Woman getting a hair cut.

More often than not, women go into a walk-in salon or schedule an appointment with someone recommended by a friend with a particular cut in mind, only to wind up with the mirror in one hand, still seated in the stylist’s chair–and reveling in disbelief–as the proud stylist slowly spins them around for the final 360 degree inspection of the new haircut. This little scenario happens with such frequency that this article would be just as apropos had it been entitled, “How to Want the Haircut You Get.”

First, Develop Realistic Expectations
Before proceeding to the topic of communicating effectively with a hairdresser, perhaps using their language and terminology to express the type of cut you desire, it is important that you have a realistic understanding of how the haircut you want might look with the exact type of hair you have. Factors like coarseness, thickness, amount of wave or curl, and the location of any cowlicks you may have all weigh into how your hair will respond to any cut. Additional considerations, and just as important, are the shape of your face and your age. And if the hairstyle you want came from a model in a magazine, make sure it’s a style that can be maintained without constant adjusting, carefully placed wind fans and tediously placed extensions. It’s great to take in a photo of the haircut you desire, just as long as the model’s hair is a type similar to yours. It’s also a good idea to find out from the stylist exactly how much effort will be needed to keep your newly cut hair looking like the model’s hair in the photo.

The Short Cut You Didn’t Want
One of the most commonly experienced haircut disappointments is the “just a ½” off the very ends” that turns out into more like a couple of inches of length gone. The best way to avoid this from happening to you is to do one or all of the following:

  • Carry with you an index card or small piece of paper with two marks on it representing the distance or length you desire to have cut. Show it to the hair stylist, and explain that you do not want any more than that much removed, regardless of split ends or other considerations.
  • While it may seem a little drastic, you might take a marker and literally mark exactly where you want the cut to stop. This is more feasible on a hairstyle of one length, but it’s worth a try on a layered style.
  • Ask the stylist to show you the spots where they intend to make the first few cuts, so that you can make sure your expectations are shared.
  • Pay close attention to exactly what the hairdresser is doing, and how much is being cut off. If necessary, look at the hair that has fallen to the floor and do not hesitate to stop the cut if it appears that too much is being cut away. You are paying this person to perform a service that is supposed to be according to your wishes. Keep this in mind.

Wet Cuts or Dry Cuts
Different hair stylists have their cutting preferences, and if your cut will be preceded by a shampoo, do not let anyone wet your hair before the stylist has had a chance to see how it “hangs,” its growth patterns and also how you currently have it styled.

If you are requesting bangs, get some specific info here from the hair stylist, like whether they plan on layering, feathering or blunt-cutting the ends. Again, a picture is highly effective here. If your hair is naturally wavy or curly, a blunt cut is not always the most flattering style of bangs, and can be a lot of work maintaining. Keep an open mind for wisdom the stylist might have to share with you.