Chapter 2 – The Consultation

2.2 Hair and Scalp Assessment

A thorough client consultation is the basis for a successful hair colouring service. It is your responsibility to assess the characteristics of the hair and scalp and to ask specific questions that will determine your choice of colouring product, technique, and placement.

A new client is not the only client who should be receiving a thorough colour consultation. Hair and scalp concerns will change over time, as will lifestyle and priorities. Remember to treat every client with the same attention to detail, and you will gain a loyal, satisfied clientele.

So where do you start?

The pillars of a great colour consultation are:

  • Hair and scalp assessment
  • Colour assessment, including:
    • Lifestyle and budget assessment
    • Strand test and patch test

This section will focus on the hair and scalp assessment.

When assessing the client’s hair and scalp, you should be looking for the conditions that will determine your colouring process. Product choice, application technique, processing time, and the final outcome are all dependent on these conditions.

To begin with, assess the hair’s texture, porosity, and elasticity.


Models with examples of fine, medium, and coarse hair.

When looking at the hair’s texture, you need to be aware of the fundamental differences between hair of fine, medium, and coarse texture as they relate to hair colour. Processing times and the alkalinity of your chosen product will depend largely on texture.

Fine hair has a smaller cortex layer and may lack a medulla altogether. This makes fine hair more prone to damage as the cortex is what gives hair its strength and elasticity. Fine hair that has been previously coloured will be more likely to have higher or extreme porosity.

Medium textured hair is most likely to behave predictably while colouring. This is because of its average porosity and balanced cortex-to-cuticle ratio.

Coarse hair has a wider diameter, which means a larger cortex to cuticle ratio and a strong medulla layer. Coarse hair is less prone to damage but is usually more resistant to the colouring process as it is more likely to have resistant porosity.

You can assess texture by look and feel.


Porosity refers to the hair’s ability to absorb moisture or chemicals. Hair with average porosity behaves predictably and can handle most colour services. However, in cases where hair has resistant or extreme porosity, there are considerations which must be made.

Resistant porosity is the term used when the cuticle layers are tightly packed, which affects the ability of the hair to absorb colour. Alternatively, extreme porosity is the term given to hair that has a damaged cuticle, in which the cuticle scales are raised or missing. A damaged cuticle is usually the result of  excessive chemical treatments, or it may be due to environmental damage, such as over exposure to the sun. Hair that is very porous requires greater care. It may absorb colour too intensely, yet it also has the tendency to lose artificial colour more quickly.

Uneven porosity is present when hair displays two or more types of porosity at different areas throughout the head or along the length of the hair strand. Uneven porosity will likely require multiple formulas in order to achieve an even colour result.

To determine porosity, you can assess the hair by running your thumb and forefinger from ends toward the scalp on a small section of the hair. Hair that feels rough or backcombs easily has higher porosity. Hair with resistant porosity will feel smooth.

Video: Porosity Feel Test

Note: Video has no sound.

If you are still unsure which porosity is present on your client’s hair, you can conduct a quick and simple porosity test.

  • Place a strand of clean hair into a clear glass of room temperature water.
  • Allow the strand to sit in the water for 15 minutes.

Resistant porosity – hair will float to the top of the water.

Normal porosity – hair will float in the middle of the water glass.

Extreme porosity – hair will sink to the bottom of the glass.


Elasticity is the hair’s ability to stretch and return to its original shape without snapping. Poor elasticity is a sign of a weakened cortex.

To test the elasticity of your client’s hair, you can conduct the following test:

  1. Remove a single strand of your client’s hair, preferably from the side of the head.
  2. Holding it securely in one hand, run your thumbnail and index finger down the hair strand as if curling a ribbon. This will create a series of tight curls.
  3. Gently pull the hair taut.
  4. After 10 seconds, release the hair and observe whether it has returned to the original curl pattern. If it returns less than 50%, it has poor elasticity.

In the case of poor elasticity, care must be taken to avoid causing additional swelling of the hair while colouring, as breakage will likely result.

Scalp Considerations

In addition to checking the hair’s structure, you should also be aware of any scalp irregularities. If you observe any abrasions, do not proceed with the hair colouring service. Inform your client of what you see, and ask that they return once it has healed. It could be something as simple as a bug bite that they scratched too vigorously, but you should avoid applying any chemical solution to an open sore as this could cause discomfort or spread infection.

Other scalp conditions to be on the lookout for are psoriasis, ringworm, scabies, and head lice. If any of these conditions are present, refer your client to a physician and discontinue the service.

If your client’s scalp is clear of irregularities, be sure to ask the client about skin or scalp sensitivities, especially any that have resulted from previous colouring services, such as itchiness, burning, or discomfort. There are options for colouring products that may be gentler to the scalp, such as one with a low alkalinity. If you believe your client has a sensitivity to ammonia, you may choose to use a product which contains an alternate aniline derivative. An allergy or sensitivity can be determined through a predisposition or patch test (refer to Chapter 2.3 for more information on how to conduct this simple test).

Be aware that some medical conditions and treatments can also affect the hair’s structure. A tactful way to inquire about such conditions is to ask if your client has noticed any sudden or recent changes to their hair. Brittle hair or sudden hair loss are just two scenarios which may point to underlying health conditions or treatments.

Once you have observed and gathered all crucial information about your client’s hair and scalp, it’s time to move on to the colour assessment!

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Hair Colour for Hairstylists: Level 2 Copyright © 2021 by Arden Magtiza is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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