It’s a Saturday afternoon and you’re sitting in the hair salon, watching the mirror as your stylist busily snips away at your hair. You’ve got a niggling feeling that something’s not right… but no, you can’t make a fuss. Let’s just wait and see what happens.
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Half an hour later, you’ve paid, left the salon, and caught sight of yourself in a shop window. Suddenly, that niggling doubt is confirmed – yep, you HATE your new haircut.
We’ve all been there, right? It’s such a common experience that nearly all of us have a tale of a terrible haircut to share. And, while it can be funny to remember past horrors, the reality is that parting with your hard-earned cash for a haircut that makes you suddenly become ‘a hat person’ is not in your own or the salon’s best interests.
So how can you make sure you never have a cringe-worthy ‘do again? Here’s how to avoid a salon disaster…
1. Do your research
Not all hairdressers were created equal. Rather than simply rocking up at a salon you’ve never heard of, a little research can go a long way to ensure you avoid a dodgy haircut. One of the most simple but effective tips is to look for beautifully-coiffed people with a similar hair type to yours and ask them for their hairdressers’ details (remembering to ask for the name of the stylist, not just the salon).
Looking for real life examples of a stylist’s work means you can see how well the haircut holds up when it’s not been professionally blow-dried, explains Joe Hemmings, owner of Bloggs Salon in Bristol in the UK. ‘It’s helpful to see a true reflection of how people can handle their own hair, rather than a social media image that’s been styled to perfection.’
Social media is not without its uses though; many hairdressers have their own profiles where they share photos of their work, giving a feeling of their particular aesthetic or specialism, whether that’s extensions or rainbow bright colours.
2. Choose the most suitable level of stylist
One decision many people get stuck on is what level of stylist to choose – the junior staff, who charge less, or the pricier but more knowledgable senior stylists. Ultimately, it all depends on how drastic an overhaul you are planning.
‘If you have challenging hair that has been subjected to disasters in the past — whether that’s colour or cut — and are thinking of a major restyle, then it is essential to choose someone experienced, as they will know what is suitable for you and your hair type’ says Craig Taylor, creative director at Hari’s Salon in England.
However, for more routine appointments such as the odd trim or blow dry, a junior member of staff should be more than adequate. And, of course, there are some exceptionally talented juniors out there, so if you find one who is consistently brilliant, there’s no reason not to trust them with a hair revamp.
3. Have a thorough consultation
If a salon doesn’t offer you a consultation before your haircut, or you’re instructed to have your hair washed before the stylist has even looked at it, then walk away and don’t look back. A haircut should always come with a consultation – whether it happens in the days before your appointment, or immediately prior. A stylist cannot possibly look at wet hair and know how it falls naturally; ideally your hair should be worn as you normally style it for the consultation, so they have a good idea of your capabilities.
For a major hair transformation with a new hairdresser, Ken Picton, who owns an eponymous salon in Cardiff in the UK, recommends a consultation separate to the appointment, which will give you a chance to mull over any big changes.
‘If you can, pre-arrange a consultation with your hair stylist before the big day, as it will give you an overall feeling of whether you like them and their suggestions for your hair’ he says. If you are short on time, research a salon that offers hourly appointments or more, as this will allow extra time for the consultation.
Some people worry that it’s rude or presumptuous to take along photos of the style they want to achieve. In fact, this couldn’t be further from the truth, as visual references are often the easiest method to share your desired look.
‘Always take inspirational images with you, especially for colour — it’s impossible to know if the colour you’re imagining in your head is the exact same shade pictured by the colourist’ says Ricky Walters, owner of Salon64 in London. ‘Images are a vital reference point when language won’t suffice. If possible create a mood board — it’s rare that you will love an entire look, but you might like the back of one haircut, and the shade of another.’
Even pictures of haircuts or colours you don’t like are useful reference points for your stylist, further honing their understanding of your personal taste.
4. Be realistic about your hair type
The consultation is a time to ascertain whether you have a sensible idea of what can be achieved with your hair type. Managing expectations at this point will help prevent disappointment.
‘In terms of the cut and style, most clients are quite realistic about what their hair will do, but when it comes to colour, some requests are unfeasible’ says Kai Wan, owner of P.Kai Salons in Peterborough, a city in eastern England. ‘Certain colours can’t be achieved in one visit to the salon, or at all if the hair isn’t in good condition. Your hairdresser spends years learning the science of this, so trust them.’
By the end of the consultation, you and your stylist should be very much on the same page about what is expected from the appointment, meaning you are much less likely to get a nasty surprise at the end.
5. Don’t be afraid to speak up
We live in dread of ‘making a fuss’ — but getting your hair done is one instance where you need to let go of any hesitance and speak up if you’re feeling worried. Hairdressers will not mind at all if someone voiced concerns during the appointment, if only because it gives them the chance to reassure clients, or fix issues straight away.
‘Just ask’ advises Ricky. ‘It’s unlikely the hairstylist has made a mistake, but ask any questions you need to put your mind at rest. Remember colour and cuts are not a tattoo and they can always change direction if you’re uncomfortable. For example, a quick toner on a set of highlights can turn you from hating your colour to loving it in minutes. Hairdressers will never mind a client asking questions!’
Indeed, during or immediately after the appointment is the prime time to speak up if you feel the hairdresser has not followed your agreed brief – they want you to leave feeling happy, so should be more than willing to make amends.
6. Develop a relationship of trust
In an age where special offers and last minute appointments are king, the good old-fashioned loyalty between hairdresser and client is losing ground. However, it is undoubtedly the very best way to ensure you always love the results of a salon visit.
‘When you find a stylist whose work you love, build a relationship based on mutual honesty and trust’ says Kai. Be upfront about your budget and how much time you can spare as well, allowing your stylist to pick a look with the right level of upkeep.
Once you’ve found ‘the one’, any hair transformations become far less frightening, as you can work together towards your hair goals, whether that’s growing it long or gradually embracing a new colour.
SOS: What to do if you hate your hair
Sometimes, it’s only after you leave the salon that you realise you’re unhappy with your hair. First of all, don’t panic – almost any disaster is salvageable, whether it’s brassy blonde or overly-choppy layers.
Phone up the salon and tell them that you are unhappy with your haircut or colour, explaining politely how it differs from what was agreed in your initial consultation. This should be done within two weeks of your appointment. Most businesses would much rather have a client come back in and have their hair rectified than leaving them unhappy and losing them to another salon.
If you feel that the stylist is the problem, then it’s ok to ask to see someone different or more senior — you’ll have to grin and bear the awkwardness if they’re in the salon during your return visit, but it’s better than putting up with a haircut you hate.
Of course, if the stylist followed your instructions exactly, and you’ve simply gone off the style, then you’re in less of a strong position to complain, although most good hairdressers will flag if a particular cut or colour won’t suit you.
Overall, the key thing to remember is that with hair, few disasters are permanent.
From: Good Housekeeping UK