What to Tell Your Hairdresser So That You Don’t Leave Pissed and Crying

Apparently you’re not supposed to use inches!


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.

Joey Silvestera, Founder of Blackstones NYC, @fivewits_byblackstones:

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.”

Cheryl Fazio, Master Stylist at Paul Fox Salon, @PaulFoxSalon:

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.”

Christina B, Stylist at Rita Hazan, @Cristina__B

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.”

Yesenia Reyes, Independent Stylist working at Foster Glorioso Salon, @MonaYessCurlTherapy

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.


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  • Cali


    Elizabeth, you are brave

  • menty
  • ChiefCC

    Elizabeth looks terrified although beautiful!!

  • Aydan

    These are all so so helpful! Being open and honest with your stylist is so so important! I went in for a drastic cut (I’m talking Zooey bangs) and I had come prepared with tons of photos from the internet and a few with girls who wear large glasses like me. My girl, Anita, was able to take those inspiration pictures and apply that to my face AND MY GLASSES to shape the bangs perfectly for me. That is talent I trust!

  • Eva Skewes

    I just got my hair cut last week and my stylist was amazing about asking what my routine is (wash every 2-3 days, leave in conditioner, air dry, needs to be braid-able). I have never had a drastic cut, so usually my visits to the salon are maintenance based but even that can go awry, especially because my hair is curly/wavy.

    The worst stylist I ever had was OK at the actually cutting. The problem came from when she told me that she thought my hair would look lovely on a doll.

    • Reese Daniel

      I would’ve taken that as the ultimate compliment because dolls usually have perfect hair.

  • Shannon

    It’s actually really wonderful when you find a salon/person you trust to cut your hair. Then you can actually get excited every time you want to mildly reinvent yourself via haircut

    • Reese Daniel

      That’s like finding a needle in a haystack nowadays. A long arduous process since my hair grows very slowly and I’m usually so traumatized after each “session” that I don’t go back to another one to try again for a year and half. Takes me that long to muster the courage. Ridiculous. I thinks it’s just a symptom of the narcissism that is rampant in today’s society. Narcissists have no empathy for others and they are also envious. That’s a dangerous combination for someone weilding sharp scissors over your precious hair that you have painstakingly been growing (along with expensive hair vitamins) for over a year! All gone in one fell swoop. Heartless monsters.

  • Auriel

    Typo in the first subhead: “Know the different…” instead of difference

  • DEE2468

    I have straight hair and it’s hard to find a hairstylist when all of them post pictures of curled hair. I get it, it looks nicer but it doesn’t allow me to see if you know how to place color or if you know how to cut hair. When your hair is straight you can see if the balayage came out looking like highlights or a bad ombre. You can also see how good or bad those layers came out.

  • Jolie

    Can confirm that hairdressers who ask you about your daily habits and hair routines are the best. Also, you guys featured my (awesome) hairdresser on your Snapchat during NYFW and I actually dropped my phone onto my lap by accident because I’d just seen him for a cut a few days prior and was caught by surprise.

  • pamb

    Um. An inch cannot possibly mean one thing to you and another to your stylist. It’s a standard unit of measurement, not a figment of imagination. I’m not expecting to pack a ruler, but I would use my fingers (“about this much”) and also point out on my body (“to here”), but saying 2 inches means: 2 inches.

    • E. D.

      Agree on this. Also, unless I have someone I’ve been seeing for a while that I trust, I’m going to go with my own experience with my (fine texture, but a lot of 2B/3A curls with coarse texture underneath) hair over someone else’s opinion. Luckily, I currently have someone I trust.

    • fran123

      lol that’s so funny. I wonder if they teach math at cos school

  • thanks for sharing great information.

  • Amy Marie Taylor

    “Don’t come in a dirty ponytail, wear it how you normally do”… well which is it? Because I normally have a dirty ponytail!

  • Lynda Carol Webster

    Hairdressers terrify me ive had to many bad experiences,id really love to get my hair looking nice but have to summon some courage my hair is grey at roots then blonde id really like to know if i can get this to look a nicer blende as i hate this colour

  • Muirgen McLean

    I love the earrings in the cover pic! Where are they from?

  • jeans

    I try using the same hairstylist for a while in hopes of getting the same cut every time. Never works. I always wear my hair the way I want it cut. Never works. I try to give an extra good tip. Never works. They sit you down at the mirror and ask you want you want before washing your hair and asking what you want. You tell them and they don`t listen or they forget. Half the time I go home I have to cut hair they missed. You tell them you just barely want any hair cut off and they cut off an inch or so after you`ve been letting it grow out for 3 months after the last bad cut you`ve had.I`m sorry, but I`m fed up. I have a very simple hairdo. All I do is run my fingers thru it as it`s drying and spray.

  • Reese Daniel

    I always show them a CLEAR photo that is exactly what I want and they NEVER do it like the photo, either the color or the cut. It’s always something completely different and always at least 3 inches shorter than I wanted. No matter how carefully I attempt to explain it. And I’ve gone to numerous different salons with a different hairstylist each time. They all just do what they want apparently. Seems like the hair cutting/styling industry has been invaded with Cluster B personalities (narcissists). If I can ever find someone who will do what I’m PAYING THEM TO DO I will keep them and tip them very well. So far, after 10 years of bad experiences, I have yet to find anyone. I did have one woman who wasn’t scissor happy and always cut only what I asked but she fried my hair badly with color, making me look like Elvira, Mistress of the Dark on a bad hair day so I never went back. I guess only the celebrities are allowed to get what they ask for nowadays.