Hating your hair is the worst. Hating it when you've just come from dropping a bunch of money and time on it at the salon is worse than the worst.
But just like getting the chicken pox or mono or going through an unfortunate Jncos phase, it happens to everyone at some point in their lives. And even though I’m a hairdresser now, I haven’t forgotten what it feels like to have this happen.
In my previous life as a layman, I’ve walked out of appointments with weird pointy sideburns and gummy-feeling white highlights, constantly touching my head self-consciously for the next couple weeks and wishing I had a time machine. So basically, I feel you. And I know that figuring out your next step can feel like tiptoeing your way around land mines.
Luckily I've got the map of where they're located, and I can help you around them. Plus I work at the land mine store so I know how to keep them from ending up there in the first place. Have I ridden this metaphor to its conclusion?
Whatever, I'm going to tell you what you can do if you realize that you're not happy with what you’ve had done at the salon, plus what you can do to keep it from happening in the future.
So, let's say you've just been to the salon to get your hair done, and it's just not what you expected it to be. The first thing that's important to do is act quickly if you want to go to the same salon to have it retooled. Different salons have different policies on "tweaking" a client's hair, but I'd say the average is that most salons are willing to invite clients back in to have their hair tweaked for free within one week of the appointment.
And when you call up, personally I really appreciate when people ask the receptionist if they can speak to me real quick before scheduling the appointment. You don't have to go into full-blown specifics over the phone but it's good for your stylist to know what it is you're looking to get out of it when you come back in, particularly if the problem is related to color -- that way they can do some brainstorming before you meet again.
Plus it helps them ascertain how much time to book for the appointment, and timing is super important both for your stylist and you. I went into how scheduling works in this article, which has some other points that might be useful as far as client-stylist relations go.
Depending on each individual situation, it may or may not be free when you come back in to have your hair altered after just having it done. I want to be careful here because I can't promise things for other stylists, but most hairdressers I know are inclined to want to keep clients happy and coming back as opposed to totally turning them off by charging for something that they perceive as being the stylist's fault.
If a client calls our salon promptly to let a stylist know they feel their hair needs tweaking, we really only end up charging them if it turns out the reason they're not happy is because they straight-up changed their mind about what they want.
For example, if a client comes back in because she feels like her hair is a little heavy on the top, we'll just go through and take out some more weight free of charge. But if a client comes back in because she decided she'd like her hair better if it was chin length instead of the shoulder length we'd discussed together and gone ahead with, that's something we'd charge for because it's a whole new haircut that she just realized she'd prefer.
This applies to color as well. If you call up and let us know you feel the tone of your blonde is a little cooler than we discussed, we'll go ahead and warm it up for free. But if you got home and decided that you wish you had let us know you prefer your hair on the warmer side, that's something we'd need to charge for.
And again, this is how it goes where I work, but I'm willing to bet that most other salons handle things this way, too. We're pretty awesome but we're not such a unique little snowflake of a salon that other places won't have similar policies.
Of course one of the best ways to keep situations like this from happening in the first place is to have a really thorough consultation, as my friend Danielle outlined on xoVain. The same advice and logic applies to fixing hair problems once they’ve already happened, as you’re basically having a consultation on how to proceed from here.
Your hairdresser is of course responsible for asking all the right questions and knowing how to lead a collaborative dialogue about what you want, but there are things that you can do as a client to make sure that what you want is as clear as possible.
It's a good idea to break everything down into its most basic terms, as though you're explaining something to a child or a monster who's only just learning to feel. So get literal and stay away from figurative words. For example, rather than just saying that you want your hair to be "flowy," elaborate and say that you like to be able to see space between the hairs at the ends.
Another thing I find really useful is to abandon the concept of inches when talking about length since everyone eyeballs them a little differently, so think about using your hands to mark where you'd like to see the ends of your hair hit on your body.
Also, what are some dealbreakers for you? This is especially important to be able to articulate when you come back after having something done that you weren’t happy with. Do you hate it when you can see the lines where highlights begin at your part, or can you not stand it when your bangs are in your eyeliner? Now's the time to speak up! Get everything out in the open before your stylist even picks up their shears or walks away to mix color.
If it feels like a lot to remember and rattle off, there's no shame in writing yourself a little cheat sheet of things you want to let your hairdresser know. I've learned from your comments on other articles that going to the salon can be a really overwhelming and stressful experience for some of you, and I know that when I'm stressed out my thoughts tend not to be very organized. It's like when you think of a comeback 3 hours later.
So bring something with you to help you stay on the right track that you wrote down while you were calm and getting psyched to get your hair done. And don't feel weird about it -- you don't feel too weird about bringing a picture in with you, right? This could be another tool that helps articulate what you want. Plus your stylist will be super impressed with how together you are.
Like the chicken pox, mono or Jncos, avoiding bad hair is all about early prevention. But if it does end up happening, being clear and respectful, just as your stylist should be with you, can help you leave the salon the second time around with something you’re happier with.
I know it’s awkward and the source of miscommunications can be hard to pinpoint. Sometimes conversations about where the hair went wrong turn into a weird, polite-but-strained he said/she said game. But please believe me when I say that your hairdresser wants you to be happy -- I literally can't think of a time that I or someone I know was like, "Whatever, screw them," when someone came back for something.
We're in this field because we care about people and want to make them feel good, so please keep that in mind and try not to come at things from a combative standpoint. You hit a pothole in your working relationship but your stylist still wants to give you the best experience they can while you’re in the salon and the best hair for when you walk out.
And if all else fails, at least it’s the winter -- there are always beanies.