l Do some research. The easiest way is to ask people with a style you like where they go. “Usually people are more than willing to talk about how wonderful their stylist is,” says Jacqueline Tarrant, owner of Chicago’s Style Infinity Hair Trauma Center. Tasha Turner, senior beauty editor at Essence magazine, suggests visiting potential salons. “Just because you walk into a salon doesn’t mean you have to get your hair done — take the time and sit down in the seating area and see what comes out of the chairs,” Turner says.
l Ask about discounts. Complimentary consultations are standard practice, and many local salons offer special events, free treatments on select days, free bang trims and client loyalty programs. Be sure to find out what the salon’s policy is for unhappy clients: Will a stylist fix the problem for free? How long do you have to determine if you love it or loathe it?
With age, hair does more than just turn gray — it becomes thinner, weaker and can start to fall out.
A simple shape is most flattering for thinning hair, says Dusan Grante, associate creative director at Sassoon salon in Tysons Galleria (703-448-9844, sassoon.com). “If a stylist is recommending significant layering, proceed with caution,” he adds. A good stylist should also ask about what products you are using.
Bella Bethesda (301-718-9111, bellabethesda.com) salon offers quarterly treatment days when a Phyto specialist examines your scalp and hair to determine the cause of hair loss and prescribes treatment. Phyto purchases are discounted 20 percent on treatment days.
Short looks with strong lines create a sense of density, Jacqui Rodriguez, partner at PR at Partners Metro Center location (202-737-0909, pratpartners.com). Anne Warnock of Sam Wong Salon in Frederick (301-663-5900, samwongsalon.com) notes that color can add thickness, but cautions against going too dark.
For women with natural or uniquely textured hair, the key is to find an educated stylist whose top priority is healthy hair.
“You want to find someone who specializes in African American hair; that person can work at a Caucasian salon or an African American one,” says Turner. “You want someone who does scalp analysis, someone who can prescribe a specific treatment for you. They should touch your hair, look at your scalp.” Turner gives rave reviews to Avlon’s KeraCare Natural Textures line, noting that the products are ideal for women who twist their hair or want to restore a curl pattern.
Grante notes that a stylist should ask specific questions about how you wear your hair currently and how you plan to style it in the future, since this information will determine the stylist’s approach and the tools and products used. For straightened styles, Grante suggests Kérastase’s Oléo-Relax line; for natural styles, try the Oléo-Curl options.
To ward off dyeing drama, schedule a consultation to discuss the full range of color options and choose the right one for you. This should help you avoid that last-minute decision to spring for all-over color when your budget only allows for highlights. Ask about touch-ups between regular appoints and half-head color if you just want to hide the gray.
See if a salon offers different types of colors — “semi-permanents, demi-permanents, permanents, double-dye load for resistant gray hair and ammonia-free permanent color,” says Rodriguez. “A salon that doesn’t do a lot of color will not carry this kind of inventory.” And keep the bottom line in mind: “ As far as hair color goes, a color correction always ends up costing more.”
If you’re a color chameleon, expect to have a different person cut and color your hair. “This separation guarantees you will have a specialist specifically trained in their craft,” Grante says. You don’t always need a full cut to maintain healthy colored hair; Grante notes that a basic trim will often do the job.
Unruly curls are one of the most common causes of bad hair days, especially during a steamy mid-Atlantic summer.
For one month during the summer, Bella Bethesda offers free 30-minute one-on-one consultations for curly-headed clients. Along with a free shampoo and styling session, customers can save 10 percent off on products purchased during the appointment. Stylist Megan Atkinson notes that the salon also offers more permanent solutions to tame curls, including keratin treatments and Japanese straightening processes.
Grante notes that those with curly hair should be especially vigilant during a consultation or appointment. “A stylist needs to recognize that length shrinks when the hair is dry. If you start to feel uncomfortable with the length, make sure to speak up,” he notes. “Mention to the stylist if you notice that he or she is applying inconsistent tension to the curls when cutting the hair. . . that is another sign the hair may be cut too short for curly-haired clients who like to wear their hair natural.”