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Last updated: June 13, 2018

7 Tips From Celeb Colorist Tracey Cunningham

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Khloe Kardashian, Emma Stone, Drew Barrymore, Mariah Carey and Jennifer Lopez—some of the biggest names in Hollywood, with some of the best haircolor in Hollywood, and Tracey Cunningham does them all. So, what’s her secret? She has two go-to mantras when she’s coloring behind the chair:


1. Haircolor should reflect the color you had when you’re a child.
2. Hair is simple—less is always more.


Here are a few tips we gathered from the celebrity colorist at Redken Symposium 2017.


1. Keep It Natural
Tracey is the queen of natural-looking haircolor. She’s made Khloe look like she was born with blonde hair and Emma look like she was born with red hair. So how does she do it? She uses a combination of techniques: super-fine babylights and balayage on the ends, and she never over-colors the top of the head. Instead, she focuses on the face-framing pieces and the sides of the head to add incredible dimension.


Tracey says she never lifts Khloe’s base—this keeps it dimensional and natural!




2. Keeping Up With The Maintenance
When you get a young person in your chair, it’s so important to assess what they want and what they are truly asking for. If she wants to be red, you have to remember red requires a lot of maintenance, and if they aren’t able to keep up with it (like if you know they don’t have a steady paycheck, or if they are still relying on their parents for that cold hard cash), you have to be able to think about these things, evaluate them and then suggest something that will work better for them and their lifestyle.



3. When She’s Just TOO Busy For The Salon
You all have those clients—the ones who, no matter what, don’t plan on coming back to the salon for six months. Tracey does, too. When she gets those guests who don’t plan on seriously keeping up with their color, she suggests that they come back regularly for a quick glaze. It keeps their color looking fresh and is a quick, no-hassle trip for them. Plus, it’s an easy way to sell a service.


“I want my clients to look good all the time, having them come in for a gloss is a good way to do that. I try to make it easy and affordable so that they will come back,” she told us. Tracey’s salon, MECHE, charges $85 for the service.


4. She Wants To Be Red…But Does She?
If someone comes in wanting to go red and they’ve never been red before, take a moment, look at their color and ask them if it’s what they REALLY want. Tracey says most of the time people want to be more auburn. In this situation, Tracey suggests creating super-fine babylights instead of simply coloring red. It will still look red, but with a more natural vibe to it.


Babylights and highlights are a more effective way to get
that pretty natural color your client is after.


5. Haircolor Homeruns
For Tracey, it’s all about the photographs. Whenever a guest comes into the salon wanting a new color, she asks for a picture. “If someone tells you they want to be golden blonde, but you have no photo to go off of, I can promise you that your idea of golden blonde is different from theirs,” she said. Pictures allow you to know exactly what the client is envisioning and from there you can work out how to make that look come to life.


6. Now Picture This
Once your client gives you their photo, you hold all the power. You’re the expert and you’re the one who is going to make that color come to life, but all in good time. You might have to tell your client that this look is going to take a couple months to create. Break down the steps and the services it will take to get them to their dream haircolor, then explain how many visits you anticipate it will take. This lets your client know you are serious about creating their color and creating it correctly. Plus, you can charge individually for every service.



Pro Tip: Sometimes communicating the information above can be difficult, but remember that major color transitions and creating the perfect hue do take time. Tracey created Khloe Kardashian’s stunning blonde, but it didn’t happen over night. She’s been going gradually lighter for almost two years!


7. Create A Look Book of Go-To Colors
Tracey says she’ll do 40 clients a day, so she has to always be moving as quickly and as efficiently as possible. “Create your own look book and give it to clients who don’t necessarily know what they want,” she said. You’ll know how to create those colors and they’ll end up with something they really wanted. It’s an easy way to be really successful in the salon.


Tracey with BTC’s Christen after her class!