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What you need to know about colouring Asian hair

As a hair colourist, it’s important that you are able to work with all hair types and textures –  can you truly be a master of your craft if not?

Actress Gemma Chan with hair colour by Katie Allan, founder of MAYFIVE

Ask yourself a question: can I work with every client who might sit in my chair? If not, it might be time to brush up on your colouring know-how and ensure that you can cater for everyone who might book into your salon. Not only is inclusivity important for the hairdressing industry as a whole, but your business will also thrive as a place of excellence if you have an understanding of all hair types.

Most hairdressers are trained to work on and colour Caucasian hair, but the conversation has been widening to include afro hair – catch up on textured hair expert Lisa Farrall’s tips here. But Asian hair is often excluded from the narrative, despite having its own unique characteristics that respond in different ways to chemicals and colouring processes.

Katie Allan, founder of MAYFIVE Hair in Chiswick and colourist for actress Gemma Chan, believes that it is important for hairdressers to learn about all kinds of hair. “We are living in a multi-cultural society, and are in the best industry to meet incredible people everyday, so it’s so important we educate ourselves on all hair types so we can serve people of all ethnicities,” she says.

The first thing to understand is that Asian hair is structured differently to other hair types.  “Asian hair has more cuticle layers and wider cuticle cells then Caucasian hair which is why its stronger and the colouring of it slightly differs. I personally have found that Asian hair needs more power to lift but it is certainly not impossible,” explains Krysia West, owner of Perfectly Posh Hair and Aveda UK colour ambassador.

Robert Kirby, IdHair artistic director for the UK recommends that, as always, you get to know your client’s hair history. “Make sure to do an in-depth consultation with the client to find out their hair colour history and if the client has had colour done outside of the UK. A lot of Asian countries still use metallic salt in their products, so it’s incredibly important to carry out a strand test.”

You also need to remember that the same techniques won’t necessarily deliver the same result across all hair types. “The best techniques are always ones done in foil as this will help with the natural heat to lift the hair,” explains Krysia. “This will give you more lift than say a balayage would, as Asian hair can be very dark and you have to try and avoid the dreaded brassiness.”

She continues: “I think that ash finishes are very flattering as they will kick out a lot of warmth. With Aveda we have a Full Spectrum Deep range which is designed for this type of hair and works really well.”

And as with many skills, if you want to truly master colouring Asian hair then you need to be proactive, listen to those in the know and keeping working on your craft. “Research online, and don’t be scared to reach out to other hairdressers on social media to share formulas and techniques,” says Katie. “I frequently comment on other stylists work and ask to hear more about the formula and products they have used, and nine times out of ten they are more than happy to share. And then when you practice, listen to the feedback your clients give you and learn from it.”