It can be hard to know if your stylist is right for you. That's why we asked Kit Sena, a hairstylist at the Julian.Marc boutique salon in Ottawa, for her professional tips on navigating the client-hairstylist relationship.
1. Open up
Upon meeting your stylist, tell him or her what you are looking for, and set boundaries. And bring photos of the type of haircut you're looking for, says Sena. Don't say "Do whatever you want" and then, when they cut three inches off, clarify that you didn't actually mean changing the length. "In any relationship, good communication is one of the most valuable elements," says Sena.
2. Be realistic about your expectations
Remember that your hairstylist wields scissors, not a wand. Know your hair type and be realistic about the amount of time and effort you're willing to commit to styling your hair every day.
Sena cites examples of women with wildly thick, curly hair arriving with pictures of sleek asymmetrical bobs, swearing up and down that they will commit to using a hair straightener every single day. The more honest you are with yourself and your stylist, the better your relationship will be because your stylist can cut your hair to suit your actual lifestyle -- not the lifestyle you would like to live.
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3. Get comfortable
"Feedback is always good," says Sena. "You should get good service not only from your hairstylist, but also from everyone in the salon. It's a team effort." Would you like a glass of water? Ask your stylist. Would you rather not change into a smock? Tell your stylist. Do you find the blaring music off-putting? Tell your stylist. Do you find the water too hot or cold, or the sink too high or low during your rinse and repeat? Tell your stylist.
All of these elements make up the overall experience, and it should be a positive one. "(The salon) should be a sanctuary where you can relax and come out feeling fabulous," says Sena.
4. First base
First dates are not everyone's forte, so if you're underwhelmed after your first visit to a new stylist, consider returning for a follow-up cut. This will give them a sense of how you are styling your hair on your own, and it's an opportunity to ask for further styling tips.
"The cut should be beautiful on its own, but it's important [that the client] still feels good about it after they get home," says Sena. The more your hairstylist gets to know you and understands the texture and level of effort you are willing to put into styling your hair, the better the cut will be.
5. Second chances
If you have concerns about going under the scissors again, book a follow-up consultation and have a frank discussion with the stylist. Note: A busy Saturday afternoon the week before Christmas is not the best time to have a heart-to-heart in the chair.
Be sure to request an additional 15 minutes for consultation when you call ahead to book, this way your stylist won't be rushed. Try for earlier in the day so you'll have their full attention and you won't throw off their schedule. "There's a bit of my personality in every cut I do, so yes these chats might sting a bit," says Sena. "But I would much rather a client tell me that we're having a bit of a miscommunication than have him or her leave unhappy and never return."
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6. Keep your options open
Stylists know their own limits; they all have different techniques, strengths and weaknesses. They would rather suggest colleagues within the salon who might be better suited to your style than lose your patronage altogether.
"Sometimes personalities just don't gel, and everyone has an off day here and there. But (clients) shouldn't be afraid to ask for a recommendation of another stylist in the salon," says Sena.
7. Amicable breakup
If you decide to see who else is out there, always leave on a positive note. As a show of goodwill, try writing a positive review of the salon or the stylist online on social networks like Facebook, Yelp or Twitter. If you would rather keep it general, emphasize details such as the welcoming atmosphere, the free parking, the quality of their products or the great location.
How does Sena feel about clients who play the field and end up wanting to get back together? "Your stylist will always be happy to have you back," she says. "Always."
Keep these tips in mind and you'll be well on your way to getting a great haircut that suits your hair type, texture and lifestyle.
The client-hairstylist relationship is often a defining one for many women, so it's best to take the time to find someone who is the right fit.
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