Advice for Hairdressers

The hairdressing consultation & service

Every consultation process is different and will be, of course, tailored to the individual. However, certain parts of the consultation and service should be of a certain standard.

There are hairdressing standards written for all types of services that allow you and the hairdressers to understand what should occur before, during, and after each hairdressing service.

An initial consultation should consist of the hairdresser discussing not only your request and wishes but should be investigating the history of your hair, determine its strength and ability to withstand what you have requested. If no meaningful consultation has taken place and not testing before the commencement of the service, there is a higher risk of an outcome that has not been accounted for occurring; e.g., wrong colour or hair damage.

To help the hairdresser ascertain the effect of the chemical process on the hair, based not only on the requested ‘look’ but also on what the hair will withstand; there are basic tests that the hairdresser should perform for your safety:

These standards are written as a National Occupational Standard or (NOS) and are government recognised standards for all types of professions, including hairdressing; it encompasses the minimum standard of care the public should encounter and what individuals (in this case, hairdressers) should achieve when carrying out functions in the workplace, together with specifications of the underpinning knowledge needed for the safe performance of their given services.

These can be viewed as basic standards of the profession; for hairdressing, there are several NOS, each one is split into what hairdressers should be able to perform and what they need to know and understand. You can find the National Occupational Standards (NOS) for hairdressing via the website:


Ensuring the safety of your client should be paramount as a hairdresser, this should supersede the service requested and the look you or the client wishes to attain.

Not everyone can or should be able to undergo any chemical service, as a professional it is for the hairdresser to direct the client as to what is attainable and advise on the potential for damage to the hair.

Basic guidelines have been written for all hairdressing services and include safety requirement such as:

  • Conduct all necessary tests following manufacturers” instructions and recognised industry procedures.
  • Record the outcomes of tests on the client’s record card.
  • Base your recommendations on an accurate evaluation of your client’s hair and its potential to achieve the effect required.
  • Inform your client of the likely cost, duration and expected outcome of the service.
  • Choose products, tools and equipment based on the results of necessary.
  • Tests, consultation with your client and relevant factors influencing the service.
  • Prepare materials to meet the application requirements, when necessary.
  • Prepare products to meet manufacturers” instructions.
  • Prepare your client’s hair and protect their skin, where necessary, before service.

Hairdressers should be aware of these standards, which creates a framework for safe services.

Advice for before the hairdressing service is performed:
  • A complete and in-depth consultation should occur before the product is applied.
    • If a hair dye is going to be used, a patch test should be performed 48 hours before the service
    • If a bleach, chemical straightening, or perm product is to be used, a strand test should be performed to ensure your hair can withstand the process and achieve the look you desire without compromising the quality too much.
  • You should understand what product will be used and why. You should then explain this to the client and advise if there are any alternatives.
  • You should inform the client of the down sides of the service, (e.g: After a bleaching process the hair may be substantially weaker, dry, and may become harder to comb and feel damaged).
  • You should inform the Client how long the product should be be in contact with the skin or hair?
    • Give them a time of how long this will take.
  • Advise the client If they feel any discomfort or pain, they need to tell you immediately and you will act straight away to remove the product.
  • Advise on aftercare.


If you visited a doctor and was given a course of medication you would think that doctor very unprofessional (and possibly dangerous) if they did not explain the side effects of the treatment they advised you to take.

As the doctor is responsible for the medication you take, you the professional hairdresser is responsible for the outcome of the service you are going to perform.


There are governmental standards for hairdressing services which advise you to:

• Test appropriately   • Record the test outcome   • Explain/Discuss the outcome of the test with your client.

What does this mean?

Testing appropriately is to ensure the product/service you are going to use is first and foremost safe for the person and secondly that it is appropriate for the service you have advised.

What is an appropriate test?

Tests are there for the hairdresser to gather information about the person and their hair, if you forego testing, you forego giving yourself valuable information that could prove important in your choice of what can be used on that person.

There are several tests available for hairdresser to use to ascertain different aspects of hair/scalp health:

  • Strand test
  • Patch test
  • Elasticity test
  • Incompatibility test
  • Porosity test

To ensure safety for your client you should not only adhere to manufacturer’s instructions

Strand test: this test is used to ascertain how well the hair will cope with the chemical process you are planning to use. A strand test will help

  • Determine if the hair will withstand the bleach or a perming process
  • Determine if you are lifting the hair, that it will lift to the level you want in the allotted time manufacturers advise.


For a strand test to be valid you must perform the service in accordance with the test you have carried out. EG: if you strand test the hair for 45 min with a bleach mixed with 6% hydrogen peroxide, you then cannot use a bleach using 9% peroxide for 50 min as this is a different process than the one you have tested.

Every time you process the hair you should strand test as the hair composition has changed from the last chemical process.

Patch test: A test performed on the skin at least 48 hours before application to the scalp, the patch test itself is the best indication as to whether the subject is allergic to the product, if there is no reaction it is deemed safe to use the product. Manufacturers guidelines stipulate that a patch test must be performed if the hair dye has not been used on the client before or if a new shade is being used, or if the last application exceeds 6 months.

Incompatibility Test: A test where a cutting of hair is mixed with Hydrogen peroxide to see if Metallic salts are present in the hair. Metallic salts are used in colouring system such as ‘Just for men’ where the hair darkens over several processes. The metallic salts in these products react violently to the peroxide used in permanent and semi-permanent hair colouring in salons.

If you think a person has used these product’s you should perform an incompatibility test.

Elasticity test: This is to test the internal strength of the hair (the cortex). Hair that has been damaged due to chemical treatments may have lost much of its natural strength. This type of hair may stretch over two-thirds of its original length and may even break off. It is important to carry out this test before perming. Hair that is in good condition will stretch and then return to its original length.

Such a test is good to determine the general health of the hair, but is not a replacement for a strand test for determining the hair’s ability to withstand a bleach or perm service.

Porosity test: Where a strand of hair is held between the thumb and forefinger of one hand. Run the forefinger and thumb of your other hand from the root (where the hair grows from) down to the point. If the hair feels rough and bumpy, the cuticle scales are raised and open and this is an indication of porous hair. If the hair feels smooth, the cuticle is flat and closed and the hair’s cuticle region is in good condition.


All of these tests are markers of health, these should be used with a thorough consultation to determine the possible outcome of the requested service.

It is important to ensure that safety comes first in all hairdressing services.

Advice if you are a hairdresser who is involved in a dispute


• Invite the client for a non-adversarial discussion regarding the potential damage.

• Ask if you can Photograph the hair and document what they are showing you.

• Write down a clear version of what happened, including a time frame not only when it happened but the times of what happened on the day).

• Document all products used.

• Meet with members of staff (if they were involved directly).

• Document the complaint.

Seek professional advice

• Speak to your insurance company. They will be able to advise you further.

• If you agree to compensation/help, which includes additional services, write down what services you have decided on and over what time frame; both parties can keep a copy and refer to it if there are any potential issues in the future.

However, any compensation agreed upon may be deemed an admission that the hair has been damaged, so the reason for the compensatory agreement needs to be precise.