It’s so frustrating to get a bad haircut! You spent so much money, and you’re stuck with a hairstyle that will take weeks to grow out. Sometimes, the haircut can be downright embarrassing. (Remember the bad perms we all had in high school? Still traumatized.)
Here are some tips that can help you avoid getting your hair – and expectations! — ruined at your next visit to a hair salon.
Research on the salon and the stylist
You want to work with a hairstylist with the right skills, experience, and tools (thinning scissors, barbers shears, etc.) – not a newbie who’s experimenting with your hair. Ask friends for recommendations. Check the salon’s Facebook reviews, which tend to be more accurate than the ones they publish on their own website.
Don’t forget to look at a salon’s Instagram accounts, too! You’ll see what kind of hairstyles they specialize in. Some salons have really great colorists who can custom-mix shades and masterfully create highlights and ombres. Others have stylists who’re really good with short haircuts or Korean/Japanese cuts. Their Instagram account will show their latest and best work, and possibly inspire you to try a new style!
Bring pictures of the hairstyle you want
A picture’s worth a thousand words, especially when it comes to hair. You’ll find plenty of hairstyle ideas on Pinterest and Instagram. Try to look for a picture that also shows how hair will look from the side or the back.
Consider your hair texture
Do you have curly hair or baby-fine hair? Does your hair tend to get frizzy, or fall flat in the middle of the day? These all play a huge role in whether you can achieve the hairstyle you want. Your stylist can copy a look, but it may look completely different once your hair is dry and its natural texture comes out.
Talk to your stylist about how your hair “behaves” without any styling products. This can help him adjust the hairstyle, or recommend alternatives that are similar but are more appropriate for your hair texture.
That doesn’t mean you can’t achieve a hairstyle just because your hair isn’t exactly like the model’s. Sometimes, a hairstylist can work around it by creating layers or using special techniques and tools like (thinning scissors.
Talk about daily maintenance and styling
“Why does my hair look so good at the salon, but so bad at home?” This is a common complaint, and comes from not being honest with your hairstylist.
Some hairstyles only look good if you’re willing to spend some time using hair products or tools. A good example: the trendy wispy or textured bangs made with hair thinning scissors. They’re so cute in pictures, but you need to use wax or mousse. Bouncy beachy waves may also need texturizing sprays and blowdrying.
If you don’t have the time to do this, ask your hairstylist for a wash-and-wear haircut. Or, ask for tips on how to quickly style your hair when you’re in a rush.
Give your non-negotiables
Your hairstylist will adjust your haircut to suit your hair texture or even your face shape. That’s normal, and even necessary. You have to trust his expertise!
That doesn’t mean you have to sit back and take all of his changes, and just cross your fingers that the results will be okay. At the start, let him know what’s most important to you. For example, “I want the length and layers of these bangs. I like how it frames the face. Can you do that?” Or, “I want my hair long enough so I can tie it into a ponytail or braid.”
Do a test run
It’s risky to do a major hair makeover with a salon or stylist you’ve never worked with. Before going for a dramatic cut, try going there for a trim or a hair mask or treatment. You’ll get an idea of the salon’s ambience, customer service, and the personality of your hairstylist. Is he or she the type who’ll really ask what you want, explain what will be done, and seems to genuinely care that you’re happy with the result? These “people skills” are just as important as their resume and hairdressing scissors.
Build your relationship with your hairstylist
Some people are so loyal to their hairstylist they won’t let anyone else touch their hair. “He completely understands what I like and what my hair is like! I have curly and dry hair, so he knows how to work with it,” says Anna, who has been going to the same stylist for nearly 10 years.
Others say that they like how they’re comfortable with their stylist, and how hair salon visits feel like catching up with a friend. “I’m genuinely look forward to my hair appointments. It’s like, yay, I’m going to see my BFF!” laughs Janet.
Set an appointment on a weekday
It’s really important to set an appointment if you’re doing a major haircut and hair color. You book your preferred hair stylist, and you don’t have to wait hours for your turn.
Try to set an appointment on a weekday morning, when the salon has just opened. Everyone’s at their most energetic, the salon is more quiet, and since there are less customers your stylist will be able to focus just on you.
Avoid going on a weekend, during lunch hour, or in the evenings. If you can only go on a weekend, go on Sunday instead of Saturday – there’s usually less people. However, check if your stylist is working that day since that may be his or her day off.
Be clear about the price
Some hair color treatments will be more expensive because they need to use several shades, use a premium dye or color, or bleach the hair beforehand for the color to show through. So you don’t get shocked by the bill, make sure you know exactly what they will do and how much each will cost.
Use hair apps to road test a look
Sometimes, it’s not a hairstylist’s fault that you don’t like a haircut. Even if he copies it successfully, you just don’t look the way you expected.
A haircut will always look a bit different in photos. You have to consider a model’s face shape, the hair products used, or how a hair color looks against your skin tone.
One way to get a real picture – literally – of how a haircut will look on you is to use a hair app. These let you apply different styles and colors on your profile picture. Some of these apps even let you share the pics on your social media, so you can ask friends to vote on the look they like best on you.
Try a transition cut
Big hair makeovers can be scary, especially if you’ve been wearing the same style for years. Instead of making one big change, try making small changes. For example, if you’ve always had your hair long and straight, try shoulder-length before cutting it to your chin. Or, if you’ve always been curious about bangs but still aren’t ready to go for the chop, try a layered fringe first.
Go beyond the haircut
Ask your hairstylist for any treatments that can improve your hair texture or quality. Sometimes, a haircut doesn’t look good because your hair is damaged or dry, or your scalp is too greasy. Or, your hair needs volume that a haircut can’t achieve – something that can be fixed with a perm. Your hairstylist can recommend what you need for your hair type, and what you can do to prevent hair damage or hair loss.
Be honest about the results
If you really, really didn’t like how a haircut or hair color turned out, speak up. Just be respectful about it – don’t scream or blame anyone. Instead, ask your stylist what you can both do to help it look better.
Most stylists are professionals who take pride in their work. They want you to be happy with their haircut, and will do their best to address concerns once they know about it. So speak up, but do it in a way that is proactive and productive. Just say, “Honestly, this isn’t what I expected. While I like (positive thing), I don’t like (negative thing). What can we do? I would appreciate if we can sort this out, and if you can fix it or give me ideas or tips so my hair looks better.”
Rock any look!
If, despite everything, you still hate your hair – that’s okay! Bad haircuts happen. Fortunately, hair grows back. In the meantime, rock the look. Play with hair accessories – clips, large headbands, and decorative bobby pins can add a lot of flair to your hair. Slick it back with gel (the wet look is really big now), or try different kinds of braids and ponytails. Draw attention away from your hair.
Wear nice makeup, or colorful scarves and accessories. You can still be fabulous, even with an imperfect haircut.