How Not to Hand Over Your Entire Paycheck Next Time You Go to the Salon

It can be tempting — and intimidating — when your stylist recommends products and services. Here's when to spend and when to save.

Visiting a salon should be somewhat therapeutic and relaxing, not stressful or overwhelming. A common reason for avoiding salon visits is fear of intimidation — that your stylist will pressure you into getting a ton of services or buying a lot of products. As a stylist, it never fails to surprise me how often clients will keep their opinions to themselves, preferring to avoid that stylist or salon in the future instead of voicing concern.

Hairstylists can only glean so much information from a consultation, so it is vital that you communicate any questions or fears. This will only protect you from costly results in the future. If you think I'm being dramatic, I know of a client that once tried to sue a company I worked for, claiming that she had PTSD from a hair appointment. I witnessed the salon visit, and the client smiled and nodded the entire time, assuring her stylist that she loved her hair. 

I understand how overwhelming hair care can be — I have dealt with an unmanageable, curly mess my whole life. With all that is out there, it can be confusing trying to determine what you should spend your money on.

 But I can make it a little easier with the following tips.

Styling Products

Save: You don't need to own a styling product for every purpose, nor do you need to stay loyal to just one product line. I know, most hair care lines insist that you need to only use their products for best results, but this is more a marketing ploy than good advice.

Spend: Invest in one quality product that has multiple uses, like Paul Mitchell's The Conditioner ($23.98 at ULTA). I have sold literally hundreds of bottles of this stuff and have never heard a bad review. Everyone, regardless of hair type, can use this: I have seen it repair the most severely damaged hair, transform the condition of coarse hair, and give life to wispy fine hair. Bonus: It works well as a shaving cream and can be used safely on children. If your hair is dry and curly like mine, you can be liberal with the amount, and your strands will soak it up like a sponge. For those of you with finer hair, try a nickel-size portion and go from there.

If you insist on using a serum or oil type of product, try Biosilk Silk Therapy. This product can be used in several ways, from deep-conditioning to moisturizing your body. Use a small amount (dime-size) until you determine how much you need to use. A little goes a long way with this product.

Using a quality leave-in will protect against heat damage caused by flat irons and blow-dryers, which are the most damaging thing you do to your hair on a regular basis.

Preserving Hair Color

Save: Stay away from lightening sprays like Sun-In or anything similar. I know that the ease of use and promised results are tempting, but a couple sprays will end in a very expensive color correction or many inches cut. If you have tried a product like this, don't be afraid to inform your stylist so that a strand test can determine if you can get a color correction (many times, the hair is too damaged for color). 

Spend: Color glosses, or glazes, can be done at the salon for considerably less than a full-color service, and they only take a few minutes. Your salon may call it something else, but this service deposits color without lift, deepening hues while providing a seal on your color. You can even get clear gloss for shine and conditioning.

If you can't find the time to go into a salon, ask your stylist to recommend a color-depositing conditioner. Color-depositing conditioners are an absolute lifesaver for those with red in their hair, and this applies to brunette, chestnut, mocha, or any other shade that sounds like you got it out of a box of chocolates.

If you have blonde or highlighted hair and you find that it gets dull or brassy after a short time, use a toning shampoo like Matrix Total Results So Silver Shampoo ($20 at ULTA). Resist the urge to leave it on longer than the recommended time unless you want light purple hair. This shampoo will prevent you from a panicked salon visit and will brighten up your lightened hair like the first day of service.

Healthy Hair

Save: I have worked in high-end salons and I've worked for the more affordable places, and they all use the same products for deep conditioning. What you are paying for is the hot towel and aromatherapy, which you can do yourself.

Spend: Invest in a quality hair mask that you can use more than once. I personally love It's a 10 Miracle Mask ($30 at ULTA) or Biolage Hydrasource Mask ($23 at ULTA) because of their efficacy and value. Once a week, apply to clean hair and use a hot towel to wrap around your head. Stick a towel in the clothes dryer for a few minutes, or you can use a shower cap or plastic wrap. If you don't have a dryer, run a blow-dryer over your wrapped head for five minutes. The shower cap or towel will retain the heat, creating the same effect as a hood dryer.

If you can't afford a deep conditioner, use materials you already have in the house. Coconut oil, olive oil, and cocoa butter are all cheap alternatives that work well, though you may need to shampoo again after the treatment.

Deep conditioning is one of the most important things you can do for your hair. Healthy hair holds color and other chemicals longer and it is easier to style.

Bang Trim

Save: Bangs are a very personal statement. I can't speak for other hairstylists, but I never take offense when someone trims their own bangs.

Spend: Don't attempt a full haircut on your own, unless you enjoy having the back of your hair look like a flight of stairs. 

If you are cutting a side bang, comb the desired amount of hair to the opposite side that you wish to wear it. Keep the blades halfway open, and slide your shears down your hair, at an angle. Do this a couple of times to create a guide.

Comb the sectioned hair over to the side you wish to wear it on. Add texture to the section by cutting into it. Make each cut deliberate and slow, making sure to keep a light hold on your shears. Gripping them too tightly will cause you to make more dramatic cuts that are difficult to blend.

What salon product or service do you insist on splurging on?