Over the Rainbow: Talking Bright Hair Color Techniques with Ursula Goff

Ursula Goff is one of the most vibrant and talented colorists around. Her incredibly precise designs have a flair for the flashy, and we wanted to know how she's able to channel the rainbow when dreaming up her hair color creations. We chatted with Ursula to get her insight into the world of fashion colors including her technique tips, social media pointers and career advice.

What led you to a career as a colorist?
I had dropped out of both art school AND a state university (although I did go on to get my Bachelor’s in psychology in 2014) and was running out of ideas. I had crawled back home and was working as a waitress and a co-worker said, “You’re always coloring your hair and everyone else’s hair. Why don’t you just go to hair school?” I had never considered that, but when I looked into it and the local community college offered me a full ride, I figured I couldn’t go wrong with free school!

What are your favorite products for creating rainbow or bright hair color?
I use a little bit of everything, depending on the client and the project, and I have favorite shades in many lines, also. Some colors are longer lasting and/or more stubborn about removal, so I use those on clients who only come in a few times a year or who tend to lean towards a particular color palette. Conversely, some clients want their color completely different every 5 weeks, so I use more temporary shades for that. So I use Special Effects, Joico, Kenra, Ion Color Brilliance, Adore, N’Rage, Rusk, Iroiro, Zombie Snott, Change Cosmetics, Pravana, Manic Panic, and I am currently experimenting with some color from Matrix. (I actually have a very in-depth guide on this outlining each of my favorite shades on my website.)

Can you share any tips for achieving vibrant rainbow colors?
For maximum brightness and neons, you definitely want to make sure you lift the hair to a level 10. But you can achieve interesting, deeper, richer tones on darker levels too, so I always encourage colorists to experiment with that, especially for clients who want something more unique or subtle. I also recommend all rinsing and washing to be done with cold water to maximize longevity and minimize bleeding (although bleeding is often not as big of an issue as we believe it is), and sulfate free shampoo needs to be used for cleansing.

Do you have a favorite look that you’ve created?
The rainbow look I created on my model at the last class I taught with my co-educators The Goonies in February was really simple but striking. It was basically just thick horizontal slices of color, but the shades and the arrangement came out even more beautiful looking than I expected. And then of course the way my super talented friend Philip Ring captured it on camera just made it look even better!

What should clients know before they decide to go for a rainbow look? Do you have any maintenance tips?
I always do a consultation with potential rainbow clients because there can be a lot more to it than many people realize. Not every demand can be achieved in the first sitting, especially if the hair’s integrity is already compromised. It IS typically a high maintenance look, so it should be made very clear that most processes involved can take a bit of time and money. Additionally, in order to make the most of one’s investment, it is imperative that the appropriate professional products are used to make sure the color remains beautiful for as long as possible. Minimize time in the sun and swimming in chlorine and salt water. And, as I mentioned above, washing with cold water is potentially the most important thing you can do to maximize color longevity.

Do you have any social media tips that you can share?
Always do your best work, and learn ways to present it as nicely as possible. Use good lighting and multiple angles and/or styles with a simple background. Put out the kind of work that you’d like to draw in more of. For example, if you want to get more Balayage clients, then focus the majority of your posts on that specific service. Keep your social media tight and focused – have separate business and personal pages. Also, make sure you are tagging your city/location so that people looking for stylists in your area can find you. Having a large following can be helpful, but not if it isn’t getting locals in your chair!

Advice for aspiring colorists?
Well, being an artist my whole life and having a lot of experience with painting gave me a spectacular foundation for the color theory and technical skill required for the type of work I do, so I always recommend for anyone wanting to get into that more to play with paint. It’s a fun and risk free way to familiarize yourself with how color works, and can also give you a surprising amount of practice on skills like blending, melting, and keeping your work clean and meticulous. Also, I will always recommend experimentation and risking failure. Be willing to ask, “What if?”…and then try it!

Scroll through the slideshow below to see some of Ursula's amazing bright styles and rainbow hair color designs!

  • Rainbow Interrupted
  • The Usual Van Gogh
  • Colorful Pixie
  • Razored Rose
  • Rainbow Tips
  • All the Blues
  • Hubble Hair
  • Multicolored Mermaid
  • Sunrise Reds
  • Rainbow Stripes

[Images courtesy of Ursula Goff]

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