If you’ve ever done any research on why relationships fail, most of the time it actually isn’t just one person’s fault - a lot of times, both people are responsible. I’m saying this to ease you into an idea - when you end up unhappy with your haircut or color from your hairstylist, many times both you and your stylist have some responsibility.
One thing I think I am really good at is consultations and getting to the root of what people want for their hair. I have personally had haircuts and color from junior stylists as well as master stylists, and I hear consultations around the salon on a daily basis. From all of these experiences, three things have become obvious to me:
1) Every hairstylist has their own unique language to describe what they see.
2) Clients don’t know how to describe what they want.
3) Agreements are made between a stylist and their client when they aren’t actually on the same page.
If you’ve been seeing your stylist for a while, and a certain level of comfort and rapport have been established, a lot of what I’m about to say isn’t relevant. I still think it’s worth reading because there will likely come a time when you want to make a change and these points can help you to communicate better with your stylist.
Below is a list of four reasons why you may not have gotten the result you wanted from your hairstylist, and how to avoid these problems in the future.
1) You said, “I trust you, do whatever you think is best!”
Seeing a hairstylist is not like going to your mechanic. If you go to a mechanic, chances are you have no idea what is going on underneath the hood of your car and you need someone to just fix the damn problem. But when it comes to your hair, you live with it EVERY DAY. That knowledge is really valuable. If you don’t share the things you like and don’t like, and the things that work and don’t work, you are truly leaving it up to the stylist. And while we are happy to create something new for you, chances are, there are things you don’t want to be done to your hair.
Don’t worry about coming off bitchy, bossy, or like you know everything. We will tell you if we think something isn’t going to work, and a great hairstylist will tell you why. Once you're walking to the shampoo bowl though, what happens next is in your hairstylist's hands. Remember, leave the trust to your mechanic, and when it comes to your stylist, have a two-way discussion.
This leads me to my next point.
2) You and your hairstylist are not speaking the same language.
I understand that it can be difficult to communicate with a stylist, for a few reasons. Clients are put in an unfair position when they are sitting and the stylist is standing and talking to them through the mirror. In this scenario, the stylist is put in a place of dominance. You can definitely ask the stylist if they can sit at your level, or you can just turn around to talk to them if you’d like.
Another reason why it can be hard to communicate is that stylists use words or phrases you may not understand, such as: “Your hair is really heavy here,” or “You need more dimension,” or “We need to add more texture.”
Please do not just nod your head and act like you understand if you don’t! This is a surefire way to end up with something you don’t like (not always, but sometimes.) So, how do we mitigate this?
One way is to ask your stylist to clarify. Here are some examples:
“I don’t understand what you mean when you say texture. Can you show me a photo of what that would look like on me?”
“You said you’d like to cut an inch. What does an inch look like to you?”
“Can we look at photos of auburn hair? I don’t want to be too dark or too red. I want to make sure we’re thinking the same thing.”
“You said my hair is heavy. Does that mean you’re going to thin it out? I’ve had that done before and didn’t like it. Please explain to me what you want to do with that area.”
Also, please, please bring photos of what you’re looking for! Photos are an easy way to show us what you're looking for. Pinterest is a great place to organize all your photos in one spot. Having them ready to show your stylist at the time of your appointment is really appreciated.
3) Expectations vs Reality
Hair is not an exact science. I guess it would be nice if you could have a robot cut your hair the same exact way every single time, but then who would you get to dish the details of your life with? 😉 As hairstylists, it’s a part of our job to manage your expectations because we are not perfect and it’s difficult to deliver perfect results. Great hairstylists with a lot of experience can get close to perfection, but there are a lot of factors that go into this, which I’ve described in the scenarios below.
You brought a picture of a style you like. Your hair is curly, but the style in the photo shows straight hair.
Reality check: Are you going to put in the effort to get it look like that? We will usually ask you this, but it’s a good idea to start thinking about it when you are contemplating a new style.
You’re seeing a new hairstylist for the first time. You’ve seen their Instagram work and they seem amazing. They charge a lot of money and you’re expecting big results!
Reality check: Even if a stylist charges a lot of money, it can take a few appointments for them to get to know you and your hair. For big color changes, it can take many appointments. This is normal! If you are concerned about price, book a consultation prior to your appointment so you can get an idea of what you will be spending and what the upkeep costs will be. This is your responsibility.
You’re seeing a junior/new stylist for the first time, and you’re looking for a big color and cut change. You chose this person because they were the least expensive.
Reality check: Sometimes, junior stylists can be awesome - I’ve had some of my best haircuts from junior stylists because they are focused on doing a good job and they want to please you. However, they still have things to learn. Junior stylists can be great for trims, basic reshaping, and minor color appointments. Once you develop a rapport, that is a great time to start exploring their breadth of their skills.
4) Your stylist did not do what you asked / screwed up your hair / did not have the education to perform the right technique
Raise your hand if you’ve had a terrible haircut or color once in your life. You did? And you survived? Thank GOD! You made it. I know you thought when that happened that your life was over, that people were staring at you, and that you would never be pretty again. But then this crazy thing happened. YOUR HAIR GREW. You forgot that it would do that, but it did, and that mullet you got became a legendary, laughable moment!
Joking aside, it’s painful when you see your stylist cutting off 6 inches of hair when you said you wanted a trim. Do you speak up? Do you let them finish? Do you cry? Oh gosh, girlfriend, we have all been there. And you know what? I’ve delivered a few of those painful experiences myself! Yup! Thankfully, I’ve been doing hair long enough that I rarely screw up anymore, but it does still happen (usually, the mistakes are small.)
Why does this happen? Lots of reasons: we start talking to you and we aren’t fully paying attention to what we’re doing. We get lost in the haircut and realize we made a mistake, and to keep everything neat and even, we just keep cutting. The hope is that we didn’t screw up so badly that we ruined your life, and that you like and trust us enough to know that we are human and we will do better next time. If this happens repeatedly, then it is time to find a new stylist.
Sometimes a stylist just doesn’t have enough experience to do the cut or color the way you want. For example, I am terrible at event hair (bridal styles, up-do’s etc.) I used to do those styles anyway and sweat my way through them, with varying results. The last time I did a bride’s hair, the experience was so awful that I vowed to never do it again. I am much happier and I have saved many of my clients from having crappy wedding day hair by saying “no”. A lot of stylists will not say no. Sometimes this works out and you’ll end up loving your hair. If you’re wondering if your stylist can perform a certain task, ask them. See if they have photos of color services they have done. Ask them if they have an Instagram page (a lot of older, experienced hairstylists do not, which is normal - but it’s worth asking). One of the best ways to find a hairstylist who does the type of hair you like is to ask people you see on the street who have the type of hairstyle you want. They can refer you to their hairstylist!
So - have you experienced one of these issues? Have you had a terrible hair experience that could have come out differently? Tell me below - we can all have a good laugh about it and aim for better discussions with our hairstylists in the future!