Too many bad hair days

How’s your hair today, darlings? Are you having a good hair day, or a bad one? Do you love your stylist, or do you dread a salon visit? Until a few years ago, despite working as a beauty editor, I hardly ever thought about bad hair days or salon trauma.  

I am lucky I have easy-to-manage hair that grows quickly.  I have always been lucky, finding great people to do my hair. But since moving a few years ago, I have been through a series of hair-horror stories that I would not have believed possible. Suddenly, I was having too many bad hair days.
 
Desperately seeking a salon
Shortly after arriving here, I managed to locate a stylist near my home. He was experienced and fit my very reasonable hair budget. A budget is important when you get your hair done every five to six weeks. He was perfect, we got along, and my hair looked fabulous. A year later I lost him when he left the profession for a job that would offer him medical benefits. That began a cycle of stylists who seemed fine for a while, but then wreaked havoc on my hair.
 
The moaner
The man who replaced him was a whiner who complained about everything. The world just did not appreciate him. I dreaded seeing him. And worse, my hair looked blah when he did it. It was as if his negativity had infected it. He was a drag and so was his work.
 
The next stylist did a fabulous job – precisely twice. My hair glowed and the cut was adorable. Then for some reason she used something new to colour it. It was so strong, it burned my face. The next stylist was fine too, until she also started to use something stingy on my hair. I tried to ignore it, but my hair reacted by getting floppy and hard to manage. Suddenly I was back to bad hair days.
 
Mauve hair harpy
And I almost forgot the harpy who turned my blonde hair “taupey-mauve” while she moaned about quitting smoking and her ex-husband. Ironically, she also bragged about what a fabulous hairdresser she was the entire time. Why didn’t she tell me she was quitting smoking? I would have been out of her shop in flash. This was the ultimate bad hair day. She was also the most unpleasant of the bunch; a bad hairdresser with a rotten personality. In retrospect, I should have known better. This woman greeted me with a snarl and was dressed in farmer’s overalls. She also has a bad haircut, but she was highly recommended by stylish friend and I desperately need a cut and colour. The next day I was at another salon having my hair washed with Palmolive dish soap, to remove the bad colour and deep conditioned. (It’s good trick to know.)
 
While I was there another “star stylist” gave me a cut. It was so great my friend who had driven me there and I decided to go back, even though it was an hour away. This stylist was a character and bragged about his skills, but the cut was really fab.
 
Used, abused, and overcharged
Disaster! My friend’s cut was okay, but not incredible as promised, and her colour had to redone. It took hours.
 
My hair was beyond boring. The fabulous cut was replaced by a very ordinary one – complete with dull colour and an astronomical bill. This time I complained. The salon was lovely; they apologized and gave us refunds. It seems we had been overcharged by their “star.”
 
Finally a salon!
Finally, I have great salon. I am on my third stylist there. My first, who I adored, left town for personal reasons. It was traumatic. The second stylist did not work out, but the salon’s owner stepped in and offered to do my hair herself. My hair looks fabulous, so unless she closes the salon, I think this is it. No more bad hair days. 
 
It hasn’t been easy to find a stylist here. You may be wondering if I am a difficult customer. I don’t think so. I was with my last stylist in Toronto for eight years. Before that I had other long-term relationships with my hair people that only ended when I moved.
 
Blame the editors
Why is so hard to find a good stylist? I blame my own profession for raising expectations. When I read the columns where beauty editors recommend the “best” stylists in the city and the crazy prices, I want to know who is paying them, and how often. Even if we leave New York and LA out of the equation, these magazines and editors are recommending salons where a cut costs more than $200, and blow-dries top $90. Doing the math, many of their picks come in at $400 to $500 for a cut and colour without a tip. No wonder so many stylists are grumpy and feel they are not making enough money. No wonder so many women do not get their hair done often enough. They can’t afford their salons, so they walk around with roots, split ends, and endless bad hair days.
 
Be aware
I don’t know what arrangements these editors or magazines have. I know when I was a glossy magazine editor and a newspaper columnist, name stylists constantly offered to do my hair.
 
I occasionally visit salons to report on a treatment or a stylist. But for my regular hair care I stick to my own people and pay them. But be aware of industry access and discounts, when you read about these stratospheric prices in magazines.
 
How to have fabulous hair
If you’re going to have hair colour or highlights, you need to keep up the colour to look good. That means finding an affordable salon that does a good job. Do not go to one you cannot afford, because you will not go often enough. Darlings, your hair will look woeful half the time, if your salon is too pricey.
 
Find a good salon by asking every woman you see who has great hair. Few people are offended by the question: “Your hair look fabulous. Who does it?” Also try reading the reviews in www.yelp.com.
 
Ask the price
When you call a salon, never be afraid to discuss price. If they are snotty or too pricey, keep looking. Don’t be shy. Rich people ask the price, and they often ask for a discount, too. You will not look cheap or silly if you ask, just be polite and professional, and they should be too. If it works out you will be spending a fair amount there.
 
Bring pictures
Bring pictures of what you want. Don’t be embarrassed; stylists are visual. Bring photos of your own hair done the way you like it, or magazine pictures of styles you prefer. Be sure the stylists explains clearly what they are planning to do. Do not assume they understand. Ask what type of colour they are using, etc. These are smart — not rude — questions. If they get upset or can’t answer you, leave. Otherwise you may end up with damaged hair.
 
Three times is the charm
I think it takes about three visits for a new stylist to get your hair perfect. Work with them. It is worth it. Fabulous hair is team effort.
 
It’s a relationship
Once you have found your dream salon or stylists, be a good client: book appointments; be on time; and cancel in advance. Tip to show appreciation; 15 to 20 percent is normal. If you are on a budget, discuss ways to reduce your costs rather than not coming and letting your hair look bad. You may be able to get finer highlights fewer times a year as they grow out more subtly, or make other small changes to work within your budget. Discuss your budget and your needs upfront. A good salon can match you to a talented junior stylist and save you money that way.
 
When in doubt – run!
I watch Tabatha Coffey Salon Takeover on Bravo (the Slice network in Canada).  Thanks to Tabatha, I know the world is full of bad salons with ill-trained stylists waiting to destroy my hair, if I wander into one of them. Many of them are even in upscale neighbourhoods. Tabatha uncovers hideous hair sins. She confirms my worst fears as she skewers colorists for botched work and lack of knowledge. She laces into hairdressers who cut crooked bobs and then deny it. Thankfully she also finds talented people who love doing hair — and darlings that is what we all need.
 
So if you have too many bad hair days, if people don’t rave about your hair, or you don’t feel fabulous at your salon, you can you do better. Let’s agree to end bad hair days and salon trauma.
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