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Head Start
Whether you're considering a new cut or trying a different color, don't set foot in the salon without reading this first.

Before You Book

Schedule a consultation.
This ten- to 15-minute appointment is crucial if you're seeing a stylist or a colorist for the first time. "You want to make sure you have the same vision and that you'll get the results you're hoping for," says colorist Rita Hazan, owner of the Rita Hazan Salon in New York City. Some salons provide this service for free. If you're charged, ask that the amount be credited toward your cut or color.

A picture is worth a thousand words.
One person's golden honey is another's sun-kissed blonde. Bring in photos of what you like, as well as of what you don't, advises colorist Marie Robinson, owner of the Marie Robinson Salon in New York City. The same goes for haircuts. "It's especially good if you can find images of the back of the head that show where hair falls on the nape, so you can see the shape of the whole cut," Robinson says.

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In the Salon
Color carefully.
"You really need a full head of highlights only twice a year. The rest of the time, just color the pieces around your face and your part. That's generally a lot less expensive." —Marie Robinson, colorist

Speak up if you're concerned.
Not sure about the direction your stylist is headed? Tell him immediately, and be specific. "Say something like, 'Are you leaving the sides a bit longer?' or 'What do you think about trimming the bangs a bit?'" says stylist Oscar Blandi, owner of the Oscar Blandi Salon in New York City. "Questioning him should make him stop, evaluate and give you an opportunity to voice your opinion." You're the one who has to live with it, so now is not the time to be shy. And "never, ever say to a stylist, 'Do whatever you want,'" says Hazan. "A discussion guarantees better results."

If all else fails, enlist the management's help.
Once your hair is dry, if you hate the way it looks, ask to see a salon manager, even if all you want to do is run and hide. Tell her exactly what you don't like, so she can recommend another stylist or colorist to help address your concerns, says Robinson. If that doesn't do the trick, ask for a credit toward a future service or that the salon comp your next haircut (once the current one grows out).

Photo: Jonathon Kambouris

Where to Spend—and Save
Look for a package deal.
Salons will often discount services such as blow-outs or hair treatments if you buy multiples.

Check for discounts online.
"We do a lot of promotions with Gilt City, such as 50 percent off single process color or a blow-out package for almost half price," says Blandi. Also check out discount sites Groupon, Lifebooker and LivingSocial.

Extend Your single process.
If your color appointments seem to be coming up fast and gray coverage isn't your issue (but fading is), consider a gloss. It can bring back the shine, according to Robinson. And it's less expensive than a single process.

Skip the deep conditioner.
Some salons offer this as an add-on service, but you can easily re-create the treatment at home using your regular conditioner.

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Best Face Forward
Be in complete command during your makeup counter makeover.

Book a slot.
Or go during off-hours—for instance, first thing in the morning. You want your makeup artist to be focused on you, not distracted by what's going on at the counter.

BYOMB (Bring your own makeup bag).
It never hurts to show a makeup artist products you love and ask her to incorporate them into your makeover. "That way she's not showing you something you're not interested in," says Beth Zurn, SVP of global education and special events at Estée Lauder.

Be a good student.
Document the process by taking photos with your phone for reference later, Zurn says. "Also be sure to get a face chart with a step-by-step guide."

If you're going to invest, go for the foundation or concealer—but only after you're sure it's the correct shade for you.
"Foundation and concealer are definitely worth the money because it's so difficult to find the right shade, formula and finish," says Zurn. In any case, making a small purchase—a lipstick, for example—is the right thing to do, says Billy B., consulting makeup artist for L'Oréal Paris: "It's like tipping." Should you get the hard sell, be explicit right away and say, "I'm just planning to buy one thing today, but thank you."
Beauty samples

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Secrets of Sampling
Ask and ye shall receive.
Don't hesitate to request trial sizes, as many counters happily provide them for foundation and skincare. (At Sephora, you can get at least three foundation testers per visit.)

Check in seasonally.
Gift-with-purchase time, which usually occurs every three months, is a chance to load up on samples, says Mary Meszaros, training manager for Elizabeth Arden.

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Maximize Your Mani
Things your manicurist won't tell you.

Opt for a polish change.
You can save by getting a full manicure every other week and a polish change on alternate weeks, suggests manicurist Jin Soon Choi, owner of JinSoon nail spas in NYC.

File under smart.
"Filing should be done in one direction only (not back and forth)—from the outside in," says manicurist Deborah Lippmann, owner of Deborah Lippmann nail products. Improper filing causes the nail edge to peel back.

Allow enough dry time.
And not just at the end of your manicure. "Nail lacquer has solvents that need to evaporate," says Lippmann. That means waiting a minute after each coat. "Ask your manicurist to take a break for a minute," says Lippmann.

Assemble your own nail kit.
If you're a stickler about sterile tools and fresh polish—and you should be—bring your own manicure-pedicure set. In addition to implements and cuticle exfoliator, include base and top coats and enamel so you can be sure those items haven't been thinned down or contaminated.

Extend your perfect manicure.
After the final coat of polish, the manicurist should run the brush around the tip of your nail, covering the edge, to help prevent chipping.