Saturday, 17 March 2012

How to Pick the Right Hairdresser

For most of us, our hair is a part of who we are. It is part of our identity, and a part most people don’t appreciate until it all goes terribly, terribly wrong. I have been the subject of this a few times. The worst (and most memorable) was when I went to a hair dresser in the middle of a shopping centre. My usual bleach & toner went so horribly wrong when the apprentice they assigned to mix and apply the toner gave me a “coffee” rinse turning me mousy brown.

This might not sound so horrible to you, but I’d spent the last 3 years getting my hair pure platinum blonde – which for those of you who also bleach – was a lengthy and expensive process. Once I saw myself in the mirror I burst into tears (in the middle of the packed salon) and the hairdressers rushed to try and fix it. In the end, they had to strip the hair TWICE which left it brittle and straw like not to mention ORANGE!

If that wasn’t bad enough, the girls working at the salon tried to shift the blame to me, saying I should have known from the colour of the toner being put on my hair. I pointed out to them that as my toner was done at the basin I wasn’t able to see the colour and also told them I would be happy to direct them to Australia’s fair trading laws if they were going to take that attitude to their mistake (that made them swallow their excuses pretty quickly).

After all this is said and done, what I was left with was a hair disaster and a few months of wearing hats & scarves! Also, a sudden realisation of how much my hair meant to me. Don’t misunderstand me, we are so much more than our hair & it’s hardly a way to judge your self worth, but a bad hair day is usually enough to turn the most perky woman into a moody one.

So, to cut a long story short (kind of…) the best way to ensure you have the hair of your dreams is to make sure you pick the right hair dresser. Here are the first factors you are going to need to take into account:

1. Budget – there is no use going to a hair dresser you can’t afford. The only outcomes will be a) you go into debt or b) you end up pushing your hair visits too far apart.

2. Location – the salon needs to be in a place you can easily get to, or a hair dresser that visits you in your home. Also, if you are driving, is there parking? Will parking cost you anything?

3. Time – the salon needs to be open at a time you can visit. Most salons are open on Saturdays and one late night per week (mine is open late on a Wednesday night which is fantastic as in Sydney ‘late night shopping’ is on a Thursday, so my salon appointments do not prevent me spending all my hard earned money on shiny things).

Now that you have ruled out the salons you won’t be visiting (those that are too inconvenient to travel to, you cannot afford and are not open at times you need them to be) comes the tricky part. The best way to figure out which is the right hair dresser is to visit them. But this could take you quite some time to go through all the remaining options.

Here is my method for narrowing it down:

1. Accept recommendations – your friends may already have a fantastic hair dresser they swear by.

2. Look for customers that have a relationship with their hair dresser – there are plenty of salons that churn out hair styles and colours with all the personality of an automated factory line. What you want to look for are the people who have a long history with their stylist. There is usually a reason people will return to one hairdresser or one salon & that is because they receive good service & generally walk away happy.

3. Don’t pick a hair dresser who has terrible style – This falls along the lines of “you wouldn’t hire a person stylist who wore rags”. If you don’t like their style or they have terrible hair, don’t trust them with your own – unless of course you already know they are a genius (think the stylist for sex & the city!).

4. Make sure the salon fluently speaks your language – here in Sydney there are tonnes of Asian salons where most of the staff only speak basic English. Many of these are great salons, but if you can’t easily communicate with your hairdresser, you’re not going to get the full experience.

Hopefully this has helped you narrow it down to a few salons that you think might suit your needs. Now – have a think about what you want out of your salon & stylist. Personally, I like salons that are tidy and friendly. I want to be able to chat with these people for the 2-3 hours it takes me to get my hair done every month. I like salons that will offer me a tea or coffee whilst I wait and (in the event I don’t bring my book) I like their magazines to be up to date & of a type I am interested in – my salon always stocks the latest Madison, Shop & Grazia.

Whilst it is easy to make all these judgements from the outside, the proof is in the pudding. You are unable to tell whether this hair dresser will be right for you until you’ve given them a chance. Once you are there & in their chair, here is what you want from the hair dresser you’ve chosen:

1. They should start the session with a full consult – asking you what you want in terms of colour & cut and what your previous hair history is. Any hair dresser that does not do this is not worth your time or money. This is the part of the appointment where you outline your hair needs & how you expect them to proceed with your valued locks. You wouldn’t trust a mechanic who simply pushed your car into their lot & told you to return in a week without so much as asking what the problem is or popping the hood! It is also a chance for the hair dresser to confirm your needs & hair aspirations, then let you know what they can do to either achieve this or achieve something similar (lets face it, no amount of skill will turn thin & damaged hair into full, lustrous locks in one session).

2. You need to be clear about what you want – this also includes speaking up when the hair dresser suggests something your aren’t interested in. If you say ‘I want a sleek bob’ you may not get what you want. Instead, be descriptive by saying “I want a sleek bob that stops just under my chin and is the same length all around”.

3. Once you’re done, the hair dresser should give you some care instructions – this is especially important if you have changed your cut or colour. If the salon is busy, or it slips the stylists mind, be sure to ask. The hair dresser should happily run you through:

- The maintenance needed for your colour including how frequently you need to return, what kind of shampoos and treatments you should use and how quickly it may fade.

- How to style your hair, including going through how they blow dried it, what tools they used and other ways to wear the hair cut. I find doing this gives you far more confidence in styling your own hair, as well as showing you some things you may not have thought of.

If you are happy with the style, colour & service you have received then bingo! You’ve found a winner & should be quite pleased with yourself! If not, then it is time to find another & like they say about men, there are plenty more fish in the sea!

Need some inspiration on what to do with your hair? I love these two options for some great colour - tipped out colour & chalk colour.

Happy hair styling! Sunny xx

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