Most of us have looked in the mirror after a bad haircut and held back the tears through a gritted, “I love it.” Sure, maybe it was all the stylist’s fault, or perhaps it was a matter of miscommunication or unworkable expectations. “A bad customer experience usually occurs from a breakdown in communication during the initial consultation,” says John Blue, a hairstylist and founder of Chicago’s Boss Hair Group. That’s why talking through the style and all of the what-ifs before beginning a service is so important, he says.
The good news is that hair grows back, and a dye job is often something you can rework. The problem, though, is communicating your concerns to your stylist instead of passively paying, walking out the door, and cursing the mirror when you get home. While the latter may seem easiest at the time, try to avoid the temptation. A good stylist will work to correct your look so that you walk out of the salon with confidence. Here, we asked top hairstylists what to do if you end up with a haircut you hate or a color that’s not what you expected. Whatever you do, don’t attempt to correct it at home.
Be honest with your hairstylist
If your stylist spins you around for the “voila!” moment and you’re shocked by what you see, take a second to collect your thoughts and then share your concerns with your stylist. “Too many people run to Google or Yelp to complain about what they hate rather than to give the stylist an opportunity to make it right,” says Blue. “We are professionals and try not to take things personally – most stylists and colorists want to make you happy.”
To make sure you are on the same page, be clear about what’s not meeting your expectations. If you’re dealing with an obvious oversight on the stylist’s end — aka uneven layers, brassy tones or splotchy color – point these issues out immediately. If it’s less obvious, try to be as specific as possible with your feedback. Think along the lines of, “This style seems to be making my face appear rounder” or “Something about this color is washing out my complexion.”
Your stylist will likely do one of two things: They may offer to fix glaring issues immediately, or they might ask you to wait it out for a few days and come back if you are still unhappy. This waiting period is more important than you think. “People can experience shock [after a major change] because they’ve been so used to seeing themselves a certain way for a longer amount of time,” notes Blue.
See how you feel after a couple of attempts styling the new cut yourself. If it’s the color you’re unhappy with, keep in mind that color correcting in one session isn’t always ideal for the health of your hair, and you may be asked to come back in a couple of days. During this time, shampoo and care for your hair as suggested by your stylist. “I often recommend living with it for a week or so,” Blue says. “Usually after a few shampoos it will soften to the desired result.”
Decide what you want to do next
In the case of a truly bad haircut or color, it’s up to you to decide whether you want the stylist to attempt to fix it or if you’d prefer to go to someone else. “Using the same salon for a hairstyle correction would only be determined by your knowledge of the salon,” says celebrity hair stylist Tracy Moss. If you feel confident that they can get you to the desired style, it may reduce complications and perhaps keep you from paying another full price for correction.”
If you don’t want to use the same stylist, you’ll probably want to negotiate a refund or reduced fee. (In many cases, color corrections will be comped.) You may need to express your concerns to the salon owner or manager, so again, be specific about what went wrong. No matter what you decide, keep in mind that your stylist wasn’t out to sabotage you. Chances are, they simply misunderstood your goal.
Don’t try to fix it yourself
We repeat, do not try to fix it yourself. Whether it’s choppy bangs, asymmetrical layers, or brassy undertones, avoid reaching for scissors or box color. “My biggest advice is not to get hasty or obsessive,” says Blue. “Leave it alone until you speak with a professional.” When taking matters into your own hands you risk ending up with a hair disaster that’s really difficult to fix, he adds.
Be super specific next time
Sometimes you must take a bad haircut or color as a lesson learned. To prevent this scenario from happening again, be super specific the next time you’re in a stylist’s chair. “I always start a consultation by asking a client what they like and don’t like about their hair since the open-ended question really helps me understand their goals and expectations,” says Blue. If your stylist doesn’t ask the same question, offer them the answer, as well as the level of maintenance you are willing to upkeep and how much time you spend styling your hair.
Also, keep in mind that while bringing inspiration photos offers a helpful visual, the images can also create unrealistic expectation. The people in the photos may not have the same hair type, face shape or skin tones as you, so listen to your stylists about what they think will work best. Ultimately, you want to be on the same page before making a major haircut or color change.