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How do I tell my stylist what color I want?

Deciding on a new hair color can be exciting but also nerve-wracking. With so many options, how do you pick the perfect shade that will complement your skin tone and enhance your beauty? As a stylist, I’m often asked by clients how to best communicate what color they’re going for. Here’s my guide on how to tell your stylist exactly what you want so you walk out of the salon with your dream color.

Show Inspiration Photos

A picture is worth a thousand words. Bring in photos of celebs or influencers rocking the hair color you love. Search on Pinterest or Instagram for inspiration too. Showing your stylist reference photos gives them a visual of the exact tone, level of lightness/darkness, and undertones you’re going for. Photos help eliminate any guesswork. But make sure the inspiration pics are realistic and achievable for your hair. Understand a platinum blonde on someone with naturally light hair will appear different than on your dark locks.

Communicate Your Goal

It’s important to think about the overall goal or purpose of this new hair color. Do you want to enhance your complexion? Add depth and dimension? Go brighter and bolder? Boost your confidence? Frame your face in a flattering way? Opening up to your stylist about why you want to change your color helps them pick the most suitable shade. For example, “I want to go redhead because I’m looking to really stand out in photos for an upcoming vacation.”

Describe The Tone & Shade

Use descriptive words to explain the exact tone and shade of color you want. Here are some examples:

  • Warm – honey, gold, chestnut, strawberry, copper
  • Cool – ash, platinum, sandy, mousy
  • Brightness level – bright, vivid, pastel, muted, soft

Also reference common hair color terms: highlights, lowlights, ombre, balayage, root smudge, all-over color.

Show Swatches

Bringing swatches to your appointment can remove any color confusion. Swatches allow you to see an exact replica of the shade on your own hair. Purchase strips of hair extensions in the color you desire online or at a beauty supply store. Or print out a photo of a model with your ideal hair color and bring it to your appointment. Hold the swatches up to your face when describing the color to your stylist.

Talk About Your Lifestyle

Your daily habits and lifestyle should factor into choosing a new hair color. Be honest with your stylist about your beauty routine. Important questions they’ll ask:

  • How often will you come in for root touch-ups?
  • Are you willing to use toner or gloss treatments to maintain the color?
  • Do you regularly heat style or use other hair products?

These details help your stylist select the right formulation and method to achieve a color that will fit into your lifestyle and last between salon visits.

Request a Consultation

If you want an in-depth color consultation before booking an appointment, ask your stylist. Most are happy to meet briefly to discuss options and formulate a plan. Bring in your inspiration photos and talk through ideas. They can make recommendations on shades that will work best for your skin tone, hair type, and goals. A consultation gives you time to ask questions and ensures you feel fully confident before sitting in the colorist’s chair.

Ask For a Test Strand

If you’re nervous about how a major hair color change will turn out, request your stylist do a test strand first. They’ll apply the new shade to a small, inconspicuous section of hair, either in the back or underneath. This gives you a chance to view the color in natural light to ensure you love it before committing to the whole head. It also shows how your hair specifically will take the color. Test strands give added reassurance when going for a drastic color change.

Talk Maintenance

Book a follow-up appointment before you leave the salon to discuss maintaining your new hair color. Ask your stylist:

  • How soon will I need a root touch-up?
  • Should I use a special shampoo or mask at home?
  • Do I need to change how often I wash or style my hair?
  • Will my color fade evenly or get brassy?

Proper at-home care is key for keeping your color looking fresh as long as possible. Let your stylist educate you on products and techniques to extend the longevity of your new shade.


Achieving your dream hair color requires clear communication with your stylist. Show inspiration photos, bring swatches, discuss your lifestyle habits, and ask questions. This ensures your stylist understands exactly what you want before starting the color process. With good planning and honest discussions, you’ll leave the salon with stunning locks in the perfect shade for you.

Coloring your hair lets you transform your look into the beauty you envision. But selecting that ideal hue can be puzzling. Next time you’re at the salon wondering how to tell the stylist what color you want, keep these tips in mind. With concise communication and visual examples, you’ll feel confident and trust your colorist can bring your vision to life. So embrace a new facet of your beauty and take the leap into bold, brilliant color.

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