Deal Hunter

Dos and don'ts of hunting for a hairstylist

By Holly E. Thomas
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 28, 2011; 2:31 PM

Finding the right hairstylist is nearly as difficult as finding the right mate. The stylist-client relationship involves trust, communication and loyalty and, just like dating, finding a stylist can be awkward and expensive - repairing a botched cut or a dye mishap can cost you hundreds of dollars, not to mention your dignity.

But there are ways to save money - and sanity. Here, a host of local and national hair experts offer their advice on how to find a salon and stylist, and how to keep costs down once you've met your match.

  • 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.
  • 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?

Aging Hair

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, "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, 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, Anne Warnock of Sam Wong Salon in Frederick (301-663-5900, notes that color can add thickness, but cautions against going too dark.

African American hair

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 Kerastase's Oleo-Relax line; for natural styles, try the Oleo-Curl options.

Colored and processed hair

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.

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