How to Talk to Your Hair Stylist: : Tips on Getting the Haircut You Want

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Your hair is a critical part of your total look — next to your face, it’s one of the most important things that can influence how people perceive you. Bad haircuts can be one of the most mortifying experiences you can have. To make the most of your crowning glory—and to avoid any freak-outs, meltdowns or OMG salon moments—use these straight-from-the-pros tips to make sure your next haircut is the most perfect do ever. Getting the right haircut to compliment your facial features and enhance your look starts with being able to effectively communicate with your stylist.

Bring a Photo

This is one important, and don’t be embarrassed. A picture says a thousand words and can help show your stylist exactly what you have in mind. Often, haircutting terms aren’t consistent from stylist to stylist (a “short back and sides” can mean different things to different stylists), but a picture will show exactly what you’re after. That said, when choosing a style, be realistic. Choose a style shown on someone with a similar hair type or features as you.

You know all those celeb magazine photos you’ve gazed at and thought, Gee I wish my hair looked like that? Bring a few with you to your next salon appointment. Photographs are a terrific starting point, especially images that relate to the hair texture clients want, colors they love, and shapes that inspire them.

Be prepared for a reality check – some styles won’t work on you.

Are you ready for a reality check? Here it comes: Your ideal hairstyle might not work with the hair you were born with—and a good stylist won’t try to do the impossible, which could result in a less-than-sexy do. They’ll either tell you steps that can be taken to achieve that style or maybe why your hair type won’t work for the style. Either way, showing photos to your stylist is a time-saver that really helps communicate your hair dreams.

Ask for Suggestions

Here’s the deal, stylists are specifically trained to know what style will work with your hair type and face shape. If you’re stuck in a rut or don’t know what will look best, ask for suggestions — and go with what your stylist tells you to do. You’ll more than likely end up with the right haircut for your facial features and lifestyle — if not, it’s hair and will always grow back.

Talk About Your Problems

While the shampoo stage of the haircutting process can be the most relaxing, don’t rush right into it. If someone from the salon offers to shampoo you before your stylist sees you, ask to wait to talk with the stylist. It is important for the stylist to see how your hair looks currently, how you style it now and to check out your hair’s growth patterns before he or she starts cutting.

Talk with your stylist about what you don’t (and do) like about your hair.

Do you feel it is too dry? Do you have a bad cowlick? Tell them about it — this will enable them to work solutions to your hair concerns into your service. A modification to your cut can help tame a cowlick just as the right product can bring life to dry hair. You’ve got hair problems? Your haircutter, more often than not, will have solutions.

Use the right lingo—and a lot of it.

A few adjectives could mean the difference between the best cut of your life and a hair horror story, so get specific about what you want—your stylist won’t mind if it takes you a few different tries to say exactly what you mean. This is especially true when you get into tricky territory like bangs. Use words that are a little more descriptive like strong bangs, soft bangs or a general vibe like I don’t want hard lines.

Talk in terms of problems and not “wouldn’t it be cool if it could look like blah blah blah.”

Make a list of the problems you had with your last haircut and also all the styling problems you are having with your hair. List color or chemical problems, too. This is a very effective way to get all your hair problems solved at once instead of something like asking for more layers because you need more volume or a darker color because your color is fading.

Be Realistic

We all have ideas on what we’d love our hair to look like, but it’s important to be realistic. If you’re a middle-aged guy with a receding hairline, you’re probably not going to leave looking like you swapped hair with Brad Pitt. Most great stylists will try to work with the head of hair you were born with and not try to reinvent the wheel. In my opinion, the best haircuts are those which don’t require a great deal of fuss or product and look good until the next visit to the salon.

Stick to the Plan

Once you’ve decided on a style and work has started, avoid changing course. Nothing will aggravate a stylist more than having a client say, “could we go shorter” as they’re finishing up a haircut. Often, changing the length of the cut (or even part of it) will require re-cutting the entire head. If a stylist is on a tight schedule, you’ll most certainly get a rush job.

Careful Using the Word “Short”

Different stylists have different interpretations of what a short haircut should be. To stylists or barbers who cut many military cuts, a short men’s haircut will show a little skin — probably more than someone accustomed to wearing their hair a little longer would be comfortable with.

Talk About Your Lifestyle

If you’re a low-maintenance guy, make sure to let your stylist know that up front. You don’t want to leave with a style that requires a great deal of time in your morning routine if you’re a “wash and wear” kinda dude. A haircut designed to be “styled” each day won’t look good if you don’t take the time to maintain it, so you’ll want to opt for a style that is more fitting for your lifestyle and level of comfort with styling.

If a client can articulate how his or her hair relates to their lifestyle and how much time they’d like to spend on their hair, those details are really the best way to ensure the most appropriate look. Translation? If you’re a ponytail-n-go kind of girl, don’t ask for a hairstyle that’ll take you two hours to get right. It’ll only frustrate you later on down the line.

Ask About Product

Most stylists will use some sort of styling product in your hair. Pay attention here! Notice how much product they’re using on you and how it is applied. Ask questions — have your stylist show you which product they’re using and get detailed instructions from them on exactly how to use the product.

There are literally hundreds of styling products, so navigating those waters can be confusing.

Yes, hairstylists are total pros, but part of the reason your hair looks so good when you leave the salon is because they use the right products. Take the opportunity while you’re sitting in your chair to find out what they’re using, what they like and what exactly you should use. To get the best answers, you have to be specific: If you have curly hair, ask how often to shampoo and what products you should use so that it doesn’t dry out your hair. Ask what styling products are going to give the best results and not weigh down hair, etc.

The Road to a Better Haircut

Now that you’ve got the basis on how to talk to your stylist, you’re on your way to getting the best haircut you’ve ever head. Just remember to never be shy or embarrassed to ask questions and be open to suggestions. The person who cuts your hair wants to make you look your best so you’ll keep coming back. Once you find a stylist you’re comfortable with, stick with them. The more comfortable you are (and the better you know) the person cutting your hair, the more open to communication you’ll both be. Now, go get a haircut!

Don’t be afraid that you’re being an annoying client with all these questions.

It is best for clients to be armed with as much information as possible. You won’t offend the stylist—the more details the better! Then the stylist and client can be on the same wavelength.

Trust your stylist

While communication is important in the relationship between a client and their stylist, ultimately, it comes down to trusting your stylist. If you don’t feel that your stylist understands your needs, look for another stylist. Also, if your stylist feels that you might not be happy given your concerns, he or she may suggest you look for another stylist. It’s all about establishing a good comfort level so that the process works well and you get great hair.

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