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Exactly What To Expect From Your Hair Consultation

woman learning what to expect at a hair consultation

When hair photos pop up on our feeds, they look like magazine shots: glowly lighting, effortlessly tousled waves, and stunning-but-natural hair color that makes the model look like she gets ten hours of sleep every night. But just looking at the “after” photos is like only watching the last scene of the romantic movie—sure, the soft-hearted bookstore scion gets the girl next door, but what about the ups-and-downs it took to get there?

In hair, every incredible final look requires a sometimes hours and days-long journey in a pro’s salon chair...one that starts with the hair consultation. These crucial minutes with your stylist determine how these “after” shots come about—and whether or not you love the look you’ve been given! Want to learn what to expect from your hair consultation? Min Kim, L’Oréal Professionnel artist and celeb colorist, is breaking down exactly what to look for.

What To Expect From Your Hair Consultation: Before You Go

You’ve done the research, booked a hair appointment, and are ready (or not!) for your color, haircut, or texture transformation. That’s great, but your work isn’t done quite yet! Before you hand over your mane to a stylist, you two need to set some expectations for your goals and final result—that’s the only way to ensure you’re fully happy with the work your stylist does.

Before arriving at the appointment, do some thinking about how you’d like your hair to look. Treat social media like a mood board, saving any images that look similar to what you’re going for. We always recommend photos as a baseline for any appointment because your stylist’s idea of natural-looking highlights and your idea are bound to be very different—sometimes disastrously so!

Once you’re prepared, it’s time to take a seat in the chair. There are several different types of consultations at hair salons, so here’s where your experience will differ depending on what you want to have done.

Hair Color Consultations

There’s one major reason to choose professional balayage or ombre over the kind you can do at home: Nuance. When you sit down at your stylist’s chair, he or she will probably pull your messy bun out and run their fingers through you hair. They’re looking at the condition of your scalp (dry, oily, or dandruff, maybe), the porosity of your hair (is it super damaged or healthy as can be?), and the state of your hair color (are you a total hair color virgin or did you run wild with box dye six months ago?).

All of these factors may seem insignificant to you, but your stylist is essentially acting like the Sherlock Holmes of hair and gathering clues as to how much your hair can be manipulated this appointment.

“Consultation is important for a big color change because it's the opportunity to find out exactly what is going on with the hair, which 100 percent affects the way that the lightener will lift and how to manage the results that I'm going to have,” Kim says.

This isn’t a one-way conversation, either. If you’re not interested in high maintenance hair color techniques or are struggling to keep those grays covered, now is the time to voice any concerns you have!

By the end of the hair consultation, you and your stylist should agree on an end goal and how often you’ll neeed to schedule appointments to keep your new ‘do looking fresh. If budget has you stressing, feel free to ask about the cost of the service so that you’re not getting in over your head.

Hair Cut Consultations

If a chic new cut is top of mind, your consultation will probably be just a few minutes long. Your stylist will check for major hair concerns like damage and split ends while looking for the lines of your previous cut. Then you two can talk length—what are your hair goals? Are you just looking for some weight off or do you want pixie or bob hair ideas?

“You figure out what works for the lifestyle, also the needs and also what is happening so that you can kind of anticipate the type of results that you're going to have,” Kim explains. Once you’ve settled on an end goal, you’ll be able to totally relax and enjoy the salon experience.

Caring For Your Color Or Cut

One final note before we set you free to have those phenomenal hair appointments that lead to glowing “after” shots: The last step of any good hair consultation is understanding how to care for your new color or cut. It’s all fine and good when there’s a professional deftly curling your hair, but what about 7 a.m. when your alarm goes off?

The best part of sitting in front of a professional is the opportunity to learn from them—and part of that advice is styling and hair product recommendations! Make sure you’re asking questions as your stylist finishes up your hair and feel confident in your ability to try out the hair styling technique in front of your bathroom counter.

“When you come into a hair salon, the purpose is to see a professional [who] is going to give you the best advice and steer you, in a way,” Kim says. “The goal is always to have you walking around getting compliments, whether it's the first day you leave the salon or it's the day that you're coming back in to get your touch-up.”

Interested in booking a salon appointment? We’ve got you covered. Use our salon locator to find a Hair.com-approved pro near you.