I was inspired to share some of my hair color mixing secrets with you while making a banana pudding pie! I know, it’s totally irrelevant but you never know how things might relate to each other in your daily life. I found myself using the same method of mixing hair color to mix the banana pudding and milk.

I added only a little of the liquid at a time for a smoother consistency. Soon after I realized that so many hairstylists don’t do this when mixing hair color and developer. There’s something satisfying about a smoothly mixed, perfect bowl of color.

Here are some tips to help you master hair color mixing and make your life so much easier at the salon!

5 Secrets to Mixing Hair Color

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1. Use cream developer for faster mixing.

Clear or cream developer? It’s a matter of preference, but sometimes a matter of what’s available or what is offered by the brand you use. I learned with both because Paul Mitchell offers all levels in both types….where some brands mostly offer cream developer. At the time, I preferred cream developer because it was easier to mix. When I was a newbie…clear developer was frustrating because no one told me what I’m about to tell you in point #2! It was messy and my mixture was always chunky.

Two things about choosing cream developer vs. clear developer:

💋Clear developer will cover more hair. It’s going to spread more easily than cream developer. SO…if you have someone with a thick & full head of hair that wants a single application color…clear developer is going to take you farther and use less product than cream developer will.

💋Always use cream developer with lightening powder. I’ve NEVER mixed lightening powder with clear developer. That’s what I was taught at PMTS (Paul Mitchell The School). That doesn’t mean you can’t….I just don’t do it and I don’t suggest it. *I might try it after writing this post for an experiment….I’ll take photos and test it on a mannequin before I share my findings!


2. If you prefer clear developer…

Add a little at a time as you mix. This will prevent clumps from forming….and we all know those pesky clumps are impossible to whip out once you’ve added all of the developer. For a perfectly smooth hair color mixture you should mix in about ¼ of the developer at a time. It takes a little longer, but it is so worth it!


3. Don’t be lazy…brushes are not for mixing!

Mixing hair color with a brush is harder. Some of you probably think it’s easier because there are less things to wash when you’re done. Wrong. The color or powder lightener will clump in the brush…making it even more difficult to get a smooth consistency. You should be using mini whisks, or for you lazy lovelies out there….you can use plastic forks.

I LOVE using plastic utensils because I just toss them and get to work. If your budget is tight, then I suggest purchasing 3-5 mini whisks and rinsing them immediately after each use. Almost every mini whisk I’ve owned has rusted a little. That’s probably because I just laid them down on a towel to dry.

You don’t want rust in your hair color, so you have two options:

💋Dry them thoroughly immediately after washing. It’s hard to get all of the nooks and crannies, FYI.

💋Buy silicone whisks instead. They aren’t as sturdy, but they will last!




4. Use a color key.

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There are three types of colorists:

  • Those that are tube squeezers.
  • Those that must have a color key!
  • Those that don’t use either(a huge pet peeve of mine).

To be honest….tube squeezers annoy the shit out of me! Even if you’re very careful…you will waste color this way. Not only that, but if you’re going by the measurements on the color tube rather than using a scale….your formula will not be accurate.

Using a color key is the only way to go! You won’t waste any color and if you don’t use a scale your mixture will be far more accurate. The color key ensures that you’re squeezing out every ounce of color!
Two basic types of color keys:
1. Simple

2. Bulky

*Be careful not to push the color key too far onto the end of the tube and/or to twist it evenly. If not…pressure could build up in the color tube forcing color to squirt out of the end.

That does two things….

1. Your formula will not be accurate, especially if you’re not using a scale.
2. You’ll have to use that tube immediately because it cannot be properly sealed. Oxygen can now enter the tube even when the cap is screwed on. It’s possible to seal it with duct tape, but that’s not going to hold next time you need to use that color.


5. Use a scale.

I’ve noticed that many hairstylists do not use a scale for measuring. Some people just don’t feel like it, and some don’t understand the importance of properly measuring your color formula components. I started regularly using a scale to measure my color when I noticed someone at my salon doing it. She was the ONLY one that religiously used a scale when she was mixing hair color. She was also the ONLY one that kept perfect records of her clients visits(some people make an effort to write everything down, but we all know that some stuff slips through the cracks when it’s busy).

She was the MOST professional stylist at Bubbles in my opinion and her clients looked very highly upon her. Olivia had style and class(as I’m sure she still does), and she inspired me to be better. She also inspired me to slow down and take time for the little things(like measuring and record keeping) because they are very important. She knew how important it was to be exact in your color formulations.

Here are a few reasons why I think she took it so seriously(and some things that I learned after my ABCH trainging):

💋If your hair color mixture is perfectly accurate every time then you will always know what the results will be. Of course, you need to fully understand the chemistry of hair color….but that’s another subject.

💋Clients like consistency. They can tell when you don’t write things down or when you “eyeball” it. They are paying good money for your services, so you should be giving them your best.

💋If you’re consistent and something goes wrong…..you will know that there must be another reason why. Maybe your client used a “wash out” box color in-between visits and you’ll know. Maybe someone didn’t close the developer tightly, so it lost it’s effectiveness. Maybe your client is on a new medication and her hair color needs to be adjusted.


No matter what the reason….you’ll know that it wasn’t you! Confidence is the key to being a successful haircolorist and your clients will know if you’re lacking in that department!

2 Responses to 5 Secrets to Mixing Hair Color

  1. Susan Edwards says:

    I am not a hair stylist but this was great to read about. I have always known hair colouring can get very tricky so this article was very helpful to find out part of what goes into it. I think I will ask my hair stylist to keep records for my hair if she isn’t yet. http://skyenorman.com/hair-colour/

    • Erika says:

      Thank you! Surprisingly, a lot of haircolorists don’t keep regular notes! I used to be one of them….I was young and creative(still am…haha)….and I thought that what seemed right at the moment would always be right. Good record keeping is one of the keys to success in this business and people like that. They like that you know exactly what formula was used “that time…last year…when we changed it up”. It takes effort, consistency, and repetition to great such a good habit…that’s why so few do it…they start out with great intentions and slowing slide off.

      Thanks for reading and commenting! Happy Holidays!

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