Communication isn’t only important in marriage, Marge.

By Kaitlyn Yarborough
January 30, 2020
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The relationship we have with our hair stylist is not unlike those we have with our closest confidants, significant others, or the girl who waxes our eyebrows. Three things are important: trust, communication, and honesty. These are the pillars of any healthy relationship.

But even if your hair stylist is basically a long-lost bestie, sometimes sitting down in the salon chair can be daunting when you’re not totally sure how to ask for the haircut you want. What exactly is a lob? How can I look like Julia Roberts (circa Eat, Pray, Love—not Pretty Woman)? Is my forehead too much of a fivehead for wispy bangs? These are the questions that cause us major upper lip sweat in the salon chair.  

To clear up the confusion, we talked with Ricardo Dinis, Aveda’s Global Artistic Director for haircutting, to get his best tips for asking for the right haircut and avoiding the wrong haircut—and shocker, it all comes down to communication. “As a general piece of advice, always sit in the chair of the person who asks the most questions. Experts ask questions,” he says. *goosebumps*

Here are five things to know before going to the salon. 

Keep your expectations realistic. 

You might love Blake Lively’s beach waves or Halle Berry’s pixie cut, but your hair type and texture might not. Make sure to consider your hair’s features when choosing inspiration. 

“The biggest mistake is not being open and honest about your expectations. Be realistic. People often expect to look like a celebrity and if that doesn’t work out, they’re disappointed. This doesn’t mean it cannot be achieved, clients just need to be realistic with what works best for them and their hair,” Dinis says. 

Don’t give your trust to just anybody. 

This works equally on first dates and salon trips. Every time you show up unprepared, you’re taking a risk that you won’t get the haircut you actually want—or worse, you’ll end up stuck with something totally different (hello, baby bangs). This is particularly important if you’ve recently started seeing a new hair stylist. 

“Another mistake many clients make is giving too much trust to a hairdresser you don’t have an established relationship with yet. The person working on your hair doesn’t know you yet, so they cannot assess what is best for you, especially if you’re making a big change,” he adds.

Pictures, pictures, pictures. 

This should be a given, but plenty of clients forget to research inspiration pictures. (Pinterest is a treasure trove of lobs and bobs and bangs galore.) Hair stylists are visual people, and a picture makes sure nothing is getting lost in your communication. What you’re imagining and what your stylist is imagining from what you’re saying doesn’t always match up.

Dinis agrees: “Bring in pictures! I personally love when clients bring in inspiration, with the exception that they do not have the same hair type and texture as the person in the photo. Hair is like snowflakes, each head is individual and different. Even if it looks the same, there are always differences, whether that be in density, texture, face shape, or head shape.”

Be open to compromise. 

This could be filed under the above “realistic expectations,” but keep it in mind when asking your stylist’s opinion on the haircut you want. He or she knows what will work best and make the most of your natural hair, be it through length, texture, or density. This is especially important when you’re not exactly sure what you want (which is us, always, about pretty much everything). 

“When a client is unclear on what they want, I talk them through it, reiterate what I’m hearing, and confirm it,” Dinis says. “But I trust my clients’ likes. If they feel confident wearing a bang or wearing short hair, I will support my client in any way I can. At the end of the day, they know themselves better than we do.” 

Don’t use professional salon terms if you don't know what they mean. 

Using the wrong terms can sabotage you; getting the haircut you want comes down to communication, and this only clouds it. Bring in pictures, describe your ideal length, and go from there. 

“Clients often create or rename things, when there are actually only three haircutting techniques: one-length, graduating, and layering,” notes Dinis. “People often invent names and ways of texturizing or styling hair, which can add to the confusion.”

WATCH: Hair Salon Rules of Etiquette Every Southern Woman Knows

Heed these five major hair salon tips, and you’re set to get the lob, bob, or bangs of your dreams.