Trichologist Kelly Smith uses caution and some additional tools to safely color the hair of clients with compromised scalps, and those tools also help the environment.  

Trichologist Kelly Smith uses caution and some additional tools to safely color the hair of clients with compromised scalps, and those tools also help the environment. 

Just because a client flies hundreds of miles for a consultation with Kelly Smith, doesn’t mean they’ll leave with the color they desire. Some have had to wait months before she’ll put color anywhere near their hair or scalp. One or two have had to wait for almost a year.

But the Tennessee-based certified Hair Loss Practitioner and member of the American Medical Association didn’t get the reputation she has by proceeding with anything other than extreme caution. That she does it with an eye to sustainability puts her in a class of her own. We caught up with her to discuss her route to safe coloring.

Step 1: Investigate

For those clients whose hair and scalp are endangered, Smith first takes a deep look at hair and scalp.

“Clients can arrive with severe problems and when you use the trichoscope to magnify their hair and scalp you can see the damage, which for many has been caused by over-application of color,” says Snith. “Often salons have color allowances that are on the heavy side, and stylists believe they have to apply it all, even when the hair is shorter or finer. It overloads the hair, jeopardizing not just the end result but hair and scalp health.”

For those who need it, she prescribes a program of recovery, which might take some time.

Step 2: Deep Cleanse

“First thing, I insist all my clients buy a filter for their showerhead, so going forward they’ll avoid the build-up of chlorine, calcium, lead and sediment on the scalp and head.

"They can see what I mean with the trichoscope, how the minerals are clinging to the hair shaft. I’ll also explain the dangers of silicones, which might make their hair feel good but can lead to blotchy color,” adds Smith, who is a huge fan of Ecoheads, the pioneering shampoo basin nozzle, which not only filters and cleans water, but increases the pressure while reducing water and energy use by up to 65%.

Step 3: Treatments

Smith’s next move will be a series of deep treatments to repair the bonds of the hair and add in moisture.

“It’s about rebuilding the hair from the inside, not just treating the outside,” she explains. “Plus, I’ll be focusing on the scalp to reduce flakiness or inflammation that can make the skin feel raw.”

But if the scalp is irritated and the hair brittle, frizzy or prone to breakages, she’ll stop at this point and send the client home with some home care advice and possibly products.

“I might send them home for a week or a month, but I won’t begin new color until the hair and scalp are ready. I’ve had some clients who I’ve made wait months, because their scalp and hair were so compromised.”

Step 4: Color

When she believes the client ready, Smith will reintroduce color. But she has some fixed rules.

For a start, she always uses a mechanical mixer. In Smith’s case it’s the Ecoheads Ping. “It’s important to get the consistency correct,” she says. “With the Ping you get a thorough mix; inconsistencies can’t’ creep in and it glides on quickly. This reduces the variation of application, especially with longer services. It also reduces how much color you use by as much as 30%. You get the same result with fewer chemicals, which is  better for the hair. ”

Some clients may leave disappointed they can’t return to full color or summer highlights on the first visit. But they keep coming back, some from hundreds of miles away, because they trust Smith will get results without damaging their hair or the planet.

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