Communicate with your Hairdresser

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If you ask people what they expect when they visit their hairdresser, they all say "one that listens to them and understands their needs". If you ask hairdressers what they think went wrong when a client has complained about their hair service, they will undoubtedly say, "they didn't understand what the client actually wanted".

Like with most professions, often the best hairdressers in the world are not the most creative, or the best trained, but are good listeners with great people skills. The other abilities are definitely just as important but it is the ability to understand and transform your requirements to your hair that really counts.

When it all comes down to it, you would find it hard to recognise these "special talents" in a hairdresser before trusting your hair to that person, and, as all of us are different, it is hard to recommend the hairdresser that would suit you as an individual. We can however help with a few ground rules:

Book, or drop in for a consultation prior to an appointment for something new or with someone new. These are normally free of charge and will give you some great ideas and a "feel" for the hairdresser too. For appointments and consultations try to avoid a salons busy times (Saturdays and late nights).

- If that's not possible, then make sure that you get a full consultation before your cut, ideally before you put on the generic gown. Make sure the stylist can see you for who you are and if you are in a work uniform then let them know what you normally wear.

- Take along some pictures of looks that you would like to discuss. Don't be embarrassed to take along pictures of famous people as everything helps and hairdressers really appreciate this as it gives them a starting point to say, for example, "yes, we can try this but your own hair is more wavy so will look more like this". If you can't find pictures of what you want, take what you don't want! We know this sounds strange but in the hands of an expert it will become obvious to them what you want.

- "Show not tell" what you want, if you want your hair no shorter than a certain point on your neck, point to it. Length is always open to misinterpretation and most of us have suffered from the "I just want a trim" syndrome and walked away disappointed or angry.

- Do not attempt to use hairdresser speak! We have all heard of "layers", "thinning" and maybe even "graduation" but do you really know what these terms actually mean? Even amongst the hairdressing community these terms are often misused. If you use a term and it is understood in a different way by the hairdresser you will get their version not yours and probably not the look that you want!

- Don't let the hairdresser use terms that are not 100% clear to you as to what they mean. A "yummy chocolate brown" sounds great, but exactly how dark will it be and will you feel happy with it? Ask if you if you are not convinced!

- Try arriving early and checking out some of the looks that the stylists in the salon are creating. If you see one you like, get the hairdresser doing your hair to check it out so that they can see if it would work for you.

When talking to a hairdresser about a new cut for you, keep the following in mind:

- Have you an area of your hair that annoys you? This is usually the piece that you fiddle with or touch most of the time. Point this out and see if something can be done to help prevent the problem by cutting it a certain way.

- What are your habits with your hair? For example, do you tuck it behind your ears? If the suggested style is not a shape that can be "tucked" then you might find it is not for you.

- How long do you like to spend doing your own hair? This is very relevant, as you would not get what you wanted if you had only 5 mins to dry it each day and your new style needed 30 minutes.

- Do you have to wear it a certain way for work or sport? If your hair needs to be long enough to go into a ponytail it may limit the number of styles you can have.

- If you are after a complete change and you then limit the hairdresser to keeping all of your length, then the change may not be as different as you would of liked. So be realistic and ask yourself what's more important: length or change?

When talking to a hairdresser about a new colour think about:

- Your skin tone and how the colour will look against it.

- There are many different ways to add colour to your hair.

- Take pictures, fabric swatches, photographs etc. Words do not describe colour accurately enough: for example "richer or darker" than what? Keep in mind that it all colours look different when on your hair e.g. pieces of colour will look darker or more golden when mixed in with your natural hair, all over colour will look a lot stronger or brighter than you may expect. Use the hairdresser's knowledge of this and if they say that the colour is "good but won't do you justice", they are probably right!

- The main thing with colour is to remember that keeping your hair in good condition is the way to make any colour look really good. Listen to the hairdresser and if they tell you that the processes needed to get your hair to the colour you want will leave it out of condition, don't go there! From personal experience as a hairdresser, I have had clients whom I have said no to, who have subsequently gone to another place or done it themselves and returned to me in tears!

Anthony Whitaker, past Australian Hairdresser of the Year has compiled a bunch of useful tips on the dos and don'ts of getting your hair done.

"The best hairdresser in town is not necessarily the best for you. The best for you is someone who listens and asks about what you like and dislike about your hair and your appearance".

"Don't expect too much. A good hairdresser will be realistic about what you can achieve with colour and styling".

"Listen to your hairdresser. If they're not certain you'd look great with the latest style, they probably have good reason".

"Be wary of hairdressers who profess to 'have a vision' of how you should look. You are usually the best judge of that at the end of the day it's not on for the hairdresser to give clients their 'signature cut' and for the person to race home and fix it. When a client cuts a client's hair, he or she must understand the important thing is the client's individuality, their tastes, lifestyle and needs, not the latest cut". is the only place to find out everything you would ever need to know about your hair. From the latest looks and styles and how to maintain them, through to practical stuff like how to get the best out of your next salon visit, what products are best for you and medical conditions of the hair and scalp. For all the latest about hair, check out Virtual HairCare