preparation.

Make it Happen


Although hair colorists don’t legally require a license to work in a salon, it’s a great idea to get qualified. It will open up more job opportunities and give your clients confidence. You can study for a cosmetology qualification, and gaining a certification from the American Board of Certified Hair Colorists will give you an edge when you are competing for the top salon jobs. Certification is based on examinations held in cities across the United States.

Keeping up with new processes and technologies is essential for a colorist. Once you are qualified and working in a salon, you may be able to take extra courses on different techniques. Some hair product companies offer qualifications in color technology.

You can also network with other hair color specialists by joining a national association such as the Association of Cosmetology Salon Professionals.


Becoming a skilled hair colorist and getting a position in a great salon comes from a mixture of training and on-the-job experience. Attending cosmetology school will give you the opportunity to work in a student-run salon to gain experience.


If you are renting a space in a salon as a hair color specialist, you will need to invest in quality equipment. Choosing the product range you use will be an important early decision, and should take into account product prices and any extras offered by the brand, such as training. You will also need mixing equipment, hairdryers, combs and brushes.

hair coloring

Skills & Attributes

Color Knowledge

Color is light, and it follows scientific rules – a hair colorist must have an understanding of the chemistry of hair color products, and the physics of color itself, including the possibilities of mixing colors, and the constraints imposed by the rules of the color wheel. You will learn this kind of information on a cosmetology course.


As well as making subtle color changes to a client’s hair, a great colorist also needs a creative eye for truly striking colors. You’ll also need to be able to visualize shades in conjunction with a client’s skin tone, eye color and look, to create a complimentary style. It’s a good idea to put together a portfolio that showcases the best of your work across a range of processes and styles.

People Skills

Coloring their hair is a big deal for clients – they have to trust you to make a major and sometimes permanent change to their look. A good colorist has great people skills, and is able to listen to clients and interpret their wants, even if they can’t really describe what they want very well! You’ll also be working with them to find a compromise if a color or technique can’t be done on their hair.

hair coloring shades highlights


A hair colorist needs to be punctual and have good time-management skills. Hair coloring processes are a large time investment for a client, often involving in-depth consultations as well as the process itself, and they don’t want to be kept waiting more than is necessary. You will need to estimate accurately how long a process will take, and stick to your time slots.

Sales Skills

To ensure you keep your schedule full with clients, you’ll need to be a good salesperson, convincing clients to come back to touch up roots or try new styles. You’ll also be recommending hair care products sold by the salon, an important revenue stream.


A hair color specialist works on their feet for long hours, and the job requires good health and stamina. Your smile will have to be as big at the end of the day as at the start!

hair dye coloring

Trends & Tips

The staple techniques for the hair colorist include foil highlights for a unique and textured look, full foils for an all-over highlighted look, flecks for subtle or dramatic color accents, and low lights to add depth and tone to existing color.

To become a successful colorist, you’ll need to have an eye constantly on what’s happening in the fashion world and what colors celebrities are wearing. Here’s some hot tips to check out.

3 Hot Trends for 2014!

1. Hot reds, from fiery non-naturals to warm and subtle autumnal shades that add depth.

2. Make a statement with primary brights – from candy pinks to juicy oranges, vivid colors are big.

3. Ombre – celebs are dip-dying hair this season, mixing caramels and burnt sugars or brighter pinks and blondes.

Be sure to subscribe to your favorite news feeds online for all the latest trends and mark your calendar so you don’t miss a trade show or convention that’s close by.

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About the Author

Jeff Chiarelli
Jeff Chiarelli is the Head of Marketing for Ogle School. His responsibilities include leading Ogle School's marketing and branding strategy to amplify Ogle School's passion for helping create future beauty professionals in the communities Ogle School serves.