To get the haircut of your dreams, just bringing in a couple of pictures from magazines isn't enough. Finding the right style for you is not just about you asking the right questions and offering up examples. It's about your stylist knowing these six things about you…
1. How often you wash your hair
Frequent washers might benefit from a dry cut, says Paul Labrecque, celebrity hair stylist and owner of the Paul Labrecque Salons in New York City and Philadelphia, since a dry cut lets you tailor a style to a client's natural texture. "But if you're a person who shampoos once a week, you might be able to get a cut that takes more time to style and is a little more high-maintenance," says Labrecque. An example of this could be a blow-dry that changes the texture of your hair – ie, from curly to straight – but lasts for a few days.
It also helps your stylist if she knows what kind of shampoo you use. "Are they using the right shampoo to benefit the results of a specific look they are working to achieve?" asks Kattia Solano, founder of Butterfly Studio Salon in New York City. "If you tend to go a long time between washes, that can determine what kind of leave-in and styling-product combinations your stylist recommends," she adds.
2. How often you work out
Are you a die-hard hot-yoga goer? A daily runner? A Soul Cycle devotee? It all means a lot of sweating, and you should tell your stylist. "Telling me about the activities you participate in definitely gives me insight into what is going to work with your daily life and helps me decide how I will cut your hair," says Katy Ryan, owner of Katy Ryan Studios in New York City. Also, working out a lot, especially with very sweaty activities, can take its toll on the health of your tresses, says Ryan, since sweat contains salt, which can dry out your hair – so you may want to deep-condition even more.
"I would never give a curly-haired client a straight bob haircut if she has such an active workout schedule," says Solano. "It requires too much maintenance during the blow-dry process."
If a ponytail is your usual workout look, tell your stylist. "Most of the time, if they are going to pull it all up, I will choose is a cut that keeps their shortest fringe around their lip area," says Solano. The bottom line: workout junkies should opt for simpler hairstyles, says Labrecque.
3. What's in your wardrobe
If you have a bohemian wardrobe, a spiky, angular cut probably won't look right; but someone who spends at least five days a week in a suit might want something with a distinctly feminine edge to balance out the masculine aspect, says Vanessa Ungaro, co-owner of the Lauren + Vanessa Salon in New York City. "I prefer to wear menswear in the winter time but I also wear my hair very short. So I cut my hair into a style that is soft and feminine, to work with that," she says.
4. The way you sleep
Are you a back sleeper, a side sleeper or a stomach sleeper? Tell them. The way you sleep, coupled with your hair length, can make for more or less styling time in the morning – something to consider before you decide on a cut, particularly if you don't like to spend ages on a morning routine. "For instance, if you have shorter hair, you'll probably have to touch up the style every day," says Ungaro. People with longer hair, however, can get around a sloppy sleep-style by twisting hair into a top bun before bedtime. "This way you won't have a dent in your hair when you wake up and your hair will remain in its desired style," says Ungaro.
Also important: what kind of pillowcase is coming into contact with your locks. When in doubt, opt for satin, says Ryan. "Satin pillows aren't just good for preventing face wrinkles. They're the gentlest on hair." (This is especially true if you have curly hair, notes Solano, which can be more prone to breakage and tangles.)
5. How often you go for a trim
Are you the type to make a regular six-week appointment or are you more likely to let a few months go by between visits? Knowing how often they like to visit the salon is definitely important, says Solano. "This is when I would choose a razor cut over a clean-line cut. Razor and texturised cuts need to be cut more often, whereas a cleaner cut can last longer." If you're desperately trying to grow your hair out, but aren't going to come in for regular trims, you might be doing yourself a disservice, says Ryan, since by the time you do come in you may have to cut off more just to get rid of all the frayed ends and jagged layers.
6. How hectic your mornings are
What kind of time investment can you make each day? Are you likely to whip out multiple styling tools or do you not even use a brush when you blow-dry? "When it comes to requests for hair changes and makeovers, it's important for the client to understand how their daily habits would change, or how much more time would need to be added to their routine. For some, even the idea of having to wash and style a fringe every day might sound like too much of a commitment," says Solano.
This is also a good time to be honest with your stylist about how skilled (or not) you are when it comes to styling your own hair, so you don't end up with something that doesn't look great unless you've whipped out three different-size curling irons.