February 5, 2016

Tips for Choosing a Hair Stylist & Going For a Big Change (mine: 4 inches)


Throughout college, I worked as a receptionist in a really nice hair salon. It was always interesting for me to find out how people choose a good hair stylist. For first time visitors, that was often the first question I asked them.

I’m sure you can guess that the number one response was “my friend told me about you.”  Yes, the almighty referral is key, so why have I been scared off from settling down with a good salon? Fear of the unknown, and bad hair experiences.

For years, I have only gotten my hair cut once a year. It’s just easier to keep it long, so I haven’t been the ideal person to come to when asking for a referral (until recently).  My stylist in Wisconsin knew me. She was my friend. I trusted her, and I knew that whatever she wanted to do with my hair would be ok because she had proven that over and over again.

Then I moved and the next two hair stylists I tried only saw “creativity” when they looked at my long locks.  Since I have had long hair for years, these ladies “knew” what was best for me and decided to bypass my requests. I left frustrated, saddened and thought, “Did they not hear me when I said it HAS to be able to go into a pony tail?

Yes, I know that pony tail limitation is the kiss of death to a creative person, but when this happened, I had four children in five years, and I needed that option, yet it was taken away from me.  After that, I seriously waited until we would go to Wisconsin on visits and then I’d have my hair done at my friend’s salon and only there. Now that my niece is an excellent stylist (in NH), I count the moments till she comes to visit and she does my hair in my kitchen.

How sad is that?  A good hair cut can completely change the way you feel about yourself. I am all about finding ways to save money in the hair department and I will share those soon(all hair stylists will hate me then), but hear this, I also feel that investing every once in awhile in a stylist who can dramatically change the way you look, make you come alive with a new cut/color and somehow transform your mundane mane into something magical is worth every penny you will spend. I’ve bit the bullet twice this year and tried out two salons. One on referral, one found through a Groupon.

So how do you choose a hair stylist?

(Four inches cut off the back. Yes, a complete shocker to me, but you must communicate accurately, which I didn’t.)

1. Ask around. Get referrals.

My sister in law is a perfect example. Her hair is always adorable. It’s always up to date, the color is fantastic and she always looks put together. Over the years she has built up an entire clientele for her stylist  just based on her hair style. People ask her all the time where she gets her hair cut, and the majority of them eventually schedule an appointment.  If you see a stranger with a unique cut that you have been pondering. Stop them and ask. They will be flattered and you will have one more stylist to consider. You may have quite a few names to consider at this time, but that is a good problem to have. If salon names start crossing over, you know you’ve found a good place to start.

2. Find out about the Salon

Honestly, if you are new to an area and have an excellent salon recommended to you with a quality staff and continued mentoring and educational programs, most likely, all the stylists will be superior. A good indicator of this is continued higher level training. This past year, my niece went to Paris for advanced classes. Her salon requires continued training (at the stylist’s own expense) and she attends International Beauty Shows. I know that she is up on the times and that she is continuing to practice her skill.

For me, I am really not about “looks”  but when it comes to the person cutting my hair, I want their own hair to reflect expertise. I just found out an acquaintance of mine has been a stylist for decades. I was shocked because often when I see her, I think, “Oh, wouldn’t it be fun to give her a hair make over.” Her hair hasn’t changed since the 80’s and unfortunately, her style is stuck there. That leads me to believe that she might not be the best referral to give.  Stylist tend to change up their hair a lot. I love to see that, but if I don’t ever like the way a stylists changes his/her look, that might not  be a perfect fit for me.

My niece recommended checking on yelp.com or googling salons to see their reviews. Look at the salon’s website to see the stylists bio and experience (although there are many excellent stylist who are new and therefore much more affordable.) Make sure they are current,  not just with the presentation, but also using quality products.

3. Schedule a Consultation: Bring Pictures

If you are considering a major change in your hair, schedule a free consultation in advance to just ask a few questions. I didn’t realize this was an option, but my hair dresser niece assured me it is, and if the stylists resists meeting with you for a few minutes, that might not be the stylist for you. ‘

Recently, with this last cut, which is quite the change for me, I talked a lot with the stylist before he started.

As you are discussing, see how receptive the stylist is to your opinions.  Will she listen to what you want and then repeat what you want. This is key because you may have a perfect idea in your mind, but you need to be able to communicate that accurately and that is done by having them repeat what you want in a style. My stylist listened well and let me talk, but I was way too indecisive in what I explained to him, so the shock of having four inches cut off was not entirely his fault at all. Fortunately, I like the cut, even if it put a complete wrench in my 30 days – 30 ways Hair Challenge concept. (I got it cut right before I started this and all my plans for doing longer braids and styles went down the dump because of the cut. ;))

Bring in a picture of a style that you are considering and find out if they think it’s will work with your hair type. Pull up a variety of pictures on you phone or print some off of blogs. Often, a specific style may not work with your hair. Make sure you find out if they can achieve something similar to the picture. Ask what they consider to be their strengths or their favorite services to render. Some stylists might be excellent at color, while others have strength in dramatic cuts or up-dos. For instance, the stylist who just cut my hair would get a high recommendation from me on cut, but I was not happy with my highlights. Now, I think that’s something I could work through if I choose to go back to him, but I am not certain at this point. The  highlights look great in the picture, but I was very specific that I did not like the “hollywood trend” of having roots show. I do not want to PAY for highlights that look like the roots have grown out for four weeks but unfortunately, I still received that.

Sometimes, people immediately make a decision based on the fact they hate how it was styled in the salon. For me, that is never a problem because I can’t style it the way they do anyhow, but I do want them to educate me with a style that I can replicate at home. As long as the cut is great, I’m not worried about the style that day.

With this cut, I loved how he styled my hair, but it’s not realistic for me.  Since then, I have never styled it like this again because it took about twenty minutes of blow dry time, which is not feasible for me on a regular basis, but it’s nice to know it’s an option.

Since my hair barely fits in a pony tail anymore, I’ve been wearing it pulled back at the top a lot, which I really like. Yes, I know style it in nearly the same way as before, just shorter, but sometimes it’s easier to go with what I know.

Are you like me and have had your hair the same way for years?

Maybe it’s time you got out of your comfort zone and tried something new. It’s only hair. It will grow back, which is what I keep telling myself. I’m actually glad that I didn’t communicate clearly because it allowed me to try something new that I would not have normally tried. (I just wished it would have been a little later in the year.) :)

Have fun and invest in yourself. It’s worth it.


  1. Linda Dietz says:

    My “mantra” is: Hair grows! But actually, I LOVE the new cut! Looks up-to-date & chic! Will look great with all the fab fashtionista styles you’ll find this summer!


  2. I know it was an unexpected change for you (that’s so frustrating), but it’s positively gorgeous! It frames your beautiful face. Love it!


  3. Ah, yes, the hair cut saga. I get it. People don’t realize that I have fairly curly hair {I just straighten it…I know, gasp} and so I have to keep telling them at the salon {over and over and over} to not cut the layers to short or it will frizz up. Anyways, once when I was in highschool they cut it too short — it was like wearing a helmet on my junior year highschool head. Awful! Since then? I’m very picky about who cuts my hair!
    Anyways, I think you look beautiful in the new cut. I love it — and my friend, it will grow! I know the next time we meet up {Allume?} it will be long. :)
    Blessings and great advice!


  4. I love how the new cut looks on you! However, I can empathize with your plight. I still recall with fondness my favorite hairstylist, whom I lost when we moved out of state. I totally trusted her with my hair – she was the first person I let give me highlights, which was saying a lot at that point!! For your sake, I hope your hair gets to that “ponytail” point sooner rather than later!!


  5. Donna Attaway says:

    Love Love Love your cut….The color of your hair is beautiful and looks very stylish!!
    I have had the basic style for years…However now due to covering the gray ..I go regularly to a hair stylist. Still find myself gravatating to same old way….Just can’t seem to get out of my rut…THink I am sorta lazy in that regard. Last year My son’s wedding got me to make a change and I have enjoyed it…However, probably time to “care” a little more again ..
    Thanks for the reminder…& enjoy your new style.
    Love your site and feel like we are friends ….online :)
    Your cheery attitude and outlook makes me smile.
    take care.


  6. LOVE the new style !!!!! You look fantastic! Finding a good cut is almost as frustrating as finding the right jeans or bathing suit, but when you do, it feels so energizing!


  7. OK, so HELP! I’ve gone from uber-short to just letting it grow & do its own thing and back to short again over the last 10 years. Now, my hair is shoulder length and CURLY (God gifted me with curly hair when I turned 40 – true story), and I need to get it shaped up. I have NO one to help me. It’s worse because I’m so cheap – you won’t pay full price for clothes; I won’t pay $50 for a cut/style. Any suggestions?


    Jen Reply:

    I feel your pain. I have a hard time paying full price like you know, but this last cut I got through a groupon. It was 50% off and I looked into the Salon before I bought it. This was a stylist new to this salon trying to build up business. There are typically 1-2 hair places on groupon over the course of a few months, so if you start looking, I bet you can find one. Then just look into the salon first before you buy. I’ll give a few other ideas in another post. :)


  8. You look beautiful. . .


  9. Just had to post that I gasped at how beautiful your new cut and color look! I don’t mean that you didn’t look good before, but this is really a knockout. I know it may not be exactly what you were looking for, but it looks fabulous. The stylist did a great job of flattering your face, hair color, texture, etc, IMHO :)
    I don’t blow my hair out or really style it more than once or twice a week myself, so I know what you mean about not recreating the sleek blowout every day, but I think the cut itself should hold a nice shape on it’s own without too much fuss – my hair is a similar texture to yours.
    By the heat of summer, you should be able to do the ponytail, but enjoy the new look for now. Good job!


  10. Your hair is quite cute! It lightened up your face a good bit too and thats always a good thing. 😉

    I moved here 14 years ago & while I’ve had 3 really great stylists and a couple not so great, I keep going back & forth between two. One is a little old church hair stylist who really does cut my hair the way I like it most of the time, who is very inexpensive, and the other is the owner of a huge high end day salon that is not cheap.
    When Im looking for something new.. a big change, I go to the salon.. When Im looking for the same ol same ol, I go to the church lady.. I havent seen the church lady in over a year.. but shes still always an option for me, since she do such a great job!


  11. Love your haircut! I have been growing out bangs for the past 5-6 months and this is the hardest transition ever. Feel like I’ve come too far to give up now. :) I love a good hair appointment! Due to thick, coarse hair and a chin-length bob hairstyle, I get my hair cut and thinned every 5 weeks. My hairstylist is wonderful and rather reasonable ($30 for wash, cut, style). I am not high maintenance otherwise, but love a good haircut.


  12. I don’t normally comment but I can totally relate. In the last three years I have had one stylist move, one retire, and then I moved. I got a referral from a friend who had been seeing hers for over 20 years. I have been wearing my hair long for the last 5 years. I recently just told the stylist to have fun. I got the best haircut I ever have had. I lucked out, I can wear it wavy or straight (if I take the time to do it).
    I love your new haircut, it looks great!


  13. It looks great. As “we” age I think shorter hair gives “us” a younger look. I had my hair cut from very long to short a few years ago and everybody said that it took 10 years off my appearance.


    Elaine Pool Reply:

    @Cindy, the same thing happened to me – I had long hair & cut it completely off. People told me that I had lost 10 years – NOT a bad thing. So I resolved to keep it short. Well, a daughter’s wedding comes along, & I start letting it get a little longer, just so I can do something different with it. I started getting compliments every day about how much better it looked (notice: they didn’t tell me it wasn’t “good” before :) ) . So, now I’m back to shoulder length, curly hair, AGAIN!!!


  14. I am exactly the same way. I wear it long (even longer than yours) and my layers had grown out. I had it styled the day of my daughter’s wedding and ended up wishing I had just done it myself. I did splurge on a cut in Kernersville last weekend and love the length of the layers. I’ve been debating something shorter and no one wants to cut it because I have great hair This stylist convinced me because of the way my hair is, not because of the way it is styled. I may still go shorter but for now I’m enjoying layers again. Your hair looks great!


  15. Your hair looks good both ways. My hair is shorter than your new “short” haircut. I have a hard time finding a stylist because my hair is basically wavy but some parts are wavier than others. Most people cut it too short. I have been going to the same hairdresser for a few years, and a couple of times back, I had her leave the front longer than the back. I got tons of compliments on it and wanted to keep it that way, but the last two times she cut it, she cut the front shorter than the back, even though I told her AND showed her a picture. :( This seems to happen to me all the time. I will find someone who cuts it the way I like it for a few times and then will start messing it up. I had one hairdresser who always got it right, but she went up to $50 and I wasn’t willing to pay it. She’s also about an hour away from where I live.


  16. Love the haircut! Fits the shape of your face perfectly and makes you look young and trendy!
    Stick with it and learn to style it. Color looks great too.


  17. I love that cut on you..it looks so pretty, really frames
    your face nicely.


  18. I LOVE the new cut, it looks amazing………..:)


  19. I have had the worst experiences with stylists – I just keep my long hair too…lol. When I notice it’s time for a trim, I just do it myself.


  20. Stacey Hughes says:

    Oh my, I LOVE your new hairstyle! One positive note on the length is that it’s still collar bone length, so hopefully growing it back out won’t take as long as what it may feel like.
    From your picture, the color looks great!
    And I don’t know if this is helpful info or not, but as a stylist I tend to err on the side of caution with both cutting and coloring. (easier to cut more later than glue back, right?). But that can still leave the client frustrated.
    In the case of your haircolor, you like it, it looks good, but wanted more lights near the scalp, or possibly more contrast(?)… You can always ask to come back in a day or two to have that corrected. New stylist WANT happy clients! :)
    That allows them to stay on schedule for the day, and make you super happy all at the same time. And should be free to have corrected.
    Ugh, the blow dry time! I personally hear you! I certainly takes me a good 20 min also. I sort of look at it as a ‘time investment’. Once I get my style ‘set’ with the blow dryer, flat ironing is fast and easy for the next 3 days.
    I’d love to hear what styling products he used on you and/or suggested for you.
    Even though it’s not what you were trying to communicate, it truly does look beautiful! Another bonus is that he was able to create a defined style for you! Beautiful!


  21. Kristina says:

    The new cut is fab! Really stunning.


  22. I must agree with the other posts…your new hair style and color is amazing. You are a beautiful woman and the new style just adds to your wonderful skin, incredible eyes, and dazzling smile! I’ve always struggled with my hair because of it being so fine. All my life I either had to put on a ton of “setting gels” to get some body or get a perm. I have some interesting perm stories that would make your hair curl…lol! Over the last 5 years I’ve stayed with products that help give my hair body without being too heavy…product development and quality has improved. As for haircuts and styles, I mostly cut my own hair either keeping it at shoulder length or a much shorter style that feathers back at the sides. I’ve had the same experience as others with people telling me I look at least 10 years younger when I cut my hair shorter. It is nice to hear but then I get lazy and let my hair grow again. So when I get the energy to do the full short haircut, I get to hear the “looking younger” compliments again. Keeps life fun! :)


  23. I LOVE your new cut!!! I have had the same hairdo forever. Actually, I suppose I’ve had some cuts that vary a bit, but I always wear my hair either pulled all the way up or half way up because it’s so thick and curly, I don’t like how it looks if I wear it all down. Though I did splurge and go to someone great who cut it in a way that I could wear it down. But, having a baby at the time meant I wanted my hair out of my face and out of the reach of her little hands!

    When I was younger I went to a guy a few times and one time he mentioned something about the receptionists bangs and how super short they were and about trying it out on me. I thought he was kidding. But, I soon found out that he was not and felt my bangs were wayyy to short after the cut!

    When I was even younger, I went to a new stylist (I was hoping to see my Mom’s stylist, but somehow wound up with this other guy) and he layered my hair. It was super short on top and I was mortified. I would have paid any amount of money to have it fixed, but, how can you fix hair that’s too short? Thank God hair grows!!


  24. I know how hard it is to break out of that same old haircut routine. But I gotta say, I really like the new cut on you. In fact, it makes you look fresh and younger. Very nice! And I like the highlights too.


  25. First, I really like your new look. You challenge us to step out of our comfort zone with trying different styles and colors of clothes in your frugal fashionista series. Why not the same with a haircut? It will grow back if it isn’t exactly what we want, and sometimes we need a push to step out of the box. Secondly, this is what I did in finding a hairstylist. I asked other moms whose hair I liked and discovered another mom who works part-time as a stylist. I went to her and loved the cut and color. Unfortunately, even with the friend discount, her prices were still too expensive for me. So I called her and politely explained why I wouldn’t be coming back. She asked me what I could afford and offered me a $5 discount on top of that!! She would rather know that I’d be a regular customer every 6wks with the lower price than just an occasional one. As result, we’re going on 10 yrs.!!


  26. Be careful with that step ourside your comfort zone thing. Last year I decided after much nagging by friends to have my hair color changed to closer to my natural color. It had gone way off natural due to swimming, sun damage and hair dryers and curling irons and henna usage. So I went to the salon and asked the gal at length about having this done. She died my hair coal black. I was a strawberry blonde that had by swimming etc. manage to get too light (mostly due to chlorine in the pools) The coal black looked awful and did not fit me at all in fact it looked like a haloween wig , however, when the salon tried to correct the damage my hair fell out in massive amounts to this day my hair is still very thin and likely will be for years to come. So watch the whole step out of your comfort zone thing , sometimes it is just best to stick with what you know works. The massive conditioners and less styling would have done the trick in a short amount of time.


  27. Rebecca C says:

    Personally, I’m super boring with my hair. I have had basically the same long hair my entire life, with small changes here and there (had short bangs before high school, and I have layers nowadays, etc.), and I don’t dye it. I don’t even use a blow dryer, I just let it air dry, because I find it incredibly boring to dry it myself. 😉

    My biggest hair change was going from having hair down to my bottom in high school and early college, to today’s bra-strap length. I never ever trust random stylists, because they all want to do crazy stuff with my hair, because it is so long and healthy. o_O

    Worst haircut story for us though goes to my husband. He shaves his head now, but in early college he had long hair and was toying with the idea of shortening it. We went to a Supercuts near the house. Well, they burned my eyebrows during my wax, and they cut his hair into a bob. From behind he looked like a girl. Come to think of it, fixing that disaster is what brought me to our current, amazing stylist!


  28. Elizabeth H says:



  29. Your new hair style is great! Although as a straight-hair-owner I prefer the wavy style.
    My not-so-classy story about my current haircut, is that a friend did it. She has been doing that for friends only, no hairdressing experience at all.
    I cost me one bottle of beer and four hours of a long but interesting conversation.
    The previous hairdressers were recommended by my friends, but none of them had done anything which suited me that well.


  30. It looks great!


  31. Kathi Johnson Rock says:

    Your hair looks very beautiful and I would love to have it. I have thin, fine, slightly wavy blonde hair that won’t do anything and would require hours of styling and many products and tools to look nice for just a few hours and I sadly don’t have enough hair to justify this kind of effort. My long time stylist left her job and now I am in the position of being pressured to be a customer of her “replacement” with no real information about this person’s background or qualifications. It might be time for a total change, but I’m afraid my impossible hair will send any hairstylist running!!



  1. […] her and ask questions. You don’t need to take over, or backseat drive, but you should be able to ask polite questions about your hairstyle while it is in […]

Share Your Thoughts


Join Me on Pinterest