If you’ve ever walked into a salon for a haircut with dreams of exiting as the coolest, most life-improve-iest version of yourself — dreams where strangers stop you on the street to ask if you’d like to model for their world-famous magazine and offer you brand-new luxury vehicles that not even the most famous evil villains have in their secret lair — but left instead with a quivering lower lip, trying not cry as you calculated the tip because your head resembled any of these animals all layered into one person, well then, do you even need an intro for this article?
We’ve all been there. I talked to five different hairstylists about how to avoid this scenario.
Know the difference between a hair cutter and a hairstylist. “A hairstylist is someone who can make hair look really good for the moment: photographs, weddings, events. Going to a great hairstylist doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re going to get a great haircut. Look for someone who specializes in cutting hair.”
Schedule a consultation before the cut. “A hairdresser should collect information about your daily habits, like what type of products you’re currently using (do you use any or none at all), how often you wash your hair, the last time you had your hair cut and how much time and energy you put into styling. Once you give all this information to the hairdresser, they’ll know what their parameters are, especially if you choose to give them full creative freedom.”
Bring a reference photo with hair similar to yours. “Reference pictures are great starting points, but the key to this is bringing pictures where the hair is similar to your own type and texture, including density, length and color. If you have super-curly, coarse, blonde frizzy hair, and you bring in a picture of a brunette with fine to medium hair and a blunt bob, it’s not to say that a hairdresser won’t be able to achieve the look, but the odds of you recreating it later at home are slim-to-none.”
Don’t talk in inches. “Don’t use inches to explain how much hair you want cut off. An inch for your hairdresser is different than yours. Instead, use your hands to show where you want the hair to fall. This way you’re both on the same page visually.”
Speak up. “Remember that hairdressers are not mind readers, but they should be professional and listen to your concerns. Confirm what you guys are going to do during the consultation, then re-confirm the plan right before the shampoo. This way you can say, ‘Hey, remember when we said we were not going to cut a side bang?’ If you feel like something’s not right, speak up. Your gut doesn’t lie!”
Be realistic. “Tell them about your lifestyle and level of hairstyling skills. Are you lazy, or will you actually break out the hot rollers every night? Do you know how to use hot rollers?”
Paul Fox, Owner of Paul Fox Salon
Be open to interpretation. “Do allow for some interpretation on the photo you bring in. A lot of the same ones tend to float around. Usually I can name the celebrity before you whip the picture out. For me, it’s about finding inspiration from the picture and and using the stylist’s taste level and talent to create a unique style for the client — it’s not about being a copycat. Both client and stylist will win here.
You might want to start buying the shampoo your stylist recommends. “Stop using shitty products! I see countless clients spend hundreds on cut and color, but will skimp on proper hair care. Technology in hair care has really advanced from its former years, so no, I don’t recommend what you can pick up at the drugstore.”
Don’t show up with dirty hair in a ponytail. “Come in wearing your hair how you’d normally wear it on a day-to-day basis. This way your stylist can see what your hair styling skills are and help make a better decision about the overall look.”
If you’re looking for “effortless,” short hair may not actually be the way to go. “Lobs and bobs are super popular right now. A lot of people thinks shorter hair is going to be easier, but it’s the opposite. For certain hair textures, short hair means you actually have to do your hair more often. You have to put more effort into it, actually style it. You can’t just pull it back in a ponytail or a bun.”
But be prepared to put in effort no matter what. “It’s common thing to tell hairdressers that you just want to ‘wake up and go,’ and not spend any time on your hair. The reality is that this is impossible for 95% of women. This is why a consultation helps before a cut, so we can decide what level of effort feels doable.”
If you’re really worried something is wrong, you could ask your stylist to do this: “Something I do with my clients if I see them getting nervous is: I finish the piece I was already cutting then stop and blow dry the hair. It’s easier see what’s going on with dry hair than wet. Then I finish the cut dry.”
Have a hair goal (and patience). “The goal can be to grow your hair longer, have healthier hair, more volume, more layers for movement and shape. The more clear and honest the client is, the better the stylist can assist them. Also know that sometimes, it can take a few cuts to reach certain hair goals. Every situation is different.”
Don’t just say, “Make me look beautiful.” “This is great because it means there is trust, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and you may end up with a style you don’t love. It is imperative to go in knowing what you want and the stylist will help guide you. It’s a collaborative effort. Being prepared with pictures, questions and a goal will make all the difference!”
A trim and a cut are the same thing. “Cut or trim, you should leave with a beautiful shape.”
Don’t believe everything you read online. “Be cautious when following hair-care tips you found online. Follow the directions your stylist gives you instead. Your stylist is there to help. Always ask questions if you want to learn more about your hair.”
Photographed by Krista Anna Lewis; Elizabeth wearing Mercedes Salazar earrings.