Why Hair Stylists May Perform a Test Strand Before Your Color Service

by Brianna Thompson
Hair coloring is a great way to change up your look and feel more confident. However, it can also be a little scary to trust someone to do it right. Thankfully, hair stylists have a few tricks up their sleeves to make sure that the hair coloring process is safe and successful. One of these tricks is performing a test strand before the full hair coloring service.

What Is A Test Strand?

A test strand is a small section of hair that the stylist colors before doing the full service. There are a few reasons why we do this. For one, we need to make sure the hair is healthy to withstand a chemical process. If your hair is too dry or damaged, it might not be able to hold the color or could become brittle during and after the service. Let's talk about more reasons why test strands are important. 

Assess The Hair

During a test strand, most stylists, like me, need to assess the hair and its underlying conditions. In a way it can be like a doctor, they need to test your underlying conditions before giving you a diagnosis. In the salon, we are hair doctors preparing for a potential color correction, as if we are giving surgery to your hair.  This is especially if my client already has concerns about hair damage, or they have a lot of chemical or color history.  I will be able to see if the hair can get to a certain level to reach the desired color goal.

Discovering What Technique To Use

The stylist also wants to figure out the best color and technique to use for your hair type and texture. Not every color and technique work for everyone. For example, if you want to go lighter, the stylist might use a single process or double process color, depending on how dark your hair is. A lot of clients would prefer to not use lightener on the hair, however if the end goal is to be lighter and there is preexisting hair color, only lightener can break through those color molecules.

 Test strands simply give us an understanding as to what techniques we can use for a specific canvas presented to us. Now, test strands are not performed on everyone, Usually I have clients pre-fill a form discussing their hair condition and hair history, and I will decide if a test strand is needed. If a client prefers to test their hair pre-appointment even without a long color history, that is a preference they can have as well. 

Potential Allergies

Another reason why the stylist performs a test strand is to check for allergic reactions. Hair color contains chemicals that can cause allergic reactions in some people. By performing a test strand, the stylist can see if you are allergic to the hair color before the full service. This is especially important if you have sensitive skin or have had an allergic reaction to hair color in the past.


As a hair stylist, I need to ensure even color application during the full service. The information from the test strand can help me see how your hair takes color, and if it is stubborn. This means there is potential your hair can take color fast or be very stiff and not want to budge. This will further assist in building a technique for a stylist to use during the service if it can be achieved based on the hair's health, history, and porosity.  This means your stylist may need to adjust the color formula and processing time if needed, which leads to a better overall result. Of course, during any corrective service, I let my clients know about any concerns I have with their hair and how it is best to proceed with their appointment. Communication is key to building a trusting relationship with clients and stylists. 

 A test strand is an important step in the hair coloring process. It helps stylists make sure that your hair is healthy, determine the best color and technique, check for allergic reactions, and ensure even color application. If your stylist recommends a test strand before your next hair coloring service, it's because they care about your hair and want to make sure you get the best results possible.

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Brianna Thompson

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