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Updated on November 21, 2012

Inside a New York Hair Salon: Tips for a Successful Visit to the Hairsalon

It is pretty safe to state that almost every woman will have a traumatic experience at a hair salon, at least once in her lifetime.

"I told the stylist to only cut one inch and he chopped off my hair";

"The stylist burnt my hair";

"The color did not come out the way I wanted it";

"The haircut looks terrible";

" I look older, washed out" and the list goes on. . .

As the marketing manager of a busy New York Hair Salon, I started my position working inside the salon, answering the phone and observing the daily life of this environment, which was new to me. I have to admit there is drama going on inside a hair salon. Spanish Actress Penelope Cruz affirms in one of her interviews that she learned the art of Acting at her mother's hair salon, observing clients. So why all this drama when we're only dealing with hair? I can't imagine what a surgeon must be going through. To understand this, we'll first have to look into the psychology of hair and then establish a list of dos and Don'ts that will make your visit to the hair salon more enjoyable.

The Psychology Behind Hair

Ladies, you've probably noticed by now that your appearance profoundly influences your mood and self-esteem. Hair is a major element of your image for the very simple reason that it frames your face. Your hairdo is one of the first things people see, so inevitably it will shape their first impression of you. A bad hair day sometimes equates to a gloomy day, whereas getting a great haircut or color will add a positive boost to your mood. In addition extensive research has proven that hair plays a major role in mate selection: luscious long hair has, for many centuries, been the symbol of beauty, sensuality, health, and fertility. Most women, especially the young and single, subconsciously want to maintain this image and hair has been one of their tools to attract the right mate.

In that respect, women for generations have used their hairstyles to make a statement about themselves. The Flappers of the 20's for instance, cut their hair very short to corroborate their desire for emancipation. In our daily lives, a change of job is often accompanied with a change of hairstyle and wardrobe. Conversely, a drastic change of hairstyle often reflects a need for change in our life. Subconsciously, women seek at the hair salon what they should be seeking on the sofa of a psychologist. I would say, approximately, that the profession of hairstyling involves 50% psychology and 50% the art of styling hair. I am actually surprised none of the Beauty School programs include a course in psychology. Sometimes, we get a new hairstyle when we don't feel good about ourselves, or when we're going through a major life event, such as a divorce or a new job. In most cases, a visit to the hair salon will do the trick. Think about how good you feel after you get your hair done! However, a random visit to a hair salon can also turn into a nightmare for many reasons.

Another thing to consider is that most women don't embrace their natural hair. Brunettes have a blonde ambition, curly want to be straight, straight want to have a wave, blondes want to be blonder, and in some Scandinavian countries blondes want to be brunettes. Hair is an easy element to control in our lives, we can dye it, straighten it, give it a wave, give it volume, wear it up or let it loose. Controlling our hair gives us the feeling that we control our lives. However, spending a significant percentage of one's income on hair - or any other aspect of personal appearance - suggests vanity, a need for acceptance, concern about others' perceptions, and possibly insecurity, writes Jo Ellan Dimitrius, PhD in her book Reading People.

Tips for a successful visit and Things you absolutely don't want to do

Don't get your hair done on an impulse and when you're in a bad mood.

With regards to what we've previously discussed, think carefully about going to a hair salon if you want a new look or a drastic change. Look deep inside and try to identify and analyze the reasons you want such a drastic change. Chances are you might be going though an emotional turmoil and your desire for changing your hairstyle will disappear when your mood returns to normal. I've seen many clients coming to the salon wanting to go from dark hair to blonde only to return a couple of days later, wanting to go back to their original color. If on the other hand, your desire is real and you feel you'll get a liberating feeling from changing your appearance, then go for it but be clear about what you want. If you're indecisive, you might want to test different hair color or haircut with wigs first. Kali Ferrara, hairstylist at Marianne Vera Salon, recalls a client who walked in and wanted to "chop off her hair". Kali kindly asked the client why she wanted to chop off her hair. The answer was she had broken up with her boyfriend. Kali then suggested the client to wait a couple of weeks and come back then if she still wanted to get her haircut. She never came back.

Hairstylist, Please Make Me Feel Better!

You will be surprised to see how many indecisive, unhappy women walk into a hair salon, many times a week. You might be in a bad mood because something is not going your way today or this week. Subconsciously, changing your hair is a way to express control over your life but the illusion of the "feel better haircut" will only be short lived. Your hair stylist is not a magician or a psychic, so be clear about what you want. Many women expect the hairstylist to make them feel better with a new hairstyle when they don't know what they want in the first place. The stylist can only give you his best opinion and creative ideas about how you should wear your hair. However, be aware that typically, the client is never happy with the result when she doesn't know what she wants in the first place, even if the new style or color looks great! If you don't know what you want, chances are you're not going to like the results.

Low Risk Quick Fix

Everyone needs feel-better-pampering once in a while and the safest way to play around with new hairstyles and color is with a blowdry or a hair gloss. Blowouts and glosses are the least expensive services in a hair salon so you don't take a big risk financially and they wash out if you don't like the result. So indulge, be adventurous, try a new hairstylist, and style your hair differently! There are so many ways you can blow dry your hair. Ask the stylist to do something different. If you don't like it, a simple shampoo will wash it away.

Same for hair color, glosses are a great way to experiment with color tones. A gloss will add shine to your hair, refresh your existing color and add a new (non permanent) color hue. You can also get a clear gloss to just add shine to your hair.

Another quick trick is to cut your bangs or just get a small trim. While you may not be ready for a big haircut, a hair trim will keep your hair healthy and will hardly be noticeable. Bangs, in some cases can wipe a few years off your face and it's cheaper than Botox!

Selecting a New Hairstylist

So you've just moved to a new city or a new neighborhood, you're not happy with your current hairstylist or you're looking for someone new.

1/ Ask around you and see among your acquaintances, who has fabulous hair. Reference is the best way to get on the book of a great hair stylist.

2/ Read online reviews and identify Hair Salons that have a good reputation. This is somewhat time consuming but worth the effort.

3/ Walk in various hair salons in your neighborhood and ask for prices. Some salon will offer a free consultation so it's a good way to get a feel for the place and talk with their stylists. Try several salons and compare the suggestions of different stylists. In addition, observe the clients who are leaving and see if they seem pleased.

4/ Ask questions and be courteous to the receptionist. Once you have identified a salon you'd like to try, call them and ask questions about their hairstylists. The receptionist is your foot in the door. If the salon is busy she/he probably receives hundreds of calls a day from demanding customers. Being courteous will grant you additional and valuable information. You might want to give her/him information about yourself ,such as your age, your type of hair, and style, so she/he schedules you with a stylist that specializes in your particular style. While many stylists are equal in skills, they all have different styles.

For Haircolor

For hair color or highlights, make sure you request an experienced colorist. Ask about the years of experience the colorist has. Stylists and colorists trained in Europe are typically more experienced and trained because their degree requires at least 4 years of training in school, plus one year apprenticeship in a hair salon. It only takes a year (approximately, it varies from state to state) to get a cosmetology license in the US. However, it is a profession that one learns on the job so experience is key.

Although, you might have an idea of the color that you want, ask the hair stylist his opinion. A good colorist knows how colors interact with each other and therefore will pick the perfect shade that compliments your skin tone and features. Don't pick a color because it looks good on Jennifer Lopez or Cameron Diaz, pick the right color for you.

HEALTH FIRST: If your hair is already colored and chemically treated or you have fine hair, make sure you ask your colorist about keeping your hair healthy. A good hair color won't look good too long if your hair is damaged. Make sure you put the health of your hair first before you get into "big hair coloring jobs" such as highlighting. However, if you're someone who regularly gets haircuts you can indulge more. A regular haircut will get rid of damaged and dried ends.

Make an appointment for hair color, especially for highlights. If you walk in a hair salon out of the blue wanting to get highlights, you will get the stylist who is available at the time that you walk in, as opposed to a more experienced colorist. You might get lucky most of the time but it is a risky gamble.

For Haircut

Not every hairstylist is equal. When calling the receptionist ask about the strengths of a particular hairstylist. While she/he might not reveal the stylist's weaknesses she/he will emphasize on his/her strengths. Some stylists are great colorists but they're just average with haircut. For women just getting a healthy trim once every six weeks, you probably won't need an expert. However for clients who want a structured and complex haircuts such as bobs, inverted bobs, and short hairstyles, make sure you get a skilled hairdresser. Ask if this stylist is good with long haircuts or short hairstyles. I've seen hairstylists doing wonders on short hairstyles but completely ruining long hairstyle with uneven layers. Conversely some hairstylists are good with long hair and not with short hairstyles. Haircut and hair color are two different animals, and rare are the stylists who excel in both.

Keratin Blow Out and Hair Relaxers

A couple of years ago, everyone went crazy with Keratin Blow Out, a hair treatment that removes frizz and relaxes curls. However, as I had predicted, most of the products that are on the market right now are considered highly toxic. According to a report performed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in September 2011, Brazilian Blowout straightening products contained "dangerously high levels" of formaldehyde, a known carcinogen. Performing a Keratin Blowout was not only unconfortable for the stylist who had to wear a mask and sometimes goggles, but for all the clients in the salon who had to breathe the toxic fumes.

However there are much safer products on the market, which do not contain formaldehyde. Make sure you ask your stylist to use a safe product. On the other hand, many clients confuse the Keratin Blow Out with a relaxer and expect their hair to be absolutely straight for six months. While a Keratin Smoothing Treatment will relax 50% of curly hair, it will not straighten thick curly hair and might make thin hair totally flat and without movement. Ask your stylist if Keratin is a good solution for your hair. If frizz is your only concern, there are many styling products that you can use to style your hair and get rid of the frizz.


Prices can be an issue when clients don't ask about the cost of their visit before hand. You might have seen the prices on the price list for the highlights you're getting done but the price might not include a blow dry or a single process color if you need one before the highlights. Some hair salons quote prices for a haircut not including a blow dry unless the price list states "Haircut and Blow dry". While some stylists are comfortable talking about prices, many of them are not, especially those not born in the US. Talking about money is somewhat taboo and considered rude in certain cultures. Some stylists wouldn't want to make a client feel uncomfortable announcing prices before hand. Whatever the case may be, It is your responsibility to inform yourself about the price of your visit.

Is Blow-dry included?

I have noticed that most people actually don't know what a blow dry is so I will explain. A blow dry or blowout is the art of styling hair using round or flat brushes and a handheld hairdryer as to produce a smooth, finished, structured hairstyle. When customers are told blow dry is not included, they think they'll leave the salon with wet hair. If you're getting any kind of service whether hair color, highlights, or haircut,the stylist should dry your hair naturally without styling it so your hair will be dry but not styled. In addition, If your hair is curly and the stylist dries your hair with a diffuser shaping the curls with his hands, you might get charged for a blowout. Getting curls with pins, rollers or a curling iron is considered hairstyling and usually, it is more or less priced the same as a blow dry. If you are loyal to a salon, observe the other hairstylists, and try other hairstylists, just for a blow dry to compare styles. It can be fun and risk free.

Do I Need a Friend or a Hairstylist?

A hair stylist can become over a long period of time a confidant- a person we sometimes reveal intimate details about our lives. Naturally, we'll be inclined to pick a hairstylist because he/she is friendly, personable, or because we connect with that person. Nevertheless, in my experience, the best hairstylists are not the most talkative as they usually concentrate on their work. Like a sculptor chipping away granite bit by bit, the hairdresser sculpts a gorgeous haircut into a mass of hair and this work actually requires concentration. So ask yourself the following questions:

"Do I want a friend and confidant or a good hairstylist ?"

The Way to Gorgeous Hair

Getting your hair done can sometimes be daunting when we're trying a new hair salon, a new hairstylist or a change of hairstyle. These guidelines will hopefully help you make your visit to the salon more successful. Take your time to do your research and you should be on your way to achieve gorgeous hair!

The Way to Gorgeous Hair - Photos

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Glamourous Pincurlsshort BobLayered haircutAsymetric BobSoft layered hairstyleSoft shoulder length hairstylelong hairstyleOversize Ponytail hair piece for bad hair daysCurly HairstyleCurly Hairstyle
Glamourous Pincurls
Glamourous Pincurls
short Bob
short Bob
Layered haircut
Layered haircut
Asymetric Bob
Asymetric Bob
Soft layered hairstyle
Soft layered hairstyle
Soft shoulder length hairstyle
Soft shoulder length hairstyle
long hairstyle
long hairstyle
Oversize Ponytail hair piece for bad hair days
Oversize Ponytail hair piece for bad hair days
Curly Hairstyle
Curly Hairstyle
Curly Hairstyle
Curly Hairstyle

The Way to Gorgeous Hair - More photos

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Asymetric BobLong Hairstyle with long layers1920s Bob with BangsAsymetric BangsGlamourous long HairstyleSunkissed Hairtyle with blonde BalayageClassic Bob with auburn highlightsStructured hairstyle
Asymetric Bob
Asymetric Bob
Long Hairstyle with long layers
Long Hairstyle with long layers
1920s Bob with Bangs
1920s Bob with Bangs
Asymetric Bangs
Asymetric Bangs
Glamourous long Hairstyle
Glamourous long Hairstyle
Sunkissed Hairtyle with blonde Balayage
Sunkissed Hairtyle with blonde Balayage
Classic Bob with auburn highlights
Classic Bob with auburn highlights
Structured hairstyle
Structured hairstyle

Links and Credit

Article written by Christine Capdeville for Marianne Vera Salon Research sources listed below

Do you have any questions regarding this lens or any particular questions regarding your hair? Feel free to ask a Marianne Vera Senior Hairstylist will answer your questions shortly. Hope you enjoyed this lense

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