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9 Ways to Guarantee You'll Leave the Salon Loving Your Haircut

9 Ways to Guarantee a Better Haircuit

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We've all been there—you ask for a trim, you leave with a bob. You request sun-kissed highlights, you end up with zebra stripes. To help you avoid another salon snafu, we asked top stylists and colorists to share their best tips for getting the most out of every appointment...and ending up with a look you love. Read on for their expert advice. (And beware these 12 Hair Habits Distressing Your Strands.)

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Begin with a Blowout

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Especially if it's your first time with a new stylist, or you're planning a major makeover, book a blowout before you schedule a haircut, suggests Dove celebrity hairstylist Mark Townsend. Since most salons only allot about 15 minutes for a standard consultation, you'll have much more time to have a conversation about what you're looking for. Plus, "because the stylist will actually be working with and touching your hair, they'll get a much better sense of what will work for you," he adds. (Psst... These Easy Hairstyles Are Perfect for Boosting a Second-Day Blowout.)

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Bring a Selfie

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We've all been told to reference a photo of a haircut we like, but rather than pulling celeb pics, bring a few of yourself, says Hollywood-based Enzo Angileri, celebrity hairstylist for Infusium 23. And not just flattering ones: "Show photos where you love how your hair looks, but also some where your hair is completely cringeworthy. That way, your stylist can see both what worked and what didn't work."

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Pull Celeb Photos Carefully

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If you have serious celeb strand-envy, go ahead and bring in images of your favorite starlet...but with these caveats. First, "Cover the face and body of the celebrity and see if you still like how the hair looks," advises Michael Sparks, co-owner of Cie Sparks Salon in Malibu. "It's easy to love a photo when you see the whole package put together, but try and assess just the hair separately."

And bring more than one photo, adds Townsend. "I love when my clients have a whole file of pictures that we can pull different elements from. It allows me to get a more complete idea of what they like." Above all, take any celebrity photo with a grain of salt—more likely than not, those "effortless" beach-y waves required hours of styling (and extensions), so adjust your expectations accordingly. (We've got 10 Celebrity-Inspired Hair Ideas to help you get started.)

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Think Beyond Hair

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Visual reference points are especially important when it comes to hair color; what you think is blonde and what your colorist thinks is blonde could be two very different shades. But think beyond just basic hair pics: "Bring in any representation of color or tone that you like," suggests Patrick Ryan, head colorist and partner of Mixed Co. Salon in Chicago. Think a favorite piece of clothing, an accessory, or a photo of something in nature.

It doesn't even have to be a hue that you want in your hair. Aura Friedman, colorist at Sally Hershberger Downtown in NYC, recommends bringing in a piece of fabric in any color that speaks to you. "If you're not sure what color you want your hair, this can inspire your colorist to come up with a shade you'll love."

Go to the Appointment Au Natural

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It's always tempting to skip shampooing when you have a hair appointment on the books, but resist the urge if you're going in for color. "Greasy or oily hair can appear much darker than it really is, making it harder for your colorist to formulate your true base color," explains Ryan. Not to mention that it can also affect the efficacy of the dye: "Many of the new ammonia-free formulas can't penetrate through oil and product residue," says May Post, colorist at Maxine Salon in Chicago.). For the best end result, wash your hair no more than 24 hours pre-color. (P.S. Are you guilty of these 8 Hair-Washing Mistakes?)

And now is not the time to load up on product: "It's super important for your stylist to see your natural texture. It can be varied in different areas of your head, so they may have to cut accordingly," explains Townsend. Show up sporting your go-to style. "If you normally let your hair air dry and pull it into a ponytail, go with that. If you blow it out smooth every day, do the same," says Chicago stylist Michael Nunziato. "This gives your stylist a better sense as to what is realistic for you on a day-to-day basis and how much time and effort you're willing to put in, so that they can cut accordingly." (It's also important for colorists to see your daily 'do, as it can directly impact color placement, adds Post. 

Photo: Corbis Images

Make the Most of a Makeover

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Planning on a total transformation? Be sure to tell your stylist exactly why you're looking for a change, be that a new job, a break-up, or just because, advises Nunziato. "The details about your life may seem unimportant, but they provide your stylist with context that can help them tweak and adjust the style accordingly." (Or find out how to Embrace Your Natural Locks.)

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Talk with Your Hands

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"There's a huge difference between what stylists consider to be two inches, and what most clients think is two inches," says Townsend. Rather than asking for a specific amount of length taken off, point to exactly where you want your hair to end.

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Wear Your Favorite Outfit

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"It's an easy way for your colorist to quickly get a sense of your style and see what kind of colors you feel most comfortable in," explains Friedman. Your ensemble can also clue him or her in to how much maintenance you'll be able to keep up with, another major factor in deciding what kind of color and coloring technique will be best, she adds.

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Say Something

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Don't wait until the end of the appointment to voice complaints, says Monica Thornton, co-founder of RPZL in NYC. "If you feel that something isn't going right, speak up. Stop to assess the process and ask your stylist questions throughout." Not only does this decrease the likelihood of any miscommunication, you'll also learn a lot along the way.

If you still aren't completely thrilled when all is said and done, make that known. No stylist wants you to leave unhappy, and more often than not, a minor tweak or subtle change will make a big difference, says Nunziato. The exception to the rule: If you just underwent a major makeover, give yourself a day or two to assess. "Sometimes you just need a little time to adjust to the new look and style it yourself," he points out. If you're still displeased after a few days, call your stylist to discuss alternate options.

Photo: Corbis Images

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