Acclaimed Hair Colorist Spells Magic for Clients: Coloring Specialist’s Take on Colored Locks for All Ages

Listening to a client’s desire and actually making it happen still feels like magic, says the hair coloring specialist during a recent phone interview from her home in Northern Westchester County, N.Y. Troy, who works at Paulo’s Atelier in Bedford Hills, N.Y. was named last year by Westchester Magazine as the Editor’s Choice for Westchester’s Best Hair Colorist.

Hair Colorist Says Coloring Requests Typically Depend on Age Group

Tress-coloring requests differ significantly, typically linked to age. For example, the younger set (late teens to early 30s) looks for very natural hair and rarely something nonconformist, says Troy. “They ask for very delicate highlights, rarely for big, chunky highlights and do not want to be addicted to their maintenance.”

“Those who are outrageous buy their own box at a drugstore and do it themselves. If they’re really funky, they’ll probably go down to the East Village (East Greenwich Village in New York City) to get it done.”

Women ranging in age from 35 into their 50s often bring photos from childhood showing their hair color from way back when. If not a photo, they might bring in one of their young children and ask for a color matchup. “The women most offended by their natural hair color are those who were cornsilk blondes until puberty and are now a medium brown,” says Troy. They were used to seeing themselves as blondes throughout childhood, so they’re shocked to see themselves as brunettes. “I do the best,” she says, “to restore their hair without locking the client into major upkeep.”

As for women 60 and over, there are two extremes, Troy explains. The first is the woman of retirement age who decides to become playful. “She is the most likely client to try flame red, streaky blonde or something different every two to three months.” Every hairdresser loves that client, notes the hair colorist. “She keeps us on our toes and usually comes with a built-in exuberance.”

On the flip side is the client who feels uneasy about hair chemicals as well as maintenance. This gal never thought she would color her hair. For her, Troy tries to blend the gray, adding rich depth through low lights. She will certainly not push this client to do more color. “Keeping gray hair shiny is key as it often loses its luster,” Troy explains, “so this is a client who benefits from styling products.”

There is also a third group within this age range. This is the youthful, professional type who is anything but tacky or old old-fashioned. She knows exactly what she wants, says Troy, usually opting for light brown hair with highlights.

Coloring Specialist Tries to be Tactful

If a client requests something that may look foolish on her, the hair colorist will try to be tactful. “If I can do it and keep it healthy, I’ll challenge myself,” she says. “I feel if I don’t do it, they’ll go somewhere else.” Also, when she complies with their request, they more than likely allow her to “rein” their color back in the future. “They trust my judgment.”

Hairdresser Wannabes Should Train at Top New York City Salons

What does Troy advise a hairdresser wannabe straight out of cosmetology school? It’s important to build up your resume by training at a top salon in New York City, she suggests. “It’s like boot camp in this industry.”

Troy did that as a young hairdresser, working in the Big Apple at the famed Suga hair salon at upscale Bergdorf Goodman department store. At that time ice skater Dorothy Hamill’s wedge hairdo was extremely popular, one that put the late celeb hairstylist Suga on the map. Says Troy, “When I trained there, it was a top salon that helped open doors for me.”

And speaking of celebrity hairdressers, Troy says it often takes only one client to catapult a hair stylist to the heights. “The top hairdressers are the most humble ones, charming and very kind. They absolutely admit it was one celebrity or the secretary of a celebrity who walked in. It was just the right place and the right time.” Still, she adds, that hairdresser must have the appropriate personality and talent to pull it off.

Since her venture into the hair salon industry 20 years ago, Troy says the profession has achieved a higher stature on the career end. Going back 25 or 30 years, she says, there weren’t as many celebrity hairdressers, and parents would be upset when their kids wanted to go into the business.

On the product side all now come with conditioning agents, making hair so much healthier, she says. Ammonia has been reduced or eliminated from hair coloring products. “I know ammonia opens the hair cuticle for color to adhere, but they found more delicate ways of doing that.”

Troy’s observations about hair colors and clientele:

  • Teens, 20s, early 30s: This client wants natural hair with delicate highlights; nothing over-the-top and no major color maintenance.
  • 35-50s: The woman who often seeks to restore her childhood hair color.
  • 60plusers fall into three groups: The client who wants something daring like flame red, streaky blonde or tries a new color every few months. The second type of client is reluctant to color her hair, is uncomfortable with chemicals and hair color maintenance. She typically opts for lowlights and benefits from styling products to keep her gray hair shiny. The third type of woman is youthful and professional-looking, wants to appear at her best and knows her mind. She usually wants light brown hair with highlights.

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