How to Talk to a Hairstylist

The idea that I was paying an absurd amount of money for someone to put chemicals in my hair reassured me that they would do a good job. Oh, how wrong I was.
Publish date:
August 21, 2012
ombre, dye jobs, hairstyle

Back in the day of, oh, a year ago, everyone was getting ombre hair, and I was drinking the Kool-Aid.

Normally, I dye my hair out of a box by myself, but, despite how low-maintenance ombre clearly wanted us to think it was, it looked pretty difficult to get without the assistance of a stylist. So, I booked an appointment at the swankiest salon I could think of. The idea that I was paying an absurd amount of money for someone to put chemicals in my hair reassured me that they would do a good job. Oh, how wrong I was.

Instead of the surfer-girl hair I wanted, I was left with about three quarters of my hair looking like corn, a particularly unattractive contrast to the roots of my hair, which had been dyed an even darker shade of brown than they are naturally. It was unflattering against my olive skin tone, and also incredibly damaging to my hair. Not only did that dye job cost me waaaaaay too much money, but I wound up having to pay even more to get my hair back in healthy shape.

But here’s the thing: I blame only myself. I didn’t speak up to the stylist about what I wanted. Even though I got a bad feeling when he said, “I think you would look so cute with a super blonde ombre,” I just nodded. After all, I’m not a hairdresser. This is this person’s job. It is their career. Why shouldn’t I trust them? Well, because they went completely peroxide happy, that’s why.

From this incident (Does it sound like I’m being overly dramatic by calling this an “incident?”) I learned the importance of letting your hairdresser know what you want. Of course, if you’re anything like me (read: afraid of confrontation, even the most innocuous brand of confrontation that is probably not even technically confrontation), this can be hard to do. Here are my tips for talking to your hair stylist and getting the haircut/dye job of your dreams. You know, without seeming like a jerk about it.

1. If they want to do something new, talk pricing.

Part of the reason my ombre-gone-bad was so expensive is that we agreed I would go “more blonde,” but we never agreed upon how much “more blonde” would cost. Spoiler alert: it was a lot. If your hairdresser suggests something new, be sure to say some version of, “Yeah, that sounds like it could work, but would it cost more than normal?”

2. Ask about maintenance.

My hairdresser failed to tell me that, “Yeah, you’ll need to deep condition this on the daily,” and my hair wound up breaking off. How fun! Ask what the upkeep is. This is also applicable for haircuts. The worst haircut I ever got was this suuuuper angular pixie deal. It looked great when I came out of the salon, but it grew out completely uneven. Had I known I would have had to get it trimmed every weeks, I would not have agreed to the cut.

3. Ask your hairdresser if they have any pictures.

A very helpful thing to do for your hairstylist is bring in pictures of the look you want. However, if during your appointment they suggest something, ask if they can give a visual example. Red can mean a ton of different things. So can ombre. So can blonde. Say, “Can you give me an example of someone who has that hair?” Had I done this, maybe I would have had Rachel Bilson ombre hair and maybe Karl Lagerfeld would be asking me to be in his weird commercials.

4. Make sure your hair stylist knows your wear your hair on the reg. The short haircut mentioned above didn’t look bad as long as I straightened it each morning. But I do not really have the time or personality to do such a thing. Tell your hairdresser what you’re realistically willing to do with your style. If you’re looking for something that will just allow you to wash-and-go, make sure they know that. It’s their job to cut your hair, not to know how you wear your hair when you’re rushing to get to work on Wednesday.

That's it! What's your worst story of miscommunication between you and a hair stylist? Did you say something afterward, or just wait to get home and cry?