A few pointers on how to help a stylist give you the most flattering look:
Talk it out first. Always make sure the stylist takes at least a couple of minutes to discuss what you're looking for and size up your hairstyle and texture before you're sent for a shampoo (once hair is wet, it's more difficult to analyze). Hairstylist Mario Russo of Salon Mario Russo in Boston sees another advantage in meeting clients before they're wearing a robe and towel turban: "It's important for us to see how you present yourself, how you dress, what your general aesthetic is." If you're contemplating a big change, consider booking a consultation (they're often free) before you commit. It will ensure you have plenty of time to discuss your options.
Tell the whole truth. A thorough stylist will quiz you on your lifestyle and grooming habits, but if he or she doesn't, speak up. If you're willing to spend only five minutes on your hair in the morning, you don't want to wind up with a style that looks amazing…after 30 minutes of straight-ironing.
Be positive. Reciting a laundry list of things you don't want can put the stylist on the defensive. Instead, explain what you do like, and listen to his opinion—you get better service when the stylist feels as if you're collaborating.
Picture the possibilities. "Even my regular clients sometimes bring me images of styles they like, and they really are worth a thousand words," says Russo. "As long as they're realistic." When you're flipping through a magazine, tear out pictures of women with face shapes and hair textures similar to your own.
Ask for clarification. Salonspeak is an imprecise dialect. If a stylist says he plans to "give your hair more bounce" or "add movement," request a translation. Does he want to cut more layers? Create bangs? And avoid talking in measurements. "The stylist's version of three inches could be six in your mind," says John Barrett. "Ask him to show you where your longest layers will be—your collarbone? Shoulders? Chin?"
Look alive. Don't get lost in a magazine (even O!) or work. As one stylist once told us: The more attentive you are, the more attentive the person wielding the scissors will be.
Make a return visit. If you love your hair when you walk out of the salon but can't re-create the look at home, don't hesitate to make a follow-up appointment. "Schedule another blow-dry and ask the stylist to walk you through what he's doing," says Russo. "We'll even have clients take the brush in their own hands at certain points so they can feel the right movements."