Thursday, December 11, 2008

Choosing The Right Beauty Salon

Finding the right salon can be an infuriating experience for some of us. It seems so many times I would think I finally chose the best beauty salon, only to be disappointed eventually, and the time to move on comes again. This is the time of the year where no mistakes can be made since many of us get hairdo's for the Holidays we would not typically have on a regular basis, and they must be perfect. So we tend to err on the side of caution before changing salons this time of year.

Changing salons over the years for me seemed to occur about every 2-5 yrs. Either my hairstylist would relocate to a place not within my area or within my budget at the time, or would end up finally retiring from the business. However, I have been known to turn on my heel and exit quickly with a first read on the environment. Or I had just the one wash and cut only to know I would not return again.

First Impressions

This can be a strong clue as to what type of service you may receive. Look for cleanliness, including a well organized work station. A stylist should never retrieve a hair item from the floor if she drops it and then use it on your head. This is a big no-no and is in violation of your local State Boards of professional licenses criteria for sanitation.

A salon may or may not have a reception area. Some people find this to be very important factor to an overall impression of professionalism. Though this is true to an extent, it should not be a strong criteria since I have been in many salons where it is only my hairstylist who greets me with a smile and that is all that matters to me. "Grumpy" has no place in a salon or in a person cutting my hair. My rapport is always with my stylist, not the receptionist, and this is the person who has her hands on my hair.

Observe how all the stylists interact with their customers. Are they loud and brash or are they calming and relaxed. I personally can't be in a salon where I can hear a stylist from across the room monopolizing the conversation over her client. And well....if she ends up being my stylist, then the choice to not return has been cinched. I personally go to my salon for a bit of R&R, a break from tedium, and to simply relax and maybe chat up the stylist a bit. Many find this time as a form of therapy to be allowed to simply be themselves. My choice of stylist is one I match my personality with and she is in tune with my needs as I sit in her chair. Listening being a key component to successfully sustaining a client base.

And most of all, does the salon seem popular. This should be handled in the same manner as you would select a good restaurant. If the client base seems limited, the phone rarely rings and your stylist seems to always be available, this is a sure sign things are amiss and a reputation problem perhaps proceeds them. This can happen for some and these may be your only gauge, especially if you are new in town and don't have anyone to ask where the best salon in town is. Don't confuse however, stylist availability as a reputation problem since she could still be trying to establish her customer base and this is normal. It is only a problem if the salon seems barren of clients.

In the instance of trying to get a reference, look at a woman's hairstyle or cut and if you like it, go up to her and ask her who does her hair. This can be an excellent reference source, you simply just have to be fortuitous in discovering that perfect hairstyle walking by.

Should Price Be A Criteria

This is completely subjective to perception of "you get what you pay for"! I couldn't disagree more. I have been in posh, high end salons to the small informal neighborhood type. Believe it or not, I have had some of my worst hairstyles come out of a high priced salon. I have had incorrect color, bad perms, and terrible haircuts. I always think I want to go a step above my local salon on occasion, and for me it has never worked out to my dismay. I think many women view high end glitz as the best place to be for the latest styles. Some of the smallest Beauty Salons I have been in are always keeping up with the trends, so glitz can mean nothing in perspective to getting a lovely style.

Making The Decision To Leave

After being with the same stylist for some time, things may change, and not for the wonder "how do I leave or where will I go"? though this person who has had your style in her hands for the longest time, is the only one who can get it right. I have also dealt with this dilemma and though the move was tough, I have found someone better with a bit of patience and exploration. It may not be for a negative reason you decide to leave, but the fact your stylist retires, as in one case for me, I was forced to seek out perfection again.

There are many reasons to leave after trying a stylist just once, or if things go wrong with your regular stylist, whether it is her or him directly, or something internal occurring within the salon itself. My latest stylist is my daughters age and I just love her. An example of almost moving on for me...I met her at a Hairmasters after leaving my last salon and I simply loved her work. When we were introduced, at first glance I see she did wild things with her hair, every funky cut and weird color imaginable, it was enough to make a sane person run for the door. But I looked past that because I saw the creative streak I was looking for. And I was not disappointed.

Then she moved to a tiny salon and out of my preference and loyalty to her work, I followed. I wasn't pleased with her choice, however. It was crowded with clutter, not very clean even though her station was, and the owner was not professional in her appearance or her mannerisms within the workplace. I also noted her moods weren't the best anymore. After about a year of this change, I was coming to the uncomfortable decision yet again to leaving her due to the environment she was in. Imagine how frustrating this is, when it isn't even a problem with your stylist but with the overall salon. Fortunately, before my next haircut, she informed me she had relocated to a new salon. I was joyous, since the atmosphere here was one of busy, clean, organized and fun. She also was so much happier and confided in me she had not been happy at the other place for a long time, and her business had grown since relocating to the more up beat salon. So much BETTER!

I have had very young stylists, fresh from school, do exceptional work. The other side of that coin, I have had older, more seasoned stylists give me some of the worst styles. It really is about the passion and creativity in a given person. If someone is a cosmetologist because it is a job and it pays the bills, then this person typically does not have the drive to be creative. I look for a stylist with flair and seems to genuinely have fun and love what she does, especially when they ask me, "can they try something new"? Now I may say "No", but the fact they asked gives me the surprise they are always wishing to learn and move outside their comfort zone. I just am a bit gun shy about being their experiment. Maybe someday!

Reasons For Leaving

Various reasons for leaving have ranged for me, from in house gossip, unprofessional behavior in terms of those who decide to be indelicate with their clients, such as loud, rude, or totally obnoxious, especially those that tended to do the high five thing when a best friend stopped by for a visit, as though I was an empty chair. "Now let's see where was I"? they ask, as they talk over my head. This experience was far from relaxing and the focus was clearly not on me or my hair. Movin' on!

Other clues; do they seemed rushed at the shampoo bowl, either handling you roughly or doing a half baked wash leaving shampoo or conditioner in your hair. This should be a time to relax the customer through scalp massage, and any stylist worth their salt knows this and will take the time to perform this pleasure for their client each and every time. Do they hurt you during a color or perm and show little regard for your comfort? This should never be acceptable and an excuse; it is never tied to them being creative so you need to endure some discomfort. Hair and scalp procedures should never cause pain and if they do, they are doing something terribly wrong or flat out don't care.

More signs of bad behavior, such as seeming disinterested in a concern you may have with the look, or wanting them to fix something before you leave and they can't be bothered. No tip here...and letting the door close behind me forever.... without a second thought.

Inappropriate jokes that are geared toward a sexual or racial nature are not to be tolerated. Even though the owner was notified by me of this past discretion, and she was mortified. I still moved on since now I felt uncomfortable being around someone who has no good sense around clients. Furthermore, I knew staying on would have been a form of condoning this type of behavior and in this situation I felt the message should be clear. The person hired must always represent their chosen salon with utmost integrity, and one must question that integrity if this person is working there in the first place.

Another is a stylist who thinks they are on the proverbial pedestal...such as one time I had a stylist slap my hand when I went to touch my hair after she was done styling it. Mind you "my hair"! Hello....Deal Breaker! I have left salons when I have felt indifference, such as a haircut that wound up too short and her response "that's the beauty of hair, it will grow back"! W-h-a-t!?

My tales are endless as to some of the poor choices I have made over the years, but they are interspersed with those I have had many good years with individual stylists. And yes they are tough to come by, so when you find one it can be difficult to let go and move on when things seem to turn bad. But it can be done and you will find someone that you will totally mesh with.

And always run if you come across a stylist who instills terror in your gut. We all know the self assured she seems over the top with attitude and closed ears.

Light At The End Of The Tunnel

I am very happy where I am now. She is wonderful, professional, gets along with everyone and devotes her time to me when I am seated in her chair. She also has a wonderful sixth sense about my moods. When I feel chatty, she joins right in and we relate quite well. When I seem to be in a quiet mood, not really interested in chatting but simply unwinding, she gets it, doesn't take it personally, and will quietly cut my hair. She realizes she does not need to entertain her clients but be sensitive to them. Even when I am quiet she doesn't assume this is a signal to chat with her neighbor...she simply remains focused on the task at hand. She gives that wonderful scalp massage that makes the experience soothing and allows me to touch my hair, pick up a brush and handle the dryer for a specific touch-up without feeling offended. It is just my way. I am a touchy person when it comes to my hair. She rarely talks over my head except to greet her next client and is wise enough to step away from me knowing my ears are just below her. She is meticulous and checks all angles and length of hair on both sides of my head until it is perfect. As I stated before she is very young, but she gets it. Age or experience doesn't always mean you will get the ideal stylist. My cosmetologist is a perfect example....wise beyond her years. I love her!

She is also in a salon where a certain atmosphere is maintained among the staff and I never hear gossip or mean spirited conversation. I hear stylists who seem to be supportive of their clients and really care about the person sitting in their chairs.

When choosing a salon, I believe it is more about flexibility, atmosphere (whatever that perception means to you), cleanliness and friendliness. It is always about a level of gratitude by me combined with a satisfaction from my stylist we have accomplished a mutual goal! The perfect "Doo".

It is never about price, size or glitz for me. It seems I have tried every salon imaginable and I always seem to end up with those setup in old historical houses with squeaky floors and old world charm with a median price range, yet with all the modern conveniences of creating the perfect hairstyle.

Bitty Secret: Some of your best salons are tucked away from the hustle bustle of downtown glitz and the prestige of location.

Feel free to share your horror stories or happy endings with us. Let us know how you select that perfect salon.

Happy Hunting and enjoy your weekend and keep safe during this holiday season.

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