Never give a stylist free reign, avoid Saturdays and youll get a better haircut, says expert

We’ve all been there. You’ve walked into a salon expecting a fabulous new do, and you’ve slunk out with something rather disastrous on your head. Maybe something got lost in translation, maybe the stylist simply wasn’t up to the job but either way you’re facing a long few weeks while the worst of it grows out.

You’ve doubtless experienced the flipside too, when you bounce out of the salon like a woman from a shampoo ad, snapping selfies and admiring your reflection in any available surface.

To help ensure every salon trip ends with a good hair day, we asked celebrity hairdresser Michael Douglas to explain everything you need to know before you set foot in the door, including who to book, the best time to choose, what to bring and the one thing you should never, ever say to your stylist. You can find Michael's brilliant hair tutorials here, and his podcast with his girlfriend Davina McCall, Making The Cut, here.

Find the right person

Even if you’ve finally snagged a slot with the most sought-after stylist in town/on Instagram, consider it a “getting to know you” session. “Don't go for a big transformation on a first appointment,” says Michael. “Chemistry plays a huge part, and you need to know and trust your stylist first.”

Match your cut to experience

Salons have a hierarchy for a reason. “If you're looking for a big change, choose somebody with at least seven years of experience,” says Michael. “Everybody makes mistakes when they’re starting out, but you don’t want to be part of that learning curve! However, if you’re only looking for a simple trim, you can go for someone more junior.”

Be on time

“If you’re late, you reduce the amount of time your hairdresser has for you, and they’re going to rush,” says Michael. “Make sure you book in the amount of time you actually need – if it’s more than a trim, you need to let the salon know.

Know the best (and worst) days to book

“If you’re looking for a restyle, I’d suggest booking for a mid-week afternoon when it’s quieter and you’ll have more focus on you,” advises Michael. “Trying to have a huge makeover on a busy Saturday is a bit risky. If you feel like your hairdresser is in a rush, don’t be afraid to say ‘Actually, I’ll just have a trim today’.”

Bring a photo or three

“Bringing pictures is the best and most important thing, because hairdressers are not mind readers,” says Michael. “If you have an image to show us, there’s no misunderstanding. I actually like it when people take a few pictures along, and say ‘I like this one the most but I also quite like these’.”

Ask what will work for your hair type

“I think advice on styles should come down to what hair will do easily,” says Michael. “If somebody with frizzy hair shows me a photo of something really sleek, I’ll say ‘I think we should plan something with a bit more movement in it, unless you want to be blow-drying for half an hour a day.’ Since most people don’t want to spend more than 10-15 minutes doing their hair, I’d always suggest trying to find hairstyles that fit into that category and are also on trend.”

But never say the eight fatal words…

“'Just do what you think will suit me' is the worst thing you can say to a hairdresser," warns Michael. “You need to take some responsibility by doing your research, finding things you like and guiding the hairdresser into a place where you both know what to expect.”

Don’t fidget

“I don’t mind if somebody crosses their legs or doesn’t sit up perfectly straight. It’s a salon, not a finishing school! But at least keep your head straight!” pleads Michael. “Try to keep off your phone so you’re not constantly looking up and down.”

Try to relax

Yes, do watch when your hairdresser shows you the length they’ll be cutting to, but don’t get hung up on every single snip – it’s off-putting. “You see a worried reflection, and you start thinking ‘What can I do to remove that anxiety from their face?’ That’s when you can lose your confidence as a stylist, and end up with a kind of in-between hairstyle. One reason hairdressers ask so many questions is to stop clients staring in the mirror.” So try to chat – and relax.

Keep your hands off

It’s distracting when a client adjusts their hair mid-cut. “I think you should cut everything from a centre parting, so it's even on both sides,” explains Michael. “People might say ‘I have a side parting’ and then dive in with their hands – but please don’t. We cut it evenly first, and then personalise at the end. Yes, tell your hairdresser where you like to wear your parting, but also be open-minded if they start playing around with it. You’d be amazed how many people discover they prefer it when their hair is flipped to the other side.”

Take home some tips

Your hairdresser wants your style to look great in the real world, so let them show you how. “Make sure you leave with some tips on how to style your hair,” says Michael. “Tools and technique are more important than products. Just being shown the best way to blow-dry the front sections will make a massive difference.” Michael has about to launch his own seriously excellent Blow hairdryer, £195 here.

Record your result

Always take a picture, says Michael. “Then, next time you come in, you can say ‘I loved what you did last time’ or ‘This time I’d like it a bit shorter/longer’. When you’re a hairdresser seeing 40 people a week, it’s very useful having an exact reference ”

Finally… be honest

Should you speak up if you’re not happy? “Yes, always,” says Michael. “They will learn a lot from it, and become better because of it. But try not to be aggressive. In a good salon, I’d hope a more senior person would take a look. It might be something they can very quickly fix, just by blow-drying in a different way or fine-tuning the cut. You definitely shouldn’t ever walk out with a haircut you feel gutted about.”

We couldn’t agree more! Find more of Michael’s tips by following him on Instagram.


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