Why Communication is Key to your Relationship…with your Hair Dresser

Sometimes it just takes a few shots to get it right.

That’s what happened to me at the Serge Normant at John Frieda New York Salon and I didn’t mind it one bit.

“WHAT?!” you say. Yes, that’s right. And I’m telling you about it because I want you, dear reader, and the whole hair dye obsessed world to know that THIS HAPPENS. Everywhere. Whether you’re at Cost Cutters in the mall, or a salon that charges $250+ for highlights, sometimes – like so many other things in life – it just doesn’t happen the first time.

What’s my point? It’s simply this: the important thing to do if and when the first time doesn’t quite get you there is – and ladies listen up here because this WILL happen at some point – Tell. Your. Hair Dresser! I can’t begin to express the importance of communication with your stylist/colorist; how and why the ability to do so can mean the difference between a happy and a horrible salon visit. That’s why I’ve decided to dedicate this story to just that – why you should talk to the lucky lady/man who has the privilege of coloring, cutting and styling your hair. (And if you’d like the quick tips bit only, scroll to the bottom for the cheat sheet.)

Let me backtrack for a moment and give you all some context as right now surely you’re all aghast thinking, ‘How could Serge Normant at John Frieda NOT be perfect the very first time?!” To this I would answer that for most gals, the salon probably is just that – perfect. The very first time. If it wasn’t, it wouldn’t have the rep it has today.

But let us recall who we’re talking about me here. A girl who over the last year has had so many things to grapple with between work, getting engaged (yay!) and trying to sell an apartment, that she literally forgot about her hair. That is, forgot about it until it became so long that she could no longer do anything with it apart from curl it up into a bun – a chic bun no doubt, but still, a bun, top knot, if you will – that sat atop her head and was not allowed to release its bundled up nest of dried, damaged, mangled hair to the world, for fear of scaring any and all passersby. Not only had she not cut her hair in approximately two years (the whole “growing it out” effort turned out to be pretty epic), but she hadn’t colored it in more than seven months.

I know – more gasps coming from all of you who think that as a hair editor, this girl – i.e. me – must be in the salon twice a week. Sadly this is not how life works in the magical magazine world – Vogue’s mock-you-mentary, “The September Issue” be damned.

So picture this maimed mess of hair walking into one of the top-rated salons in the city and asking for help. With nearly five inches of brown roots and some brassy blonde covering the majority of the rest, my poor colorist, Ashley Jordan Ferrett, could never have imagined that I would want to go blonder than blonde. So she took the conservative route, giving me natural looking highlights that were as beautiful as ever. But of course, knowing that I would be in for a cut next week and would probably chicken out on the chop-it-all-off plan, I wanted to go more drastic with color. I wanted blonde – really blonde. So she adjusted, and what we got was good, but not perfect. So we decided, let’s try one more time next week when I am scheduled for the cut. Try we did, and that’s when the magic happened and solidified my belief that hair is sometimes a process, particularly difficult, damaged hair.

When it came to how I felt about my hair color, Ashley simply wouldn’t take anything less than love. She was so distraught that I didn’t walk out of there doing jumping jacks the first time (a woman after my own heart, Ashley is quite the perfectionist) that she insisted on doing just a slight adjustment when I came in for my cut the following week. Mind you, I was fine with the color as is – just not over the moon excited. But that excitement is what Ashley expected and she just wouldn’t settle for less. She is, after all, quite the pro, having earned her chops with Steve Amendola at the uptown John Frieda location, where an often difficult clientele surely helped teach how to deliver not just good, but GREAT results and make clients not just happy, but ECSTATIC. The “slight adjustment” we planned for the following week before the cut turned into her saying, “I think I want you really blonde,” to which I happily agreed.

After a LOT more highlights and a run under the dryer, I was a blondie again – even blonder than I had been years ago (literally it’s been that long since I’ve dared to realize my blonde potential) and I felt great. But none of this would have happened if Ashley and I hadn’t spoken to each other as if we were best friends – and quite honestly, by the time I left the salon, I felt like we were!

Now it was time for the cut.

Ashley put me in Yanni’s hands, and I couldn’t have felt more comfortable. I showed him a picture of a super short style I loved and he said, “Let’s do it,” to which I immediately got cold feet and decided to just have him keep it long. Wedding and all that coming up…(“You’re the one who showed me the pic!” he laughed. “I know, I know,” I replied sheepishly. “Someday…”)

Yanni had to cut no less than four inches off my length – that’s how much damage and split ends there were. I still was left with hair down to the middle of my back (another showcase of my epic growth effort) but now it was actually healthy and happy.

So how do I suggest you do this whole communication thing? Quite simple. Here’s the lowdown:

1. Get comfy. Do whatever it takes to talk about things that AREN’T your hair (dogs, wedding, real estate) while s/he is putting the foils in. That will make it all the easier to address any concerns you might have once they’ve blow-dried the finished product.

2. Get confident. Remember, you are paying for your service, and it is the stylist/colorist’s job to get it right. If you can’t speak in a confident, calm way about what you might not be uber happy with, you’ll never get what you want. Practice with someone close to you. How good are you at telling him/her when you aren’t particularly happy with something? If you’re not very good at that, it won’t be any easier in the chair.

3. Get collected. Make sure you don’t freak out. It’s only hair, and oftentimes, women get CRAY about change. If the color is off – NBD (that’s no big deal gals). That can be changed. If the cut is off, well, you’ve got a bit more of a problem there – but hopefully with communication you can get it looking closer to what you envisioned. Remember, it’s JUST HAIR – get your s**t together!

Talk to your stylist. Talk to your colorist. If you can’t do that no matter how hard you try, I hate to break it to you, but it’s time to get another one.

Serge Normant at John Frieda New York
825 Washington Street (near Little West 12th Street)
New York, NY 10014
P: 212.675.0001

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