Chop Talk

By Rachel Machacek
Special to The Washington Post
Sunday, February 5, 2006

Some fear the dentist. Some fear the reaper. Me, I fear the hair stylist. A little melodramatic? Sure. Unwarranted phobia? Well, let's just say I've had more chop jobs than a slab of beef at Benihana. My latest slice-and-dice was no exception: The stylist-who-shall-not-be-named gave me a cartoonish coif straight out of Whoville, which looked nothing like the Kirsten Dunst bob I'd asked for.

We've all been there at least once. Either you stomp right back to the salon for a fix, or (if you're like me) you go out and buy a pack of bobby pins, a box of tissues and a bottle of cabernet for the painful grow-out phase.

Tired of the post-op sob sessions, I asked scissor sculptors from around the D.C. area how to avoid tress trauma and achieve mane magnificence.

Not surprisingly, they said communication was essential. And while knowing what you want is certainly important, many stylists say they work best with clients who listen to their professional advice. "Sometimes people have too much say about their hair, and it may not work for them," says Diego Paez, owner of Art & Chemistry in Rockville.

Planning is also key. "If you want to get a good haircut and you're going to a new stylist, make time for it," says Alisha Bengtson, a stylist at Bubbles in Reston. "Don't try to squeeze it in on your lunch hour or Saturday afternoon. Take the time for it as you would a doctor appointment."

If in the end, the cut or style isn't working for you, it's okay to speak up -- just do it nicely. "You don't want to be mean to someone with scissors in their hand," points out Demian stylist Vivian Cooper. And be sure to find out the salon's policy on fixes. Some stylists allow you up to two weeks to send out an SOS, while others, just a day.


Reporter Rachel Machacek quizzed the following pros from local salons.

Alisha Bengtson, stylist for 10 years, 9 1/2 at Bubbles, first in Fairfax, now in Reston.

Andre Chreky, stylist for 30 years; owner of Andre Chreky, the Salon Spa, in the District for almost nine years.

Vivian Cooper, stylist for six years, the last 1 1/2 at Demian in Adams Morgan.

Ilenia Ottaviani, stylist for 10 years, 6 1/2 years at Hair Cuttery, first in McLean, now in Ballston.

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