Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
I had just finished introducing myself to a new client when I noticed the small swatch of hair she was holding. After a quick hello, she proceeded to tell me that she wanted her hair to match the strands she held.
Picking up the lock of hair, I placed it at my new client's roots to quickly access that this shade would indeed work well with both her skin tone and eye color. No need for a long discussion; I would simply just remove her gray and shoot for an exact match of the swatch. When the color was absolutely perfect, I handed her back the strands and surveyed my work proudly. She thanked me for a job well done, but not before revealing this doozy: "Since my pubic hair is still my natural color, I grew it out before bringing it for you, so that I could get the exact color I wanted."
Not everyone needs to go to such extremes to get their ideal hair color. Here's how to communicate effectively with your stylist, so you end up leaving the salon looking like your most stunning self.
Try starting the consultation with a compliment, so your colorist doesn't feel like you think he's unqualified when you begin giving him the play-by-play of what you want him to do to your hair. A little ego boosting never hurts — I love your work, you're so talented — delivered with just the right amount of gush is perfect. After a few niceties are exchanged, you can swoop in with your grand hair idea.
Do a little research to see if the colorist you're seeing is known for the work you're looking for. Hair colorist are like artists in a way, and each has a unique style and practice. Here's where recommendations come in handy: If you see someone with hair color you adore, ask them if you can get the number of their stylist.
Bring a picture. You know the saying, a picture is worth a thousand words? Well, that's never more true than when it comes to color. The trick is to look for a picture of someone with a similar skin tone, eye color, and natural base color because those shades will probably work best for you and be the most achievable. For example, don't bring in a photo of Reese Witherspoon if you have the coloring of Penelope Cruz.
Avoid using technical terms like ash or warm, unless you know what they mean — in salon terms. Try sticking with examples that lend themselves to an easy visual such as butter, honey, or chocolate.
Download a photo of yourself and virtually change your hair cut and color in myriad ways by using the features available on many salon websites. You can try experimenting with a few different shades until you find one that you can present at your color appointment.
Don't underestimate the hair piece. The advancements in hair pieces and wigs over the years is remarkable. You can go to a good wig shop like Helena in New York City and try on a few different colors, and then if you find one you love, purchase it and wear it around the house for a bit. Once you're sure you want to commit to this new shade, bring it in to your colorist and ask him match the wig's color to the hair on your head.