How to Get a Great Haircut

You can't always get what you want -- except at the salon, that is! Here's how to walk out of your next appointment with the hair of your dreams.

Find the Right Stylist

The perfect cut starts with the perfect pro. Meet your match with these simple tips:

  • Scout it out: Spot a woman at your local drugstore with amazing hair? Ask her for a referral. Another resource: the cosmetic counters at your local department stores, says Jet Rhys, a salon owner in San Diego. "Those makeup artists are like your concierge for beauty -- they know who's who in the industry," she says. 
  • Do your homework: Once you have a few names, see what local beauty bloggers and previous clients are saying about the stylists and salons, Rhys says. Yelp and Citysearch are also rife with customer reviews. 
  • Set up a consultation: "Instead of jumping right into a cut, carve out some time to see if you mesh with the stylist," says David Barron, a salon owner in Atlanta. Use the time to talk about your hair history, your budget, and how much time you have to devote to styling. Many salons offer face time gratis, but some might charge a small fee.

Talk the Talk

  • "Just a little bit off the ends" or "long layers" might not mean the same thing to your stylist as it does to you. To head off a catastrophe, get a handle on the lingo: 
  • Layered hair is snipped at different lengths throughout. Layers can be long (below the jawline), short (aka choppy), or graduated (stacked on top of each other). 
  • Blunt ends are sliced straight across, which can make fine hair appear thicker. 
  • Textured can refer to your hair type (wavy, curly), or it can be the result of a cutting technique that involves sculpting the ends of the hair, creating a tousled, piecey look.

Get a Visual

Picture-perfect? Not always. Here are the dos and don'ts for your pic picks: 

  • DO tear or print out your images. "We love pictures," Rhys says. "We don't love having to scroll through your camera roll or Pinterest boards on your phone -- it cuts into your appointment time." 
  • DON'T get caught up in a pretty face. Is it Halle Berry's haircut that you want, or do you really just want to look like her? (Who doesn't?) "When a client brings in a picture, I'll put my thumb over the face and ask, 'Do you still want this haircut?'" Barron says. Sometimes the answer is no. 
  • DO be realistic. If you have curly hair, a sleek bob is probably not the best cut for you. Choose pictures of women with a hair type and face shape that's similar to yours. 
  • DON'T expect an exact replica. Your stylist should tweak the cut so it works for your hair type, face shape, and lifestyle.

Master the Look at Home

It happens all too often: You leave the salon with a swingy mane only to have your hair fall flat when you attempt to style it on your own. Make sure you know how to do your 'do with these tricks:

  • Take a video: Go ahead, whip out your smartphone. "Record what's going on in the mirror," Rhys says. You'll get a step-by-step tutorial to watch in your bathroom.
  • Go home with the goods: "We don't suggest you buy products because we're greedy," she says. "We do it because they work for your look." If you can't swing salon prices, ask for drugstore picks. 

When You're Not Happy...

  • At the salon: Don't leave! "Give your stylist a chance to make it right," Rhys says. Or see the manager or owner, who can make suggestions.
  • At home: If it's been two to three days and you just can't make your new style work, go back to the salon. Unless you've changed your mind about the style you asked for, there shouldn't be an additional charge. 

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