A great hairstylist is a girl’s best weapon–if you have the right one. If you don’t, they can be your worst nightmare. We all want to have one of those amazing experiences where our hairstylist gets us, the salon is cool, and our hair turns our fabulous. So how do you make that a reality?
I want to share a few tips to get you closer to the perfect salon experience. From finding the right hair stylist to learning how to communicate what you want without feeling like you need a translator, here is what you need to know. So get out your notepad and pencil, we’re going to school…
Understanding Salon Types
There are basically two types of salons in the world: commission salons and lease salons (also known as booth rental salons). Commission salons are generally big salons that attract clients to a consistent brand they have created. In Seattle we have Gene Juarez as an example. The benefit of this type of salon is the consistency in their message and culture. Typically the salon staff is trained consistently so they are all competent in the same techniques. Continuing education is a big part of this type of salon, meaning everyone stays current on trends, products and skills.
In a lease salon the draw is usually the stylist over the brand of the establishment. Each stylist is renting their station from the salon owner and running their own business. The salon owner can set the aesthetic of the salon, but aside from that he/she has very little say over how each stylist runs things day-to-day. Skill set and techniques can vary throughout a lease salon because there is not as much emphasis on team education. Continuing education is at the discretion of the individual stylist. In this type of salon a stylist’s unique creativity can shine as they are not bound by performing set techniques that represent the “look” of a large branded commission salon.
Finding the Perfect Stylist
A great way to discover a talented stylist is to find hair you like and ask who did it. Every head of hair is a walking billboard for a hair stylist. Keep your eye out for hair that stands out to you and then ask “Who does your hair?” Everyone loves a good complement and will be happy to give credit where credit is due. Ask enough people and eventually you will hear the same name or salon mentioned. Additionally, many salons and stylists offer referral discounts. When you call to book your appointment mention the name of the person who referred you and see what happens!
Go Online. Websites like Yelp and CitySearch can be effective resources for finding your hair stylist. You can start a search with a specific neighborhood and then start reading reviews. Each salon or stylist’s Yelp page will also tell you details like hours, payment options and possibly images of their work.
Look at Hair Brand websites. Do you have a favorite haircare line or color line? Go the manufacturer’s website. Many of them list salons or hair stylists who use their products. At Redken.com there is a “Salon Finder.” By typing in your zip code you will generate a list of salons and stylists using Redken products. You can also find Redken Certified Colorists and Designers who have taken the time to get tested and certified in their understanding of all facets of the brand.
Ask the receptionist. If you have narrowed down your search to a specific salon, but not to a stylist, ask for the receptionists advice. Their job is to help direct you to a well matched hair guru. Let them know a little about what type of style you’re going for and they will point you in the right direction.
Making the Most of the Initial Appointment
For your first appointment with a new stylist I always say less is more. Book a 15 – 20 minute consultation before committing your locks to a service. It’s like a coffee date before diving into a full-blown dinner date. You will have the opportunity to get the vibe of the salon and the stylist making sure they are a fit for you.
For this first appointment, do a little homework to ensure you come prepared. Bring pictures of hair you like as well as pictures you don’t like. Whether they are pictures of you or images from magazines or online, it’s a great way to help communicate what you are looking for. Words alone are open to wide interpretation. If you say you want to be red, there is a wide range of reds to choose from. But when you bring in a picture of the color you are after, you can effectively show exactly what you want. Keep in mind, from a hair stylist’s perspective, we can’t make you look like Jennifer Aniston. We can use her look as our inspiration for you and personalize it to your hair type and lifestyle.
Be sure to discuss cost and time investment. How much time do you want to spend in the salon? What is comfortable for your beauty budget? Your hair stylist should be able to give you an accurate price for service for your first appointment and future appointments. If your dream look is starting to sound too time consuming and pricey, don’t be afraid to ask for some other options that fit your budget.
Also, ask how often your potential stylist attends continuing education. Believe it or not, I know many hair stylists who haven’t taken one class since they stepped out of cosmetology school. The science of hair continues to advance, product options improve, and techniques evolve. If a stylist isn’t offering you the most current options, you could be cheating your hair of beautiful, healthy end results. Some states require continuing education for stylists and others, like Washington state, do not. I feel that every good hair stylist should attend at least one class a year. Hands-on classes where attendees actually perform new skills and product knowledge classes are the most valuable.
Lastly, inquire about the stylists’ availability. What days is the stylist in the salon? How far out do they normally book? These factors can greatly influence your ability to sit in their chair. Can you get in on short notice or will you need to schedule weeks out for your appointment? Are they in the salon on days and hours that fit your availability? It’s great if you feel like you connect during the consultation, but if your stylist isn’t available when you are it can create an ongoing challenge.
By covering all of these bases, at the end of your consultation you will have a good idea if this is the hair stylist for you. If it’s right, book your appointment and put your trust in their suggestions and creative approach. Someone recently asked me what my favorite type of cut is. My response is, I love a variety of cuts when my salon guest trusts my vision and professional opinion to give them what they are asking for. My most difficult cuts are those where a guest is second guessing my approach and changing their initial expectations midway through the process. By doing a little work up front, you are going to have an amazing experience that will lead to a lifelong relationship.