Whose Hair Color Is It, Anyway?

How to Get the Formula Out of Your Stylist

Dear Ask a Stylist, I recently moved to a new state and had to find a new stylist. I asked my current stylist to give me a copy of my color formula to take with me and she refused. Who does the color formula belong to?—Helen

Dear Helen,

This is a gray area (no pun intended) and a question that I have heard more than once. Most stylists will give you the formula if you ask for it, but some stylists aren’t always willing to give it up.

Crescent LoMonaco

Although the client pays for the service, it is the stylist that formulates the color, which is therefore technically the property of the stylist or possibly of the salon. This would typically depend on whether or not the stylist is an independent contractor or an employee. I have had many conversations with both employee-based and independent-contractor salons on this very subject, and the answer as to who owns the color formula varies from salon to salon.

It takes a stylist a long time to attend cosmetology school, study, get her certificate, continue with advanced education, and work to gain experience. With her experience comes expertise. It is this expertise that has allowed your stylist to create the formula that you love so much. It is, in part, what makes her work stand out from other stylists.

Asking for your formula to switch to a stylist across town is a touchy subject, and that may be what is making your stylist leery of giving out the formula. If you really are moving out of the area, ask your stylist if she wouldn’t mind calling your new salon and speaking with your new stylist. This will reassure your stylist that you really are moving out of the area and it also provides a great opportunity for the stylists to have a conversation about your hair color as well as any special techniques or issues that pertain to your hair.

If she ends up not passing on the formula, stop in to your new salon as soon as possible after your last color visit with your old stylist so that the new stylist can look at your color before it has had a chance to fade or grow out, providing her a chance to match up the colors in your hair to her color charts.

Good luck and happy coloring.

Crescent LoMonaco works at Head West in Santa Barbara, CA. She’s been a stylist for 10 years and is happy to take your questions, which you can send to

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