Back to top

Today we would like to give a big shout out to one of our newest Colourstart salons and welcome The Vanilla Room to our portfolio.  

The Vanilla Room in Hornchurch, Greater London, opened in 1995 by Kerry Larcher. 

We grabbed some time with Kerry to find out why she found L’Oréal’s skin testing policy such a struggle to implement in her salon and how it led her to discover Colourstart. 

Emma xxx

ES: Tell me about your salon…

KL: We’re a large salon, with over 40 staff, all employed. We have a reputation for being a premium salon, and we stake our reputation on ensuring we deliver a luxury experience for all our wonderful, very loyal clients.

ES: How did you discover Colourstart

KL: We are a L’Oréal salon, and until very recently followed the manufacturer’s allergy alert test. But then after COVID, everything changed. The testing protocol became very difficult to follow – it just wasn’t practical for us. My rep came in the salon for some practical training and said that we have to leave the colour on for 45 minutes to skin test. This wasn’t communicated officially to us; it was just mentioned in training. There’s no way we can follow that and run a business.  

ES: Did you talk to L’Oréal to get clarity on this? 

KL: Yes. But there is no clarity. All the tubes and leaflets say different things, but I have discovered it’s a countrywide fade in. There hasn’t been any kind of an update from L’Oréal, so we started to look for an alternative. It doesn’t make sense to keep a client here for 45 minutes to test with a product that is a different mixing ratio (according to their guidelines) for a product that is only left on for 20 minutes when we apply it! It’s not scientific. Why test for 45 minutes if the colour is only left on for 20 minutes normally? 

ES: So you discovered Colourstart?

KL: Yes. I looked around for something different, anything that would make our lives easier. My insurers confirmed they were happy if we used Colourstart, so I rang the Colourstart team and we started to talk.

ES: It’s early days, but how are you implementing it?

KL: I’ve learnt over the years that preparation is everything. And with so many staff, and so many clients – we have over 1000 active colour clients  – I have to make sure that any change we undertake is right for us and properly managed. We first needed to work out how we introduced it to all our team, bearing in mind we’re rarely all together. Then we had to work out a strategy for bringing our clients on board. How do we communicate with them? How do we deal with charging them for the Colourstart patch? What about our social media presence? And what about our older clients who may be more resistant to change? All these questions had to be thought through and discussed carefully. Ultimately, we have a goal for 95% of our clients to have moved over by the end of October. 

ES: Congratulations on making the switch, this is clearly a subject that’s hugely important to The Vanilla Room. 

KL: As hairdressers we have a voice not just in the profession but in the community too, and we should 200use that voice to tell people why testing before colour is so important. And it’s not just about the wellbeing of our clients, it’s also about having the flexibility to be as creative as we and our clients would like. As I always say: ‘It’s all about the hair!’