This advice page was inspired by a question proposed to me by a well put together, stylish woman I met at a party this past holiday season. She asked me:

Robert, I’ve been to many hair colorists all claiming to be the best. Tell me: What do you consider to be the elements of beautiful hair color?”

I thought this was a great question—so much better than the usual questions people ask in a cocktail party setting once they realize I am a hair colorist. I told this woman that I felt great hair color had a few basic elements to it that most colorists miss.

A. The color should leave the hair looking shiny and in good condition.
B. The color needs to look like it could have grown in that way (unless it was meant to be Avant-garde, in which case it should be age and dress appropriate).
C. The finished color should not be too “one-color” or matte looking (even on brunettes).

Let me explain some common sense ways to achieve this.

A. Shiny hair can be achieved on everyone if handled correctly. When coloring hair, a great colorist pulls the color with lift through the mid-shaft and ends only when it is absolutely necessary, therefore preserving the natural condition. When lift is not needed, you never apply permanent hair color to the ends. Only use no-lift demi-permanent color, which leaves hair shiny and extrememly healthy looking. When hair color is done, you should always condition the hair with quality conditioner, which will balance the pH after coloring hair. After the hair is conditioned, apply a sheer glaze at least every other time you color your hair. A demi-permanent hybrid protein glaze gives hair new life: It’s like magic! They only cost $40–$50, so it is definitely money well spent. Hair that is handled this way every time and that is maintained with quality conditioners at home will look shiny and beautiful.

B. Let’s face it: Great hair color is almost always better than most people’s natural color. But when you are looking at great hair color, it should look like it belongs on that person. A great colorist with good taste can help you achieve this. We have all seen the ultra fair-skinned girl who has ultra light hair. How does that look? Blah. Boring. Possibly sickly. Or, how about the girl with ultra black, matte hair? This girl looks like she clearly colors her hair. If the too-blonde girl would put some panels or lowlights—not real dark, but dark enough to matter; and not too ash, but warm blondish colors like light gold blonde and medium caramel blonde—throughout 25% of her hair, she would have color in her skin and actually have interesting hair color. She would look much fresher! And if the girl with black hair would slightly lighten the base to a dark brown and maybe lift a few pieces on top with lightener to get all the red out, and glaze with a medium neutral brown glaze, her end result would be very dark (not black) hair with a few lighter brown pieces throughout. Now, this is a gorgeous brunette. These extra steps of lightening and glazing only need to be done 2–3 times a year for a brunette, and it will give that “too-dark” hair some life.

C. The biggest pet peeve I have about single process hair color is that most is very pretty at the base (root area), but then it gets duller or ashier throughout the mid-shaft and ends. The reason is simple. If you need to use permanent hair color—and often you do—after the first time you lift the hair, only use demi-permanent color on the ends. It is a separate formula that keeps the ends and mid-shaft warmer and shinier. Usually, you want to avoid pulling through the ends every time and only pull through some ends to give variation. This process must be assessed each time you color hair. I rarely do exactly the same thing every time.

D. All hair color should have some variation to it. Hair that is one solid, matte color is rarely beautiful. There are many ways to achieve this, like applying foils in varying color. This will give you the most variation, but for single-process color clients, using the techniques I explained in part C will also give slight variation, which is very important to darker brunette and red-head clients. Remember, you brunettes and red-heads, a few highlights and a glaze two or three times a year will change your solid, boring hair color into something much more exciting!

Q&A With Robert Lucas

Question: My color is dull! Is there any way to freshen it up without highlights or low-lights?
-Stacey—Chicago, IL

Answer: Yes, and it is quick, easy, and inexpensive: GLAZE YOUR HAIR! There are many fantastic glaze products on the market today. The word glaze is a generic term much like the word shampoo. They, like most things, are not created equal. Make sure you get the real deal, which is a demi-permanent, clear or shear colored product, such as Redkin Shades or Wella Color Touch. They have a hybrid protein that is fantastic for bringing dull hair back to life! These glazes are usually applied all over and processed with some heat for 20–30 minutes, and the cost usually ranges from $40–$60. They’re a really fantastic product!

Question: Help: I hate the hair color my colorist gave me! Is it bad to get it redone right away?
-Veronica—San Francisco, CA

Answer: It totally depends on the condition of your hair! But, before you do anything foolish, ask yourself these questions.

  1. Is this what we decided on, or something close?
  2. Do I usually need a moment to get used to change?
  3. Is this just completely WRONG and not at all what we talked about?

If your answer is #1 or #2, give yourself a day to adjust and then decide what to do. If you then like it, you’re done. If not, see the final advice below. If your answer is #3, then realize that you were in the wrong hands and you need a new colorist—one who can listen, has talent, and can give solid advice on what will look great on you. DO NOT GO BACK TO THE SAME PERSON!

Final Advice From Robert

If you can’t get used to the look you and your colorist decided on—and it is you who changed your mind, not that the color was flat out wrong—then go back to your colorist and assess the condition of your hair. If your hair is in good enough condition, which it usually will be, give it 1 or 2 days with a couple of heavy conditioning treatments, and then redo the color. Remember, unless your hair is short and cut regularly, you cannot go from A–Z every time you color your hair. Change is fantastic and should occur, but hair color should be thought out and done by someone who knows what they’re doing and who you trust. Remember, your colorist is working with chemicals, so it’s crucial they know what they’re doing!


If the change that you want to occur requires going darker rather than lighter, this is much easier on the hair, assuming your colorist has the practice of using only demi-permanent color in this application. Whether it is refreshing previously colored hair on routine touch-ups, creating low-lights, or performing color correction, you need to be in the hands of a knowledgeable colorist who will use the demi-permanent color (all of the best will do it this way). Why use 20–40% chemical when you can get the job done better with a 2–5% chemical, plus have the added benefit of the hybrid proteins for shine?