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How to Get a Hairstyle You Won't Hate

7 tips to ensure you get the perfect cut and/or color


Hairstylist at a hair salon

Hairstylist at a hair salon

Getty Images

As a beauty writer, I've heard relatively few hair salon horror stories. What I hear a lot of is what I'll call "Hair Disappointment Stories." This is when a woman leaves the salon underwhelmed. Perhaps she expected to feel sexier, or she wanted brighter highlights or an edgier cut. Maybe the stylist went too short or no one noticed she did anything to her hair, despite spending a lot of time and a lot of money at the salon.

Here are some tips to getting the perfect cut and color out of a stylist. Also, find out if you're guilty of customer habits that the typical stylist hates.

Schedule a Consultation

Even though we all know we're supposed to sit down for a chat with a new stylist before a cut or color, a shocking 42 percent of women say they've never had a consultation before a dye-job, according to a study by P&G Beauty & Grooming.

Bravo reality star Tabatha Coffey tells Allure Magazine, "The consultation is the most important part of a haircut. I don't care if I've cut your hair 100 times, I'm still going to talk to you, touch your hair, find out what you want."

If you're trying out a new cut or a new stylist, schedule a 10-15 minute consultation when you book the appointment. The stylist and the colorist need to see what your hair looks like dry and styled as you typically style it. This tells them a lot: How much time you really put into your hair each day, how your hair dries and how healthy your ends are.

Even if you're meeting with the same stylist you've used before, a consultation is important. The goal of a consultation is to make sure you and your stylist are on the same page before drastic changes are made to your look. Would you not consult with an architect or contractor before tearing down walls?

If you sense your stylist isn't listening or isn't giving you his or her full attention, Allure suggests you politely repeat yourself until you're sure you've been heard.

Read on to find out what should be discussed during the consult.

Bring Pictures

Nothing annoys a stylist more than when someone sits down in their chair and tries to explain the cut or color they want without a picture. (I am guilty of this. Even beauty editors never learn). Imagine if someone said, "I want to look like Cameron Diaz." Cameron Diaz blonde or Cameron Diaz with ombre highlights? Cameron circa 2001 or 2012? And what does she look like these days anyway? Bring a picture or 2 or 3.

As for color, never rely on salon-speak. "Ash blonde" to your stylist may mean butter blonde to you. Show a picture of what you like and bring along a picture showing what YOU DON'T want. Ask your stylist to show you an example of the color she'll be after.

"The most important thing is to make the stylist think that they are in it with you creating this new look," says Brad Johns, color director for Elizabeth Arden Red Door Spas to Allure Magazine. "After you tell them what you want to say, 'Do you agree?' It makes the colorist feel like a participant in your request, not a waiter just serving your wants."

Ready for a new cut? Here are some hairstyle photo galleries for inspiration.

Don't Say It, Show It

When talking length with a stylist, never say it, always show it. One of the most common disappointments I hear about from those with "Hair Horror Stories," is the "I Told Her 3 Inches and She Lopped Off 8" stories.

A stylist once taught me a great trick, instead of saying you want 3 inches off, actually take your hand and karate chop it right where you want her/him to go. And feel free to say, "No higher, please." My advice: Keep your hand there and have the stylist stand back and soak in just where you want your hair cut to.

Be Careful About Saying, "Do Whatever You Want"

The beauty editor of 'O' magazine tells of the time a world-renowned hairstylist offered to do her hair and she let him do whatever he wanted since the cut was free. Oops. She realized afterwards that she really did want more control over her look.

If you trust your stylist 100 percent, you can give your hair completely over to him or her to work their magic. But keep in mind you may be the practice mannequin for a new look the stylist is dying to try out.

Prepare Questions & Listen to Your Stylist

If you write down questions before the cut, you won't forget them during the consultation. (This rule applies to doctor's visits as well).

Be sure and ask questions: "What type of hair color best suits me?" "Do you think my hair can look like this picture of Cameron circa 2012?" "How long will this haircut take me to style in the morning?" If your stylist says, "No, I'm sorry, but there's no way I can make you look like Cameron circa 2012," you'd better listen, because chances are you won't. Much about hairstyles depends on hair texture.

The same goes for color, if the woman in your picture has ash blonde hair and you'd make a much better butter blonde, chances you won't know this, but your stylist will. Ask her to be honest with you about the color choice.

Be Honest With the Stylist

This is important for both color and cut. Be honest about what you've had done to your hair in the last year or so. If you don't tell your stylist you had a Brazilian straightening treatment 4 months ago, you risk damaging your hair if your stylist decides to do a dual-process color.

As for the cut, you may love your stylist to think you'll love your new hairstyle enough to baby it every morning with 4 products, 20 minutes drying time and 15 minutes styling time. However, the truth is, if your morning routine for the past 20 years includes a quick wash followed by a towel dry and ending with a sopping wet ponytail, you'd better tell your stylist so or you'll end up with a fancy, layered, curling ironed and hairsprayed 'do that takes hours to replicate. Trust me, I've been there.

Pick the Right Stylist

This isn't a hard and fast rule, but I believe if you have curly hair, you'll get the best results from someone who cuts a lot of curly hair. In fact, in big cities there are salons dedicated to curly hair like Devachan Salon in New York. Call ahead to a large salon and ask for someone who specializes in curls or at least cuts a lot of curly hair (keep in mind that a stylist WITH curly hair will know exactly where you're coming from).

The same goes for coloring your hair red (ask for someone who does lots of new redheads), getting your boring hair cut "funky" (aim for the salons known for their edge and select a stylist with funky hair herself) and getting hair straightened (you want someone who specializes in Japanese or Brazilian treatments).

Tip Appropriately or Beware Your Next Haircut

Find out how much you should tip the stylist, the person who washes your hair and others in a salon in Should You Tip the Owner of a Salon?.

More essential reading:

Related Video
Before You Get a Haircut

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